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The Wolves of Islamic Zealots: The Need for American-Russian Partnership

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“Hellfire awaits you. Europe is shaking. Russia is dying.” These words uttered in an Islamic State (DAESH) propaganda video in November 2015 projected a new vision of DAESH ideology.

With this statement DAESH pledged that it wished to overtake the Kremlin by any violent means necessary. No longer are wars fought by means of attrition and territorial gains. Rather, they are fought by influencing the minds of impressionable individuals through strong religious identities and extreme ideologies. And while the United States and many other Western powers have been engaged in the War on Terror for the last decade and a half, the Caspian Five have remained somewhat free of these extremists’ grasp. But perhaps no more and this demands new strategic partnerships and cooperation.

We know that out of the Caspian Five, Russia is home to the smallest Muslim community overall. Russia’s citizenry is composed of about 75% Russian Orthodox Christian, 11% Muslim, and the remaining 14% consisting of Protestant Christian, Roman Catholic, or having no religious affiliation. This demographic breakdown illustrates how Russia is less alike culturally than the rest of its neighbors in the Caspian Region. For example, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan are all Muslim majority nations. Iran, the nation most influenced by its religious heritage, has been issued threats by DAESH. This is because Iran is the regional Shia power and DAESH regards followers of the Shia sect of Islam to be heretics who should be eliminated. Kazakhstan houses a slightly smaller percentage (63%) of citizens following the Islamic faith, with another 25% of the population being Russian Orthodox. Russia is therefore isolated, Islamically speaking, and lacks this major common identity unifier with the other Caspian littorals. While remaining the religious outlier in the Caspian Sea region is not necessarily a Russian disadvantage, it does pose certain strategic obstacles. Fighting DAESH, an organization that bases its actions off of its own perverted version of Islamic discourse, poses unique challenges to Russia’s preferred method of engagement.

For instance, on September 30, 2015, Russia began its air campaign inside Syria. While the Assad regime welcomed the blankets of bombs, a vast majority of the international community rejected them, believing that the Kremlin was only looking to satisfy its strategic goals: namely, to preserve the Assad regime while confirming the Kremlin’s position in the world as an indispensible power. Moreover, Russia has engaged with Iran in its support for the Assad regime. While I do have to applaud President Putin for taking action against a vile extremist organization such as DAESH, the move was not strategically calculated or adequately coordinated amongst all the players currently participating in military operations against the group. In order to achieve victory, prevent political fallout, and reclaim some of its pride, Russia will need to cooperate with the other players involved, most importantly the United States, due to its leading investment in the fight. In addition, without this necessary coordination, Russia would remain an international scapegoat and receive too much criticism for a conflict that is not entirely of its own devising.

Air strikes alone have become the preferred instrument with which a nation engages the fight. While winning them political points on the international stage, it does not necessarily commit whole-heartedly to permanently eliminating actual enemies. It is almost as if this new trend has become the exclusive norm for declaring war in the 21st century. Moreover, following a strategy that only commits localized air strikes, rather than a combination of air and ground forces, is a half-hearted attempt at best for countering such capable zealot organizations like DAESH. Take for example in January 2015 when DAESH members burned Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh alive. Jordan commenced a bombing campaign that lasted only a few weeks. Again in November 2015, as we all watched in horror the murders across the streets of Paris, it was only in the wake of such heinous violence that French authorities committed multiple air assets for a bombing campaign against DAESH strongholds. These maneuvers are reactive rather than proactive in the fight against zealots and ultimately wane as time progresses.

Relating back to Russia, it was only in October 2015 when militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula bombed a Russian civilian airliner, killing all 224 passengers. Only then did the DAESH extremism in Syria hit close to home. Russia is a prideful nation, one that I think will attempt to not only commit more forces to the fight just to spite the United States and Western powers, but also so as to not project weakness in the face of tragedy. While swallowing some of its pride in order to coordinate better counter-terrorist efforts may be hard for the Kremlin, a perceived defeat in the Middle East would be far more detrimental to Russian power and domestically generate undesirable socio-political effects. The Kremlin has now received heinous aggressions as well as direct threats from DAESH. It has more to lose from backing out of the fight now or straying from the most cooperative and advantageous course. This is not only due to the increased threat level and prevalence of attacks across the Middle East, but also because this danger potentially threatens Caspian partners as the expansion of DAESH operations increase in scope and frequency. Turkmenistan worries about increasingly new security challenges which may spill over into the Russian Federation. The same worry at least peripherally applies to Azerbaijan as well.

This begs a final important question: could a U.S.-Russian partnership provide the necessary leadership and direct military cooperation to inspire the world to eliminate the growing threat of violent religious extremism? Such a partnership could hold this potential if only old traditions of rivalry and mistrust can be broken. Going it alone does not guarantee victory and may de facto ensure defeat. The wolves of Islamic zealots can only be overcome by the American bald eagle and Russian bear teaming together.

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Terrorism

The Islamic State’s reviving scheme

Ahmed Genidy

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Despite the fact that ISIS lost 98 percent of its controlled territory, it is aiming for a reforming and coming back in the Sunni populated areas in Syria and Iraq. Due to the current war situation and its developed financial resource. ISIS used to relay on the territory under its control to collect billions of dollars through criminal activities such as taxation, extortion, robbery and the illegal sale of the curd oil. Now the group has shown its ability to collect money regardless of controlling large areas.

After the rise of ISIS in 2015 and the takeover of vast areas in Syria and Iraq, its budget estimation reached $6 billion, as a result, the Islamic State is considered as the wealthiest terrorist entity in the history. The question posed is how such a terrorist group budget could become equivalent to a state-nation budget? In 2015 the Islamic State main financial resources were; oil and gaze which gathered about 500$ million in 2015; taxation that generated approximately $360 million in the same year and finally; about $500 million robbed from bank vaults in Mosul.

Today the situation is different, the Islamic State has lost the majority of its territory. The global coalition had destroyed ISIS infrastructures in the Middle East as well as its communication routes and had killed the idea of the hegemonic Islamic caliphate in the region. Meanwhile, the Islamic State is struggling to control the last 2 percent of its territory. Therefore, its revenue stream from the main resources has been rapidly shrinking out.

As a result, ISIS no longer relies on the controlled territory for its financial survival. For example, ISIS leadership may have smuggled around $400 million out of Syria and Iraq. Laundering this money through fake entity is likely to occur especially in Turkey. Some other cash could be converted into valuable items and stockpiled to be used in the future.

The stockpile cash will provide the group with more than enough fund to continue as a clandestine terrorist movement with the ability to conduct campaigns of guerrilla warfare in the region. On the other hand, ISIS has supported its financial situation with a variety of funding portfolio. It has developed a range of criminal activities that do not require controlling territories such as kidnapping for ransom, drug smuggling and trafficking in antiquities.

Over the next years, the international community seeks to provide help for Syria and Iraq to recover. The reconstruction aid could provide an attractive target for the Islamic State and a possible financial boost to its comeback. It is possible that the Islamic State begins skimming off reconstruction contracts, the only way is to establish connections with the local officials which is not difficult for a terrorist entity with a huge amount of cash. Finally, the rise of the Iranian threats in the region reflects in many stakeholder’s fears from an Iranian’s control through Hezbollah over ISIS past territories. Therefore, a continuing support from regional states to the terrorist group is possible if ISIS adopts a suitable strategy to the supporters interests in the region.

The combination of the criminal activities, the reconstruction plan and the regional states financial support in the future will encourage the Islamic State to regroup and reorganize. For instance, in Kirkuk, the militants created a fake checkpoint to attack security forces earlier this year. Moreover, in Diyala and Saladin, sleeper cells activity began to hit back. The U.S. policy in the Middle East tends to view the war on terror as separate phases while jihadis consider it as one long war. Until the West recognize this, ISIS is likely to come over to repeat its strategy and to reviving the Islamic caliphate project in the future.

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Religious radicalism as a trend

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IN RECENT YEARS, much has been said about radicalism and its varied offshoots. True, the number of terrorist acts climbs up, the popularity of extreme right political forces grows, and the wave of left radical and anti-globalist movements, migration crises and international tension is rising. This is how everyday realities look in many countries of the world.

France is one of the European countries in which radical trends are only too obvious. At the 2017 presidential election, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, two radical politicians who represented anti-establishment political movements, reaped 41% and 51% respectively of the votes cast by young voters aged between 18 and 24. On the whole, the Fifth Republic is getting accustomed to violence against the law and order structures, destruction of material assets during rallies, protest acts that keep lyceums and universities blocked for a long time, and rejection of republican values that looked unshakable not long ago. Today, when fifty years separate us from the May 1968 events, we can talk about “banalization of protests” not only among the groups on the margins of society but also among its law-abiding part.

Late in 2015, after a series of terrorist acts in France a group of scientists, mostly sociologists of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) launched a large-scale research project to identify the factors responsible for the spread of radical ideas among the younger generation. In April 2018, the results were published in a monograph The Temptation of Radicalism  one of the hits on the French book market.

The project is a unique one: for the first time, academic science turned its attention to the younger generation rather than to terrorist acts and those who commit them; it has become interested in the process of radicalization and the factors that plant the ideas of radicalism in the minds of high school students.

A vast, and most interesting, part of the book that deals with religious radicalism, one of the main objects of attention of the public and the media, offers two important conclusions that devalue the old and generally accepted opinions.

Sociologists have detected two component parts or two stages in religious radicalism: the “ideological” as devotion to the fundamentalist religious trends and “practical,” the adepts of which are more than just religious fanatics – they justify violence for religious reasons.

The authors of the book under review who obviously prefer the term “religious absolutism” to “religious fundamentalism” have repeatedly pointed out that it is present in all world religions; the poll, however, revealed that religious absolutism was more typical of Muslim high school students.

Religion, or to be more exact, extreme Islamist trends combined with the male gender is the main factor of religious radicalization of the French youth.

This sociological study has demonstrated that the French national and confessional politics that for many years relied on the thesis that radicalization among the younger generation was caused by social and economic factors should be revised. This book made a great contribution to the broad and far from simple discussion of the place and role of Islam in French society, into which not only extreme right political movement are involved. In his speech of May 22, 2018, President of France “poured cold water” on the plan to shake up the banlieues devised by Jean-Louis Borloo. The president pointed out that more money poured into sensitive zones would not solve the main problem of radicalization.

first published in our partner International Affairs

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Terrorism

Ahwaz bloody attack

Sajad Abedi

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Several armed gunmen martyred and wounded several of their compatriots during an armed attack during an armed parade in Ahwaz on Saturday, September 31, at the same time as a parade of armed forces throughout the country.

Yesterday, at the same time as the national parade on September 31st, four armed elements arrested the demonstrators at the parade of armed forces in the city of Ahwaz, where 25 civilians were martyred and 60 others were wounded in this terrorist act.

Many officials and statesmen from different countries, including Russia, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Syria, conveyed sympathy to the Iranian people in condemning this move, but on the other hand, some of the countries and their affiliated media, including Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya, while dodging terrorists, read the incident and reduced its level to an armed attack, tacitly supporting the terrorist elements of the attack.

While in the early hours of the Ya’qub al-HarTestari spokesman for the terrorist group, “Al-Ahwazia”, in charge of the terrorist attack, he was in charge of this terrorist act, but with the passing of hours, the so-called “depths” media group, affiliated with the Takfiri terrorist group In a message posted on its channel, ISIS claimed responsibility for the Ahwaz terrorist attack.

In the back of the scene, some countries, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, are potentially willing to do so. John Bolton, the American senator and Turkish al-Faisal, have been present at most of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and other opposition groups in the Islamic Republic and have asked them to carry out armed and terrorist acts against Iran. This shows that they are the first number accused, and these returns to their previous will.

Regarding exactly which of the two terrorist groups are responsible for this, it is time to wait for time to identify the hidden dimensions of the incident and also to carry out investigations by security officials, but what is now more rational seems to be to carry out the attack by ISIL terrorists. . The al-Ahwazia terrorist group, an isolated group that claims to support the Arab people, cannot operate at all, while, contrary to it, ISIL elements have such a potential capability.

On the other hand, given the threats of the past few months, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman, to throw chaos into Iran, although this ridiculous threat is empty and virtually out of Riyadh’s power, the al-Ahwazi terrorist group can be one of Saudi tools for To reach the goals of the saboteurs, but the point is that, firstly, in the province of Khuzestan from the past, different ethnic groups have lived together in peace and there is no social base for the destructive activities of the Al-hawazee group in this region.

The second point is that Khuzestan is a completely Shi’ite Provincial with a religious people and is fully loyal to the Islamic Republic. The injured war in the imposed war was one of the first three provinces that provided many martyrs for the revolution and preservation of the Islamic homeland. Therefore, as stated, there are no social grounds for the activities of al-Ahwazia terrorists in the area, and the action seems to have been taken by ISIL’s terrorist elements that have been trained abroad for specific purposes to Iran.

Another issue to be addressed is that the terrorist attack took place on September 31st, coinciding with the start of the imposed war on Saddam Hussein against our country, which the nationwide arsenal of our nationwide parade on this day turned into a scene of the country’s broader military power. Becomes, whether this is done on this day means that they wanted to undermine the Iranian power by questioning.

This means that increasing Iran’s military and missile capabilities is precisely the goal that the global arrogance, at the head of the United States, is upset and is in the process of its annihilation. Over the past few years, the United States has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the increasing military and missile capabilities of our country, for various reasons, while the terrorist attack has been taking place in the direction of global arrogance, and for this reason After the attack, our countrymen rightly pointed out the tip of the finger and the finger to the United States and the Zionist regime and their regional implications.

The officials in our country, who have been witnesses to the events of the past, are aware that the enemies who launched economic warfare against us are bound to pursue and not be ignorant of the political and security war against our country. Finally, the Islamic Republic, which has so far not been silent on any moves that threatened its people’s security, will certainly not silence this action and will punish the agents and supporters behind it.

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