Isis Propaganda War on the Front Line of Cyberspace

  • By Jarno Limnell  September 15, 2014 09:26 BST

When the White House finally invoked the word “war” on 12 September to describe the new US-led campaign against Isis in Iraq and Syria, the already ominous parallels between 1914 and 2014 grew more resonant still, with the 21st-century wrinkle of cyber conflict adding a particularly destabilizing factor to today’s situation.

Pockmarked by crises – Boko Haram, Gaza, Ukraine and MH17, Ebola, Isis – the unquiet summer just concluded seemed all along to be leading up to something.

In 1914 it took about six weeks after the June assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand for war to erupt between Germany and Austria, the Dual Alliance, and Britain, France, and Russia.

In 2014, similarly, it was only weeks after Isis militants drove hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from their homes in Mosul and Tikrit, and isolated the minority Yasidis on Mount Sinjar, that President Obama announced “we will degrade and ultimately destroy” Isis.[1] (The Isis beheading videos, starting with James Foley’s execution posted on the Internet on 19 August, were a political accelerant.)

The danger of another World War I, a violent continent-wide contest for territory and regional influence that leaves mass casualties and redraws maps, is low. Isis will not soon steam into New York Harbor, guns blazing. But, beyond the narrow and classically kinetic “war on Isis” newly defined by the Obama administration, there is a fierce below-radar war in cyberspace for economic and political influence, involving numerous players.

Isis flag

The black flag has become heavily associated with the Isis group(Getty)

With terrible brilliance, Isis, for one, both commits cyber crime and floats cyber propaganda. It boasts both a “backroom” criminal operation, which raises funds, and a front-of-house “daylight” operation devoted to image building.

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Bosnia and the Global Jihad Revisited

English: Kingdom of Bosnia in the XIV century....

English: Kingdom of Bosnia in the XIV century.Category:Maps of the history of Principality of Zeta and Kingdom of Bosnia(XIV th-century) Category:Maps of the history of Bosnia (XIVth-century) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August 23, 2014

Back in 2007, my book Unholy Terror ruffled quite a few feathers by pointing out the unpleasant truth that, in the 1990s, Bosnia-Hercegovina became a jihadist playground and a major venue for Al-Qa’ida, thanks to malign Saudi and Iranian influences. This was off-message, to put it mildly, to critics eager to defend failed Western (especially American) policies in the Balkans, as well as the usual coterie of jihad fellow-travelers and Useful Idiots, plus those eager, for personal reasons, not to have anyone look too deeply into where Saudi money goes in Europe.

However, my essential message — that Islamist extremism, though a largely imported phenomenon in Bosnia, has put down local roots and is likely to metastasize further due to that country’s intractable socio-economic problems — has been proven sadly accurate over the last seven years. For years, the debate over Islamism in Bosnia, and Southeastern Europe generally, was divided between security practitioners on one side and academics and journalists on the other, with the former group, which actually understood what was happening on the ground, being concerned about growing radicalism, while the latter bunch was generally happy to avert eyes from obvious signs of trouble, and to hurl accusations of bias and “Islamophobia” at those who pointed out what was happening. Continue reading

The development of home-grown jihadist radicalisation in Italy

Lorenzo Vidino. ARI 9/2014 – 14/2/2014

Theme: The Muslim communities and jihadist networks in Italy and Spain present similar characteristics and it is therefore interesting to look at the recent development of home-grown jihadist radicalisation in Italy.[1]

Summary: Over the last three years the demographic and operational features of jihadism in Italy have shown significant shifts. The first generation of foreign-born militants with ties to various jihadist groups outside Europe is still active, although less intensely than in the past. The Italian authorities, however, have increasingly noted forms of home-grown radicalisation similar to those recorded in other West European countries over the past 10 years.

The lag has been caused by a simple demographic factor. As in Spain, large-scale Muslim immigration to Italy began only in the late 1980s and early 1990s, some 20 (in some cases 30 or 40) years later than in economically more developed European countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. The first, relatively large, second generation of Italian-born Muslims is therefore coming of age only now, as the sons of the first immigrants are becoming adults in their adoptive country. Of these hundreds of thousands of young men and women, a statistically insignificant yet security-relevant number is embracing radical ideas.

Analysis

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Kenya’s nervous condition and the war against Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by George Ogola (1)

Walking into any of Nairobi’s shopping malls, hotels and supermarkets today, one is now frisked by anxious security guards with metal detectors. The city appears trapped in a suspended sense of foreboding about a big unknown. It is a city very much on edge. Kenya’s war against Al-Shabaab in Somalia passed its 100th day in January 2012, but very few know when or how it will end. The port city of Kismayu, a main target for the Kenya Defence Force (KDF), remains in Al-Shabaab’s hands. The growing sense of uncertainly over the war, coupled with militant rhetoric by Al-Shabaab about retributive action within Kenya’s territory, is increasingly unsettling nerves in the country. Many are now resigned to the fact that this is a war that will not be won militarily.

Kenya’s military intervention came following the kidnapping of a number of aid workers and foreign nationals within its territory by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in 2011. The military intervention was, however, unusual. Kenya has generally avoided open military confrontation with its neighbours despite the fact that a number of these nations have been characterised by political instability since the 1970s having a significant political, social and economic impact on Kenya. For instance, the country hosts the Dadaab refugee camp, considered the largest refugee camp in the world.(2) The camp has nearly half a million refugees, mainly of Somali origin who have escaped hunger as well as lawlessness and clan wars in their country. Other camps in the country have previously hosted refugees mainly from South Sudan.

 

Somalia's states, regions and districts

Somalia’s states, regions and districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This paper assesses the implications of Kenya’s involvement in the war against Al-Shabaab. It argues that while the Kenyan Government wanted to make an unambiguous statement of intent about the seriousness of the country’s commitment to protecting its borders, it did not foresee the war evolving into a broader international ideological conflict. The involvement of international jihadists in the conflict has raised the stakes in the war. Kenya must now fight a military and an ideological war. It must also fight Al-Shabaab not only outside the country but within it; a challenging prospect with no end in sight.

 

‘Statelessness’ in Somalia and the politics of oil in northern Kenya

The continued situation of ‘statelessness’ in Somalia and the increasing militarisation of clanist and religious militia in the country have raised the stakes regarding the Somalia problem. There are fears that the country has become an incubator for international jihadists, which has forced the hand of the United States (US) to intervene, albeit indirectly. The US has offered support for the war in the form of military training and equipment to Kenyan forces. They have also been involved in drone attacks against Al-Shabaab in Somalia.(3) This intervention has had two effects. One, it has animated fundamentalist rhetoric against the ‘invaders’, seen to include the African Union’s (AU) interventionist force, the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), meant to support the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Two, the countries involved in protecting the TFG, which include Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia, have also received substantial military support from the US, which has raised regional anxieties.

The latter point, although less talked about, is likely to be the subject of future debate as it is silently reshaping the geopolitics of the region. The countries involved in AMISON have now significantly increased their military spending prompting talk of an arms race in the region. Indeed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), in 2012 Uganda’s military budget for the first time surpassed Kenya’s despite the fact that the former has a much smaller economy. The country is said to have spent US$ 1.02 billion while Kenya spent US$ 735 million on military hardware in 2012.(4) If this trend continues, it will no doubt encourage a regional arms race as Kenya’s involvement in Somalia now all but legitimises increased military spending.

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The New Islamists

How the most extreme adherents of radical Islam are getting with the times.

BY OLIVIER ROY | APRIL 16, 2012

The following is an excerpt from the book The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are,  which will be released on April 18 by the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The longstanding debate over whether Islam and democracy can coexist has reached a stunning turning point. Since the Arab uprisings began in late 2010, political Islam and democracy have become increasingly interdependent. The debate over whether they are compatible is now virtually obsolete. Neither can now survive without the other.

 

In Middle Eastern countries undergoing political transitions, the only way for Islamists to maintain their legitimacy is through elections. Their own political culture may still not be democratic, but they are now defined by the new political landscape and forced in turn to redefine themselves — much as the Roman Catholic Churchended up accepting democratic institutions even as its own practices remained oligarchic.

At the same time, democracy will not set down roots in Arab countries in transition without including mainstream Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda in Tunisia, or Islah in Yemen. The so-called Arab Spring cleared the way for the Islamists. And even if many Islamists do not share the democratic culture of the demonstrators, the Islamists have to take into account the new playing field the demonstrations created.

The debate over Islam and democracy used to be a chicken-and-egg issue: Which came first?  Democracy has certainly not been at the core of Islamist ideology. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has historically been strictly centralized and obedient to a supreme guide, who rules for life. And Islam has certainly not been factored into promotion of secular democracy. Indeed, skeptics long argued that the two forces were even anathema to each other.

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Meet The Brotherhood’s Enforcer: Khairat El-Shater”

Logo Muslim Brotherhood

Logo Muslim Brotherhood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Egyptian media outlet Ahram Online has published a profile of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat El-Shater titled “Meet the Brotherhood’s enforcer: Khairat El-Shater.” The article begins:

The name and face of the Muslim Brotherhood leader, businessman Khairat El-Shater, has dominated the political sphere for weeks now, and for good reason.The multimillionaire has unrivaled leverage within the organisation and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, and enjoys enormous influence over the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau and Shura Council, the two highest bodies within the group. But what has really gripped the attention of pundits and the media have been the slew of leaks from the Brotherhood that El-Shater may be the organisations’ candidate for president, despite earlier promises that it would not be fielding a nominee. The obsesion is justified. At 62 it is El-Shater, and not the Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei, who really runs the Muslim Brotherhood. Ask anyone in the organisation why the leadership is at war with Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, one of the group’s most popular figures until he broke rank, announced his candidacy for the presidency and was immediately expelled, and the answer is El-Shater. Why did the Brotherhood punish Abul-Fotouh’s supporters within the organisation and expel those who joined his presidential campaign? Because of El-Shater. Who has been the driving force behind the Brotherhood’s tactics and public discourse since Mubarak’s ouster? It is El-muhandis – the engineer – as El-Shater likes to be called. He was, after all, once an assistant professor at El-Mansoura University’s Faculty of Engineering.

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The New Mastermind of Jihad

A recently freed Islamist thinker has long advocated small-scale, independent acts of anti-Western terror

By DAVID SAMUELS

Mohamed Merah, the 23-year-old Islamist gunman who hunted down three Jewish children and a rabbi after murdering three French paratroopers in Toulouse last month, didn’t act alone. In his journey from the slums of Toulouse, to the local mosques, to the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan that he described to French police, to filming his murder of the terrified children in order to post video clips on the web, Mr. Merah was following a path marked out years earlier by the coldblooded jihadist theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri.

clip_image001European Pressphoto Agency

Abu Musab al-Suri, in an undated photo released by the U.S. government’s Rewards for Justice program around 2004. He’s been called ‘the most dangerous terrorist you’ve never heard of.

What is perhaps more disturbing, Mr. al-Suri was recently set free from prison in Damascus, Syria, and his current whereabouts are unknown. Turned over to Syria after his capture by the CIA in late 2005, Mr. al-Suri was released sometime in December (according to intelligence sources and jihadist websites) by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad—a move apparently intended to warn the West of the consequences for opposing his rule.

Barely noticed in the midst of Mr. Assad’s own brutal assaults on civilians, Mr. al-Suri’s release may well contribute to the emergence of more attackers like Mr. Merah in the West. “His videos are already being reuploaded. His audios, reposted,” wrote Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst and the former director of West Point’s Center for Combating Terrorism, in a blog post after the news of Mr. al-Suri’s release first appeared on jihadist sites.

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