In an apparent response to America’s top general saying that he could foresee American troops on the ground in Iraq, the Islamic State released a new propaganda video titled “Flames of War” (see below).
The 52-second clip, purporting to be the trailer for a longer movie “coming soon,” utilizes Hollywood-like special effects and shows archive footage of a massive IED blowing up a jeep patrol and injured American soldiers being loaded into an a troop carrier. The clip cuts to U.S. President Barak Obama saying that, “Combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq.” The video’s final frames show Islamic State fighters aiming a pistol over kneeling prisoners, ostensibly captured American soldiers.
The video was released to social media outlets hours after Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel that he may end up recommending the use of some American forces on the ground in Iraq, namely by embedding them within Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting to regain territory seized by the Islamic State.
“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said, using the term “close combat advising” to describe the role of these troops.
Addressing the fact that Obama has said that there will no troops on the ground, Dempsey added, “At this point, his stated policy is we will not have U.S. ground forces in direct combat. But he has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis.”
Those cases may include using U.S. personnel on the ground to call airstrikes.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel joined Dempsey at the hearing, explaining that U.S. efforts in Iraq and Syria will last for a number of years. There will be no “shock and awe” strategy that characterized the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hagel said.
Meanwhile, despite the Islamic State’s media bravado, the group has been taking direct action in anticipation of American strikes. Local citizens have reported that the group has gone underground in its “capital” stronghold of Raqqa, Syria as well in Iraq.
The Islamic State has been moving and dispersing their heavy equipment daily, with some equipment being abandoned altogether. Fighters are now trying to blend into local populations. Their office headquarters have been evacuated, and families of Islamic State militants have been relocated.
“They are trying to keep on the move,” one Raqqa resident, who requested anonymity, was quoted as saying. “They have sleeper cells everywhere. They only meet in very limited gatherings.”
However, the group is still highly operational. A recent attack on a Syrian government war plane flying near Raqqa scored a direct hit.
Citizens in Raqqa have also been living cautiously since Obama’s latest speech. Shops in the town now routinely close early in the day, and the value of the U.S. dollar has seen a significant increased in the area. Although a number of residents have left the city, there has not been a mass exodus.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State is keeping up its local propaganda as well. A flier distributed to Raqqa’s residents reminded them that they are expected to comply with a strict code of behavior as mandated by sharia law (no smoking, drinking, etc.). The flier also told women that they must stay at home and that anyone caught with a connection to the Assad government would be killed.
Ironically, the flier announced that residents would see “the great difference” between living under the Islamic State the “oppressive secular government.”