Day 1,224: The Islamic State is running bus tours


A rebel fighter stands on a street covered with dust following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the old city of Aleppo.


Ahmed Deeb

Today is Day 1,224 of the conflict in Syria.

Jihadist Sunni militant organization the Islamic State, better known for cutting people’s heads off, putting dead bodies up on crosses, and kicking all the Christians out of Mosul, but not before stealing everything they own, is now in the tour bus business.

The AFP reports that the twice-weekly tours depart from Raqa in Syria and traverse IS-held territory to reach Anbar in Iraq, taking along a translator for the foreign jihadists and an armed escort. Chechen jihadist Abu Abdel Rahman al-Shishani apparently took his new Syrian wife on a honeymoon using the service.


Damascus has finally reacted to the appointment last week of the UN’s new Syria pointperson, Staffan de Mistura by expressing a “hope that he will take an objective an honest approach based on international law … particularly the respect of national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.”

In other words: Welcome. Stay out of it. The statement was released on Syrian state television.


If you’re tired of 28 Cats With Hats on That Will Make Your Day and such items designed to speed the entry of that oversugared Starbucks concoction into you, head over to CNN for a listicle designed to scare anything you imbibed in the past hour out of you: “Terror havens in Syria and Iraq: Five reasons the West should worry.”

The information mostly isn’t new, but it can be nice to have it gathered and put all in one place. (Incidentally, news emerged today via The Globe and Mail that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have brought the first terrorism charge against a Canadian citizen for allegedly joining the fight in Syria. Charges have already been brought against UK and US citizens over involvement in Syria.)


We’re midway through yet another week in which all evidence points to the Syrian conflict continuing to escalate and to spread. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recently calculated last week’s clashes on Thursday and Friday to be the bloodiest since the war began, killing over 700 in a 48-hour period.

Yesterday, Reuters reported that two Turkish soldiers were killed in a gunfight after their patrol confronted “smugglers” trying to cross from Syria into Turkey. Turkey is trying to clamp down on militants’ border crossings, as is Lebanon, whose troops “conducted thorough searches along the eastern mountain range bordering Syria Wednesday [today],” according to The Daily Star. “Intensive gunfire was heard,” the paper reported, during searches in which ground troops were backed up by air support.


The Washington Post editorial board today is questioning the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities, suggesting, for example, that the US needs to stop dropping everything any time something happens with Israel and instead focus on “another Middle East war that is far bloodier and more important to US interests.” (On a similar theme, a CNN piece yesterday morning asked why on earth Malaysia Airlines was now avoiding flying over Ukraine by flying over Syria instead.)

But if you want to hear about one place the Syria conflict is being given airtime, head over to Politico to read about the Arkansas Senate race in which Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor is clashing with Republican challenger Rep. Tom Cotton over the appropriate level of US involvement in the Syria. Cotton has previously called for the imposition of a “no-fly zone” to halt the government bombardment of rebel-held cities.

Finally, the Chicago Sun-Times has a story about a seven-year-old Palestinian from Syria, brought over to Chicago in April for medical treatment after her right leg was blown off by a bomb.

The conflict continues.