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Set Up and Sold Out on the Kilis-Aleppo Highway

Did Israel Offer ISIS $10 Million to Free Steven Sotloff?

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Ein el Helwe Palestinian camp, Lebanon.

Details are not yet fully known to this observer but reliable sources who do know and monitor Daash report that ISIS rejected frantic Mossad efforts to buy the release of American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff.

This much is credited with a fair amount of certainty. On 8/1/14 Steven Sotloff, born and raised in Florida, checked into Room 303 of the Hotel Istanbul in the small border town of Kilis in southern Turkey. Three days later on 8/4/14, shortly after checking out of the hotel and heading to the border to take the Kilis-Aleppo highway south in Syria, Mr. Sotloff and his “fixer” were abducted at a check point manned by unknown jihadists.

An acquaintance, who met him in Kilis, reported that shortly before Mr. Sotloff left for Syria:

“Over beers at Kilis’s only bar, Sotloff told me he was sick of being beaten up, and shot at, and accused of being an Israeli spy. Just the day before, Turkish police had hit and pepper-sprayed him for taking pictures at a protest in a nearby city. He told me he wanted to quit reporting for a little while, at least on conflict in the Middle East, and maybe apply to graduate school back home in Florida. But first he wanted one last Syria run. He said he was chasing a good story…”

Informed sources report that his ‘fixer’ set the American journalist up and sold him for cash to rebels fighting the Assad regime. The ‘fixer’ is also accused of, nearly nine months later, stealing the Mossad ‘down payment’ cash entrusted to him for delivery to whichever jihadists were holding Mr. Sotloff.

At the same time the  US Zionist lobby has been intensively lobbying the Obama administration to bomb ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria, Israeli agents were reportedly talking with ISIS about obtaining Mr. Sotloff’s freedom and offering ten million dollars to Daash as part of a release deal.

Mr. Sotloff’s ‘fixer’ has since disappeared from public view over the last 48 hours and is no doubt himself being hunted and marked for death as Israeli and perhaps American agents track him.

This is not the first (nor will it likely be the  last time) this has happened with Westerners or others seeking to report on events or simply showing up in an exciting place to bear witness or do good.   But new arrivals around here are often unaware that the ‘war economy’ along the Turkish-Syria-Iraq border, these days means that just about anything or anyone is up for sale at the right price and there is plenty of buyer’s cash available which attractively pushes up profits. Even sworn jihadists enemies regularly do business through agents, and sometimes directly, with criminal gangs and others in commodities from oil, arms, counterfeit US $ 100 bills, an array of drugs, women, children, would-be jihadists and just about every other ‘commodity.’  This while simultaneously they fight each other nearby and pledge devotion to Allah and loyalty to ‘humanity.”

Mr. Sotloff who was in Libya during June of 2011 and covered parts of the Libyan civil war from Benghazi and Misrata in eastern Libya was accused at the time by the Gadhafi regime of being a Mossad agent.  ISIS also reportedly had come to believe he was an Israeli agent based on information from derived from prisoners during interrogations, which likely included torture. Yet, being accused of working for a foreign government these days in this region is not uncommon. This observer has been accused of being a CIA agent while at the same time being of being a supporter of the Lebanese national Resistance led by Hezbollah. Many around these parts simply do not understand why someone from a ‘safe and prosperous country’ would be over here if he was not being paid by some government’s security services.

With respect to the alleged Mossad offer, ISIS reportedly balked at the proposal for several reasons, including the one stated publicly about the beheadings of  both Mr. Foley and Mr. Sotloff: the US bombings of ISIS fighters in Iraq.  An additional reason, reported to this observer, was the most recent Israeli aggression against Gaza. “Think of this execution as also a gesture to the Palestinian Gaza Resistance.  As the Zionists do not put any value on other than Jewish lives let them taste justice.  No Jew, Christian or Muslim who works for Mossad or who works to confiscate one inch of Arab land will be treated with respect. They will taste Allah’s punishment.”

Was the fact that Mr. Sotloff was Jewish and had written for the Jerusalem Post a factor in his savage murder?  Possibly. In today’s Middle East line-up a person’s religion unfortunately is sometimes of paramount importance in determining if one lives or dies.

By all accounts Steven Sotloff was a good man and no probative evidence has surfaced that the American was anything other than what he appeared to be.   Caught up in Middle Easter politics for which few are prepared and fewer these days become should feel confident about their personal security.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).