Multiple outlets have already reported on ISIS’ latest (and as yet unverified) video claiming to show the severed head of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig.
The new video does not show Kassig alive, or his alleged murder; instead it shows a masked militant standing next to what he claims to be Kassig’s head, blaming both Barack Obama and Kassig’s own service as an Army Ranger for the brutality inflicted upon western hostages.
From the Associated Press:
“We say to you, Obama: … You claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago,” the militant said. “Here you are: You have not withdrawn. Rather, you hid some of your forces behind your proxies.” A U.S.-led coalition is targeting the Islamic State group in airstrikes, supporting Western-backed Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi military.
The militant’s voice is distorted in the video. Previous videos featured a militant with a British accent that the FBI says it has identified, though it hasn’t named him publicly.
Later, the militant claims Kassig, 26, was killed because he “fought against the Muslims in Iraq while serving as a soldier.” Kassig, from Indianapolis, Indiana, served in the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, a special operations unit, and deployed to Iraq in 2007.
The fact that Kassig does not appear alive in the video has many wondering whether or not he refused to deliver ISIS’ message to the west firsthand. (In previous videos released by the militant group, hostages were forced to recite a prepared statement before their executions.)
According to Fox, this video is longer than those previously released, and shows multiple hostages being executed. U.S. officials are working to verify the authenticity of the video.
ISIS released this video just as President Obama left for the G-20 summit in Brisbane, which means they’re hoping that their actions will derail discussions on climate change, the conflict in Ukraine, and other issues. I don’t believe that ISIS is terribly concerned with whether or not the world condones their violent takeover of territory in Iraq and Syria, but I do believe that part of their strategy in the timing of this release could relate to their need to maintain a steady stream of funding from the west.
Although the group is largely self-sufficient, much of ISIS’ funding comes from oil smuggled from occupied territories to places like Turkey, who benefit from a booming black market. Part of the coalition strategy to defeat ISIS involves both reclaiming land that is home to oil refineries, and making sure that insurgents don’t have access to banking services; if the black market for oil dries up, maintaining the $20 million per year coming in from the families and home countries of hostages will become even more critical.
Although the U.S. hasn’t yet been able to convince other countries to stop making ransom payments, mounting pressure at home could eventually force Barack Obama to take a stronger stance against ISIS’ tactics. Jazz Shaw over at Hot Air writes:
These animals are slaughtering Americans and our allies on international TV and the time to act was months ago. I realize that the nation is weary of war and your base will be up in arms, but you signed up for this job. Twice.
Woodrow Wilson desperately wanted to avoid going to war and the nation was largely behind him in that reluctance. But when the time came, in April of 1917, he pulled up his big boy pants, went before Congress and requested a declaration of war. In that address he said, The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it. We have seen how other nations will respond and you do not have the luxury of an assembly of world leaders ready to fight at your side. You may have to lead the way onto the battlefield alone.
If the world turns its back on its pseudo-détente with Islamic jihad, ISIS could see a major source of funding dry up, even as their oil-rich territory shrinks.
The question remains, how far is Barack Obama willing to go alone if the rest of the world refuses to follow?
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