After another Western captive is beheaded, leaders convene to discuss ISIS threat
(CNN) — After the beheading of another Western captive by ISIS, an international conference convened Monday in Paris to talk about how to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic extremist group.
The Sunni jihadist group underlined its barbaric credentials over the weekend, posting a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines and threatening the life of another hostage from the United Kingdom.
It was the third videotaped killing of a Western hostage released in less than a month.
The latest killing, ISIS said, was “a message to the allies of America” — a direct challenge to the United States.
President Barack Obama announced last week that the United States would lead “a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” and that U.S. airstrikes against ISIS would expand from Iraq into Syria.
The United States has said nearly 40 nations have agreed to contribute to the fight against ISIS, which has seized control of large areas of northern Iraq and Syria. But it remains unclear exactly which countries are on that list and what roles they’ll play.
The Paris conference Monday is being hosted by French President Francois Hollande and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Masum.
At the start of the event, Hollande said there was “no time to lose” in international efforts against ISIS.
Analyst: Obama ‘revealed too much’
A leading Iraqi expert on ISIS told CNN that Obama may already have revealed more about U.S. plans than he should have to the militant group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“The mistake was announcing too much of the strategy and this was a free gift to al-Baghdadi to prepare and counter what has been revealed,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, who has studied jihadist groups and their evolution in Iraq over the past decade.
He suggested ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, has already begun to take defensive measures, including moving weapons and ammunition into depots and putting elite fighters among civilian populations to avoid airstrikes.
The anti-ISIS alliance that the U.S. is putting together risks driving more terrorist organizations to join forces with al-Baghdadi’s group in what they perceive as a “crusader” war against Muslims, al-Hashimi said.
‘Fighting ideology with ideology’
Influential Middle Eastern countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia may be crucial in countering that view.
“Help is needed from Saudi and Egyptian religious scholars in fighting ideology with ideology,” al-Hashimi said. “This is key to extracting ISIS from the roots.”
Last week, Egypt’s Grand Mufti reportedly condemned ISIS, saying that its actions are not in line with Islam.
Al-Hashimi is concerned by the exclusion of Iran — arguably the most influential player in Iraq — from the coalition.
“They sidelined Iran and that is a very big mistake because Iran controls the Shiite militias in Iraq and these militias could sabotage military operations when it comes to logistical support or can threaten the safety of American advisers and trainers,” he said.
Britain won’t ‘shirk our responsibility’
Britain’s role in the coalition is in particular focus after the killing of Haines, who was abducted last year near a Syrian refugee camp where he was working.
Haines’ death at the hands of ISIS “will not lead Britain to shirk our responsibility” to work with allies to take on ISIS, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday. Instead, he said, “it must strengthen our resolve.”
Cameron pledged to work with the United States to support its “direct military action.” He also emphasized that “this is not about British troops on the ground.”
Britain has agreed to help arm the Kurdish forces who are fighting on the ground, support the Iraqi government, keep supplying humanitarian help and coordinate with the United Nations to battle ISIS.
France, meanwhile, is set to begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq, officials said. The flights could begin as early as Monday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a military base in the United Arab Emirates.
Cameron has vowed to “hunt down those responsible” for Haines’ killing and “bring them to justice, no matter how long it takes.”
The situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that the man who appears in the video beheading Haines — believed to be the same man previously shown killing American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff — has a London accent.
Cameron knows the identity of the killer, CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen has reported, citing unidentified British officials. But authorities aren’t making it public for “operational reasons,” Bergen writes in a commentary article for CNN.
Cameron knows that the executioner in the video holds at least two other American citizens, as well as other hostages from additional Western countries, and that he is part of a larger group of British hostage-takers working for ISIS, Bergen reports.
“It is a real crisis for Cameron, and it underlines a sobering fact: British citizens have volunteered to go to Syria to fight at 25 times the rate that Americans have done so, when adjusted for population size,” he writes.