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Theo Padnos' Remarkable Account of Captivity and Torture

In the New York Times, Peter Theo Curtis, aka Theo Padnos, provides a detailed and fascinating account of his 2 years as an Al Nusra hostage in Syria. He is now home in Vermont, having been released in August, days after the James Foley execution, when Qatar finalized negotiations with al Nusra for his release, reportedly after Qatar paid a big ransom (which Qatar denies.) al Nusra is every bit as brutal as ISIS, and their only differences, according to Padnos, are over which one will control Syria's oil fields.

Padnos' account of his abuse and captivity is very compelling reading. So are his timeline and description of the Free Syrian Army "moderate rebels" and al Nusra's second in command, Abu Mariya (or Maria) al Qahtani, which is what I focus on below: [More...]

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John Cantlie Gets a Day Pass From ISIS Jail

ISIS hostage John Cantlie was let of out of ISIS jail to take a road trip to Kobane to make a new video. He also got to shed his orange jumpsuit and wear a nice black shirt.

You can view the video at Daily Motion here. Cantlie is quite animated as he shows off Kobane in the background and explains why the U.S. and its coalition won't succeed in controlling Kobane.

His hair is longer, and while his face appears haggard, his mood is quite upbeat and his delivery is very enthusiastic. He's either gotten quite adept at using a teleprompter, or he's a naturally gifted speaker who doesn't need one. If we didn't know he was a hostage, he could easily be taken for a network news reporter.

What would account for his enthusiasm? Perhaps ISIS rewarded him for his video work with a get out jail free card, rather than just a day pass. I hope so.

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ISIS: The Torture Before the Beheadings

The New York Times has a new article on the torture that preceded the beheadings of the journalists ISIS held captive. I'm going to read it as soon as Homeland is over. Here's a place to discuss it and all ISIS related news.

Update: There is also a new episode of hostage John Cantlie's video series, Lend Me Your Ears. You can watch it here.

“Some of us who tried to escape were waterboarded by our captors, as Muslim prisoners are waterboarded by their American captors.”

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UN Calls for Moratorium on Death Penalty in Iraq

A new U.N. report on the death penalty in Iraq says it is fueling the violence and a moratorium should be imposed.

The report says executions in Iraq have been increasing at an alarming pace and that is applied unfairly:

Judges often pass death sentences based on evidence from disputed confessions or secret informants, condemning suspects who are unaware of their rights, may have been tortured and have no defense attorney until they arrive in court, the report said.

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"Resurgence" : Al Qaeda's New English Magazine

Seven months in the making, al-Qaeda’s as-Sahab Media Foundation has released the premiere edition of its new English magazine, "Resurgence." It has 117 pages and is filled with glossy graphics and articles about jihad and the war against America, all in understandable English. The content is global, but focuses a lot on the newest branch of al Qaeda in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

The magazine visually resembles AQAP's Inspire. Content wise, it's different, in that there are no instructions for bomb making or lone wolf attacks. And unlike ISIS publications, there are very few Arabic words and it's not heavy on religious dogma. The magazine is available for download here, but it takes a really long time. For those who don't have the time or patience, I'll summarize what I think are the most interesting parts. [More...]

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U.S. Ditches Free Syrian Army Rebels: Iraq Comes First

Ret. Gen. John Allen, who is in charge of the U.S. response to ISIS, confirmed today that the U.S. will not be training and equipping the Free Syrian Army rebels. He said the U.S. will start from scratch, vetting and then training Syrian opposition fighters. He also made it clear Iraq comes first.

The Syrian arena is important, Allen said, but to the U.S., “the emergency in Iraq right now is foremost in our thinking.” There will be a simultaneous training-and-equipping campaign for Iraq, where the U.S.-trained military collapsed during the Islamic State’s summer offensive.

Allen said the new training program is “for those elements of the Iraqi national security forces that will have to be refurbished and then put back into the field,” with the ultimate goal of reclaiming Iraqi territories seized by the Islamic State. [More...]

The FSA has suspected as much for months. The FSA is interested in overthrowing Assad, not fighting ISIS. It has teamed up with Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaida in Syria) when it suits them, and fighters switch allegiances. In addition, the FSA is angry about the U.S. airstrikes and its targeting of al Nusrah leaders. [More...]

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U.S. Gives Name to War Against ISIS, ISIS Baits U.S. in Video

The U.S. today announced the name for the war against ISIS. It's called "Operation Resolve."

The operation name applies retroactively to all U.S. military actions conducted against ISIL in Iraq and Syria since airstrikes against ISIL began Aug. 8 in Iraq, officials said.

The name Inherent Resolve is intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S. and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community, Centcom officials explained.

100 U.S. military advisors arrived in Anbar today to train Iraqi forces and tribe members.

ISIS has released a new video of three foreign fighters challenging the U.S. to send ground troops, titled "Wait, We Also Are Waiting." SITE has the transcript and a description. Or, you can watch it here.

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New Reports on Old Chemical Weapons

Here's the New York Times report on chemical weapons in Iraq at the long abandoned al Muthanna weapons plant, now under ISIS control.

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

Here's the 2007 CIA report on the long abandoned chemical weapons plant. [More...]

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ISIS Gains in Iraq

ISIS is making gains around Baghdad. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno today said he is "somewhat confident" the Iraqi Army can resist.

The army withdrew from Hit in the Anbar province following an attack on a military training camp.

Here's a photo by ISIS of its fighters being prepped for battle in the Diyala province.

Reuters says 180,000 have fled Iraq.

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ISIS Releases Dabiq No. 4 : Yazidis, Sotloff and Attacks on the West

ISIS has released the 4th issue of its Dabiq magazine, available here. It's more than 50 pages, and aside from the written statement by John Cantlie which I write about here, I think the three most interesting parts are the call for recruits to launch lone wolf attacks in their Western home countries and credit ISIS for any killings, an attempted justification for enslaving Yazidi women and turning them over as concubines to Islamic soldiers, and a letter it purports was written by deceased hostage Steven Sotloff to his mother. I'll summarize these in turn, and more briefly describe other topics addressed in the issue.

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Two New Messages From ISIS Hostage John Cantlie

ISIS hostage John Cantlie has a new video message (Episode 3 of "Lend Me Your Ears") available on You Tube here. It's much the same message as prior videos. More interesting is a new written statement by Cantlie addressing media claims that his video messages are scripted or written by ISIS.

Cantlie's new written statement is contained in the final pages of the just released Issue 4 of ISIS's Dabiq Magazine, available here in English. [More...]

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As Kobane Falls to ISIS, No Ground Troops From Turkey

Turkey has the second biggest army in Nato. If it wanted to take out ISIS, it could, without any help from anyone else.

Turkey has not sent ground troops to Syria to fight ISIS, and probably won't enter Syria, unless ISIS attacks its special monument.

The U.S. (hopefully) will continue to reject the the use of ground force against ISIS in Syria.

The end result, according to news headlines, is that it would be a travesty if Kobane falls to ISIS. Perhaps to Turkey, where the Kurds and Turks might return to fighting each other. But not to us. And if it would be a travesty for Turkey and the Kurds, why aren't Turkey and other countries in the region offering ground troops to prevent it?

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Abu Wahib: Dead or Alive?

Abu Wahib, as I've written before, is the most recognizable, telegenic and frightening looking ISIS fighter. He is the military commander for the Anbar province in Iraq. He has falsely been declared dead several times, including within the past year.

Yesterday, there were reports by pro-Kurdish tweeters saying he had been killed in Kobane. Others said he was killed in Ramadi.

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The Kurdish Base Guards in Kobane: Were They Drunk?

On October 1 and 2, 2014, ISIS attacked the Kurds at the south border entrance to Kobane, also called Ain al Arab. There are several buildings manned by Kurdish guards who fled. The empty station is littered with liquor bottles. (None of the following videos contain graphic images or dead bodies.)

The attack by ISIS is in this video. The fighters appear to be Chechen, and for a few seconds, starting at 1 min 04 sec in, I think you can see ISIS military commander Omar al Shishani, as he talks into a radio and barks commands, which the others then repeat and relay to the other fighters.[More...]

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ISIS Beheads Alan Henning, Says American Aid Worker is Next

ISIS, through al Furqan Media, released a video of the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning. The same black-clad executioner in the Foley, Sotloff and Haines videos appears with him. (Not a link to video, just to article describing it.)

The videos seem to be getting shorter. This one is only 1 minute and 11 seconds, and the first 30 seconds or so is a tv reporter announcing Britain's intent to conduct air strikes.

The video ends with American Peter Kassig, a former Army Ranger and aid worker in Lebanon, in the kneeling position and clad in orange. The killer says he is next. He says to Obama, since he keeps striking ISIS with airstrikes, ISIS will strike the necks of "your people." Here is a 2013 interview of Kassig by Time Magazine. CNN published this article in Kassig in 2012. From an article published in Sept. 2013:

SERA was founded in late 2012 by Peter Kassig, a 24-year-old Army Ranger and Indiana native who returned from Iraq intent on mitigating the carnage of war. Kassig, who’s an EMT, lives with Eliot in Gaziantep and frequently forays into war-torn Syrian towns like Deir Ezzor to lead training sessions, distribute supplies, and provide basic medical care.

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