Middle East

James Foley murder by IS: Global media aghast

newspaper front pages Image copyright BBC Monitoring
Image caption The front page of French newspaper Liberation declares James Foley's murder as "The barbaric challenge"

The release of a video showing the beheading of an American journalist held hostage in Syria by the militant jihadist group Islamic State (IS), known pejoratively in Arabic as "Daish", has sent shock waves around the world.

The international media shares most people's revulsion at the murder of James Foley.

But the regional press - both Arab and Israeli - also looks at US policies in Iraq, which some papers blame for the expansion of militancy in the region.

'Who created Daish?'

Ali al-Qasim in Syria's government-owned al-Thawra claims "the US is not against Daish, because the USA sponsored its establishment and expansion".

Mustafa al-Miqdad, writing in the same paper, adds that the "culture of beheadings is American", contending: "The American invader used to collect the severed heads of Indian Americans to show their power."

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Image caption James Foley at work in Libya in 2011

Fadil al-Umani in Saudi daily al-Riyadh is also interested in the origins of IS. "Who created Daish?" the headline of his article asks. The answer: "Some intelligence agencies and regimes" which "mischievously used centuries-long sectarian discord and absurd ambitions to achieve their conspiracy".

But Ahmad Muhammad al-Tawyan, writing in Saudi daily al-Jazirah, disagrees with "the conspiracy theory" that Daish was created either by the Americans or Israel. "There is no evidence for this claim," he says, adding that Daish induces the "ignorant, failed and desperate young people to join its organisation".

Mazin Hammad in Qatari daily al-Watan condemns the "brutality" of the act, saying that US plans for a military operation against IS should be "hailed and supported".

Columnist Kahlid al-Shaqran in Jordanian pro-government daily al-Ra'y, however, believes air strikes against IS are not a "true and realistic solution to the crisis".

In Israel, the newspapers are preoccupied with the renewed Gaza fighting, but Boaz Bismuth in Yisrael Hayom feels the killing should make the West "that condemns us... understand that we are in the same war".

And Hemi Shalev notes in Haaretz that despite their differences, "Obama's sharp, exceptional reaction... sounded as though it was taken from Netanyahu's lexicon".

'From our world'

In Turkey, a neighbour of both Iraq and Syria, the media are interested in the killing of Mr Foley but their coverage of the incident is limited by their preoccupation with domestic woes.

Only Vatan daily reports the issue in more detail, noting that US President Barack Obama faces a "difficult decision", as he must continue the attacks against IS knowing the life of another US journalist taken hostage by the group is at threat.

Meanwhile, Hurriyet focuses on the UK government's alarm that the killer may be a jihadist who joined IS from Britain. The paper dubs the killer the "Londoner executioner".

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Image caption Turkish newspaper Hurriyet (R) and its account of the "Londoner executioner"

Gudrun Harrer, in Austrian daily Der Standard, is worried that the killer could be British. Beheading first appeared among Sunni extremists in Iraq in the past decade, she recalls, but "the decisive difference from 10 years ago is the perpetrator's British accent. Then, the murderers were the personification of the Other, now they're from our own world".

Elsewhere, EU newspapers are largely sympathetic to Mr Obama's position.

Laure Mandeville in France's Le Figaro notes the enormous pressure the US president is under over his Iraq strategy, which she says has been "characterised up to now by obvious hesitation to clearly engage in the destruction of the military capacity of the Islamic State".

Jean Pierre Perrin in France's Liberation feels that as "devastating as the announcement of the execution of James Foley was", it was also "in no way a surprise". He says that when the US re-engaged in Iraq, it was "inevitable" that the group would quickly retaliate by striking at those who "were totally at their mercy: the hostages".

German daily Die Welt's deputy editor-in-chief Ulf Poschardt opines that "executing journalists" is a "particularly common ritual of self-confirmation among Islamo-fascist terrorists". He says the "gesture... spits contempt at the free and civilised West".

And Spain's El Pais says that with its "cold-blooded" execution-style killing of Mr Foley, IS has reminded the West that its "extremist campaign knows no limits".

Obama under pressure

The killing of James Foley has made the headlines in places as far apart as China and South America, but coverage in many countries has been mostly factual.

However, in an opinion piece in the Argentine daily La Nacion, senior editor Carlos Reymundo Roberts is "perturbed" by those who may applaud or approve of the video. He also condemns people who laud the killer himself, who appears because of his British accent to have been "raised among us" in the West yet carried out this heinous act with a sense of pride.

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Image caption One Chinese paper thinks it likely that President Obama will order a ground operation against IS

In China and Russia, the killing is given prominent media coverage.

Pundit Jin Canrong tells Beijing's Jinghua Shibao that the aim of the video was "to shock Americans so that the US government will think twice before making its next move". But he concludes that IS "will fail to achieve its goal with such behaviour, and will instead cause the US to intensify its efforts".

Security expert Vladimir Sotnikov agrees with this forecast, telling Russia's influential business daily Kommersant that President Obama will hardly comply with the Islamists' ultimatum and stop air attacks. He thinks it is "probable" that the president may launch a ground operation, but says this will depend on "how strong the pressure put on him" is.

Pundit Georgiy Mirskiy in Russia's centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta says if Mr Obama complies with IS demands, he "will go down in history as a man, thanks to whose ability, a jihadist caliphate has emerged".

Konstantin Nikolayev in Russia's liberal daily Novyye Izvestiya suggests that the reason for the IS revival of killing hostages "is evident". "After a series of victories in civil wars in Iraq and Syria, they have begun to suffer defeats."

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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