Western countries will debate how to respond after IS releases a video apparently showing the beheading of another American journalist.
At the moment, however, it looks more like a bunker.
From behind nine-foot security fences and a phalanx of police officers, you can just spot the luxury hotel where 60 world leaders will gather Thursday for the start of a NATO summit meeting.
The setting may be appropriate given that the guests will be deliberating the costs of war at a time when the Western military alliance stands at a crossroads.
In addition to further measures against Russia, which is backing a mounting separatist military campaign in Ukraine, the participants will discuss the growing threat from the Islamic State, or IS, which distributed a video on Tuesday apparently depicting the beheading of the American journalist Steven Sotloff in retaliation for American military airstrikes in Iraq.
In the video circulated on social media sites Tuesday, Sotloff’s apparent executioner said the group would kill a British citizen next. A hostage shown in the final seconds of the video was identified by the extremists as Briton David Cawthorne Haines.
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament that he’ll use the two-day meeting to determine whether the UK will resort to “military measures” against the “barbaric” group.
More than half of Britons polled said last week the UK should take some kind of action against IS, a number that had shot up sharply since the killing last month of another US journalist, James Foley, possibly by an IS foreign fighter from Britain.
When asked about airstrikes directly in a separate poll by the Independent newspaper, only 35 percent of respondents said they supported bombing IS, however.
What exactly should be done about IS is vexing the West’s most hallowed halls of power.
US President Barack Obama’s seemingly off-the-cuff admission last week that Washington has no clear strategy against IS across the Iraqi border in Syria — where the group has thrived fighting against President Bashar al-Assad — appears equally true for government officials in Westminster.
The UK “supports” the US decision to carry out airstrikes against IS, Cameron told legislators in the House of Commons on Monday, using carefully nuanced language. Whether it’s ready to join in launching those airstrikes is another matter.
When an unnamed US official told The New York Times last week that Britain was ready to join an air campaign against IS, the government hastily discredited the report, saying that strikes were “not under discussion at the moment.”
The UK assisted in a humanitarian aid drop to minority Shiite Turkmen threatened by IS in Amerli, Iraq in recent days, but not the US bombing there.
It also has sent body armor, sleeping bags and 9 tons of assault rifle ammunition to Kurdish fighters battling IS in Iraq.
The last Iraq war is at least as unpopular in Britain as it is in the US, compounded by the perception that the UK allowed Washington to drag it into a poorly chosen fight. It cost the UK 179 soldiers’ lives and some $16 billion.
Burned by the memory, parliament voted down a visibly red-faced Cameron’s call for airstrikes against Assad’s forces in August 2013 following reports the regime used chemical weapons against civilians. It was the first time in 150 years parliamentarians turned down a prime minister’s request for military action.
With the general election just eight months away, now is not a good time for Cameron to make an unpopular decision.
If he decides to strike against IS, he may not bother asking for support this time. He told lawmakers that he was prepared to “act immediately” in the event of a direct threat to Britain’s national security, without first notifying parliament.
But as the NATO summit approaches, a growing mass of protestors in Newport said say they’re intent on letting Cameron know he wouldn’t be backed by the will of the people.
“The public at large no longer believe the politicians when they say we must go to war,” says John Cox, vice president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
A peace camp in Newport’s Tredegar Park boasted 50 tents on Tuesday.
Demonstrators will march on Newport when the summit starts Thursday. Anarchist factions are also planning “direct action,” protestor Rowland Dye said.
Some blame Western imperialism for the instability that’s allowed violent factions such as IS to emerge. One woman speculated the group was the creation of Israeli intelligence.
“If one country declares war on another country, they should put their leaders in an arena and let them fight,” a man who identified himself as Asher said. “Let their children fight it out.”
Opinions likes these are widespread — which means any decisions by NATO this week won’t come easily.