Travelling inside ISIS-controlled Syria and Iraq

Jürgen Todenhöfer writes: Abu Qatadah, a German-born Muslim convert, who has brokered our visit to the Islamic State, is almost as wide as he is tall, with a thick, reddish-brown beard. My photographer son Frederic and I load our bags into the bed of the white pickup Qatadah and his driver arrived in. The driver’s head and face are so thoroughly wrapped with a large grey shawl that only his eyes and the contours of his nose are visible. He murmurs a greeting in English in a strikingly rhythmic accent. For security reasons, we can’t use the main roads. The drive to Raqqa takes more than three hours.

Qatadah claims business is booming in Isis. Almost all the shops are open and lots of goods are being sold, above all at the markets. We notice the new construction. “In places that are not being bombed, life goes on as normal,” Qatadah tells us. Then he gives us a short lecture on Isis’s version of sharia.

Christians have to pay jizya, a protection tax. It comes to about $300 (£210) a year for poor people and $600 (£420) for the rich. But then that is the only tax. Christians are among the more prosperous inhabitants of the country. All they have to do is sell a couple of sheep to raise the money to cover the tax. [Continue reading…]

The Daily Beast reports: Two senior intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command say the military has forced them out of their jobs because of their skeptical reporting on U.S.-backed rebel groups in Syria, three sources with knowledge of their claim told The Daily Beast. It’s the first known instance of possible reprisals against CENTCOM personnel after analysts accused their bosses of manipulating intelligence reports about the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in order to paint a rosier picture of progress in the war.

One of the analysts alleging reprisals is the top analyst in charge of Syria issues at CENTCOM. He and a colleague doubted rebels’ capabilities and their commitment to U.S. objectives in the region. The analysts have been effectively sidelined from their positions and will no longer be working at CENTCOM, according to two individuals familiar with the dispute, and who spoke on condition of anonymity. [Continue reading…]

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