On Iraq's Western border, the masked jihadists of ISIS have been quite literally bulldozing the frontier of a new Islamic state, merging the Iraqi areas they now control with rebel areas in Syria.
Governing a significant wedge of Iraq, the militants have created a document that lays out the law in the new Caliphate - including amputations of limbs for stealing, a ban on women leaving their homes, and crucifixion for criminals.
The aim of the militants, once deemed too extreme even for al Qaeda, is to create a new state reaching from western Syria across Iraq to the eastern border with Iran.
The Washington Post has translated the 'Contract of the City' issued to citizens in the northeast province of Ninevah. It describes the ISIS fighters as "soldiers of Islam who took on our responsibility to bring back glory of the Islamic Caliphate" and it includes the following decrees.
- Women are told they should not go outside unless necessary, because their place is to provide stability at home.
- They must wear full, wide Islamic dress
- Stealing or looting will result in the amputation of limbs
- Criminals can be crucified (this law quotes a verse from the Quran)
- Muslims must participate in group prayers at mosques 'on time'
- Muslims will be well-treated, unless they are allied with oppressors
- Drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes are banned
- Rival political or armed groups are also banned
- Police and military officers will be given the chance to repent
- Apostasy is punishable by death and carrying flags, except those of the Islamic state, is not allowed
- Graves and shrines are forbidden, and will be destroyed
Images from a jihadist's Twitter account show a truck driving through the berm between Iraq and Syria, under the title "Smashing the Sykes-Picot border" - a reference to the Anglo-French that carved up the Middle East after World War I. The militants standing around are seen cheering, and carrying the black ISIS flag.
With the threat of Sunni radicals to its West, the Shia-led Iran is now reportedly providing support to the Iraqi government, putting the United States in the unique position of being allied with its long-time enemy on a common cause, should Obama decide to take military action.
To attack the Sunni strongholds in the north would be playing into the hands of ISIS, who have framed the conflict as a sectarian struggle against Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Civilian casualties could be crucial for ISIS to win the hearts of the people who have come under their rule.
Tales of brutality are merging from Mosul, Iraq's second city captured by the jihadists this week. With half a million people fleeing the city after Iraqi forces downed their weapons, ripped off their uniforms and beat a hasty retreat.
ISIS have announced that they executed 1,700 Shiite soldiers who surrendered in the occupied city of Tikrit, but pardoned 2,500 Sunni troops.
Unverified videos, set to lilting Islamic hym, show masked militants in northern Iraq show them knocking on the doors of a policeman's home, blindfolding him and binding his hands, then leading him away, and cutting his head off with a knife in his bedroom. Another video shows lines of terrified men and boys being marched to an unknown destiny, with their heads bowed.Suggest a correction