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Essential Commandments in Combating Islamic Jihad

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The international relations is comprised by states that keep their national sovereignty and security by defending its borders and territories. The terrorism phenomenon is not new through history, but in contemporary politics, due to the sophisticated weapons, it endangers national security and exacerbates the international structure.

Islamic terrorism, which constitutes more than 90 percent of world terrorism, is the utmost lethal and must be taken highly seriously. There is no “impossible” when they consider options and scenarios, and they might use all kind of weaponry available to achieve their targets, from chemical to nuclear. All Muslim groups clearly declare: “we will win since you love life while we love death.” It is in accordance with the Qur’an declaration, in Sural al-Nisā’ (4:74) and Surat al-Taubah (9:111).      

Therefore, it is a must to eliminate the political, religious, and managerial leaders of the terrorist organizations. It is a critical condition in the war on terror perpetrators as the most effective way in decreasing the terrorist organizations’ influence its ability to act. By leaders it means not only the top, but also the field leaders. Most important, this definition includes mainly religious leaders. In Islam as one can clearly observe the religious leaders, the Imams, are the most important, as they give the religious clearance and legitimization to the terrorists activity. They excel in spreading and disseminating the deep vicious incitement of hatred for the terrorists

The other side of the war on terrorist organizations are the Arab military regimes. Any observation will clearly exhibit that Arab military regimes were the best in fighting and containing effectively the Islamic movements and groups. Unfortunately, the US has helped to demolish the political coercive authoritarian order existing in the Middle East by removing the military regimes, in Iraq, in Egypt (thank to al-Sisi who has taken back the political power), in Libya, and in Yemen, and continues its policy to topple Asad regime in Syria. The result, the Middle has entered the age of Islamic Tribal Anarchic Winter, in which we find failed states, acute un-stability, and chaos in the entire area. The military regimes, although being oppressive and dictatorial, are the last and best chance of the Arab regimes to survive as relatively open states. The alternative are Islamic regimes ruled by and according to the Sharī‘ah.

   Homicide bombing is a combined personal and group activity: The individual needs the organizational framework for the success of his action, while the organization cannot be effective without his activity. However, the most successful war against terrorist perpetrators is not against the individual, ‘the person with the belt’ which is a disposable raw material, but the organization itself. In order to succeed in the liquidation of terrorism, the elimination of the organization’s leadership, it is a crucially imperative to employ as a continuous strategy operations of the targeted killing.

The Old Testament has a clear answer: “Whoso sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed”. ‘The Iron Law of Oligarchy,’ formulated by the sociologist Michaels, teaches us that leaders wish to preserve their status and position in the organization, and will do everything to keep that aim. This is precisely the reason that their elimination is critical. Thompson proved this reality in his study on the British lessons in Malaysia and Vietnam.

It must be determined: the alternative to targeted killings is attacking the sites from which the terrorists set out, the implication of which would be huge damage to the surroundings. Anyone who understands that it is imperative to combat terrorism must also eliminate its leaders. And if someone raises the approach that these are political or religious leaders, the response should be loud and clear: Terrorist organizations have no political leaders. By definition they are illegitimate squads worthy of liquidation. Characterizing terrorist leaders as political leaders is a logical contradiction. Are Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Arafat, and Baghdadi political leaders? Were the leaders of the terrorist groups in Europe, Japan and South America political leaders? If so, why were they liquidated with extraordinary success?

Elimination of terrorist leaders is a necessity. One who is involved in indiscriminate murder cannot expect to be treated any differently. Nobody really serious would react to Bin Laden’s execution negatively; and this would be exactly the reaction to the Elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This demand also applies to religious leaders. Countries have two chains of command: The political echelon, which commands, and military echelon, which executes those commands. In contrast, there are three levels in the Islamic terrorist groups constituting a different type of subordination: The terrorist operational echelon; the command and logistical echelon; and the religious echelon, which affirms and legitimizes the homicide bombings through Fatawā’.

Another important commandment is to understanding terrorism sources that is to fight the educational and religious system. Beyond the pre-emptive activity, the main struggle is in the realm of interdiction of the educational and religious factors: abating the hatred transmitted to the youth from birth without even understanding why and creating effective alternatives to the Islamic “Istishhād (homicide) culture”.

The Muslims begin with the politics of the Jihadi ideology of hatred from birth. The children learn to hate before they learn anything else: At home, in school, in the Muslim Schools, Madāris, in youth movements, in summer camps, and in the mosques. They receive a gigantic dose of demonic venomous poison vis-à-vis the free world, and they hate the infidels because they are who they are. Hatred is in their food and drink and it is the fuel that directs and motivates the murders, the horrors of massacre and the lynching. That is why the “Third Generation,” those young Muslims who were born, raised, and educated in the West are the most extreme in Jihad activity.

The Arab-Islamic authoritarian regimes and the patrimonial political and religious leaders are aiming at channeling the rage and frustrations of the masses to the outsider enemy. These political systems horrify and oppress its inhabitants; keep them in poverty and wretchedness, without any hope of social progress and economic prosperity and are still in power by externalizing the guilt toward the outsider enemies, their embodiment: the US and Israel.

The situation has been challenged by Sa’ad Bin-Tefla:

The violence of slaughter, anarchy and bloodshed is a cultural phenomenon. The religious faction sets the rules: To achieve victory or martyrdom in order to restore the Islamic Empire, which stretched from China to Andalusia; the Arab media assists them by painting the world in black and white; and the Arab culture stokes the fire.

In the words of the intellectual Said al-Hamad of Bahrain

A ‘culture of backwardness,’ which dominates the Arab world led Arabs and Muslims into quixotic wars against the West. It also includes the ‘culture of terrorism,’ which adopts the approach of beheading and executing people; and the ‘culture of hatred’ which propagates in the minds and consciousness of the youth hatred for the world and for people whose opinions and thoughts are different than theirs.

The Tunisian thinker al-‘Afif al-Akhdar claims that

Islamist thought is incapable of accepting human thought. The world must condemn the Islamist education and media as an imperative step towards eliminating the ideology of terrorism.  

The Iraqi intellectual, Dr. Kazem Habib points out the importance of fighting educational-religious incitement

Most of the religious schools, the large majority of the Imams in the world’s mosques, and most of the preachers on the Arab TV channels educate to violence and spread hatred and animosity towards people of other religions. They do not acknowledge the other; they do not show tolerance towards non-Muslims, and disseminate hatred against Muslims, treating them as Kuffār.

There are ample researches, documents and evidence of what is being taught in the Madāris and delivered in the mosques. Egypt has found an interesting solution to the fanatic religious preaching in the mosques. All religious preachers (Imams) are civil servants receiving their salaries from government, which tapes and films their preaching (Khutbah) as a precaution step. Any violation of the rules means they are fired and indicted to jail.

Bernard Lewis provides us with the insight that there is no supremacy of legal-religious authority in Islam like in Christianity, capable of imposing fixed religious laws on the terrorists. Each organization has the religious leadership that it accepts and each one can interpret the laws of the Qur’an and the Hadīth as he sees fit. They are fully convinced that their actions are compatible with the demands of Islam.

For that, it is important to emphasize three dimensions:

a) One must not treat the Apocalyptic Global Jihad Groups as a phenomenon of crime, which can be resolved by means of economic improvements. It is well proven: poverty leads to crime but never to terrorism.

b) One must not despair as if the war against fanatic terrorism cannot be won. Despite the mystification of terrorist activity and media’s glorification, it can and must be vanquished.

c) One must not create moral equivalence, and the media is the chief responsible for that, between the terrorists, who are the epitome of evil, and the countermeasures taken by retaliatory states, which express legitimate steps to preserve freedom and maintain security. The struggle is for its legitimate existence and it takes precedence over moral values. It must be fought; it can be prevailed.

Another important commandment is to avoiding terrorist institutionalization as a political power. Action must be taken to rout the terrorist organizations out before they are institutionalized, before they strike deep popular roots, and become a guerilla force that controls territories supported by the masses. The best proof to this is Israel’s failure to strike the Hezbollah organization and Hamas, before they became the central Shi’ite force in Lebanon and the admired Sunni force among the Palestinians. When these groups institutionalized, it is no longer possible to liquidate them.

The test in understanding the importance of an all-out war on terrorism is by of the following analogies:

a) What would you do if a terrorist is threatening your own family, and you have the weapon and the opportunity to liquidate him beforehand? Wouldn’t you put him down?

b) What would you do if you receive authorized evidence about a genuine possibility that your family will be hit, and you can liquidate the terrorist beforehand?

c) How would you react when you are being fired upon from a mosque or a hospital, and your family is being threatened to death? Wouldn’t you shoot back to save them?

d) Will you act in a pre-emptive manner when terrorists push baby carriages filled with explosive vests and missiles?

e) Will you make certain to strip-search pregnant woman, you know she is transporting explosives?

f) How will you act if terrorist leaders plan to liquidate civilians in homicide bombings, but are surround themselves with children for their personal protection?

The free world must change its lenient treatment of Muslim terrorism. The Saudi intellectual Mash’ari al-Dhaydi has written

The time has come for those who turn a blind eye to notice that the enemies of freedom have exploited the atmosphere of freedom to spread their religious fanaticism. People who disseminate this ideological-political platform are greatest enemies of freedoms. Fundamentalist terrorism knows no borders, and must be dealt with before it will be too late.

At the same time one needs put great efforts as to preparing an all-out war on the money transfer. There is no existence to any activity and organizations and other groups without money. He, who really wishes to combat terrorism effectively, must be prepared to exert all energies on the financial roots that support the Apocalyptic Global Jihad Groups. Terrorism is a monumental financial business, with a turnover of billions of dollars. Paradoxically, these funds can solve a significant portion of the social and economic problems in the Arab-Muslim countries. Rich Arab-Oil states fund terrorism as “protection money”, as a payoff in order to appease the threat and to distance it from them. Charity and welfare organizations are the most significant factors in terrorism and incitement, brainwashing the masses with colossal hatred and lies of ignorance.

The West cannot win the war against radical Islam merely with the most sophisticated military strategies. Winning requires understanding the role of Sharī‘ah in developing a global ideological and political movement supported by a parallel “Islamic” financial system to exploit and undermine Western economies and markets. This movement is the foundation and the major funding source for the political, economic, and military initiatives of the global Islamic movement. Sharī‘ah finance is the lethal weapon in the arsenal of Islam. The end goal is to impose that ideology worldwide, making the Islamic Ummah, supreme.

Experts have estimated the Islamist propaganda machine’s bill to be about 100 billion dollars during the last two decades alone, which makes it the largest propaganda machine in history, even larger than the communist propaganda machine during the Soviet era.

Many Arab-Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia, transfer funds donated for charitable causes to finance activities of radical Islamic terrorist groups. This method of funding is a pattern of action, as part of the Islamic concept of conducting “a holy war through financial means” (al-Jihād bil-Māl). Ample evidence shows that funds collected for charitable causes, including for the poor and the needy, find their way to terrorist hands.

Most of the activity is done through mosques and the religious institutions, purchased and financed by a huge flow of money: recruitment, socialization, ideological, indoctrination and preparation for and dispatch of terrorist homicide bombings. A cycle of guidance and activity is established, through electronic means and printed material, with internal focus of attention and externalization of the blame to the colonialist infidels.

The British researcher, Adams, proved in the mid-80’s that no organization can survive without funds and the flow of huge moneys. Once the monetary pipeline is closed, the organization is doomed. Money is the lifeblood flowing in the bodies of the terrorist organizations and enables their activity. They need and receive and are dependent on a huge flow of money, and unfortunately they get it. A confrontation in the economic and monetary realm is no less important than the operative military steps. The war on this matter must be conducted ruthlessly and systematically examining all of the Islamic charity organizations, most of which serve as a most vital conduit for the terrorist organizations. One ought not to be impressed by humanitarian and social activity because in practice, most of the money is earmarked for the families of homicide bombers, aid for imprisoned murderers, purchase of real estate and houses for families whose houses were destroyed and directly support of terrorism actions.

The optimal way to deal with terrorism and overcome it is by destroying its economic infrastructure and stopping the flow of money and toughening the control on money laundering. All of the various “charity funds” which work for terrorism must be liquidated, their funds confiscated and their heads convicted of directly supporting terrorism.

The challenge is not only to identify the charity organizations that support terrorism, but to convince the Free World’s governments to work out: to act decisively against banks that cooperate with them and to isolate economically and politically state-sponsored activity.

Last but not least is acting to consolidate international cooperation. This is perhaps the important pre-requisite, the aspired policy, and yet no less elusive issue. In the wake of the September 11, the traumatized world was promised that an international coalition would form, like the one against Hitler and the one against Saddam Hussein, in order to liberate the world from the nightmare of the new Huns. It yet did that not happen, and the march of the folly of irresponsible Western leaders, who are oblivion to the threatening situation, continue. Unfortunately, the free world has learned nothing and internalized nothing, and beyond verbal declarations there is no intention to take substantive action.

Fighting Islamic terrorism effectively is achieved only when the Free World unite its abilities, spiritual and physical. Winning over evil can truly cope with the challenges of the Islamic apocalyptic fanaticism. Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, ‘We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of cooperating against evil.’

Indeed, this is a matter of dead or alive in the case of Islam. Cooperation is really needed policy in the political, intelligence and security realms, with the objective of establishing a consortium of countries combating terrorism. As long as the cartel of ‘Global Jihad Groups’ exists, and the countries threatened by terrorism do not agree on a joint policy, Islamic terrorism will continue to succeed and thrive. The free countries must cooperate, to unite forces in a genuine profound manner in order to facilitate terrorism’s collapse. The war on terrorism is a war of nations supporting freedom against gangs crazed by fanatical ideology, lacking all human compassion and with no human inhibitions to achieving the objective of subduing the free world.

This is a war, which must end with a clear, unambiguous victory, without it the world will return to the darkness of the Middle-Ages, as the researcher Ferguson stress. Europe will not be saved, without American intervention, as it was the situation in two World wars. Thus recommendation of researchers is to consolidate a joint policy, not only concerning intelligence, which is already exists, but especially on the political echelon and the military activity. Otherwise, these fanatics will succeed in bringing their past of the 7th century into the future of our humanity.

Concluding remarks. Islamic Jihad is a worldwide strategic lethal threat. It is a plague, which may set on fire the whole world. If it is not stopped, it will succeed in bringing the Islamic past of the 7th century back to the future of humanity. The battlefield is horrible: any scenario is possible, even the most unimaginative and most unbelievable one: biological, chemical, and atomic warfare is potentially at the hands of fanatics, which are determined to use it. This is the new era of total terrorism, in which there are no human rules and no moral, and there is total de-humanization of “the infidels”.

The gravest mistake is to regard terrorism as criminal phenomenon, which can be solved by social concessions and economic improvements. The second grave mistake is to think that should be a combined policy of fighting terrorism and finding a political horizon. The war against terrorism is total, and the aim is to liquidate it, without any concessions. The third grave mistake is the pervasive despair that one cannot win out this war, and it will continue to be a painful part in modern life. The fourth grave mistake is making a moral equivalence between terrorist perpetrators, who are the total evil, and the counter-terrorist activity of governments. The fifth grave mistake is to deal with terrorism on the judicial ground. If so, it should be executed only in special military courts, and with special judicial procedures of emergency legislation.

The war over Islamic terrorism it can be won out with determination, resilience, and with decisiveness. If one does not initiate, not only the war erupts, but the price in human casualties and suffering will be unbearable. International organizations, negotiations, mediation and policy of appeasement are not only futile and useless, but encouraging these tyrants to continue with their deeds. Defensive measures will not succeed even in the short run. Its threats will definitely grow, and the price needed to fight against it in the future will be much higher.

Since the Free world is under existential threat, military power against brutal and vicious tyrants is demanded and it is crucial to be fought without hesitations and limitations. The natural desire to stability and adherence to peace is justified. But when it comes to paralyze the needed offensive against existential dangers of Islamic terrorism, it becomes a crime. The liquidation the terrorist groups’ leaders at all levels and preventing financial flaw to terrorist organizations are a crucial must.

However, if the Free World continues its oblivious policy as if Islamic terrorism, which has no mercy, no restraints, nor do they obey any basic human laws, is nothing serious, it would be defeated and lost. In the words of Amil Imani, Islam is a formidable enemy in a Trojan horse. Islam is based on hatred and war-mongering with the aim to conquer the world; to submit and subdue humanity; and to bring it back to their 7th century desert. Islam has penetrated the democracies with the aim of replacing civility and liberty with the barbarism of theocracy, and it aims to destroy all the virtues that freedom offer.

Muslims in Western democracies, Imani continues, exhibit incredible audacity as to shamelessly demand that their benevolent hosts surrender their liberties and legalize and adopt the Shari’ah. Once it is recognized, to any extent, it will reach out to submit free society to its laws and rulings. Islam is incompatible with democracy and liberalism; Islam is in total contrast to human rights, freedoms and basic civil liberties. The hydra of Islam is lashing out. It will devour the free world and it assuredly slaughter all who stand against them. Yet, the Free World does not listen; it ignores the lethal hazards; and it does nothing out of paralyzed fear. It is imperative that we fight this lethal danger with the same determination that we fought other enemies of freedom such as Nazism, Fascism, and Communism.

We need a new kind of leadership, committed, courageous, who is not afraid to face the truth, to tell the truth, and to mobilize and motivate for the truth, aimed at fighting back in order to keep our freedoms possibly our existence as free society. The model is the leadership of Winston Churchill in WWII. On May 15 1940, Churchill addressed his immortal speech, to tell his people the truth of “blood, sweat and tears”.

“What is our policy? Our policy is to wage an all-out war against evil and hideous terror very few of it has been existed in the dark history of human crime. You ask what is our objective? The answer is only one word: victory. Victory by all the means and the abilities we can allocate… Because without victory, there will be no existence to our nation… And there will be no power for the generations to come to push mankind forward. Let’s move forward together, with our combined power, and by God’s help we will prevail.”

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An Underdeveloped Discipline: Open-Source Intelligence and How It Can Better Assist the U.S. Intelligence Community

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Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is defined by noted intelligence specialists Mark Lowenthal and Robert M. Clark as being, “information that is publicly available to anyone through legal means, including request, observation, or purchase, that is subsequently acquired, vetted, and analyzed in order to fulfill an intelligence requirement”. The U.S. Naval War College further defines OSINT as coming from, “print or electronic form including radio, television, newspapers, journals, the internet, and videos, graphics, and drawings”. Basically, OSINT is the collection of information from a variety of public sources, including social media profiles and accounts, television broadcasts, and internet searches.

Historically, OSINT has been utilized by the U.S. since the 1940s, when the United States created the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) which had the sole goal (until the 1990s) of, “primarily monitoring and translating foreign-press sources,” and contributing significantly during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was also during this time that the FBIS transformed itself from a purely interpretation agency into one that could adequately utilize the advances made by, “personal computing, large-capacity digital storage, capable search engines, and broadband communication networks”. In 2005, the FBIS was placed under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and renamed the Open Source Center, with control being given to the CIA.

OSINT compliments the other intelligence disciplines very well. Due to OSINT’s ability to be more in touch with public data (as opposed to information that is more gleaned from interrogations, interviews with defectors or captured enemies or from clandestine wiretaps and electronic intrusions), it allows policymakers and intelligence analysts the ability to see the wider picture of the information gleaned. In Lowenthal’s own book, he mentions how policymakers (including the Assistant Secretary of Defense and one of the former Directors of National Intelligence (DNI)) enjoyed looking at OSINT first and using it as a “starting point… [to fill] the outer edges of the jigsaw puzzle”.

Given the 21stcentury and the public’s increased reliance upon technology, there are also times when information can only be gleaned from open source intelligence methods. Because “Terrorist movements rely essentially on the use of open sources… to recruit and provide virtual training and conduct their operations using encryption techniques… OSINT can be valuable [in] providing fast coordination among officials at all levels without clearances”. Intelligence agencies could be able to outright avoid or, at a minimum, be able to prepare a defense or place forces and units on high alert for an imminent attack.

In a King’s College-London research paper discussing OSINT’s potential for the 21stcentury, the author notes, “OSINT sharing among intelligence services, non-government organizations and international organizations could shape timely and comprehensive responses [to international crises or regime changes in rogue states like Darfur or Burma],” as well as providing further information on a country’s new government or personnel in power. This has been exemplified best during the rise of Kim Jong-Un in North Korea and during the 2011 Arab Spring and 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti. However, this does not mean that OSINT is a superior discipline than other forms such as SIGINT and HUMINT, as they are subject to limitations as well. According to the Federation of American Scientists, “Open source intelligence does have limitations. Often articles in military or scientific journals represent a theoretical or desired capability rather than an actual capability. Censorship may also limit the publication of key data needed to arrive at a full understanding of an adversary’s actions, or the press may be used as part of a conscious deception effort”.

There is also a limit to the effectiveness of OSINT within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), not because it is technically limited, but limited by the desire of the IC to see OSINT as a full-fledged discipline. Robert Ashley and Neil Wiley, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and a former Principal Executive within the ODNI respectively, covered this in a July article for DefenseOne, stating “…the production of OSINT is not regarded as a unique intelligence discipline but as research incident to all-source analysis or as a media production service… OSINT, on the other hand, remains a distributed activity that functions more like a collection of cottage industries. While OSINT has pockets of excellence, intelligence community OSINT production is largely initiative based, minimally integrated, and has little in the way of common guidance, standards, and tradecraft… The intelligence community must make OSINT a true intelligence discipline on par with the traditional functional disciplines, replete with leadership and authority that enables the OSINT enterprise to govern itself and establish a brand that instills faith and trust in open source information”. This apprehensiveness by the IC to OSINT capabilities has been well documented by other journalists.

Some contributors, including one writing for The Hill, has commented that “the use of artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics can mitigate these risks by tipping expert analysts on changes in key information, enabling the rapid identification of apparent “outliers” and pattern anomalies. Such human-machine teaming exploits the strengths of both and offers a path to understanding and even protocols for how trusted open-source intelligence can be created by employing traditional tradecraft of verifying and validating sourcing prior to making the intelligence insights available for broad consumption”. Many knowledgeable and experienced persons within the Intelligence Community, either coming from the uniformed intelligence services or civilian foreign intelligence agencies, recognize the need for better OSINT capabilities as a whole and have also suggested ways in which potential security risks or flaws can be avoided in making this discipline an even more effective piece of the intelligence gathering framework.

OSINT is incredibly beneficial for gathering information that cannot always be gathered through more commonly thought of espionage methods (e.g., HUMINT, SIGINT). The discipline allows for information on previously unknown players or new and developing events to become known and allows policymakers to be briefed more competently on a topic as well as providing analysts and operators a preliminary understanding of the region, the culture, the politics, and current nature of a developing or changing state. However, the greatest hurdle in making use of OSINT is in changing the culture and the way in which the discipline is currently seen by the U.S. Intelligence Community. This remains the biggest struggle in effectively coordinating and utilizing the intelligence discipline within various national security organizations.

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Online Radicalization in India

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Radicalization, is a gradual process of developing extremist beliefs, emotions, and behaviours at individual, group or mass public levels. Besides varied groups, it enjoys patronization, covertly and even overtly from some states. To elicit change in behavior, beliefs, ideology, and willingness, from the target-group, even employment of violent means is justified. Despite recording a declination in terror casualties, the 2019 edition of the Global Terrorism Index claims an increase in the number of terrorism-affected countries. With internet assuming a pivotal role in simplifying and revolutionizing the communication network and process, the change in peoples’ lives is evident. Notably, out of EU’s 84 %, daily internet using population, 81%, access it from home (Eurostat, 2012, RAND Paper pg xi). It signifies important changes in society and extremists elements, being its integral part, internet’ role, as a tool of radicalization, cannot be gainsaid. Following disruption of physical and geographical barriers, the radicalized groups are using the advancement in digital technology:  to propagate their ideologies; solicit funding; collecting informations; planning/coordinating terror attacks; establishing inter/intra-group communication-networks; recruitment, training and media propaganda to attain global attention.  

               Indian Context

In recent times, India has witnessed an exponential growth in radicalization-linked Incidents, which apparently belies the official figures of approximate 80-100 cases. The radicalization threat to India is not only from homegrown groups but from cross-border groups of Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as global groups like IS. Significantly, Indian radicalized groups are exploiting domestic grievances and their success to an extent, can mainly be attributed to support from Pakistani state, Jihadist groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Gulf-employment boom for Indian Muslims has also facilitated radicalization, including online, of Indian Muslims. A close look at the modus operandi of these attacks reveals the involvement of local or ‘homegrown’ terrorists. AQIS formed (2016) ‘Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’ in Kashmir with a media wing ‘al-Hurr’.

IS announced its foray into Kashmir in 2016 as part of its Khorasan branch. In December 2017 IS in its Telegram channel used hashtag ‘Wilayat Kashmir’ wherein Kashmiri militants stated their allegiance with IS. IS’ online English Magazine ‘Dabiq’ (Jan. 2016) claimed training of fighters in Bangladesh and Pakistan for attacks from western and Eastern borders into India.Though there are isolated cases of ISIS influence in India, the trend is on the rise. Presently, ISIS and its offshoots through online process are engaged in spreading bases in 12 Indian states. Apart from southern states like Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu — where the Iran and Syria-based terrorist outfit penetrated years ago — investigating agencies have found their links in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir as well. The Sunni jihadists’ group is now “most active” in these states across the country.

               Undermining Indian Threat

Significantly, undermining the radicalization issue, a section of intelligentsia citing lesser number of Indian Muslims joining al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, Syria and Middle East, argue that Indian Muslim community does not support radicalism-linked violence unlike regional/Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives. They underscore the negligible number of Indian Muslims, outside J&K, who supports separatist movements. Additionally, al- Qaeda and IS who follows the ‘Salafi-Wahabi’ ideological movement, vehemently oppose ‘Hanafi school’ of Sunni Islam, followed by Indian Muslims. Moreover, Indian Muslims follows a moderate version even being followers of the Sunni Ahle-Hadeeth (the broader ideology from which Salafi-Wahhabi movement emanates). This doctrinal difference led to the failure of Wahhabi groups online propaganda.  

               Radicalisation Strategies/methods: Indian vs global players

India is already confronting the online jihadist radicalization of global jihadist organisations, including al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), formed in September 2014 and Islamic State (IS). However, several indigenous and regional groups such as Indian Mujahideen (IM), JeM, LeT, the Taliban and other online vernacular publications, including Pakistan’s Urdu newspaper ‘Al-Qalam’, also play their role in online radicalisation.

Indian jihadist groups use a variety of social media apps, best suited for their goals. Separatists and extremists in Kashmir, for coordination and communication, simply create WhatsApp groups and communicate the date, time and place for carrying out mass protests or stone pelting. Pakistan-based terror groups instead of online learning of Islam consider it mandatory that a Muslim radical follows a revered religious cleric. They select people manually to verify their background instead of online correspondence. Only after their induction, they communicate online with him. However, the IS, in the backdrop of recent defeats, unlike Kashmiri separatist groups and Pak-based jihadist mercenaries, runs its global movement entirely online through magazines and pamphlets. The al-Qaeda’s you tube channels ‘Ansar AQIS’ and ‘Al Firdaws’, once having over 25,000 subscriptions, are now banned. Its online magazines are Nawai Afghan and Statements are in Urdu, English, Arabic, Bangla and Tamil. Its blocked Twitter accounts, ‘Ansarul Islam’ and ‘Abna_ul_Islam_media’, had a following of over 1,300 while its Telegram accounts are believed to have over 500 members.

               Adoption of online platforms and technology

Initially, Kashmir based ‘Jaish-E-Mohammad’ (JeM) distributed audio cassettes of Masood Azhar’s speeches across India but it joined Internet platform during the year 2003–04 and started circulating downloadable materials through anonymous links and emails. Subsequently, it started its weekly e-newspaper, Al-Qalam, followed by a chat group on Yahoo. Importantly, following enhanced international pressure on Pak government after 26/11, to act against terrorist groups, JeM gradually shifted from mainstream online platform to social media sites, blogs and forums.   

 Indian Mujahideen’s splinter group ‘Ansar-ul-Tawhid’ the first officially affiliated terror group to the ISIS tried to maintain its presence on ‘Skype’, ‘WeChat’ and ‘JustPaste’. IS and its affiliates emerged as the most tech-savvy jihadist group. They took several measures to generate new accounts after repeated suspension of their accounts by governments.  An account called as ‘Baqiya Shoutout’ was one such measure. It stressed upon efforts to re-establish their network of followers through ‘reverse shout-out’ instead of opening a new account easily.

Pakistan-backed terrorist groups in India are increasingly becoming  technology savvy. For instance, LeT before carrying out terrorist attacks in 2008 in Mumbai, used Google Earth to understand the targeted locations.

IS members have been following strict security measures like keeping off their Global Positioning System (GPS) locations and use virtual private network (VPN),  to maintain anonymity. Earlier they were downloading Hola VPN or a similar programme from a mobile device or Web browser to select an Internet Protocol (IP) address for a country outside the US, and bypass email or phone verification.

Rise of radicalization in southern India

Southern states of India have witnessed a rise in  radicalization activities during the past 1-2 years. A substantial number of Diaspora in the Gulf countries belongs to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Several Indian Muslims in Gulf countries have fallen prey to radicalization due to the ultra-conservative forms of Islam or their remittances have been misused to spread radical thoughts. One Shafi Armar@ Yusuf-al-Hindi from Karnataka emerged as the main online IS recruiter for India.  It is evident in the number of raids and arrests made in the region particularly after the Easter bomb attacks (April, 21, 2019) in Sri Lanka. The perpetrators were suspected to have been indoctrinated, radicalised and trained in the Tamil Nadu. Further probe revealed that the mastermind of the attacks, Zahran Hashim had travelled to India and maintained virtual links with radicalised youth in South India. Importantly, IS, while claiming responsibility for the attacks, issued statements not only in English and Arabic but also in South Indian languages viz. Malayalam and Tamil. It proved the existence of individuals fluent in South Indian languages in IS linked groups in the region. Similarly, AQIS’ affiliate in South India ‘Base Movement’ issued several threatening letters to media publications for insulting Islam.

IS is trying to recruit people from rural India by circulating the online material in vernacular languages. It is distributing material in numerous languages, including Malayalam and Tamil, which Al Qaeda were previously ignoring in favour of Urdu. IS-linked Keralite followers in their propaganda, cited radical pro-Hindutva, organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) and other right-wing Hindu organisations to motivate youth for joining the IS.  Similarly, Anti-Muslim incidents such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 are still being used to fuel their propaganda. IS sympathisers also support the need to oppose Hindu Deities to gather support.

               Radicalization: Similarities/Distinctions in North and South

Despite few similarities, the radicalisation process in J&K is somewhat different from the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Gujarat. Both the regions have witnessed a planned radicalization process through Internet/social media for propagating extremist ideologies and subverting the vulnerable youth. Both the areas faced the hard-line Salafi/Wahhabi ideology, propagated by the extremist Islamic clerics and madrasas indulged in manipulating the religion of Islam. Hence, in this context it can be aptly claimed that terror activities in India have cooperation of elements from both the regions, despite their distinct means and objectives. Elements from both regions to an extent sympathise to the cause of bringing India under the Sharia Law. Hence, the possibility of cooperation in such elements cannot be ruled out particularly in facilitation of logistics, ammunitions and other requisite equipment.

It is pertinent to note that while radicalisation in Jammu and Kashmir is directly linked to the proxy-war, sponsored by the Pakistan state, the growth of radicalisation in West and South India owes its roots to the spread of IS ideology, promotion of Sharia rule and establishment of Caliphate. Precisely for this reason, while radicalised local Kashmiris unite to join Pakistan-backed terror groups to fight for ‘Azadi’ or other fabricated local issues, the locals in south rather remain isolated cases.

               Impact of Radicalisation

The impact of global jihad on radicalization is quite visible in West and South India. Majority of the radicalised people, arrested in West and South India, were in fact proceeding to to join IS in Syria and Iraq. It included the group of 22 people from a Kerala’s family, who travelled (June 2016) to Afghanistan via Iran. There obvious motivation was to migrate from Dar-ul-Harb (house of war) to Dar-ul-Islam (house of peace/Islam/Deen).

While comparing the ground impact of radicalization in terms of number of cases of local militants in J&K as well as IS sympathisers in West and South India, it becomes clear that radicalisation was spread more in J&K, owing to Pak-sponsored logistical and financial support. Significantly, despite hosting the third largest Muslim population, the number of Indian sympathisers to terror outfits, particularly in West and South India is very small as compared to the western countries. Main reasons attributed to this, include – religious and cultural pluralism; traditionally practice of moderate Islamic belief-systems; progressive educational and economic standards; and equal socio-economic and political safeguards for the Indian Muslims in the Indian Constitution.

               Challenges Ahead

Apart from varied challenges, including Pak-sponsored anti-India activities, regional, local and political challenges, media wings of global jihadi outfits continue to pose further challenges to Indian security agencies. While IS through its media wing, ‘Al Isabah’ has been circulating (through social media sites) Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s speeches and videos after translating them into Urdu, Hindi, and Tamil for Indian youth (Rajkumar 2015), AQIS too have been using its media wing for the very purpose through its offshoots in India.  Some of the challenges, inter alia include –

Islam/Cleric Factor Clerics continue to play a crucial role in influencing the minds of Muslim youth by exploiting the religion of Islam. A majority of 127 arrested IS sympathizers from across India recently revealed that they were following speeches of controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Zakir has taken refuge in Malaysia because of warrants against him by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches. A Perpetrator of Dhaka bomb blasts in July 2016 that killed several people confessed that he was influenced by Naik’s messages. Earlier, IRF had organised ‘peace conferences’ in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011 in which Zakir attempted to convert people and incite terrorist acts. Thus, clerics and preachers who sbverts the Muslim minds towards extremism, remain a challenge for India.

Propaganda Machinery – The online uploading of young militant photographs, flaunting Kalashnikov rifles became the popular means of declaration of youth intent against government forces. Their narrative of “us versus them” narrative is clearly communicated, creating groundswell of support for terrorism.In its second edition (March 2020) of its propaganda magazine ‘Sawt al-Hind’ (Voice of Hind/India) IS, citing an old propaganda message from a deceased (2018) Kashmiri IS terrorist, Abu Hamza al-Kashmiri @ Abdul Rehman, called upon Taliban apostates and fighters to defect to IS.  In the first edition (Feb. 2020) the magazine, eulogized Huzaifa al-Bakistani (killed in 2019), asking Indian Muslims to rally to IS in the name of Islam in the aftermath of the 2020 Delhi riots. Meanwhile, a Muslim couple arrested by Delhi Police for inciting anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment) Bill protests, were found very active on social media. They would call Indian Muslims to unite against the Indian government against the CAA legislation. During 2017 Kashmir unrest, National Investigation Agency (NIA) identified 79 WhatsApp groups (with administrators based in Pakistan), having 6,386 phone numbers, to crowd source boys for stone pelting. Of these, around 1,000 numbers were found active in Pakistan and Gulf nations and the remaining 5,386 numbers were found active in Kashmir Valley.

Deep fakes/Fake news – Another challenge for India is spread of misinformation and disinformation through deep fakes by Pakistan. Usage of deepfakes, in manipulating the speeches of local political leaders to spread hate among the youth and society was done to large extent.

India’s Counter Measures

To prevent youth straying towards extremism, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has established a Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Radicalisation Division (CT-CR) to help states, security agencies and communities.

Various states, including Kerala, Maharashtra and Telangana have set up their own de-radicalisation programmes.  While in Maharashtra family and community plays an important role, in Kerala clerics cleanse the poisoned  minds of youth with a new narrative. A holistic programme for community outreach including healthcare, clergies and financial stability is being employed by the Indian armed forces. An operation in Kerala named Kerala state police’ ‘Operation Pigeon’ succeeded in thwarting radicalization of 350 youths to the propaganda of organizations such as Islamic State, Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) via social media monitoring. In Telangana, outreach programs have been developed by local officers like Rema Rajeshwari to fight the menace of fake news in around 400 villages of the state.

In Kashmir the government resorts to internet curfews to control the e-jihad. While state-owned BNSL network, used by the administration and security forces, remains operational 3G and 4G networks and social media apps remain suspended during internet curfews.

Prognosis

India certainly needs a strong national counter- Radicalisation policy which would factor in a range of factors than jobs, poverty or education because radicalization in fact has affected even well educated, rich and prosperous families. Instead of focusing on IS returnees from abroad, the policy must take care of those who never travelled abroad but still remain a potential threat due to their vulnerability to radicalization.

Of course, India would be better served if deep fakes/fake news and online propaganda is effectively countered digitally as well as through social awakening measures and on ground action by the government agencies. It is imperative that the major stakeholders i.e. government, educational institutions, civil society organisations, media and intellectuals play a pro-active role in pushing their narrative amongst youth and society. The focus should apparently be on prevention rather than controlling the radicalisation narrative of the vested interests.

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Intelligence

Is Deterrence in Cyberspace Possible?

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Soon after the Internet was founded, half of the world’s population (16 million) in 1996 had been connected to Internet data traffic. Gradually, the Internet began to grow and with more users, it contributed to the 4 trillion global economies in 2016 (Nye, 2016). Today, high-speed Internet, cutting-edge technologies and gadgets, and increasing cross-border Internet data traffic are considered an element of globalization. Deterrence seems traditional and obsolete strategy, but the developed countries rely on cyberspace domains to remain in the global digitization. No matter how advanced they are, there still exist vulnerabilities. There are modern problems in the modern world. Such reliance on the Internet also threatens to blow up the dynamics of international insecurity. To understand and explore the topic it is a must for one to understand what cyberspace and deterrence are? According to Oxford dictionary;

 “Cyberspace is the internet considered as an imaginary space without a physical location in which communication over computer networks takes place (OXFORD University Press)”

For readers to understand the term ‘deterrence’; Collins dictionary has best explained it as;

“Deterrence is the prevention of something, especially war or crime, by having something such as weapons or punishment to use as a threat e.g. Nuclear Weapons (Deterrence Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary).

The purpose of referring to the definition is to make it easy to discern and distinguish between deterrence in International Relations (IR) and International Cyber Security (ICS). Deterrence in cyberspace is different and difficult than that of during the Cold War. The topic of deterrence was important during Cold Wat for both politicians and academia. The context in both dimensions (IR and ICS) is similar and aims to prevent from happening something. Cyberspace deterrence refers to preventing crime and I completely agree with the fact that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace. Fischer (2019) quotes the study of (Quinlan, 2004) that there is no state that can be undeterrable.

To begin with, cyber threats are looming in different sectors inclusive of espionage, disruption of the democratic process and sabotaging the political arena, and war. Whereas international law is still unclear about these sectors as to which category they fall in. I would validate my affirmation (that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace) with the given network attacks listed by Pentagon (Fung, 2013). Millions of cyber-attacks are reported on a daily basis. The Pentagon reported 10 million cyberspace intrusions, most of which are disruptive, costly, and annoying. The level of severity rises to such a critical level that it is considered a threat to national security, so professional strategic assistance is needed to deal with it[1]. The past events show a perpetual threat that has the ability to interrupt societies, economies, and government functioning.

The cyberspace attacks were administered and portrayal of deterrence had been publicized as follows (Fung, 2013);

  1. The internet service was in a continuous disruption for several weeks after a dispute with Russia in 2007.
  2. Georgian defense communications were interrupted in 2008 after the Russian invasion of Georgia.   
  3. More than 1000 centrifuges in Iran were destroyed via the STUXNET virus in 2010. The attacks were attributed to Israel and the United States of America.
  4. In response to STUXNET virus attacks, Iran also launched a retaliatory attack on U.S financial institutions in 2012 and 2013.
  5. Similarly in 2012, some 30,000 computers had been destroyed with a virus called SHAMOON in Saudi Aramco Corporation. Iran was held responsible for these attacks.
  6. North Korea was accused of penetrating South Korean data and machines in 2014, thus interrupting their networks in 2014.
  7. A hybrid war was reported between Russia and Ukraine in 2015 that left Ukraine without electricity for almost six hours.
  8. Most critical scandal, which is still in the limelight call WikiLeaks released distressing and humiliating emails by Russian Intelligence at the time of the U.S presidential campaigns in 2016.

While such incidents may be considered a failure of deterrence, this does not mean that deterrence is impossible. Every system has some flaws that are exposed at some point. At this point, in some cases a relatively low level of deterrence was used to threaten national security, however, the attacks were quite minor in fulfilling the theme affecting national security. Nye (2016:51) in his study talks about the audience whose attribution could facilitate deterrence. (I). intelligence agencies should make sure highest safeguarding against escalation by third parties, and governments can also be certain and count on intelligence agencies’ sources. (II). the deterring party should not be taken easy, as I stated (above) about the lingering loopholes and flaws in the systems, hence, governments shall not perceive the intelligence forsaken.  (III). lastly, it is a political matter whether international and domestic audiences need to be persuaded or not, and what chunk of information should be disclosed.

The mechanisms which are used and helpful against cyberspace adversary actions are as follows (Fischer, 2019);

  1. Deterrence by denial means, the actions by the adversary are denied that they failed to succeed in their goals and objectives. It is more like retaliating a cyberattack.
  2. Threat of punishment offers severe outcomes in form of penalties and inflicting high costs on the attacker that would outweigh the anticipated benefits if the attack takes place.
  3. Deterrence by Entanglement has the features and works on a principle of shared, interconnected, and dependent vulnerabilities. The purpose of entanglement is to embolden and reassure the behavior as a responsible state with mutual interests.
  4. Normative taboos function with strong values and norms, wherein the reputation of an aggressor is at stake besides having a soft image in the eyes of the international community (this phenomenon includes rational factors because hard power is used against the weaker state). The deterrence of the international system works even without having any credible resilience.

Apparently, the mechanisms of deterrence are also effective in cyber realms. These realms are self-explaining the comprehensive understanding and the possibility of deterrence in cyberspace. The four mechanisms (denial, punishment, entanglement, and normative taboos) are also feasible to apply deterrence in the cyber world. Factually, of many security strategies, cyber deterrence by using four domains could be a versatile possibility. Conclusively, as far as the world is advancing in technological innovations, cyberspace intrusions would not stop alike the topic of deterrence in the digital world.


[1] An updated list of cyberspace intrusions from 2003 till 2021 is available at (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2021).

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