The video, titled “A Message To America,” presented President Barack Obama with bleak options that could define the U.S. next phase of intruding into Iraq and the public reaction to it, potentially worsening a conflict he built much of his presidency on ending.
The words “Obama authorizes military operations against the Islamic State effectively placing America upon a slippery slope towards a new war front against Muslims” appeared in English and Arabic on the screen.
“I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality,” the kneeling man says.
The man next to him, in a black mask, speaks in a British accent and says, “This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen, of your country. As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State.”
“Today your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq. Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army, and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide.”
Following his statement he beheads the kneeling man. At the end of the video, words on the side of the screen say, “Steven Joel Sotloff”, as another prisoner in an orange jumpsuit is shown on screen. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the masked man says.
The American leader abstained from making a statement about the incident until the video could be formally authenticated.
“If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
The message the video contained was unambiguous, “warning of greater retaliation to come against Americans following nearly two weeks of U.S. air strikes that have pounded militant positions and halted the advance of Islamic State, which until this month had captured a third of Iraq with little resistance,” Reuters reports.
Posted on social media resourced, the video brought a chilling and highly personal tone to a conflict that for many Americans had started to become all too familiar.
Foley, 40, was kidnapped by unknown armed group on Nov. 22, 2012, in northern Syria when he was movieng to the Turkish border, said GlobalPost, a Boston-based online publication where the journalist had worked as a freelancer. He had reported in the Middle East for five years and had been kidnapped and released in Libya.
Steven Sotloff, who appeared at the end of the video, went missing in Syria reportedly in July 2013. He worked for TIME magazine and other publications.
The incident appeared to be quite an unpredictable element into the U.S. president’s deliberations on how far to proceed with air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq, though aides said his vow not to put U.S. combat forces on the ground in Iraq still held.
On a Facebook page for Foley, a message from his mother Diane Foley read: “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”