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ISIS Mass Massacre in Tikrit: "Down By the River"

I can't bring myself to watch (and won't link to) the ISIS video of the massacre of hundreds of Shi'ite Muslims and army deserters in Tikrit. Almost all are in their 20's and 30's. The video is 36 minutes long, and the real horror is in the last 6 or 7 minutes. Shorter version: There are trucks loaded with hundreds of terrified young men. First they make them lie down in the sand. Then they shoot around 50 of them in the head, one by one. Then there's a scene of an open area packed with more than 100 bodies. And then:

The 36-minute video ends with a scene in which fifteen young men are being escorted to a blood-soaked path along a river, where masked gunmen await, one of whom is holding the Islamic State's flag. The victims are each shot in the head and dumped into the river one by one.

Video above: Neil Young and CS&N, Big Sur Sept 6, 1969:

"Down by the river, I shot my baby
... This much madness is too much sorrow...."

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Overblown Fears of Foreign Fighters

In a NY Times Oped, two scholars in Arab Studies debunk the myth that ISIS is coming after the West. They say homegrown terrorists are a bigger threat than foreign fighters returning from Syria.

...Contrary to what many counterterrorism experts believe, however, ISIS has so far shown no interest in Western targets. The group’s overarching objective is to consolidate its dominion in the Levant, a place of great religious significance.

What could change this dynamic?

The one thing that might change the attitude of foreign fighters is the United States’ launching military action against them.


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ISIS Turns Against John McCain in Latest Publication

ISIS released the second edition of Dabiq, its glossy magazine yesterday, titled "It’s Either the Islamic State or the Flood"." There's a drawing of a big ark on the cover. While they certainly have mastered graphic design -- the issue is visually compelling, well laid-out, and uses easily readable fonts, it's also very long (44 pages) and mostly centered around religious concepts.

As with its other publications, it mostly ignores the West and U.S. The notable exception is that it devotes 2 pages to John McCain. On the first page it blasts him.[More...]

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ISIS Publishes Graphic Photos of Multiple Beheadings

ISIS yesterday published its most gruesome photos yet of multiple beheadings at the Division 17 base in Raqqa, Syria. I'm not going to link because they are just too gross.

The New York Times says 50 Syrian soldiers were killed. Reuters says the same.

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ISIS: No Shortage of New Recruits

ISIS has released these photos of its new recruits being trained somewhere in Ninawah. Apparently, there is no shortage of volunteers. (None of these photos have gruesome images or depict killings or injuries.)

Note the boys dressed in white. In one photo, one of the boys is taking pictures and in another, one is just holding the flag. Since the soldiers are in beige uniforms, I thought maybe he was like the team "mascot" -- or ISIS had implemented a "bring your kids to work" day. Apparently not: In this photo, the kid marches with his gun. In this photo, the two boys in white are seated with the group, one holds a gun and another the flag.

Is ISIS just training young boys, or using them in actual combat? And what's the difference between the soldiers in gray versus those in tan? Do they have different functions?

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ISIS Releases Glossy New Recruitment Magazine

The Islamic State formerly known as ISIS has released a new issue of its glossy photo-magazine, titled "The Return of the Khilafah." You can download the English version here.

It leaves no doubt as to IS's view of non-Muslims. It says the world is divided into two camps:

Amirul-Mu’minin said: “O Ummah of Islam, indeed the world today has been divided into two camps and two trenches, with no third camp present:

The camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy – the camp of the Muslims and the mujahidin everywhere, and the camp of the jews, the crusaders, their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the jews.”

It also repeats its plea for professional recruits: [More...]

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Reports That ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Severely Injured

Reports are coming out of Iraq that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Caliph of the new Islamic State, has been severely injured by Iraqi forces in a battle near Qaim in Anbar. There are also reports he has been taken to Syria. Al Sumaria news says an Iraqi Parliament official confirmed this. Here's a photo allegedly of the injured al-Baghdadi.

But there are also reports this happened Wednesday, and ISIS tweets say al-Baghdadi led the prayers at a mosque in Mosul Friday. Supposedly, ISIS cut off all cell phone activity in the area so no one could disclose his presence. [Added: Here's a video of al-Baghdadi leading the prayers in Mosul...after the Iraqis claim he was injured in the blast.]

Nothing is confirmed at this hour, and while there are many reports about this on Twitter and in Middle Eastern media, none seem to be from ISIS supporters.

If he does die, who will take his place? [More...]

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ISIS Video's Chilean Tour Guide Identified

I've been wondering about the real identity and background of the English-speaking Chilean ISIS tour guide from the group's End of Sykes Picot video.

Is Abu Saffiya really a fighter, or an actor hired by ISIS's production company? He seems straight out of central casting. Where is he really from? I haven't seen pictures of him anywhere else. Would ISIS trust a basic street fighter to give such an important tour? Or does he play a prominent role in the group? He is very comfortable in front of the camera -- too comfortable for a "nobody."

Abu Saffiya has now been identified. He is Bastián Alexis Vásquez Nunez, a 24 year old Norwegian citizen and former rapper. His parents emigrated from Chile to Skien, Norway when he was young. He hasn't been back to Chile since 2001. [More...]

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New ISIS Leader Sends Recruitment Message While ISIS Takes Syrian Border Town

I'm going to continue using ISIS instead of IS, at least for now.

The new leader of the caliphate Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Husayni al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi, has sent out “A Message to the Mujahidin and the Muslim Ummah in the Month of Ramadan” from Amirul-Mu’minin Abu Bakr al-Husayni al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi." The English version is here.

Here's a news article describing it. It makes no reference to specific imminent attacks. It reads more like a recruiting announcement. It says the state is particularly looking for "“judges and those who have military and managerial and service skills, and doctors and engineers in all fields.”

Today there are reports ISIS has now taken the Syrian side of the Qaim border, Albu Kamal, also called Al-Bukamal. More news articles here and here. [More...]

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ISIS Declares Califate State, Changes Name, Appoints Leader

On the first day of Ramadan, ISIS has declared a califate state in Iraq and surrounding areas. It is dropping "Iraq and al Sham" from it's name, and will now just be "The Islamic State", or "IS".It is calling for all Muslims to support the new state.

Spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani made the announcement. He said the decision had been made by the Shura Council. The new Caliph is Abu Bak'r al-Baghdadi. From its announcement: [More...]

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Obama Asks Congress for $500 Million to Arm and Train Syrian Militants

President Obama is asking Congress for $500 million to arm and train "moderate" rebels in Syria.

An Obama national security aide said the $500 million should be used to help Syrian rebels topple Assad, while at the same time defeating militants who call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

“As we have said many times before, Assad has lost all legitimacy to rule Syria and must go,” Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, told McClatchy. “The request to Congress reflects our assessment of the time needed to launch such a program and our view that building the capacity of Syrians for stabilization and counterterrorism operations will be necessary both during the (current) conflict and after a negotiated settlement.”

This is just throwing money down the drain. [More...]

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CBS Poll: 75% Say War in Iraq Wasn't Worth the Cost

A new CBS poll finds 75% percent of Americans do not think the Iraq War was worth the cost in lives and money. This is 8% more than in 2011 when the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, and 30% higher than in August 2003.

Republicans, Democrats and independents alike view the Iraq war as not worth the costs.

A whopping 77% oppose sending troops back in now.

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US Sends Warships and Airship Carrier to Arabian Gulf

Secretary of defense Chuck Hagel today ordered the aircraft carrier U.S. Bush to the Arabian Gulf, along with a guided-missile cruiser and guided-missile destroyer.

The Bush will be accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun. The ships are expected to complete their transit into the Gulf later this evening.

ISIS is conducting mass executions of soldiers. Today they posted photos of truckloads of captured Shia soldiers in Tikrit. Here's a website with all the photos depicting the mass killings. (Not for the squeamish.) This Twitter account also has graphic photos released by ISIS. Here's one photo that gives you a pretty good idea of the horror, and another, but again, don't click if the graphic nature will upset you. Here's a photo of the Iraqis being rounded up at gunpoint. The accompanying text tweets by ISIS are not in English, but some on Twitter say ISIS is claiming to have rounded up and killed 1,700 soldiers.

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ISIS Rising: Obama Says It's Iraq's Problem

As ISIS continues to storm its way through Iraq, President Obama today ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq. (Transcript here.) Sounding like a stern parent, he said whatever other aid we provide will depend on the Iraqi Government getting its act together, and the U.S. will not be making any hasty decisions.

Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis and opportunity to claim their own future. Unfortunately, Iraqi leaders have been unable to overcome, too often, the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there. And that's created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government, as well as their security forces.


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Iran Sends Quds to Help Iraqi Military Fight ISIS

The Wall St. Journal reported earlier today Iran has sent its Quds soldiers to Iraq to battle ISIS:

At least three battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of the Guards, were deployed support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an offshoot of al Qaeda that is swiftly conquering territory across Iraq, they said.

One Guards unit that was already in Iraq fought alongside the Iraqi army, offering guerrilla warfare advice and tactics that helped reclaim most of the city of Tikrit on Thursday. Two Guards’ units, deployed from Iran’s western border provinces on Wednesday, were tasked with protecting Baghdad and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, these security sources said.

The QUDS are the overseas branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. ISIS has reportedly seized a huge cache of U.S. military equipment. The Washington Post reports Iraq is falling apart, splintering into three factions: Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish. The Kurds have taken Kirkuk, ISIS is moving south towards Baghdad, and the Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki is reduced to calling for volunteers and some help from Iran.

Has Obama's position changed? The Post quotes him as saying, “It’s fair to say . . . there will be some short-term things that need to be done militarily."

Foreign Policy says ISIS blindsided U.S. intelligence. [More...]

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