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SITREP on Russia’s strategic stance in Syria-Iraq-Iran

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On 14 October, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said in Moscow that Russia was closely monitoring the situation in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, but that only Syria had asked for direct support. Lavrov added that any such requests, if they are made, will be decided on by President Putin.

At least one western news agency reported that Russia was providing troops to Iraq with the approval of the Iraqi government. That is not accurate, at least not yet. Iraq has permitted the creation of the four-party intelligence center in Baghdad. However, we should expect that other forms of cooperation also are in discussion.

A significant divergence of policy and strategy between the US and Russia is now apparent in Syria, Iraq and other Mid-eastern countries. The US strategy since 2011 mostly has focused on building up opposition entities to replace authoritarian governments with democratic systems. That has backfired by contributed to widespread instability; civil war and state fragmentation; legitimation of elected Islamist regimes and a backlash among the local populations in favor of stability, exemplified by political developments in Egypt.

Notable exceptions to this strategy are Afghanistan and Yemen. The Afghanistan conflict predates the current US administration whose policy has bee to reduce the US presence to an embassy by the end of 2016. In Yemen, the US tends to support the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia against the Houthis, possibly because all the Gulf state air forces fly US combat aircraft.

The Russian strategy is built on supporting the governments in power in order to stabilize the existing order. Russia lacks the resources of the US, but President Putin has used his limited resources prudently and maneuvered deftly to advance Russian military presence and influence. Putin’s timing has been almost superb.

For old hands, the Russians and Americans appear to have reversed their traditional roles and swapped strategies and roles. Twenty-five years ago, the Soviets were destabilizing regions by supporting opposition elements in states friendly to the US. Now they are on the side of regional stability.

The Russians/Soviets have been steadfastly on the side of the Syrian government for decades. The Soviet Union also was an important arms supplier to Iraq for many years. President Putin has positioned Russia to take advantage of Iran’s expected strategic breakout, now that the Iranian Majles has approved the nuclear agreement.

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The secret dream of all propagandists

Dr. Andrea Galli

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Not even a month after Mark Zuckerberg’s grilling at the US House of Representatives, Facebook is announcing a partnership with NATO’s social media propaganda organization: The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab). The organization claims to be the guarantor in defending the public from fake news. In its arsenal of topics to be defended, there are, of course, the usual favorite arguments of NATO. Above all, there is a strong predilection to influence the public perception about governments opposing NATO’s great design and hegemonic ambitions: such as Russia, Iran, Syria, China, Palestine…

The press release of the organizations says: “Today DFRLab announced that we are partnering with Facebook to expand our #ElectionWatch program to identify, expose, and explain disinformation during elections around the world. The effort is part of a broader initiative to provide independent and credible research about the role of social media in elections, as well as democracy more generally”.

For the uninitiated, the DFRLab serves the American-led alliance’s chief advocacy group known as the Atlantic Council. Its methods are rather simple: it grants generous stipends and fantastic academic qualifications to various activists that align with NATO’s agenda. Just look at who funds the Atlantic Council: donors include military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, all of whom directly profit from tensions with Russia, China, Syria… Meanwhile, in addition to NATO itself, there are also payments made by the US State Department, along with payments from the US Defense Department. Other major paymasters include the government of the United Arab Emirates, which is, of course, an absolute monarchy and other absolute monarchies in the region.

Facebook has partnered an organization funded by weapons manufacturers, the US military, and Middle-Eastern monarchies to safeguard the democratic process?  If Facebook truly wanted to “protect democracy and elections worldwide,” it would build a broad coalition of experts from a wide and disparate range of the countries it serves. Instead, it has outsourced the task to NATO’s propaganda wing.

This is a perfect situation for NATO and those who depend on it for their source of revenues and status. Because the NATO is now positioned to be the master of the Facebook servility in the information war on the social network battlefield. By marry a clearly biased actor to police “misinformation and foreign interference” and to “help educate citizens as well as civil society,” Mark Zuckerberg’s team has essentially made their company a tool of the US’s military agenda.

This is the dream of every propagandist: to infiltrate in an communication infrastructure present on every smartphone and home computer and used with addiction by the great majority of the population; to channel disinformations to the addicted public and to control “the truth”. The goal is always the same: to obtain popular support for financing the military apparatus and in the end, obtain popular support for a war. We wonder what this dream of propagandists has to do with the defense of democracy. It would come as no surprise that Facebook will be soon proclaimed a defender of freedom and human rights.

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Pathology of a soft war with Iran in cyberspace

Sajad Abedi

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The soft -war against Iran is a fact that all the scholars acknowledge. In fact, the main and hidden purpose of the soft -war is to disrupt the information system of the countries and to influence the public opinion of the countries. Cybercrime is today in the cyberspace community. With this regard, what is the position of cyber space in this media and cyber campaign?

The soft -war is a kind of conflict between countries, which is dominated by content, programs and software, mainly from the media. In fact, any confrontation between countries or groups those are rival or hostile to each other, in which media, cyber and software tools are used is regarded as a “soft- war” in the world. In the soft- war space, the subject of rockets, guns, tanks, ships and aircraft is not the subject of satellite, Internet, newspapers, news agencies, books, movies, and cinema. Naturally, the soldiers involved in this soft -war are no longer generals, officers and military, but journalists, cinemas, artists and media actors.

Naturally, satellite TVs and radio programs within the framework of the soft -war debate are the continuation of the domination of the capitalist system and seek to secure their own interests and interests in other countries. The main purpose of these types of networks is to influence the public opinion of their target countries and to disrupt the internal information system of the countries concerned. They use several technological tools to reach their predetermined plans, goals, and scenarios. These goals can be faced with various shapes and shapes.

Soft -War has existed throughout history. Even when technological tools such as radio, television, and satellite were not available, there was a soft- war in the context of the war of thought and psychological warfare. But what’s happening now in the world is that hardware or hard-core wars have multiple implications for the invading countries. Therefore, they are trying to achieve their goals by adopting a soft war strategy alongside their hard wars either independently and only within the framework of soft- war. As time goes by, with the growth of technology and media techniques, the working methods of these networks become more complex. Naturally, the layers of the soft -war become more complex, more complete, and the recognition of these tricks becomes even harder.

In his book Soft Power, Joseph Nye introduces elements as soft power pillars, some of which are music and art. That’s also the basis of the soft warfare. In fact, music, art, university, sports, tourism, ancient artifacts, culture and lifestyle of a nation are soft power.

On this basis, there are weaknesses and weaknesses in the internal dimension. One of the most important problems and weaknesses is the inability to use all of its software capabilities in cyber warfare and public diplomacy. In the soft -war of the other faction, the group, the person, the group, the cult, and so on, does not matter. Soft- war does not know the border. Accordingly, all internal groups in this field must be activated in accordance with the guidelines of the Supreme Leader, we must have in the internal arena and in all cultural fields and “infrastructure elements” the soft- war of maximum absorption and minimal elimination, that is, from all the capacities of the system for Cultural confrontation with hostile countries.

The most basic element of soft power is the people. Social capital, public trust, public participation, public culture, public education, and finally all the things that exist in people, localism, nativeism, subcultures, and traditional cultures come from people. In fact, this is something that should be given the most concentration and attention. Using the capacity of the people to cope with these external pressures will have the greatest success.

But how should these capacities, potentials and capital of people is used? The first is used in the media. The national identity in the world is characterized by the national image, that is, the look, the imagination and the imagination that a nation makes for itself. What image do you have in your mind when you hear German or German people? When do you hear the image of the people of Afghanistan, China, Japan, or Arab countries? This is an image that is powerful in the world and talks. Inside Iran, there was a weakness in drawing this image. To create a good image of Iran, one should use the simplest tools, including practical suggestions that media like Voice and Television Organization are capable of demonstrating to the ordinary people of the community. When a tourist arrives for the first time in the country, he is surprised at the first step in entering the airport. Because he faces scenes he did not expect or in the sense of another image of Iran.

In fact, we are now in a soft- war space. Satellite, radio and television tools, along with cyber-tools, have created a full-blown war against the Islamic Republic of Iran. With the growth of technology and media techniques, the working methods of media networks become more complicated, and more complicated, more complete, and harder to know than the soft warfare. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a good news country, but the country is not news. That is, all countries of the world receive Iran-related news on most issues and topics from countries other than us about the country. Once it has come to an end, as we resolve many of the problems in the framework of Article 44, policymakers will take steps to improve media and cyber media activities.

The following strategies can be put forward to combat soft war against Iran in cyberspace and media:

First, the establishment of the National Center for the Coordination of Soft- War is indispensable. This center is responsible for coordinating the various internal institutions in the field of countering the enemy’s soft- war and controlling, monitoring and monitoring media imaging from Iran.

Second, the launch of new media networks under the overall supervision of the audio and video, and with the production and management of the private sector is essential. These networks can informally meet the needs of people’s entertainment and information and restore the people’s confidence in the domestic media.

Third, support for the production of healthy content in cyberspace, especially native social networks, should be supported in order to defend the national interests of the country within the framework of the software movement.

Fourth, attention to the basics of soft power in the country is necessary for maximum absorption and minimal elimination. No artist should be defeated on the pretext of political orientation, the destruction of art and music and national honors, and bringing national issues into line with internal political challenges, will undermine Iran’s soft power.

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Preventive Measures Against Lone Wolf Attacks During Ramadan

Uran Botobekov

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Chechen lone wolf’s hunting in Paris

Four days before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, Khamzat Azimov, 21, of Chechen origin, committed a terrorist attack in Paris, killing one and wounding four people.The terrorist, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” and attacked passers with a knife, was then shot and killed by the police.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the operation, saying in a statement that the “attacker who stabbed multiple people in the city of Paris was a soldier of the Islamic State who carried out the operation in response to the call to target coalition nations.” ISIS’ Information Agency Amaq News has released a short video presumably recorded by the attacker himself.

In his video message Azimov, whose face is covered with a black handkerchief, in a mixture of French and Arabic swears allegiance to the Islamic stateand its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Then he addresses the supporters of the Caliphate around the world. Especially it refers to France, Germany and England, never mentioning Russia. He urged like-minded people in these and other countries of Europe to perform Hijrah (the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina). He goes on to say that those Muslims who cannot perform Hijrah should start the jihad against the infidels in the territory,in which they now live.

Azimov justifies his actions by revenge for the death of like-minded people in Iraq and Syria.He stresses that the cause of his attack was the bombardment of the territories of the Islamic State by France.The Chechen terrorist repeated the thesis of the ISIS propaganda 2015 when the group tried to convey to the western audience the idea that the bombing of the territories of the Caliphate would result in attacks on the territories of the countries of the West.It should be noted that this is the standard call of the Islamic state.

In particular, the Chechen terrorist Azimov was guided by the ISIS strategic doctrine urging assassins to burrow into their adopted nations in the West and to plan complex attacks in place. This indicates that the strategic doctrine of the Islamic State Intelligence director Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who called before his death to all ISIS agents in the West to carry out attacks in the countries where they live, still continues to function effectively. “If the tyrants have closed in your faces the door of Hijrah, then open in their face the door of jihad,” said Abu Muhammad al-Adnani in his message. He recommended his supporters to attack the infidels by all means: with trucks, weapons, axes, knives, and if nothing is found, and then kill them with their bare hands.As this incident showed, a lone Wolf of Chechen descent, Azimov, was inspired by the ideology of jihadism and fulfilled the call of Al Adnani to attack unbelievers with knives on the enemy’s territory.

“Putin’s foot soldier” accuses the West of supporting ISIS

In connection with this terrorist act of many experts on counterterrorism and Islamic radicalism were surprised by the statement of the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.In particular, in his blog in the social network “VKontakte” he accused the French authorities of radicalizing Khamzat Azimov.”In Chechnya he was only born, and growing up, the formation of his personality, his views and beliefs took place in French society. I am convinced that if he had spent his childhood and youth in Chechnya, Khamzat Azimov’s fate would have been different! “- concluded Kadyrov.

Kadyrov

If we follow Kadyrov’s logic, then everyone who lived and was brought up in Chechnya will never embrace the path of Islamist extremism.Then how can we understand the thousands and thousands of Chechen militants of the terrorist group Caucasus Emirate, who today are fighting in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan?After all, they were born and raised in Chechnya? Despite this, they became ardent supporters of the Islamic state, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the second part of his statement, Kadyrov accused the West of training ISIS militants and their support.He wrote: “Western countries have created greenhouse conditions for all those who are hostile in attitude to Russia and to Chechnya.Special services of the West prepare them for actions in the zone of armed conflicts in the Middle East, supplement them with the ranks of the Iblis state (as he calls ISIS).Khamzat Azimov had contacts with French law enforcement agencies and special services, but apparently, he came out of their control.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian answered that his country “has nothing to learn from a dictator who does not respect the rule of law, and who also knows very well that there are thousands of Chechens fighting on the side of ISIS.”

I do not want to be an arbitrator in the controversy between France’s top diplomat and “Putin’s foot soldier”.But such a populist accusation by a faithful soldier of the Kremlin of the Western countries testifies to his inferiority complex, ideological bias and the deficit of moral values. Ramzan Kadyrov, who is known for his willingness to die for Putin, for massively violating human rights in Chechnya and for physically destroying his political opponents, by his statement, brings grist to Salafi-jihadis’ mill.

The tie between Paris knife attacker and Boston bombers

Paris knife attacker Khamzat Azimov was not the first Chechen jihadist who committed a terrorist attack in the West.The world community is well aware of the other Chechen brothers Tsarnaev who organized the bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.Then, as a result of the terrorist attack, three people were killed and more than 280 people were injured.After analyzing both terrorist acts in Paris and Boston, the following similar moments in the actions of Chechen lone wolves can be noted.

First, the organizers of both terrorist attacks are Chechens by nationality, who emigrated to the West along with their parents.The reason for their emigration was a complex political situation including violations of their human rights in their homeland.Compelled emigration and difficulties of adaptation in the West were the main factors of the Chechen youth’s conversion to the path of Islamic radicalism.

Chechen Terrorist Azimov

Secondly, the authors of both terrorist acts were in the field of view of the special services for alleged involvement in radical Islamic ideology.The French special services brought Azimov to the list of FSPRT – persons close to radical Islamist circles.FBI agents investigated the religious views of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was a danger to society but did not detain him.

Thirdly, Chechen lone wolves were infected with the ideology of jihadism via the Internet, where they studied the literature of the Salafism.The cause of the attack, they said was“revenge against infidels for air strikes of innocent Muslims by the western coalition in the Middle East and Afghanistan”.

Fourth, the world’s terrorist organizations ISIS and al-Qaeda interceded in the defense of the Chechen lone wolves.After the Paris knife attack, ISIS announced that Azimov was a soldier of the Caliphate, and the attack was organized by order of the Emir of the group.Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri warned the US of the “gravest consequences” if Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were to be executed.

Fifth, the authors of the Paris and Boston terrorist acts clearly followed the instructions of the world terrorist groups to prepare and carry out attacks on the territory of the infidels. Al-Qaeda and ISIS regularly issue practical recommendations, compilations and e-books for their supporters and lone wolves, which details the methods and ways of carrying out terrorist attacks.In July 2017 ISIS’ magazine Rumiyah published “Lone Wolf’s Handbook”, where he described in detail how to plough into a large crowd of people with a truck.

How to defend against the lone wolves attacks in the Ramadan

Recently ISIS propaganda Nashir News Telegram channels called for more lone wolf attacks during Ramadan.As know, last year during the holy month of Ramadan, jihadists attacked London, Manchester and Paris.

According to the ideologues of the Caliphate, the gate of the paradise opens for Shahids in Ramadan.Ramadan is a holy month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, in which good deeds are rewarded manifold, and bad deeds especially punished. In ISIS’s twisted interpretation of Islam, this means attacks on non-believers and apostates – which it considers ‘good’ – will be honored many times over in the afterlife.

After the loss of its territories in Syria and Iraq and defeats on the battlefield, it is important for the Islamic State to demonstrate its ability to continue the attacks.ISIS leaders try to improve their image in view of their recent losses with the help of terrorist attacks of lone wolves in the West. It is in this vein that one can analyze the knife attack of the Chechen terrorist Khamzat Azimov in Paris, who opened the hunting season during the holy month of Ramadan.Therefore, it can be expected that other “sleeping” lone wolves in Western Europe and the US will also respond to the recent calls of ISIS.

In order to better protect the people and their country from new terrorist attacks during Ramadan, counter-terrorism officers should pay attention to the following points.

First, strengthen the external and electronic surveillance of the movements of alleged Islamist radicals, who are given in the list of the special services.Daily nightly collective prayers during Ramadan are able to spiritually inspire single wolves to practice.Therefore, it is especially important to conduct daily monitoring and analysis of the internal atmosphere in mosques where emigrants from the Middle East, Central Asia and the African Maghreb perform prayers.

Second, counterterrorism officers should pay attention to the work of popular halal restaurants in the daytime.According to radical Salafi ideology, all those Muslims who do not hold fast during Ramadan commit Shirk (sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism) against Allah Almighty.Therefore, those who committed Shirk must be subjected to Takfir (excommunication, as one Muslim declaring another Muslim as a non-believer) leading up to the death penalty, ideologists of Wahhabism believe.After the terrorist attack Omar Mateen on the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, noted the victims were all in “a nightclub for homosexuals.”Another terrorist from Central Asia, Abdulkadir Masharipov, attacked the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on December 31, 2016, because Muslims celebrated there the Christian New Year. It is possible that among the lone wolves would decide to punish those Muslims with Takfir who do not fast, and who would eat at famous restaurants in the daytime during Ramadan.

Third, law enforcement should increase observation of people who are carrying any flammable liquids or LPG/propane tanks on the streets, where high numbers of people are present. Pedestrian crowded streets and central parts of cities can become possible targets for Islamist lone wolves.

Finally, to successfully confront the threat of lone wolves’ attacks during Ramadan law enforcement and homeland security officers must be able to think like lone wolf jihadists and they should be fed information by intelligence agencies, that would help them do so.

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