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Steven Sotloff’s slaying by IS

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By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel

Overnight: the U.S. intelligence community authenticated the Sotloff video and Obama now says in Europe: «we will not forget.» Intelligence officials confirmed overnight what most officials suspected: that the video purporting to show the beheading of American freelance journalist Steven Sotloff was real, another provocation from the Islamic State that forces President Barack Obama to confront the way forward in Syria, where the IS is based, but also Iraq, where the U.S. has mounted a limited airstrike campaign that even the U.S. military acknowledges has only had a «tactical» effect. Now Obama, who just last week said he still didn’t have a strategy for dealing with the Islamic militants – and Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said just this morning on CNN that strategy recommendations had yet to be given to the White House – must decide what to do. But his rhetoric in Europe overnight suggested sitting on his hands was no longer an option.

President Obama, from Estonia: «…Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed.  They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism.  We will not be intimidated.  Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists.  And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.»

For the record, the Islamic State never intended to negotiate anything. FP’s Shane Harris and Kate Brannen: «In releasing a video showing the murder of a second American journalist, the militants of the Islamic State made clear that they have no interest in negotiating with Barack Obama’s administration or its allies over the fate of other missing Westerners despite implying that they’d release those prisoners if Washington stopped its intensifying air campaign against the group.

«…In that message, the group said that Sotloff would die unless the United States halted airstrikes. But some U.S. defense and intelligence officials believe that Sotloff may have been killed at the same time as Foley, meaning the group never intended to release the Florida native or negotiate for his freedom.

«Before the Sotloff video was released, a U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said it wouldn’t be difficult for the Islamic State to make it appear as if the video had been recorded after the one showing Foley’s murder. In the video released Tuesday, Sotloff’s murderer gives no definitive indication of when he killed Sotloff.» Read the rest here.

Sotloff had freelanced for a number of publications, including Foreign Policy. His three dispatches for FP, here.

For Arab comedians, gallows humor is one way to cope with ISIS atrocities. FP’s Siobhán O’Grady: «…With radical Islamist militants seizing territory in Iraq and Syria, the Middle East has turned toward a black brand of humor to satirize and cope with a band of fighters advocating a medieval interpretation of Islam and a sadistic system of justice.» More here.

Iraqi forces waged a desperate campaign and held off militants in Amerli. The NYT’s Azam Ahmed, here.

The Pentagon announced another 350 troops to Baghdad. Acting on a request a couple weeks ago from the State Department to beef up its security around the massive embassy complex in Baghdad, the Pentagon said it was deploying another 350 uniforms. That makes for an official, public count of about 820 personnel in Iraq, but the real number is more than 1,100 authorized for deployment there. Pentagon officials had said only last week that the reason the Defense Department was assessing State’s request for additional forces was to determine if the embassy really needed them – and to make sure that any additional deployment of troops was part of a broader strategy. But the announcement late yesterday means the request had to be filled sooner, even if the broader mission in Iraq and in Syria has yet to be defined.

FWIW: Here’s Tom Friedman’s BLUF on the Islamic State in today’s column in the NYT: «I’m all-in on destroying ISIS. It is a sick, destabilizing movement. I support using U.S. air power and special forces to root it out, but only as part of a coalition, where everybody who has a stake in stability there pays their share and where mainstream Sunnis and Shiites take the lead by demonstrating that they hate ISIS more than they hate each other. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the middle of a God-awful mess of duplicitous allies and sectarian passions, and nothing good we do will last.» Read the whole thing here.  

Iraq Business News’ security update, here.


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Jonathan Topaz / Politico:

Steven Sotloff spokesman blasts White House handling  —  A spokesman for Steven Sotloff’s family contends the slain American journalist was sold to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant by Syrian rebels and says the Obama administration “could have done more” to save him.
Ed Mazza / The Huffington Post:

Steven Sotloff Was Sold To ISIS By ‘Moderate’ Rebels, Family Spokesman Tells CNN  —  Steven Sotloff, the American journalist murdered by Islamic State militants last week, was sold to the terrorist organization by supposedly moderate rebels in Syria, a family spokesman told CNN on Monday night.

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