In the aftermath of the murder of American journalist James Foley, I spoke with BBC West Midlands on Thursday about the Islamic State and its British fighters.
The conversation considered whether the flow of Islamic State recruits from Britain can be started, but it also took on wider questions:
1. Will the Islamic State’s PR strategy of executions, including beheadings, be successful?
Is the Islamic State able to recruit more men through these videos to believe they are fighting for a righteous cause? Or do these videos make them think, “There is no way we can join, no way we can tolerate this group”?
2. Are the numbers of foreign fighters in the Islamic State overestimated?
I don’t think we know. There’s more propaganda than reality around the numbers. There’s a ‘monitoring group’ that says there are 50,000 fighters in the Islamic State in Syria — there’s no way to verify that.
3. Can the foreign fighters and the Islamic State be stopped?
If you are going to fight the Islamic State, you are going to have support Syrian insurgents. If you don’t do that, there’s no way you are going to retrieve hostages and no way you are going to stop the Islamic State as a threat.