Update: Finished writing a new thriller about ISIS threat. Thanks for your prayers.

jerusalem-siloutteUPDATED (1pm on July 8th) — Thanks so much for your prayers and notes of encouragement. I finished the manuscript for my new novel on June 26th and emailed it to Tyndale. Now that I’m back from a family vacation, I’m editing the book, a process that will last for the next few weeks. Will keep you posted when we’re ready to announce a title and have a final cover. Thanks again.

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  • ORIGINAL POST: My new novel is about a New York Times foreign correspondent who hears rumors that ISIS rebels — the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham — have captured a cache of chemical weapons Syria.
  • The reporter heads into the hellish environment of the Syrian civil war to track down and interview the commander of ISIS and get him to go on the record to confirm or deny the rumors.
  • This sets into motion a rapid-fire chain events that will take this correspondent on a highly-dangerous journey to Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and the United States in pursuit of the story, at the risk of his life.
  • Key questions in the novel: Who will ISIS use the chemical weapons against if they really have them? The US? Israel? A third target?
  • As part of the research on the book, I’ve traveled several times to the Middle East, and met with several former senior CIA officials, Mossad and Shin Bet officials, and Arab intelligence and security officials.
  • The manuscript is due to Tyndale today.
  • My wife, Lynn, is editing the manuscript as I go, and we’re racing to get it all finished by late (probably very late) tonight, so we’d really be grateful for your prayers.
  • The crazy thing is that most people I know hadn’t ever heard of ISIS until just a few weeks ago.
  • Thought I was really “ahead of the curve” on this one, but events in Syria & Iraq are moving so fast and are so similar to my story that it’s been a bit odd and eerie at the same time.
  • Tyndale is hoping to release the novel in March of 2015.
  • No title yet, but I will keep you posted!

One other note: A number of people are asking me if there is a difference between “ISIS” and “ISIL.” The quick answer is, “No.”

  • ISIS & ISIL are names for the same jihadist group — “Islamic State of Iraq & al-Sham,” and “Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant.”
  • The group was originally known as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” (AQI), but morphed since 2006 in ideology and strategy to have a broader focus.
  • Al-Sham is Arabic for the Levant, which refers to Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan & Iraq.
  • ISIS/ISIL wants to capture and control the entire epicenter in order to build and Islamic caliphate, governed by Sharia law.

UPDATE: “Intel Official: Americans Have Joined Militant Group ISIS” (CBS/AP) — excerpts:

  • The Sunni militant group in Iraq is a force roughly 3,000 strong and includes some Americans, a senior intelligence official told CBS News on Tuesday.
  • The majority of fighters in the group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, are of Iraqi and Syrian origin.
  • In all, up to 10,000 are fighting with the group, 3,000 in Iraq and another 7,000 in Syria, the intelligence official said. Between 3,000 and 5,000 are foreigners, though how many of those are in Iraq is difficult to assess.
  • The fighters view Syria and Iraq as one battlefield and have been able to move swiftly inside Iraq with the help of local Sunnis, ties the intelligence official described as more of a “relationship of convenience” than a formal alliance.

UPDATE: “ISIS rapidly accumulating cash, weapons, U.S. intelligence officials say” (Washington Post) — excerpts:

  • The al-Qaeda-inspired insurgent group that has seized a string of cities in Iraq is rapidly gaining strength as it accumulates new weapons, fighters and cash, according to U.S. intelligence assessments disclosed Tuesday by a senior U.S. official.
  • The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “is the strongest it has been in several years” because of recent gains in both those countries, the senior U.S. intelligence official said, an assessment that suggests the former al-Qaeda affiliate has rebuilt much of the capability it had at the height of the war in Iraq.
  • The description of ISIS, as the group is known, underscores the challenge facing the Obama administration as it seeks to shore up a beleaguered Iraqi government that has alienated much of the country’s population and watched its armed forces­ flee Mosul and other cities when confronted by insurgents.
  • The White House has sent as many as 300 U.S. Special Operations troops to Iraq to help coordinate the government’s efforts to counter the ISIS assault.
  • The U.S. official said that American intelligence agencies had for months provided “strategic warning” that ISIS was growing in strength while the government in Baghdad appeared to be losing its grip on key cities but declined to provide further details.

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