Why did #ISIS kill James Foley?

Intimidation or provocation?

Since the U.S. has already launched at least 68 air strikes against ISIS, we’re already well past the point at which the U.S. needs drawing into the conflict — the enemy has already been engaged.

It thus seems more likely that the message from ISIS is not “bring it on” — it’s “back off.” More air strikes risk precipitating more executions.

The journalist Steven Joel Soltoff appeared in the same video showing Foley’s execution with the executioner making this threat: “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

Foley was kidnapped in November 2012 yet ISIS wasn’t formed until April 2013.

GlobalPost, the publication Foley was working for at that time, spared no effort in trying to locate him. In May 2013, AFP reported:

The co-founder and CEO of the online news network, Phil Balboni, said his company had hired the international security firm Kroll to investigate.

“With a high degree of confidence, we now believe that Jim was most likely abducted by a pro-regime militia group, commonly referred to as the Shabiha, and subsequently turned over to Syrian government forces,” Balboni said.

“We have obtained multiple independent reports from very credible confidential sources who have both indirect and direct access that confirm our assessment that Jim is now being held by the Syrian government.”

Balboni said the detention facility where Foley is reportedly being held is near the Syrian capital Damascus in an area still controlled by forces loyal to Assad’s regime, which is battling an armed revolt.

“We further believe that this facility is under the control of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence service,” he said, promising that GlobalPost would continue to press through private and diplomatic channels for Foley’s release.

Balboni said that GlobalPost knows the name and location of the detention center, and believes that other international journalists are also being held there, but said he could not go into details for security reasons.

This strongly suggests that the Assad regime handed Foley and the other hostages over to ISIS. Both the Syrian government and ISIS view journalists as a threat.

Although the majority of Americans currently support the air strikes the U.S. has launched in Iraq, that support is fairly weak:

Even as they approve of the airstrikes, Americans are more concerned about going too far in Iraq than they are about not going far enough to interdict Islamist militants who have swept through the country in recent months. Fifty-one percent say they are more worried about U.S. military action going too far; 32 percent say they are more concerned about not going far enough to stop the militants.

ISIS may now have as many as 80,000 fighters and it controls a third of Syria and a third of Iraq. At what point will its growth start to seriously worry most Americans?

Last week, while arguing against Western intervention against ISIS in Iraq, Seumas Milne wrote: “The likelihood is that [ISIS] can only be overcome by a functioning state in both Iraq and Syria.”

Let’s be clear: “overcome” doesn’t mean being thwarted in vigorous debate; it means military action. What was an antiwar movement is nowadays simply a not-our-war movement.

If Milne is correct in saying that functioning states in both Iraq and Syria are a precondition for overcoming ISIS, then before that happens it looks like it will grow from strength to strength.

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1 thought on “Why did #ISIS kill James Foley?

  1. Joshua Landis

    This is what the Washington Post says about the argument that the Syrian Gov snatched Foley and handed him to IS.
    “For the first year of his captivity, Global­Post and Foley’s family were sure he was being held by the Syrian government, according to articles on the Web site at the time. But last fall, they announced that they no longer believed that to be the case and said they would make no further comments on his situation.”

    This is what my sources claim:

    James Foley was last seen in Idlib and Aleppo country side (Azaz) in late summer of 2012. Nusra abducted him. They took him to a prison facility in Aleppo. At the time, that prison was run by both Nusra and ISIL. The two groups would later part ways. ISIL moved Foley to Raqqa and held him at a prison near Tishreen Dam. When Foley was first abducted, Syrian rebels (guy by the name of moustafa) told American officials in Turkey that the Syrian regime abducted Foley and moved him to Falastine intelligence branch. It was not till 2013 that another reporter flee from the Aleppo prison where Foley was kept. Both the family and American officials became convinced that he was now with Nusra/ISIL. Those who knew that ISIL had him were convinced that they would use him for possible future negotiations. The recent American strikes changed that calculus. Whether the video is authentic or not will be confirmed by US intelligence soon one presumes.

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