With ISIS/ISIL/IS making the front page of the world's newspapers for yet another beheading, the mujahideen of the Islamic State continue to concern the world's political leaders who seem unable to end the cycle of violence.
ISIS is a far different organization than al-Qaeda. ISIS has a very sophisticated media arm, Al-Hayat Media. Al-Hayat was launched in April 2014 and has grown as the Islamic State has gained ground in Iraq. Unlike the primitive video productions that we were exposed to during the al-Qaeda era, these productions are rather slick and include videos, news reports and magazines in their media offensive. These productions are in several languages including German and English.
One of the first productions was an English language video titled "There is No Life Without Jihad" released in June 2014. In this 13 minute video, we are exposed to a series of Western ISIS recruits who are doing their best to convince other Westerners, in English, to join their holy war. Here is a screen capture showing one of the "Brothers" from Britain:
Another video with English subtitles, "Clanging of the Swords IV" gives us an hour long, up-close and personal look at warfare, ISIS-style that you can find here at Liveleak. You should be warned that the video is quite graphic in nature :
This film is part of a series that was first published on internet forums that are frequented by ISIS members and was posted to ISIS official Twitter account on May 17, 2014. The opening sequence is a drone flyover of Fallujah which has been under ISIS control since early 2014. While the video, like some other ISIS videos, has been removed from YouTube for violating its terms, particularly its policy on shocking and disgusting content as shown here....
...the content is readily available elsewhere on the "tubes that make up the internet" (my apologies to the late Senator from Alaska).
One of Al-Hayat's most glitzy productions was released in late September 2014. "Flames of War" is a 55 minute long terrorist extravaganza that gets close to the action, giving us a real sense of what the battle is like and how well-armed ISIS is:
At the 1 minute and 15 second mark, you'll notice the use of the "Mission Accomplished" banner and George Bush's famous "Major combat missions in Iraq have ended" line from his address on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 as shown on this screen capture:
As well, if you go to the 34 to 36 minute mark of the video, you will even see some super-slow motion shots that are very reminiscent of Hollywood-style productions. While it's not The Matrix, the production values are distinctly different than what we used to see from al-Qaeda and are obviously meant to appeal to a wider and more sophisticated audience.
When we watch these videos, it is easy to see how wrong John Kerry was when he insists that the Islamic State is not Islamic in his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in mid-September as quoted here:
"I was very encouraged to hear yesterday that Saudi Arabia’s top clerical entity, 21 clerics, unanimously came out and declared again that terrorism is a heinous crime under Sharia law, and more importantly declared that ISIL has nothing to do with Islam and that it is, in fact, the order of Satan."
From the beginning to the end of the movie, the name Allah is repeated and justification for the holy war on unbelievers is drawn from the Qu'ran. The narrator clearly proclaims that ISIS goals are to fight to bring back the Kalifah and to rule the entire world with Allah's revelation as shown in this quote:
"Finally, this is a message that we direct to America. Know, O defender of the cross, that a proxy war won't help you in Sham (the region of Syria) just as it didn't help you in Iraq. As for the near future, you will be forced into a direct confrontation, with Allah's permission, despite your reluctance. And the sons of Islam have prepared themselves for this day, so wait and see."
When we watch these videos, we get a sense for how difficult it will be for a coalition of any kind to uproot a rather well-entrenched, reasonably well-armed and extremely well-indoctrinated ISIS fighting force and how it will be very difficult for a formal armed response to differentiate between Iraqi and Syrian friend and foe. The slickness of their productions and their obvious attempts to lure Westerners into their fold makes ISIS and Al-Hayat one of the most effective terrorist recruiters that the Western world has seen.