- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Virginia state Sen. Richard H. Black calls it a badge of honor to have been singled out as an enemy of the Islamic State in the current issue of its English-language magazine Dabiq, but the Loudoun County Republican says he feels for others targeted by the terrorist group.

“I’m more concerned about the Christians in the Middle East and the American soldiers and their families that have been put on the ISIS hit list,” Mr. Black told The Washington Times, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “I am deeply concerned about the fate of Christians in the Middle East.”

Mr. Black, who was made aware of his mention in the magazine’s eighth edition via a courtesy call by the Virginia Capitol Police, is just the latest politician or analyst to find himself singled out in Dabiq as a “crusader” trying to stop the ascent of the radical Muslim movement.

The new issue, distributed late last month, labels former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a potential 2016 presidential hopeful, as “the Catholic crusader,” and it dubs both Mr. Black and former CIA operative Gary Berntsen as “the American crusader.”

Previous issues have gone after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, journalists and military analysts — usually quoting them touting the dangers posed by the Islamic State as a way of stressing the group’s importance in international affairs.

Analysts say Dabiq is designed to be a recruiting tool for jihadists from the West. One issue contained an article justifying burning alive a Jordanian air force pilot who had been held captive by the group; other issues proclaimed military successes and jeered at far-flung nations, warning them not to get involved in the fight.

The objective of the “In the Words of the Enemy” section in which the men are featured is to boost the morale of supporters and recruit Islamists who don’t support the group, said Ryan Mauro, national security analyst for the Clarion Project, an educational group that studies Islamist extremism and catalogs the magazine.

“The last issue’s section had a tone of defensiveness,” Mr. Mauro said in an e-mail. “ISIS had just lost the battle in Kobani and the group could not claim victory there without losing all credibility, so they used the comments of enemies to point out its successes elsewhere and to minimize the setback without denying it.”

U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish troops in late January broke the Islamic State’s months-long siege of the Syrian town of Kobani near Turkey’s border. The terrorist group still controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

In the latest magazine, Mr. Black is quoted as saying he sees the fight in Syria as the “center of gravity for Western civilization.”

“If it falls, then we will begin to see a very rapid advance of Islam on Europe and I think ultimately, potentially, the collapse of all of Europe,” he said in a recent interview with the Russian news outlet RT.

Mr. Black said Tuesday that he sees his inclusion as confirmation that what he has said about the group is accurate.

“If we topple Syria, we create a dangerous vacuum for ISIS and al Qaeda to fill,” Mr. Black said. “And if the [dreaded] black-and-white flag flies over Damascus, then Jordan will fall and Lebanon will fall in fairly short order.”

Mr. Mauro said ISIS used Mr. Black’s statement “to argue that Syria should be the top priority of jihadists around the world because victory there would lead to the collapse of Europe and Western civilization.”

He said the terrorists cited a quote from Mr. Santorum about the group’s strength to argue that ISIS is getting stronger and more popular, and that their quoting Mr. Berntsen as saying the group is the most successful Sunni terrorist group in history was used “to imply Allah’s favor and to encourage supporters of other groups like al Qaeda to unite behind them.”

Mr. Black, as a state senator, does not have the authority to directly influence U.S. foreign policy, but he attracted attention last year when he wrote a thank you letter to Syrian President Bashar Assad for his army’s liberating and defending Christians in the area.

Mr. Santorum, for his part, said he was named by the group because he “told the truth about them.”

“I went and used their own words, very clearly stated what their intention is, laid it right out there for the American public,” Mr. Santorum said this week on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” “Most Americans know who they are. It’s just we have an administration that refuses to identify them, and the problem with that is they’re developing policies based on a false premise. And that means that as I said in that article, they’re gonna get stronger, not weaker, because we’re not doing what’s necessary to defeat them.”

The magazine quotes Mr. Santorum from a February appearance on Fox News in which he said the Islamic State is “dead serious” about expanding its “caliphate.”

“As long as they hold ground and continue to expand that ground, more and more will come,” Mr. Santorum said then. “The fact that we are delaying means that the caliphate continues to exist. They’re not losing ground. They’re not being discredited in the eyes of the Muslim world. They will get stronger.”

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