Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reports: Assad’s Security Adviser, Ali Mamlouk met Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammad Ibn Salman, in Riyadh

    Thursday, July 30, 2015   No comments
Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered the sit-down between Mamlouk—who is one of Assad’s top advisors—and Prince Mohammad Ibn Salman, who also serves as Saudi Arabia’s defense minister and is the son of King Salman.

 Russia then proceeded to fly Mamlouk to Riyadh, where he held an ice-breaking meeting with Prince Mohammad in which the two agreed to keep the newly established channel of communication open.

According to al-Safir Report, Mamlouk appealed for Saudi Arabia to change its policy on Syria, while the Saudi deputy crown prince voiced Saudi fears over Iran’s rising influence on the Assad regime.  The report in Al-Safir mirrored an account published  by Al-Akhbar—a left-leaning Lebanese daily—which said that Russia was working to open talks between Riyadh and Damascus, with Mamlouk serving as an envoy.

Syrian regime and Saudi news outlets have made no mention of the reported meeting.

Putin brokers meeting

The Lebanese dailies reported that Putin had broached opening the Damascus-Riyadh line of communication during his June 19 meeting with Prince Mohammad, who assented to the proposal.

 Al-Akhbar claimed that Prince Mohammad had agreed “albeit reluctantly” with Putin’s assertion that
the Syrian regime could not be toppled militarily, paving the way for an unprecedented meeting between top officials from the arch-foes Riyadh and Damascus.

Ten days later, the Russian president met in Moscow with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, his deputy Faisal Mekdad, and Syrian presidential advisor Buthaina Shaaban in a bid to further his initiative.

“[Putin] proposed a quadripartite anti-terror alliance uniting Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan. Iran was excluded because the Russians were keen not to provoke the Saudis,” Al-Akhbar reported.

Although Syria’s foreign minister poured cold water over the initiative in a press conference, the Lebanese daily said that Assad agreed to the Russian proposal and it remained a secret between Assad, Muallem and Mamlouk.

“Russian intelligence was tasked with maintaining contact with Mamlouk until the idea came to fruition,” Al-Akbhar added.

“Another call [then] took place, in which the Russians relayed the Saudis’ condition that the meeting [with Mamluk] should be held in Riyadh, and Damascus made no objection.”

“Within a few weeks a Russian private plane… landed in Damascus International Airport and took Mamluk to Mohammad bin Salman’s office in the Saudi capital.”

Mamlouk appeals for Saudis to change Syria policy

During their sit-down, Mamlouk appealed to Prince Mohammad for Saudi Arabia to change its policy regarding Syria, saying that Qatar was unduly influencing Riyadh, according to the Al-Akhbar report.

The Lebanese daily said that during the sit-down Mamlouk thanked the Russia for its “noble initiative” and expressed his regret that “communication between our two countries [Saudi Arabia and Syria] now requires mediation.”

Syria and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, have always been “influential in the Arab system, and our relations were always good,” the Syrian official reportedly told the Saudi deputy crown prince.

 The report went on to cite him as attributing “full responsibility for everything that has happened in Syria” to Saudi Arabia, before accusing the Kingdom of submitting itself to the will of Qatar’s ruling elite.

 “Saudi politics has always been marked by wisdom and rationality, so how can you let yourselves be led by Qatar’s sheikhdom, which has played a subversive role in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere.”

 “Who is Qatar to run Saudi politics and Arab politics?”

Al-Akhbar added that Mamlouk had told Prince Mohammad Damascus has cooperated with Riyadh “on many issues, especially in Lebanon. This even continued after our dispute following the assassination of former Premier Rafiq Hariri.”

 “Despite your responsibility for everything that has happened in Syria, we have not attacked the Saudi state in our political and media actions.”

 “Our situation in Syria is strong. Undoubtedly, reports have reached you about the Syrian army’s advances at many locations.”

 “I hope that you will change your view and the way you are dealing with what is happening.”

Prince Mohammad voices fears over Iran’s influence

 The Saudi deputy crown prince, in turn, voiced his fears to Mamlouk that Iran was exercising too much influence in Syria.

 Addressing tensions between Syrian and the Kingdom, he explained: “Our main issue with you, for some time, has been that you let yourselves be led by Iran, which is involved in a large [scale] conflict with us on the level of the [entire] region.”

“In Lebanon you allowed yourselves to be led by Hezbollah, which is aligned with Iran, and wants to control Lebanon and turn it in to an Iranian protectorate,” Prince Mohammad reportedly added.

“May this meeting be an opening for us to listen to one another.”

 According to Al-Akhbar, the two parties agreed to maintain communication but did not set a date for another meeting.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Senior Western official: Links between Turkey and ISIS are now 'undeniable'

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015   No comments
Comment: This connection might explain why Erdogan and his current caretaker government is now attack Kurds, not ISIL, which was behind the attack on Turkish civilians. 
A US-led raid on the compound housing the Islamic State's "chief financial officer" produced evidence that Turkish officials directly dealt with ranking ISIL members, Martin Chulov of the Guardian reported recently.

The officer killed in the raid, Islamic State official Abu Sayyaf, was responsible for directing the terror army's oil and gas operations in Syria. The Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) earns up to $10 million a month selling oil on black markets.

Documents and flash drives seized during the Sayyaf raid reportedly revealed links "so clear" and "undeniable" between Turkey and ISIL "that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara," senior Western official familiar with the captured intelligence told the Guardian.

NATO member Turkey has long been accused by experts, Kurds, and even Joe Biden of enabling ISIL by turning a blind eye to the vast smuggling networks of weapons and fighters during the ongoing Syrian war.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seattle mayor proposes sharia-compliant loans for Muslim home buyers

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015   No comments
The mayor of Seattle and his housing committee are exploring options to make home loans accessible to Muslims who are unable to participate in standard mortgage programs due to religious prohibitions.

In an effort to address housing affordability in Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray has released a proposal which calls for community leaders and lenders to collaborate on exploring different options.

Among the ideas suggested to make housing more affordable for Seattle residents is a segment that will allow Muslims to obtain home loans that are compliant with sharia law.
“For our low- and moderate-income Muslim neighbors who follow Sharia law – which prohibits the payment of interest or fees for loans of money – there are limited options for financing a home,” the proposed plan reads. “Some Muslims are unable to use conventional mortgage products due to religious convictions.”

“The City will convene lenders, housing nonprofits and community leaders to explore the best options for increasing access to Sharia-compliant loan products to help these residents become homeowners in Seattle,” it says.

Under Sharia law, Muslims are prohibited from paying interest on loans. So traditional mortgages are out of reach for people who adhere strictly to Sharia law.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Turkey's AKP run government may push for HDP’s closure to win in possible early elections

    Monday, July 27, 2015   No comments
HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş speaks with reporters
Military operations recently launched against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as well as remarks by a leading ruling party figure implying that a pro-Kurdish party often accused of being affiliated with the PKK could be closed down may well be part of a government plan to carry the acting ruling party to power in a possible early election.

After criticizing the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) for failing to condemn the recent PKK violence, Mustafa Şentop, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said on Sunday political parties can be closed down only for one reason in Turkey, namely being linked to a terrorist organization.

The AK party lost a significant number of voters to the HDP in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in the June 7 election. This was a large blow to the AK Party as it failed, for the first time since coming to power in 2002, to win enough seats in Parliament to form a single-party government.

“I feel this is part of a strategy to come to power as a single party,” Seyfettin Gürsel, the director of Bahçeşehir University's Center for Economic and Social Research (BETAM), told Today's Zaman.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was accused by the opposition of trying to block efforts to forge a coalition government after the election, is also widely claimed to be seeking an early election.

Taking the military operations and the targeting of the HDP by the government as a sure sign of an early election, Gürsel added, “The AK Party could trying to close down the HDP if it feels it will not be able to push [voter support for] the HDP below the election threshold.”

The government may also be hoping that the bombing against the PKK, which started after the PKK murdered several security officials, would help the AK Party win back some of the nationalist votes that drifted to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the latest election.

Until recently, the government has been adopting a “tolerant” attitude towards PKK activity in Turkey, which led some nationalist voters to turn their backs to the AK Party.

Human Rights Watch on the War on Yemen: Coalition Strikes on Residence Unlawful, War Crime

    Monday, July 27, 2015   No comments
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed at least 65 civilians, including 10 children, and wounded dozens in the Yemeni port city of Mokha on July 24, 2015, are an apparent war crime. Starting between 9:30 and 10 p.m., coalition airplanes repeatedly struck two residential compounds of the Mokha Steam Power Plant, which housed plant workers and their family members.
The failure of Saudi Arabia and other coalition members to investigate apparently unlawful airstrikes in Yemen demonstrates the need for the United Nations Human Rights Council to create a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of laws-of-war violations by the coalition, the Houthis, and other parties to the conflict, Human Rights Watch said.

 “The Saudi-led coalition repeatedly bombed company housing with fatal results for several dozen civilians,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher. “With no evident military target, this attack appears to be a war crime.”

Human Rights Watch visited the area of the attack a day-and-a-half later. Craters and building damage showed that six bombs had struck the plant’s main residential compound, which housed at least 200 families, according to the plant’s managers. One bomb had struck a separate compound for short-term workers about a kilometer north of the main compound, destroying the water tank for the compounds, and two bombs had struck the beach and an intersection nearby.

Bombs hit two apartment buildings directly, collapsing part of their roofs. Other bombs exploded between the buildings, including in the main courtyard, stripping the exterior walls off dozens of apartments, leaving only the load-bearing pillars standing.

Workers and residents at the compounds told Human Rights Watch that one or more aircraft dropped nine bombs in separate sorties in intervals of a few minutes. All of the bombs appeared intended for the compounds and not another objective.

Human Rights Watch saw no signs that either of the two residential compounds for the power plants were being used for military purposes. Over a dozen workers and residents said that there had been no Houthi or other military forces at the compounds. The power plant and the compound were built in 1986.

    Early in the morning of July 25, a news ticker on Al-Arabiya TV, a Saudi-owned media outlet, reported that coalition forces had attacked a military air defense base in Mokha. Human Rights Watch identified a military facility about 800 meters southeast of the Mokha Steam Power Plant’s main compound, which plant workers said had been a military air defense base. The plant workers said that it had been empty for months, and Human Rights Watch saw no activity or personnel at the base from the outside, except for two guards.

Bagil Jafar Qasim, director general of the plant, provided Human Rights Watch with a list of 65 people killed in the attack, including 10 children. The list included two people still missing, whom Qasim believed were buried under the rubble and probably dead. Human Rights Watch visited three hospitals in Hodaida that had received 42 wounded from the attack. Several, including an 11-year-old girl, were in critical condition.

Wajida Ahmed Najid, 37, a resident in one of the compounds whose husband is a plant employee, said that when the first strike hit, she grabbed her children close and they huddled together hoping the danger would pass:

    After the third strike the entire building began to collapse on top of us. Then I knew we needed to leave because it was not safe to stay. I grabbed my girls and we started running in the direction of the beach, but as we were running pieces of metal were flying everywhere and one hit Malak, my 9-year-old daughter. Thank God she is going to be okay. While we were running I saw bodies, seven of them, just lying on the ground, in pieces.

A doctor at the hospital told Human Rights Watch that they had removed a metal fragment from Malak’s abdomen.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Quran Fragments, Said to Date From Time of Muhammad, Are Found in Britain

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015   No comments
Oldest surviving copies fragments of a Quran manuscript
Fragments of what researchers say are part of one of the world’s oldest manuscripts of the Quran have been found at the University of Birmingham, the school said on Wednesday.
The ancient fragments are probably at least 1,370 years old, which would place the manuscript’s writing within a few years of the founding of Islam, researchers say, and the author of the text may well have known the Prophet Muhammad.

The small pieces of the manuscript, written on sheep or goat skin, sat in the university’s library for about a century until a Ph.D. student noticed their particular calligraphy. The university sent a small piece of the manuscript to Oxford University for radiocarbon dating.

David Thomas, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham, said that when the results came back, he and other researchers had been stunned to discover the manuscript’s provenance.

Muslims believe Muhammad received the revelations that form the Quran, the scripture of Islam, between 610 and 632, the year of his death. Professor Thomas said tests by the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit indicated with a probability of more than 94 percent that the parchment dated from 568 to 645.

During the time of Muhammad, the divine message was not compiled into the book form in which it appears today, Professor Thomas said. Rather, the words believed to be from God as told to Muhammad were preserved in the “memories of men” and recited. Parts of it were written on parchment, stone, palm leaves and the shoulder blades of camels, he said.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015   No comments
Turkish government and Erdogan feel the heat from ISIL and opposition, prompting AKP leaders to lash out at HDP

A Turkish online magazine that supports the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has slammed Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the first time.

“Konstantiniyye” (the Ottoman word for Istanbul) published its second issue on July 17. The magazine, which did not criticize or threaten Turkey in its first issue earlier this year, changed its tone dramatically as Ankara toughened its stance against ISIL.

“[In this issue] we tried to explain that the state of Turkey, which is trying to confront the Islamic State by displaying erratic behavior, is moving toward disintegration with its support and concessions to the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK,” the issue’s
prologue said.

The magazine referred to the PKK as “the atheist gang” and Turkey as “the regime of tağut.”


Monday, July 20, 2015

At least 28 dead in suspected ISIL suicide bombing in Turkey's border with Syria

    Monday, July 20, 2015   No comments
Comment: ISIL's attack add pressure on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party who supported armed groups like ISIL and Nusra in Syria and allowed fighters and weapons to flow into that country despite warnings that such policy will destabilize Turkey. Turkey must rethink its foreign policy in the region to stop further attacks.

An explosion on Monday outside a cultural center in the Turkish town of Suruç, which is near the country's border with Syria, killed at least 28 people and wounded more than 100, in what may have been a suicide bomb attack by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.

The explosion occurred at around 11:50 a.m. in front of the Amara Culture Center while a large number of Socialist Youth Association (SGDF) members, who came from İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Diyarbakır, were making a press statement regarding the reconstruction of the Syrian border town of Kobani. Turkish media reports said 300 people from the SGDF were preparing to travel to Kobani to help with the rebuilding.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the midday blast. Initial reports had said the explosion was a suicide attack and the bomber was reportedly a member of ISIL, and Turkish officials speaking to Reuters also said preliminary evidence suggested an ISIL suicide attack caused the blast. The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet's website, citing official sources, said the attack is suspected to have been perpetrated by a 18-year-old female ISIL supporter.

In a written statement following the attack, Turkey's Interior Ministry said the “terrorist attack” led to the death of 27 people and injured more than 100, according to initial findings, and added that there is a fear that the death toll may rise. The ministry said a technical team was sent to the area to conduct an investigation.

"We call on everyone to stand together and remain calm in the face of this terrorist attack which targets the unity of our country," the ministry said in the statement.

Şanlıurfa Governor İzzettin Küçük later said the explosion was a suicide attack, giving the death toll as 28.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Al Qaeda Fights on Same Side as Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen in support of Hadi

    Saturday, July 18, 2015   No comments
Saudi Connections to al-Qaeda?
Special forces from United Arab Emirates said to have joined battle

Local militias backed by Saudi Arabia, special forces from the United Arab Emirates and al Qaeda militants all fought on the same side this week to wrest back control over most of Yemen’s second city, Aden, from pro-Iranian Houthi rebels, according to local residents and Houthi forces.

As Yemen’s conflict degenerates into a precarious tangle of alliances, it poses a new quandary for the U.S. Yemen was a cornerstone of the American global counterterrorism strategy until earlier this year when the Houthis drove out a government that was working with Washington. The U.S. then backed a Saudi-led coalition that launched airstrikes against the Houthis in March.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

WikiLeaks Cables Show a Saudi Obsession With Iran and interference in business of academic institutions around the world

    Thursday, July 16, 2015   No comments
Saudis wanted to fire university president
For decades, Saudi Arabia has poured billions of its oil dollars into sympathetic Islamic organizations around the world, quietly practicing checkbook diplomacy to advance its agenda.

But a trove of thousands of Saudi documents recently released by WikiLeaks reveals in surprising detail how the government’s goal in recent years was not just to spread its strict version of Sunni Islam — though that was a priority — but also to undermine its primary adversary: Shiite Iran.

The documents from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry illustrate a near obsession with Iran, with diplomats in Africa, Asia and Europe monitoring Iranian activities in minute detail and top government agencies plotting moves to limit the spread of Shiite Islam.


Israel Assassinated Senior Syrian Official

    Thursday, July 16, 2015   No comments
On Aug. 1, 2008, a small team of Israeli commandos entered the waters near Tartus, Syria, and shot and killed a Syrian general as he was holding a dinner party at his seaside weekend home. Muhammad Suleiman, a top aide to the Syrian president, was shot in the head and neck, and the Israeli military team escaped by sea.

While Israel has never spoken about its involvement, secret U.S. intelligence files confirm that Israeli special operations forces assassinated the general while he vacationed at his luxury villa on the Syrian coast.

The internal National Security Agency document, provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is the first official confirmation that the assassination of Suleiman was an Israeli military operation, and ends speculation that an internal dispute within the Syrian government led to his death.

A top-secret entry in the NSA’s internal version of Wikipedia, called Intellipedia, described the assassination by “Israeli naval commandos” near the port town of Tartus as the “first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official.” The details of the assassination were included in a “Manhunting Timeline” within the NSA’s intelligence repository.

According to three former U.S. intelligence officers with extensive experience in the Middle East, the document’s classification markings indicate that the NSA learned of the assassination through surveillance. The officials asked that they not be identified, because they were discussing classified information.

The information in the document is labeled “SI,” which means that the intelligence was collected by monitoring communications signals. “We’ve had access to Israeli military communications for some time,” said one of the former U.S. intelligence officers.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Presidential News Conference on Iran Nuclear Deal -- JCPOA

    Wednesday, July 15, 2015   No comments

President Obama held a news conference on the Iran nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- JCPOA). The deal limits the country’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for the lifting of international sanctions and an eventual lifting of the arms embargo. The president talked about why the deal is in the national security interest of the United States and addressed some of the criticisms of the agreement. He also answered
several questions on topics not related to Iran, including criminal justice reform, his upcoming trip to Africa, and whether he should revoke the Medal of Freedom from Bill Cosby.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Obama Makes His Case on Iran Nuclear Deal

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015   No comments

Only hours after the conclusion of an agreement with Iran to lift oil and financial sanctions in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, President Obama is a man who evinces no second thoughts whatsoever about the deal he struck. In a 45-minute interview in the Cabinet Room, the president kept stressing one argument: Don’t judge me on whether this deal transforms Iran, ends Iran’s aggressive behavior toward some of its Arab neighbors or leads to détente between Shiites and Sunnis. Judge me on one thing: Does this deal prevent Iran from breaking out with a nuclear weapon for the next 10 years and is that a better outcome for
America, Israel and our Arab allies than any other alternative on the table?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed

    Monday, July 13, 2015   No comments

"The road to imperial glory is always paved by the blood, sweat, and skulls of the vulnerable and oppressed"

The past has a disconcerting habit of bursting, uninvited and unwelcome, into the present. This year history gate-crashed modern America in the form of a 150-year-old document: a few sheets of paper that compelled Hollywood actor Ben Affleck to issue a public apology and forced the highly regarded US public service broadcaster PBS to launch an internal investigation.

The document, which emerged during the production of Finding Your Roots, a celebrity genealogy show, is neither unique nor unusual. It is one of thousands that record the primal wound of the American republic – slavery. It lists the names of 24 slaves, men and women, who in 1858 were owned by Benjamin L Cole, Affleck’s great-great-great-grandfather. When this uncomfortable fact came to light, Affleck asked the show’s producers to conceal his family’s links to slavery. Internal emails discussing the programme were later published by WikiLeaks, forcing Affleck to admit in a Facebook post: “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed.”

It was precisely because slaves were reduced to property that they appear so regularly in historic documents, both in the US and in Britain. As property, slaves were listed in plantation accounts and itemised in inventories. They were recorded for tax reasons and detailed alongside other transferable goods on the pages of thousands of wills. Few historical documents cut to the reality of slavery more than lists of names written alongside monetary values. It is now almost two decades since I had my first encounter with British plantation records, and I still feel a surge of emotion when I come across entries for slave children who, at only a few months old, have been ascribed a value in sterling; the sale of children and the separation of families was among the most bitterly resented aspects of an inhuman system.

Slavery resurfaces in America regularly. The disadvantage and discrimination that disfigures the lives and limits the life chances of so many African-Americans is the bitter legacy of the slave system and the racism that underwrote and outlasted it. Britain, by contrast, has been far more successful at covering up its slave-owning and slave-trading past. Whereas the cotton plantations of the American south were established on the soil of the continental United States, British slavery took place 3,000 miles away in the Caribbean.

That geographic distance made it possible for slavery to be largely airbrushed out of British history, following the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. Many of us today have a more vivid image of American slavery than we have of life as it was for British-owned slaves on the plantations of the Caribbean. The word slavery is more likely to conjure up images of Alabama cotton fields and whitewashed plantation houses, of Roots, Gone With The Wind and 12 Years A Slave, than images of Jamaica or Barbados in the 18th century. This is not an accident.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saudi Arabia rejects UN declared cease-fire and continues bombing cities in Yemen, more civilians are killed

    Saturday, July 11, 2015   No comments
Saudi Arabia rejects UN declared cease-fire and continues bombing cities in Yemen, more civilians are killed

Saudi-led air strikes hit Yemen’s capital and another main city causing explosions, residents reported, two hours after a United Nations humanitarian truce took effect.

Bombing pounded Yemeni military positions east of the capital Sanaa and also Yemen’s third largest city Taiz.

The U.N.-brokered pause in the fighting was meant to last a week to allow aid deliveries to the country’s 21 million people who have endured over three months of bombing and civil war.

A coalition of Arab states has been bombing the Iranian-allied Houthi rebel movement since late March in a bid to restore to power Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh.

The group controls much of Yemen, including Sanaa and Taiz. Air raids and fighting have killed more than 3,000 people since then. Residents in areas of heavy combat between Houthi forces and local militiamen reported that ground fighting and Saudi-led air strikes on the Houthis had increased across the country in the hours before the truce was to take effect.


Monday, July 06, 2015

Relentless Terror: The Everyday Horrors of the Islamic State... and ... The Allure of the Islamic State: Money and Status Attract Fighters

    Monday, July 06, 2015   No comments
 Relentless Terror: The Everyday Horrors of the Islamic State
In late June, images made their way around the world of four men as they were locked in a car and killed with a rocket-propelled grenade. They showed seven men, chained together with explosive necklaces, as they were blown up. And they provided evidence that five men had been locked in a metal cage and lowered into the water to drown. As we learned last week, 16 men in total were murdered in these brutal ways. We know this because the executioners with the group calling itself "Islamic State" wanted to film their victims as they were dying.

The films, carefully staged and distributed using all modern channels, seem to be coming directly from hell. The men who see themselves as the new caliphs are performing an unparalleled dance of death, complete with the kinds of horrors once depicted by painter Hieronymus Bosch -- only these killers and executioners are anything but fiction. In Syria and along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq today, where human civilization once began, it is not some nightmarish fictional characters at work, but real players in contemporary history with a megalomaniacal agenda. And instead of covering up their murders, they are doing the opposite -- inviting the rest of the world to look on, proud of a brutality that knows no bounds and is both part of their military strategy and an instrument of oppression.

The Islamic State is both fact and fiction at the same time. It has clearly created a propaganda bubble, but it also represents a new social order in places where it has come into power. The "caliphate" was proclaimed about a year ago, and the older group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has become IS, often referred to as Da'ish in the Arab world. But all of these names refer to the same thing: a militant movement with its origins partly in the Iraqi prison camps run by the Americans, which grew into al-Qaida in Iraq and now, as IS, is claiming territory for a new state, territory captured by former top figures in the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein.



 The Allure of the Islamic State: Money and Status Attract Fighters

The prisoner enters the room with his eyes blind-folded, with stiff and uncertain steps. He's shaking and doesn't seem to know where he is, why he is here or what is happening to him. The guard leading him directs the man to one of eight stools. A second uniformed man stands in the room. He's the head of security at this high-security prison in Erbil, with simultaneous responsibility for the anti-terror unit. He doesn't want to reveal his name for security reasons.

"In this prison, we observe the rules of the United Nations Human Rights Conventions," he says, unsolicited. "There's no torture. We treat our prisoners well."

The prisoner on the other side of the table is said to be an emir, an officer in the army of the "Islamic State" captured during fighting near the city of Tal Afar. His name: Mohammed Ibrahim, born in 1985, a professional mason, a football fan and, since July of last year, a soldier serving the Islamic State. He disputes being an emir. He claims to have been a simple soldier, one who had been on watch duty and hid himself in a trench during the Allied air strikes. He had been captured there by Peshmerga fighters.

Ibrahim has a wife and three kids. He says he took up the call to arms because two of his brothers were killed in 2004 and 2006, after going to war to fight for al-Qaida. He had been feeling the pain of that loss for years. Although the deaths of his brothers may have been a motive for Ibrahim, a second, also plausible one, was opportunism. Why else would it have taken him years after the deaths of his brothers to team up with the Islamic State's forces? Why had he only just now entered into battle?

One possible answer is that, following IS' capture of Mosul one month before, when the Iraqi army led with the arrival of a few thousand fighters in pickup trucks, he wanted to endear himself to the future leaders in Iraq.



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