On Friday, CNS News reported that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, warned in an audio message delivered in January that the jihadist movement now taking over large areas of Iraq would soon confront the United States.
“Our last message is to the Americans. Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day,” he said. “So watch, for we are with you, watching.”
The message was first made known on February 5 -- more than four months ago -- when Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and Iraq, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. At that time, he presented written testimony explaining ISIS' agenda.
According to McGurk, the group seeks “to carve out an Islamic caliphate stretching from Baghdad to Lebanon.”
“ISIL has also made its intentions clear: move from a new base of operations in Fallujah to Baghdad--a distance of under 30 miles,” McGurk said written testimony. “Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had this to say in a rare audio statement issued on January 21: ‘As for ISIS in Iraq: Be in the frontlines against the Shia, and march toward Baghdad and the South, keep the Shia busy in their own areas. Know that the entire Sunni population and the brothers in Syria are watching you.’”
Baghdadi concluded his audio statement with a direct threat to the United States: “Our last message is to the Americans. Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching.”
“We take such threats seriously and through cooperation with this committee and the Congress, we intend to help the Iraqis in their efforts to defeat ISIL over long term,” McGurk said.
But so far, the administration has done little or nothing to provide the kind of aid Iraq says it needs. Haaretz said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki secretly asked Obama for air support last month. The administration, however, refused, instead opting for what White House national security council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan called a "holistic approach."
"We have expedited shipments of military equipment since the beginning of the year, ramped up training of Iraqi Security Forces, and worked intensively to help Iraq implement a holistic approach to counter this terrorist threat," Meehan said.
Before leaving for a fundraiser and a round of golf on Friday, Obama said he would not send troops back into Iraq and told reporters the National Security Council was still considering options, including possible air strikes.
“I'll be reviewing those options in the days ahead,” Obama said. “I do want to be clear, though. This is not solely, or even primarily, a military challenge."
The president went on to suggest the Iraqi government itself is to blame for ISIS' advance.
“Unfortunately, Iraqi leaders have been unable to overcome, too often, the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there. And that's created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government, as well as their security forces,” he said.
But, ABC added, Obama recognized that "given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well."
ISIS now controls territory stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Fallujah and Mosul. It has instituted a brutal form of Sharia law in the areas it has occupied, going so far as to behead a Sunni police chief, bragging on Twitter that it would be used as a soccer ball. ISIS also claimed to have executed 1,700 Shiite soldiers who surrendered in Tikrit.