DAY 876 - AUGUST 1, 2013


Buoyed by the ISIS takeover in many parts of Eastern Syria, Al Qaeda members perform a daring prison break at Abu Ghraib, the famed US jailhouse used during the American occupation in Iraq. Consequently, Al Qaeda frees more than 500 high-ranking terrorists into the Iraqi desert and Israel's Director of Military Intelligence warns that Syria is becoming a hotbed for global jihadists. Britain and France confirm that Sarin gas was used in Syria during the spring. In response, UN weapons inspectors say they will visits three locations where chemical weapons were allegedly deployed. Iran, one of Assad's strongest allies, extends a $3.6 billion credit line to Syria while Russia pushes forward with arms shipments to the regime, despite intense international pressure to break ties with the Syrian government. Furthermore Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, promises to propel Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's forces to victory. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon says that the situation in Syria has now claimed over 100,000 lives.

It is Emad's birthday today and you take him to get Kanafeh, one of his favorite after dinner treats. He is 12 years old today. Pretty soon you will need to buy him new clothes. You can already see his pants riding up above the ankles. This means you will need to get another job. Transiently you think about those you knew in Daraa, Emad's friends and their mothers. You think about your cousin, who you left behind, who you haven't talked to since. After the prison break in Iraq, Al Raqqa, the entire city, has become a sprawling, overt headquarters for ISIS. People in town are talking about the ISIS soldiers forcing a ban on cigarettes. The jihadists' Shariah court is without justice. You worry about Al Qaeda members taking you in the night in the same way you worried about Assad's secret police taking you in the night. Even worse is that there has been infighting between ISIS, the FSA, and the Kurdish YPG to the north. All of it is a distraction from the main target: the Syrian government. You watch Emad play with a toy bear outside, while you sit on one of the benches near the town square. Momentarily you glance down the road, hear the faint rattle of gunfire, and when you turn around you see Emad with a black Tawhid headband wrapped around his small skull. It's the crown of the ISIS uniform. And then you see a soldier, head to toe black, Kalashnikov in hand, gently patting Emad's hair. Emad fixes his new present above his eyes, all the while smiling. It's a smile that terrifies you.