Wolf Blitzer delivers the most important breaking news and political, international, and national security stories of the day. Tune to The Situation Room weekdays 5-6:30pm ET on CNN.
As the world's most brutal terror group rampages across Iraq, seizing more cities along the way, the U.S. weighs what options it has to stop the violent spree and prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from establishing its own territory. CNN's Barbara Starr looks at the options.
Iraq's second largest city and a major cultural center, Mosul has fallen into the hands of the world's most brutal terrorist organization - a former al Qaeda affiliate called ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. CNN's Arwa Damon reports on the bloodshed in Iraq as the country is torn apart.
(CNN) - A shocking and frightening new video produced and released by a terrorist group formerly associated with al Qaeda is showcasing horrific killing sprees in Iraq deliberately recorded on camera.
"The Clanging of the Swords” is a graphic and disturbing film made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. Running over an hour, it displays bombings, executions, kidnappings, beheadings and more.
Analysts say the video proves ISIS - a group so extreme that al Qaeda has disowned it - is becoming an even deadlier threat, and they wonder who is providing it with weapons, and the equipment needed to produce the videos.
"This is funded," says Nadia Oweidat, a Middle East Analyst. "This is geopolitics. There is money behind it. It's not just idiots; these idiots have somebody controlling them and providing them with equipment that is very expensive. You can't just get it in a cave."
A far cry from the grainy out-of-focus terrorism videos that have proliferated in the past decade, this one has glossy camerawork and high-level production techniques – as if these terrorists had taken cues from Hollywood movies like "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty" in order to maximize the terror for viewers.
The opening shots are filmed using an aerial camera flying over Fallujah. Later, you see a brazen daytime raid on a small Iraqi Army base. Once the militants have taken it over, cameras enter the base and show the gruesome aftermath – numerous dead soldiers.
One frightening sequence shows ISIS fighters disguised as Iraqi soldiers setting up fake checkpoints, and looking for members of Iraq's military. One man, accused of just that, is hauled off and executed.
Another horrifying sequence shows a man literally being hunted down, chased by a car as he is shot at. Once shot and on the ground, he pleads for his life.
"I'm just a driver," he says repeatedly, "just a driver."
Then, the frame freezes and what appears to be the man's Iraqi Military ID is shown. It is an attempt by ISIS to prove to viewers the man is lying about being a civilian.
Right after that, sheer brutality, as a hail of bullets is shot into his back.
That's not the worst of it.
At one point, you see a raid on the home of a man accused of having worked with the United States to combat al Qaeda as a member of the Awakening Councils. He and his two sons are made to dig their own graves. A title card announces later they were all beheaded.
To judge from the video, ISIS's reign of terror is far from over – but experts say that's exactly the reason the group is producing such propaganda.
Oweidat, for one, is convinced the tactics will backfire in the long run.
"ISIS can only be beaten at their own game by showing their brutality – their propaganda is the only tool that can defeat them."
CNN's Barbara Starr reports on three separate strategies that al Qaeda is using to target Europe and the United States.
A new book says the CIA helped a former member of the Iranian National Guard defect in exchange for information.
Propaganda war in Yemen intensifies with shocking video of terrorist brutality released by al Qaeda affiliate, AQAP.
In an interview with CNN, the President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition has some stern words for the United States and the Western world, slamming them for not coming to the aid of Syrian rebels fighting against the brutal regime of President Bashar al-Assad. But perhaps more importantly, he has a troubling warning: Syria is being overrun by Islamic jihadists, and they may threaten the West down the line. CNN's Jim Sciutto reports.
As the fight against al Qaeda in Yemen flares into what looks dangerously close to all-out war, the U.S. is bracing itself for more possible terror attacks. CNN has learned exclusively that the threat against the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, the country's capital, is far more serious than originally thought.
The Embassy announced on Wednesday it was shutting its doors to the public indefinitely. Now, two Yemeni National Security officials tell CNN the plot against the Embassy is bigger than it was believed to have been.
"The U.S. government is taking this threat far more seriously than they've taken other credible threats against them," explained one of the officials who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with the media.
Of great concern to Americans in Yemen is the increase in fighting in Sana'a. According to numerous officials, on Friday al Qaeda linked militants attacked two government installations – first the Political Security Headquarters, where they engaged in a firefight with Yemeni troops, and then outside the Presidential Palace, where huge clashes with the military continued. At least 4 Yemeni troops and at least 3 militants died as a result, with the death toll expected to rise. Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry officials worry the situation is deteriorating dangerously.
Earlier in the week, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, targeted foreign installations in the capital – killing one French citizen who worked with the European Union Mission there.
The officials added the U.S. is taking this as a graver threat than the one encountered in 2012, when protesters breached the Embassy's heavily secured perimeter and stormed the building.
According to terrorism experts, there's more reason than ever for the U.S. to worry.
"The crown jewel of their organization, their master bomb maker, who keeps making these very sophisticated bombs that get on planes – there's no evidence he's dead," explained CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen.
Despite years of hunting him, Saudi born Ibrahim Al-Asiri, the man who tried to bring down a US plane with an underwear bomb in 2009 is thought to still be at large.
Of all al Qaeda affiliated networks worldwide, AQAP is considered the most dangerous threat to Americans.
Yemen's military now must contend with battling these terrorists not just in the capital – they're also continuing ground operations against AQAP in southern provinces such as Abyan and Shabwa. Those began three weeks ago and are ongoing.
"AQAP is a grave threat to both Yemeni and American security," explained US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki at a briefing on Friday, "and the U.S. government welcomes the actions of Yemen's brave forces to counter this group."
The U.S. may be grateful but one high level Yemeni government official briefed on the counter terror operations says his country's allies – like the Americans and the Saudis – should be doing more.
"Yemen is asking all our allies and our friends for more support (for) the military in it's fight against AQAP," said the official, who also requested anonymity as he was unauthorized to speak to the media.
Added the official, "the fight against AQAP is a real struggle we are engaged in, it is not easy – we are even facing fuel shortages. These shortages don't just affect the whole country, they also affect the military in it's fight against AQAP. That means ground troops fighting AQAP in places like Shabwa & Abyan might literally run out of fuel and then might not be able to keep pursuing AQAP."
The official described the situation as dire.
When asked if Saudi Arabia or the US had provided support since ground troops went into these provinces, he said: "No, not in this battle".
CNN's Barbara Starr reports that the stream of threats out of al Qaeda in Yemen has increased in recent weeks.