The terror group ISIS early Sunday released another video purportedly providing evidence that it had beheaded another American. The victim, former U.S. Army Ranger Peter Edward Kassig, had spent several years as an aid worker in the Middle East and was taken prisoner by the group in Syria more than a year ago.
The footage – showing what the group said was Kassig’s severed head – was narrated by the same British-accented killer who has appeared in four previous beheading videos. In addition to showing Kassig’s remains, the video shows the beheading of more than a dozen Syrian government soldiers.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Sen. Dick Durbin (R-IL), the majority whip in the U.S. Senate, said, “This video if verified is a tragic reminder of the savagery of ISIS and the complexity of our challenge.”
The National Security Council said it was working to confirm the video, and later in the day, President Obama did confirm that Kassig – who was also known as Abdul-Rahman Kassig, after his conversion to Islam while in captivity – was beheaded by ISIS. Obama said Kassig, who was 26, “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.”
In the video, the group’s members taunt the United States, promising, “We will begin to slaughter your people on your streets.” The black-clad jihadist advises Obama, whom he refers to as “the dog of Rome,” that that he will need to send more troops to Iraq.
The video’s release came just days after U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in testimony before Congress that the U.S. might need to send some combat troops back to Iraq.
While the fight against ISIS in Iraq is progressing well, Dempsey told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, “As it evolves there are certain operations that could be more complex than the ones in which the Iraqi security forces are currently involved.”
Citing future efforts, such as retaking the city of Mosul, Dempsey said that while there are no current plans to include U.S. troops, the U.S. is considering it.
But Durbin, whose colleagues in the House and Senate are generally opposed to the addition of more U.S. troops to the approximately 3,000 already been recommitted to help Iraq fight ISIS, warned against further involvement of U.S. forces.
The situation on the ground in Iraq and Syria is highly complex, he warned.
“It would be a serious mistake for us to make a commitment of land troops into these theaters,” he said. “We have to think long and hard about the best way to defeat this terrible terrorist group.”
Durbin spoke in favor of a “home-grown, locally supported” effort to combat ISIS. “We need to provide support to those that are fighting ISIS … but the notion of sending in rotational troops as we saw in the past… I think we’ve learned our lesson,” he said.
Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed sympathy for Kassig and his family and pledged continuing intelligence support. “We’re fully coordinated with the United States. We exchange all information that needs to be exchanged,” he said.
Natanyahu’s comments quickly turned to the broader problems in the Middle East, particularly Israel’s concerns about a nuclear Iran, and included a lecture-like reminder to the U.S. about its relationship with Iranian rulers in Tehran.
“We have a global conflict here,” Netanyahu said. “Basically, the Middle East is awash with militant Islamists. The militant Islamists led by al-Qaeda and ISIS on the Sunni side, the militant Islamists led by Iran and Hezbollah on the Shi’ite side – we want both of them to lose. The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction.”
The obvious reference was to the U.S.’s ongoing negotiations with Iran over the status of its nuclear program, and Netanyahu equated the Iranian government with ISIS.
“What ISIS is doing now with assault rifles and pickup trucks, just imagine what Iran would do if it had nuclear weapons.”
Asked by host Bob Schieffer about reports that President Obama has reached out to Iranian leaders in an effort to discuss cooperating to fight ISIS, Netanyahu dismissed the idea. “Both our enemies are fighting each other,” he said.
Appearing to address President Obama directly, Netanyahu said, “Iran is not your ally. Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy, not your partner. Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel.”
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