On Aug. 21, Kurdish activists spotted something curious at the Khaneghein border crossing in northern Iraq. Iranian M-60 tanks, apparently belonging to Tehran’s 81st Armored Division.
It appears Iran has sent heavy armor into Iraq to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces defeat the Islamic State militant group. The tanks meet a particularly dire need. With their deep reserves of stolen weaponry, the Islamists out-gun the Kurds.
For those keeping count, the war in northern Iraq now pits one militant group against Kurdish, Iraqi and Iranian ground troops plus American, Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian air power. “The war on Islamic State makes for strange allies,” Jassem Al Salami wrote.
Among the many hundreds of civilians, aid workers, journalists and enemy soldiers Islamic State has captured—and in some cases murdered—is one particularly tragic Japanese man named Haruna Yukawa, a former pet-food importer who is now the owner and sole employee of a self-described “private military company.”
A video that briefly appeared online in mid-August seems to depict militants interrogating a bloodied Yukawa, accusing him of being a mercenary and a spy. In reality, Yukawa is a lonely, troubled man playing at being a soldier and journalist. In 2008, Yukawa attempted suicide … by cutting off his own genitals.
“Gender issues had probably plagued Masayuki Yukawa all his life,” James Simpson reported. “He was bullied as a child for playing with flowers and other traditionally female pursuits. Then as an adult he chose suicide by emasculation.”
“Now he was at his lowest,” Simpson continued. “He made the brave decision to reinvent himself” by founding a new company and traveling to Syria to document the war. But Yukawa carried weapons in addition to his cameras. The militants who captured him seem as confused as everyone else—including Yukawa—about who and what Yukawa is.
Back in the United States, one Texas megachurch has conflated religion, war and technology in a bizarre and disturbing series of sermons. Pastor Ed Young preached a series of drone-themed lessons at his Fellowship Church in Grapevine. The church posted videos of Young’s performances online.
“The sermons begin with a slick video of a drone flying over a city,” Matthew Gault recounted. “A live band plays in the background. A huge model drone looms on stage. Smoke billows from underneath it. Young emerges—a grin on his face—to explain his thinking on killer robots.”
“Drones are everywhere,” Young says in the video series. “They can see things we never thought possible. Well, God makes a drone seem like a drone doesn’t know a thing.”
Young explained that he first encountered drones while filming a reality TV series. He heard a strange noise and looked up to see a buzzing camera drone belonging to the TV crew. “This would be a pretty cool series—drones,” Young said. “Love them or leave them, they’re everywhere. I immediately thought about God.”