‘Lend me your ears’ (and pay up) — an ISIS ransom note


“After two disastrous and hugely unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, why is it that our governments appear so keen to get involved in yet another unwinnable conflict?”

The question comes from a British journalist, John Cantlie, who has been a prisoner of ISIS for most of the last two years and who has now been compelled to become the organization’s spokesman.

In a newly released video he continues:

I’m going to show you the truth behind these systems and motivation of the Islamic State, and how the western media, the very organisation I used to work for can twist and manipulate that truth to the public back home.

There are two sides to every story – think you’re getting the whole picture? And I’ll show you the truth behind what happened when many European citizens were imprisoned and later released by the Islamic State and how the British and American governments thought they could do it differently to every other every other European country.

They negotiated with the Islamic state and got their people home while the British and Americans were left behind.

It’s very alarming to see where this is all headed and it looks like history repeating itself yet again. There is time to change this seemingly inevitable sequence of events, but only if you, the public act now. Join me for the next few programmes and I think you may be surprised by what you learn.

Stay tuned.

ISIS is frequently credited for its media sophistication, but its use of a prisoner to serve as a spokesman shows how impoverished the organization must be when from among its thousands of Western recruits apparently there aren’t any fit to represent and articulate the cause they are all fighting for. (Individuals like Moner Mohammad Abusalha from Florida might accurately represent the Western face of ISIS, but they also undermine the organization’s credibility.)

When we are told that several European governments successfully negotiated with ISIS and “got their people home,” no mention is made of ransoms being paid.

While ISIS’s latest message tries to leverage antiwar sentiment in the West, no one should mistake this as a wise warning whose purpose is to forestall another military misadventure.

Put most simply the message is: hold fire, pay up, or John Cantlie will meet the same fate as James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines.

Other commentators have argued that ISIS’s use of beheading videos has been designed to bait the West — to draw the U.S. and its allies into another unwinnable war — but the latest video seems to confirm what I have said repeatedly: ISIS wants to consolidate and expand its caliphate since its success in doing that serves as a much potent magnet for recruits than the prospect of being targeted in U.S. airstrikes.

In response to the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, ISIS seems to have focused most of its efforts beyond America’s current reach by making gains in Syria.

Even though President Obama says he is ready to order airstrikes in Syria, there seems little reason to believe that these are imminent, and ISIS wants to use the intervening period to its full advantage.

The Cantlie video is the second ISIS releases this week.


“Fighting has just begun” declares the “trailer” for its Hollywood-style “Flame of War,” but as it did in its other video release this week, Alhayat Media Center is addressing the public, rather than Western governments, in an effort to increase war fears more than war fever.

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3 thoughts on “‘Lend me your ears’ (and pay up) — an ISIS ransom note

  1. Syd

    To me, whether ISIS wants us to go to war with them or not is irrelevant. Ho Chi Minh didn’t want to fight America. We didn’t listen, and it didn’t turn out well for us. Hitler actually declared war on America, and it didn’t turn out well for him. Instead of taking advice from nutcases — or reflexively doing the opposite of what they advise — we need to ask some basic questions:

    Do we have a strategy to defeat ISIS? No. That should end the debate right there, but I’ll continue:

    Do we have allies? No. It’s not even clear if Turkey — let alone Saudi Arabia and Qatar — will be neutral in this fight. They might work against us.

    Do we have public support to make a full national effort to win? No.

    Do we have some residual level of trust in the region so that we can persuade the peoples of Syria and Iraq to work with us? No — the best we can hope for is short-term alliances on the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-a-friend-for-now basis. (This reason alone would make it crazy for Israel to declare war on ISIS, but our poll numbers aren’t much better.)

    Until we can say yes to at least the first three questions, we have no hope of winning this war — whether it’s necessary or not. We just have to wait until ISIS’ neighbors recognize the danger and are willing to work with us. Until then we can make sure ISIS doesn’t overrun the Kurds or Baghdad and hope they become less popular in the Sunni areas. It’s not a great plan, but it’s achievable.

  2. Paul Woodward Post author

    Understanding ISIS’s intentions is fundamental to developing a sound strategy. If there is a public perception that ISIS is goading the U.S. to extend its operations, then that increases pressure on politicians who are afraid of looking weak.

    America’s fear of appearing weak is so deeply ingrained that it even extends as far as viewing attempts to understand the intentions of its adversaries as a sign of weakness — Americans like to feign a bold indifference, as though they are impervious to the effects of what others might think of want. But this isn’t the aloofness of the proud and invulnerable. It’s just dumb.

    Sun Tzu:

    It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

  3. jojo

    The truth is america dont have any plan to demolish isis. Whatever america is doing now will have a long time and bloody impact on s.a, u.a.e,qatar behrain,jordan , lebnan all of these will suffer peoples in these countries had already begun asking serious question like
    If america and other arabs countries can bomb isis in syria so why did they let bashar to kill an displace innocents . they could have done it to bashar and so that isis would have never existed and they could have helped the rebbels by not just giving ak47 but with air support so that less peoples would have died
    Sunni all around the world are now saying america is only the enemy of sunnis and govt of sunni countries are american puppets
    Meanwhile the propaganda against isis on t.v channels is also not working very well cuz they dont have cordination and connection if ur watching news about isis on a t.v it raises suspision and questions and alot why s ? In the mind which results in that they are lying ..the real situation on ground is changing 100 times faster then it appers on t.v if not controlled soon …….dooors of hell will open for arab region

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