It is no coincidence that U.S. airstrikes pushed ISIS from key Iraqi battlegrounds in mid-August, and that ISIS released their first video of their terrorist group beheading a hostage — James Foley, an American freelance journalist — on August 19.
In fact, this has become a definite pattern with ISIS. They follow military defeat with images of beheadings. On Friday, ISIS released a new video showing the beheading of Alan Henning, a British aid worker, following almost two weeks of daily airstrikes against their fighters. And in the beheading of British aid worker David Haines, ISIS stated that the reason for his death was due to Britain’s decision to supply weapons to Kurdish fighters. Kurdish forces have been battling ISIS along a 650-mile front in Iraq, and since August have managed to take back much of the territory initially lost to ISIS.
Before the beheadings began, ISIS had held its Western hostages for months, and for some, even years. It was not until their momentum in Iraq began to be weakened by the airstrikes did ISIS begin to behead its Western hostages.
ISIS is using the most horrific, violent use of propaganda to bolster themselves and their supporters during military losses.
Alberto Fernandez, head of the State Department’s office for counterterrorism propaganda, summed the situation up with the following words.
“Certainly since the bombing campaign, the reverses, they’re no longer boasting of taking places – because they’re not taking places. They’re losing places. So what do they do? They boast about cutting people’s heads off. They’re trying to substitute that for military victory.”
In the latest video, a masked ISIS militant blatantly warns the United States that the horrific beheadings will continue as long as the airstrikes continue. He further threatened that Peter Kassig, an American hostage, would be the next victim.
The masked ISIS militant then said, “It is only right that we continue to strike the neck of your people.”
The terrorist group has also focused on non-Western hostages, as well. ISIS has released visual evidence of the beheadings of Kurdish fighters after ISIS was attacked in Kurdish areas in northern Iraq and Syria. Again, this follows the same pattern – instead of admitting military defeat to the Kurds, ISIS attempts to demonstrate their strength through violent beheadings of their Kurdish opposition.
According to the Clarion Project, which is a Washington-based organization devoted to countering Islamic extremism, ISIS “wants to create the impression of victory and demoralize its Kurdish enemies.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe that ISIS is holding as many as 20 hostages, including two Americans. As Juan Zarate, who was a deputy national security adviser on counterterrorism to former President George W. Bush, said, it’s “a very difficult balance” for the United States and its allies, as they try to weigh the safety of the hostages against continued U.S. attacks on ISIS.
“What you try to do is find ways to accelerate potential releases, or acquisition of where (the hostages) are, and have that as part of your battle plan considerations,” Zarate said. “But once you’ve made the decision to engage the enemy, and they have your citizens, you’re taking a risk. And lives are going to be lost.”
[Image via The Christian Post]