Battling 'crusaders': ISIS turns to glossy magazine for propaganda

ISIS launches magazine to lure jihadists
ISIS launches magazine to lure jihadists

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Story highlights

  • Images evoke apocalyptic battles between ISIS fighters and the rest of the world
  • Expert: It's part of "a global outreach strategy to recruit immigrants to build its state"
  • Named "Dabiq," the magazine calls Obama and McCain "crusaders"
  • The latest issue carries an article defending the killing of James Foley
ISIS has used videos of its shocking beheadings of Western hostages to seize the world's attention, threatening the United States and its allies.
But the Islamic militant group is also pushing its extremist views in a slick online magazine.
The publication -- named "Dabiq" after a town in northern Syria that symbolizes a clash between Islam and the West -- portrays U.S. President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain as "crusaders" who will "bring about the complete collapse of the modern American empire."
It also carries images evoking apocalyptic battles between the Sunni extremist group's fighters and the rest of the world -- including American soldiers enveloped in flames.
By producing the magazine, ISIS is taking a leaf out of the book of its former ally al Qaeda, which has praised and advocated terrorist attacks in its glossy publication, Inspire.
But experts say the two terrorist groups don't appear to be aiming for the same goals through their propaganda.
Inspire focuses more on practical advice for terrorists planning attacks, publishing guides on how to make bombs and get them onto planes.
Dabiq "is very different," Seth Jones, a security analyst at the RAND Corporation, told CNN. "This is encouraging people to come, to recruit and to join the army in Iraq and Syria -- and fight."
'A global outreach strategy'
ISIS has already been exploiting the brutal tactics it used to grab control of large areas of Syria and Iraq for publicity purposes.
The publication of Dabiq demonstrates that ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, is "looking not only to nearby areas for support, but is undertaking a global outreach strategy to recruit immigrants to build its state," the Institute for the Study of War said in a recent report.
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It noted "the sophistication and production value of the magazine."
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ISIS has successfully recruited large numbers of foreign fighters from across the globe, including from the United States and Western Europe.
A CIA source told CNN last week that more than 15,000 foreign fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, have gone to the civil war in Syria. It was not immediately clear how many have joined ISIS and how many are with other groups opposed to the Syrian government.
The foreign fighters come from more than 80 countries, the CIA source said.
Article on Foley's beheading
Dabiq carries plenty of violent images, apparently aimed at luring jihadists. It has photos of the mutilated bodies of Muslims wounded and killed by Western forces and their allies -- but also pictures of ISIS's own victims.
The final section of its most recent issue is dedicated to the beheading of American journalist James Foley, the first of three Western captives whose killings the group has publicized. The article defends his murder as retribution for Western military campaigns in the Middle East.
The magazine shows that ISIS, which is also known as ISIL, is paying close attention to what's being said about it in the West, featuring an "In the Words of the Enemy" section.
In the first issue, it focuses on an article co-written by Douglas Ollivant, an Iraq combat veteran and key adviser on the surge in U.S. troops there under former President George W. Bush in 2007. Ollivant, who appears regularly on CNN, is also described as a "crusader."
He said he was "perversely honored" that the terrorists were reading his work, but was also aware he was being "incorporated into their propaganda."
"We take them seriously, write about them seriously, and perversely they then twist this to their potential recruits and say 'Look, you know, American analysts take us seriously,'" Ollivant told CNN.