During a recent television interview, Mark Arabo, a Chaldean-American leader and California businessman, described in shocking detail the savagery in Iraq by troops from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He called it a Christian holocaust and an evil the likes of which the world has not seen for generations.
Those who have fled the terrorist horde this year number more than a million and the slaughter of Christian families is horrendous with mothers being raped and killed, and fathers being hung. In a park in Mosul, he said the extremist militants beheaded children and put their heads on a stick.
In a briefing before journalists last week, a panel of five U.S. intelligence officials called ISIS "an organization that has shown a remarkable durability because it is "patient," "well-organized," "opportunistic" and "flexible."
ISIS used to be al-Qaida in Iraq, has rebounded from about 1,500 fighters in 2010 to more than 10,000 today. This is no ragtag army of illiterate misfits. They even use slick online propaganda to recruit would-be Western fighters.
Joseph Carter, research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at London's Kings College, said before the Iraqi invasion the ISIS hashtag averaged about 1,000 hits but it is now averaging 30,000 to 40,000 hits on some days. They have posted pictures of Western foreign fighters standing on top of Humvees and other U.S. military equipment stolen from the Iraqi army.
Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow, said this all seems attractive to the young men looking for adventure and wanting to be part of a "winning" team. He said when a young person sees his buddies standing on tanks with Kalashnikovs "it all seems pretty cool to them."
The ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been called the new Osama bin Laden and the U.S. has placed a $10 million bounty on his head. In just one year, his international clout among Islamist militants has surpassed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
While President Obama authorized airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS to halt the terror group's siege of Mount Sinjar, the U.S. officials at last week's briefing were skeptical that Baghdadi could be deterred from striking the U.S.
Other members of the terrorist group have made it clear that the U.S. is a target.
"I say to America that the Islamic Caliphate has been established," said Abu Mosa, a spokesman for ISIS. "We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House."
"I swear to Allah we will divide America in two," another young member of the terror group stated. "And we'll destroy the enemies of the religion all of them, all who fight the Islamic State."
In that briefing last week with U.S. journalists, one intelligence official said conflict between ISIS and the U.S. is "inevitable."
This administration and our western allies were slow to recognize and proclaim ISIS as the ruthless butchers they are. The U.S. missed an opportunity to pull the trigger when the terrorist group was rampaging through Iraq two months ago.
Given the atrocities the world has already seen and with that U.S. official's urgent warning, American airpower should be targeting ISIS any time it has the shot.
By Jim Zbick