So far Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate has been very successful in using the techniques of psychological warfare. From professional footage and commercials of its ferocious executions, all the more brutal precisely because fear had to be instilled among the Western countries’ public, to the sequence of repeated threats about the future invasion of Europe by the “sword jihad”, to the Russian aircraft shot down in the Sinai, to the very publicized “allegiance” of Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the many jihadist groups in North Africa and Yemen, up to the threats regarding the “dormant terrorist cells” in the West.
An escalation which is both strategic and informative, because it aims at blocking the enemy’s defences and making it blind to possible new areas and moments of attack.
As the Qur’an maintains, the art of deception, carried out by the Prophet himself, applies to three cases: reconciliation between two or more Muslim litigants, reconciliation with one’s own wife and during war.
In the holy book of the Islam Allah is described as “the best of deceivers” (3:54, 8:30, 10:21).
“And fight them until persecution is no more and religion is all for Allah” (8:39).
Hence, whatever the truth of the operational and strategic threat, nothing has been forgotten by the Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate.
And it is exactly the specific cultural and political structure of the current jihad to make effective this mix of ancient Koranic doctrine and very modern psywar doctrines, of postmodern and information warfare with the most innovative technologies and the ancient tradition of the Prophet’s Hadith.
Obviously, the fact of having – from the outset – the contribution of the Stay Behind structures of the Sunni Iraqi Baathist forces for Isis – after the mad US choice, following the second Gulf War, to “put an end” to the entire apparatus of Saddam’s regime – was not irrelevant to define the complexity and sophistication of the Caliphate’s psychological warfare.
During an operation of Saddam’s forces in the Second Gulf War, carried out with simultaneous bomb blasts at a very large distance between them, the former Italian President, Francesco Cossiga, made me open my eyes to the fact that it was very likely for the Stay Behind Iraqi and Baathist network to be still fully operational.
In fact, Saddam Hussein’s covert structures had been prepared by France during the Cold War, and had remained hidden also for most Soviet “advisers” during the long Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Probably they re-emerged later with the destabilization following the so-called Iraqi “democratization”, thus finally creating their own autonomy with the “Caliphate”.
It is also worth mentioning here the very ferocious actions perpetrated in Paris and in Belgium.
Operations which can certainly be defined as symbolic, but not only so.
They aim at a showdown of strength not affected and conditioned by the enemy which primarily means: 1) we members of the jihad are already fully operational within your countries and we do not fear you; 2) hence we can hit when and where we want, without you ever knowing it. You, the “infidel”, have no way to hit us – hence do not do so because the fault and the effects would only fall upon you.
Suffice to recall here the burst of rhetoric and exceptional ignorance of historical and political facts against Israel: the official and hidden jihad propagandists maintain that if there were no Jewish State, there would be no Islam resentment against us – hence we should annihilate it by ourselves.
I.e.: accept our conditioning, so as to become our agents and, hence, allies untouchable by our jihad.
Therefore Propaganda + Action managed by ISIS and its operational-information system at the same time, with a view to frightening and taming the great silent front of permanent jihad.
Furthermore, the Caliphate’s operational psyops emphasize the cultural autonomy of European Islam vis-à-vis the multiethnic and multicultural societies- a breeding ground which will be fully completed and easy to manipulate, when there are Islamist parties within the EU and Koranic union organizations.
As was the case with the Autonomia Operaia movement during Italy’s so-called “Years of Lead”, a period of political turmoil characterized by terrorist attacks, which was the revolving door, cover and training area for the Red Brigades.
By means of violent actions, the Caliphate threatens the Western information and cultural world, which has to be convinced a) that it is never possible to fight the jihad on its own territory, and b) that the European Union and the United States must give up supporting Israel.
And, most importantly, they have to surrender unconditionally to the jihad. Only after absolute surrender there will be peace.
Once again the Koranic criteria for war apply: .if they (the unbelievers) propose peace, accept it and trust in God. God is All-Hearing and All-Knowing (8:61).
The communication variable, vis-à-vis Osama Bin Laden’s jihad, is that – for Isis – the West must no longer withdraw its support for the “takfiri”, the “apostates” of the Gulf monarchies that, however, support almost officially the new Caliphate’s territorial and statist jihad.
Their operating logic is the one against the Iran of the Shi’ites “infidel”, of their supporters. Previously, with Bin Laden’s “solid base” (Al Qaeda al Sulbah), this variable was fully secondary.
Another aspect of propaganda for the second-generation Islamic young proletarians born in Europe is that the “new State” of the Syrian-Iraqi Islam is also a myth, a source of livelihood in the EU and US crisis, and especially a source of glory in fighting – in short a flag, a banner for which to live and die.
It is the myth that has always mobilized peoples.
Therefore it is a multi-layer propaganda, as is always the case in every old and modern psywar operation.
Nevertheless, as all psyops, it must never be repetitive.
Quite the reverse. It must always be very innovative and incorporate that clever and unexpected move which distorts the enemy’s communication, intoxicates it and leads the enemy to self-made defeat.
Here the lessons to be learnt from the Russian Federation and China are crucial: the former has materially and completely eliminated its jihad in Chechnya, without any restrictions – and this is the reason why, after breaking the operational arm of the proxy warriors on its territory or along its vital borders, it can afford a regional war in Syria against the jihadist allies of the petromonarchies.
Without obstacles whatsoever, except for Turkey, reduced to a proxy of Saudi Arabia despite the fact that President Erdogan’s AKP was born as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and that them, among the Saudis, are put to death.
It was a university professor of the Brotherhood, in Riyadh, to radicalize the young Osama Bin Laden.
It is also worth recalling that Russia’s power on oil and gas enables it to strike a geoeconomic blow against OPEC, maybe short but very hard, in terms of management of the oil and gas market – an option we obviously lack completely.
Everything happens just when Saudi Arabia, for the first time since 2015, has recorded a budget deficit and its entry onto the global market of public debt.
Therefore the Russian one is not a hidden challenge to be disregarded and set aside with conceit.
Hence elimination of the ways, means, intermediaries and areas of a future destabilizing proxy war for Moscow.
The aim is to subsequently negotiate, without limits, also with the countries supporting the jihad against the European Union, by having good cards to play and not just paying lip service to humanitarian principles.
Conversely, China’s following actions can be regarded as anti-jihadist: the geoeconomic equalization of all the forces on the field; the use of buffer areas for specific initiatives – just think of China’s aid to Pakistan, one of its long-standing friend in the region, for the Gwadar port; the opening to India with its recent entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
China does not even neglect sending as many as 5,000 units of its elite forces, such as the Siberian Tiger and assault troops that, after the “green light” to the specific law given by the People’s Congress on December 28, 2015, can operate abroad.
If Turkey wants to open its front after the clash in Syria, it will know what it will be heading for.
In particular, China wants to avoid the contagion between the Uighur Xinjiang and the Syrian jihad, considering that the region of Turkmen Muslims borders with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
It is not to be ruled out that some Chinese units are already positioned for a “hybrid war” and an operational psywar in the hottest areas of the Syrian-Iraqi region.
Hence Russia and China already have the strength to wage and fight an asymmetric warfare against another asymmetric warfare, without limits of territorial borders, “humanitarian” rules to be followed, agreements between countries with inattentive and fearful publics, numbed by self-destructive slogans such as Charlie c’est moi or insanely pacifist appeals just after the Paris attacks.
Each hybrid war is fought only with another hybrid war.
And it is worth recalling that it had been the Atlantic Alliance to invent, in 2014, the concept of hybrid war, by thinking of the Russian operations in Ukraine, thus defining the so-called “ambiguous warfare”.
Hence if a definition is sought, the ISIS jihad is precisely waging a hybrid war against us.
A conflict with no time and space limits, using legal forces and illegal structures, organized crime and official elite structures, information warfare and the official news networks.
The purpose of these specific psyops is to include an unpredictable mechanism in the enemy’s decision-making process, which makes it either unable to provide an adequate response or suitable for an equally dangerous oversized response going in the wrong direction.
Furthermore, the enemy has to be indirectly trained – thanks to the “hybrid” jihadist psyops, because also military actions are communication – not to be able to foresee or accuse anyone, or rather, to have to always accuse the wrong perpetrator of the jihad striking it.
And this is done in order to expand the front of its enemies and to make the area of its sensitive targets further unpredictable.
But, of course, the hitting subject is always the true “centre of operations”, the vertical core of the jihadist command structure, through any operational arm, always occasional or even unaware of who is really engaging it.
This mechanism holds true also for the Egyptian airplane flying from Paris to Cairo.
On the basis of the information available to us, the US intelligence services had already discovered an ISIS specialized team operating in Raqqa for weeks, which probably planned the attack against the EgyptAir airplane, hit 288 kilometres north of Alexandria.
Considering that these operations are never programmed alone and are planned long in advance, for obvious reasons of secrecy and compartmentalization, it is very likely that from now a swarm of terrorist or, more exactly jihadist, attacks will take place in the European Union and probably also in the United States.
This is exactly the reason why Paris and the other European capitals – as well as the Egyptian intelligence services that are still suffering from the ambiguous defamation of the Regeni affair – tend not confirm the terrorist nature of the attack against the Egyptian airplane.
Obviously if they confirm so, they will prove to be weak, while if they do not confirm so, they will be in a position to temporarily play down and defuse the ISIS jihad, not to mention the fact that, traditionally, each air strike entails a future ground operation.
This also implies that – as already happened – the Head of the US forces in the Middle East, General Votel, has recently travelled secretly to Syria to visit the YPG Kurdish base and the US special forces in their base of Ramelan, about 288 kilometres from Raqqa.
The AH-64 Apache combat helicopters can easily attack the Caliphate’s capital, while the Kurdish forces of the YPG unified command, which have not been invited to the negotiations in Geneva and Vienna, will operate on the ground, also with new weapons.
The relations between the United States and Egypt are still weak, but there is news of joint actions by the US Special Forces and the Egyptian operational Services against the ISIS areas in the region around the Tobruk port.
Therefore, the rules of asymmetric warfare are as follows: 1) hit secretly; 2) when the strike is successful, decide whether to spread the precise news or create “information intoxication”. The decision depends on whether you still want to cover the action base or whether, since already quickly shifted, you can make it public and then 3) create information ambiguity not only in the enemy’s data, but above all in its decision-making process.
This is the hybrid war of the ISIS territorial jihad and of its covert bases abroad. Hence this is the ground for implementing and testing the Western equal and opposite strategies (Opposing Force, OPFOR), without fear, without false moralism and, above all, without the old-fashioned idea – which was buried with the Cold War – that we should only “contain” the enemy.
The enemy must be eliminated, and above all be destabilized internally by demoralizing it, by spreading news intoxicating its decision-making process, by destroying the morale of its soldiers, by defaming it and thus undermining its relations with friendly States or its hidden covers.
It is the phase – new for the West – that in 1996 two Chinese Colonels, Quiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, defined “the unrestricted warfare” in a book published in the West two years later.
Assad’s Army and Intelligence Services: Feudalization or Structurization?
Authors: Anton Mardasov* & Kirill Semenov
2017 marked a turning point in the Syrian conflict. With the full support of Russia and Iran, the Bashar al-Assad regime was able to neutralize the “domestic threat” completely. Throughout 2017, Damascus used the situation to carry out “outlying” operations, manipulating the ceasefire agreements and other accords reached as part of the Astana Peace Process. As soon as a relative calm would settle in a given “de-escalation zone” [in the opinion of the present authors, quotation marks are necessary in this case, as they indicate the real nature of these four zones], the regime would start transferring the available forces to other areas. First to eastern Syria in order to break the blockade of Deir ez-Zor and establish control over adjacent areas, which undoubtedly accelerated the downfall of the “Caliphate,” then to Idlib Governorate. And then, taking advantage of the agreements reached between Russia and Turkey on the division of spheres of influence in this “de-escalation zone,” to East Ghouta. Now Damascus has the initiative in terms of launching an offensive and a significant advantage over opposition groups.
The State of Affairs
As early as the beginning of 2017, the Syrian opposition demonstrated its ability to consolidate efforts and respond to the regime’s offensive manoeuvres. One such example is the way it managed to reduce “tension” in East Ghouta by carrying out distracting operations of its own in Daraa and Hama. However, the Syrian opposition became irreversibly fragmented after the process to form the de-escalation zones began, accompanied by the establishment of an external protectorate over these zones. As a result, most of the opposition factions in Greater Idlib now operate exclusively in the interests of Turkey, and the Amman Agreement between Jordan, Russia and the United States regarding the southwest de-escalation zone has succeeded in taking the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front out of the game. External actors have played a decisive role in the outcome of the confrontation between Damascus and the internal opposition, cutting off aid to opposition factions and effectively splitting them into isolated fragments.
That being said, until February 2018 (when the Russia–Turkey agreement made it possible to wrap up the active operation in Idlib and focus forces on East Ghouta), all the efforts of the elite units of the 4th Armoured Division, as well as the Syrian Republican Guard and other regular units of the Syrian Arab Army, to repel opposition forces in East Ghouta’s Jobar and Ayn Tarma ended with the withdrawal of government-sponsored troops after significant losses. The operation in Harasta ended with the encirclement of a Republican Guard battalion and the deaths of five colonels and brigadier generals. The same thing happened during an operation in Daraa in the south of the country.
Despite the active support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Special Forces and the Shiite “Expeditionary Corps” led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and various Iraqi factions, the government forces still suffered significant strikes from the heavily outnumbered Islamic State. One such event took place in Homs and Deir ez-Zor in September–October 2017, when Islamic State units managed to cut off almost all the supply routes to pro-Assad troops operating along the Euphrates. The only thing that prevented the terrorists from building on their successes was the lack of numbers on the part of Islamic State (very few detachments are left) and the haphazard band-aid approach adopted by Russian specialists on the issue.
Thus, Damascus’ victories over its opponents can, for the most part, be put down to favourable circumstances and external support, rather than to the regime’s strengthening of its forces or increasing its combat effectiveness, despite the great efforts Russia has expended to train Syria’s military personnel and provide its regular units with up-to-date military technology.
Counting on the fact that these manipulations have successfully paralyzed the opposition to the point that pro-government forces will now be able to deal with current challenges does not eliminate the need to have a national military structure – without the growing Shiite International.
At present, the armed forces that Bashar al-Assad relies on continue to be an assortment of groupings, all of which depend on Damascus to varying degrees. There is no unity within the army in terms of readiness to unquestioningly carry out the directives of its leadership. There is a complicated system of approvals for the use of “elite” sections of the Syrian Arab Army in specific operations. This even applies to its most elite components: the 4th Armoured Division, the Syrian Republican Guard, Suheil al-Hassan’s “Tiger Forces” and individual units of other sections – for example, the “Deir Al-Qalamoun” unit of the 3rd Armoured Division and the “Saif Al-Mahdi” unit of the 4th Armoured Division, among others. At the same time, the combat effectiveness of the Syrian Arab Army’s combat manoeuvre units leaves much to be desired, and attempts are made to avoid moving them to regions far away from their areas of permanent deployment.
Various paramilitary groupings that do not answer directly to the Syrian Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the state security organs continue to play an important role, including the so-called National Defence Forces, the Local Defence Forces, foreign (primarily Shiite) groups, and other units created by them in Syrian territory, made up of Syrian nationals. There are at least twice as many fighters in the irregular army formations as in the Syrian Arab Army itself.
The Syrian crisis has made it possible for political institutions to acquire their own military formations. The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party still has active squadrons, some of which are part of the 5th Corps. Eagles of the Whirlwind is the military wing of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. And the Syrian Resistance is a left-wing paramilitary group led by Mihrac Ural, who is considered a terrorist in Turkey.
The formation of various paramilitary structures – military wings of mafia-like clans, private military companies, regional and tribal militias and militarized political organizations – has undermined the stability of the regime. These forces do not simply support Damascus. From the very beginning, they have attempted take root in government institutions and/or take control of various sources of income. It is no secret that various Shabiha detachments currently operating under the aegis of the National Defence Forces control the checkpoints, which in practice means that they have access to corrupt schemes, including the opportunity to send radical opposition fighters into the Turkish zones of influence. A number of figures associated with the pro-Iranian Syrian group Liwa al-Baqir (the Baqir Brigade, part of the Local Defence Forces) have their own fleet of minibuses and continue to operate transport businesses.
Given that Damascus is in dire need of local groupings in order to maintain stability and security, these militias will probably continue to exist after victory is declared. All the more given that all armed militia groups were legalized in 2013 and given permission to carry out their “activities” by the Ministry of Interior.
The incorporation of the National and Local Defence Forces into state structures was predetermined by the fact that both the Syrian special services and the army were unprepared for an uprising, and the vacuum thus created was filled by paramilitary groups. Iran also took advantage of this by helping set up various paramilitary structures and thus establishing a multi-echeloned presence in Syria.
Worthy of separate note is the Fifth Corps of Volunteers, an autonomous military structure that was created with the direct participation of Russian military advisers. According to some reports, the corps itself is also led by Russian generals. The corps can hardly be regarded as a regular military formation. It consists of various subdivisions made up of volunteers and is financed by a number of non-government sources. It also contains certain pro-government Syrian forces that existed before the corps was set up, including those financed by private individuals (the “Sea Commandos”) or set up with the participation of Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah (Liwa Dir’ al-Watan). At the same time, the inclusion of defectors and objectors from among the Sunni population in the Fifth Corps was apparently supposed to break the stereotype about the sectarian foundation of the pro-government forces and the auxiliary nature of the Sunnis’ participation in the war. However, the experiment has yet to bear fruit. The most combat-ready units of the Fifth Corps – the so-called ISIS Hunters – are again “sectarian militias” (as far as Syria’s Sunni majority is concerned). Such groups are made up primarily of Syrian Christians and Alawites (for example, the aforementioned “Sea Commandos”) or Shiites (Liwa Dir’ al-Watan, with the participation of Lebanese fighters). Work of this kind is likely to continue: according to some reports, work on the establishment of a 6th Corps is already under way.
Sooner or later the Syrian armed forces will surely face the challenge of transition to a peaceful life. In this context, it is important to understand what will happen to the large number of paramilitary formations and militias. The Iraqi leadership is attempting to solve this very same problem at home, having initiated a procedure to integrate soldiers of the militia group “Khashd ash-Shaabi” into the country’s armed forces. The experience gained during the creation of the 5th Corps, as well as its predecessor (the 4th Corps) can be used to help integrate certain paramilitary structures into the Syrian Arab Army and the Ministry of Interior.
It is also possible at the initial stage to revive the three corps of the Syrian Arab Army that formally existed before, turning them into territorial commands. All the regular and paramilitary units could be placed under their control on a territorial basis, thus becoming parts of the regular forces, identified by numbers instead of names. This is a necessary step, because many of these structures simply refuse to dissolve themselves, as in the case in Iraq. However, their existence should be legalized and their activities brought into line with military regulations.
Another problem is how to overcome the increasingly “sectarian” nature of military forces in Syria. All or most of the combat-ready units are made up primarily of national and religious minorities. Sunnis play a secondary role, mainly serving in auxiliary, “second echelon” groupings. Attracting Sunnis who have fought or lived in opposition territories, earning their trust and ensuring that they carry out their duties in a diligent manner will also be a key issue.
A Necessary but Unrealistic Scenario
If we distance ourselves from the propaganda and frankly dilettantish stereotypes about the Syrian opposition, then the best option for establishing an ethnic and confessional balance would be to unite the opposition groups and pro-government forces into a single structure. This is the kind of renewal of the armed forces that the UN documents envision. It is hardly possible, for example, to incorporate the insurgent factions that have, with Turkey’s support, united to form the Syrian National Army (SNA, which operates exclusively in Northern Aleppo) into existing Syrian Arab Army units and divisions. The leadership of the opposition factions will not agree to this, bearing in mind what happened in Tajikistan (where the opposition was liquidated after its divisions were incorporated into government units). One possibility is to form about five to seven separate corps and divisional units from opposition forces and establish a single military council involving the Syrian National Army and the Syrian Arab Army.
However, neither Damascus nor Tehran, nor indeed Moscow, is interested in such a scenario. Although it is far easier for the Russian side to play along with the Syrian regime, which seeks to eliminate the Syrian opposition once and for all by military means, that goal would serve only to strengthen the positions of Iran and Syria. Moscow has had a significantly more difficult time than expected positioning itself as a moderator in the conflict and maintaining effective working relations with the opposition groups that participated in the Astana Peace Process and signed agreements with the Russian military in Cairo and Geneva. Integrating the opposition into military and political structures that are aligned with the current regime could serve as a natural counterweight to the influence of Iran and preserve a certain balance of power that is beneficial to Moscow. The big question now is: to what extent will Moscow be able to maintain control over its “client,” given that Tehran is clearly benefitting from the situation?
Reform of the Military Intelligence Services
Against the backdrop of the Islamic State’s transition to clandestine activities in Iraq and Syria (which is common for the group) and various other challenges, the role of the Syrian intelligence services is acquiring greater significance. Their activities today little resemble the standards adopted in the sphere. Opportunities to carry out covert intelligence work have been greatly reduced, and the grassroots tools of state governance have been destroyed. The Syrian intelligence services were not even able to prevent terrorist attacks on the National Security Council building.
At present, the Syrian intelligence services do not seem to have an analogue anywhere in the Middle East. Four independent security structures operate within the Syrian Arab Army. These structures are divided into “military,” which includes military intelligence and aerial reconnaissance (Air Force reconnaissance) and “political” (civilian units formally subordinate to the Interior Ministry), which includes the main security department and the department for managing political security. All of these structures answer directly to the president. However, the system of intelligence services in Syria reflects the complexity of relations and confrontations among various groups of influence in the country’s ruling elite. The system is constructed in such a way that the individual intelligence services effectively work against each other, which makes it impossible for any single “branch” to become significantly stronger than the others.
Air Force reconnaissance was conceived as the intelligence structure “closest” to the heart of former president Hafez al-Assad, who was a fighter pilot himself. As a result, it effectively turned into an independent state security agency, with its own external intelligence and counterintelligence divisions, and even a department for combatting anti-government activities. During the Civil War, the Air Force reconnaissance formed an entire “pleiad” of special forces units to carry out operations using heavy machinery. The other three “branches” took similar steps in order to prevent any one of the intelligence agencies from becoming significantly stronger than the rest.
It would appear that the simplest solution for transforming the Syrian intelligence services with the goal of optimizing their activities would, first of all, be to merge Air Force reconnaissance and military intelligence into a single organ of the General Staff of the Syrian Arab Army, and strip these structures of the ability to carry out political investigations. As for the political security structures, it would be practical for one of them to focus exclusively on external intelligence activities, while the second could be engaged in counterintelligence and anti-terror activities. In other words, Syrian intelligence services would be brought up to global standards.
It is also imperative to create border security forces to control Syria’s eastern frontiers first and foremost, but also the entire border, as a kind of unified system with its own social and infrastructural characteristics. While Hafez al-Assad paid special attention to the country’s tribes, granting their leaders various privileges and taking their views into consideration in political life, his son Bashar all but forgot about them, which combined with drought in the regions and the misallocation of resources created the conditions for social upheaval. The years spent under the control of radical groups transformed the tribal social fabric even more. At present, the regime relies primarily on the Suqur al-Furat militia, which contains members of the Al-Shaitat tribe, to carry out its activities in the eastern part of the country. The tribe attempted a revolt against the Islamic State rule in 2014 but was defeated in a gruesome fashion. Damascus used this as a pretext to organize a military training programme for the tribe’s members and announced an amnesty for them.
If Damascus is unable to hold a constructive dialogue with the Sunni tribes, then there is a risk that the Islamic State will emerge once again in one form or another as a result of the joint efforts of independent Sunni groups and radicals (operatives, preachers, etc.), who will be able to remain in the country. It is all the more important to deal with the cadres who are familiar with the local terrain in the east of the country could help prevent smuggling, with which both Damascus and Baghdad have well-documented issues.
*Anton Mardasov, Military Observer Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute of Innovative Development
First published in our partner RIAC
Russia Says U.S. Trains Jihadists to Do Chemical Attacks Blamed Against Assad
On March 17th, Russia’s Minister of Defense (equivalent to America’s Secretary of Defense) announced, through Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy: “We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria. Early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the southern de-escalation zone to the city of Deraa, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed. They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs.”
He also said:
“The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria. We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the east of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.”
He went on to add that in the most jihadist-friendly province, Idlib, another such “false flag” attack is being prepared by Al Qaeda in Syria, called there, “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets,” which is a group financed by the U.S. and UK Governments to rescue victims of bombings by Syria’s Government and its ally Russia.
This would hardly be the first example of such attacks. For example, on 14 January 2014, MIT’s Theodore Postol and the former U.N. Weapons Inspector Richard Lloyd co-authored a detailed technical study and analysis, regarding “the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013” (which was the most-famous sarin-attack, in East Ghouta), saying that “the US Government’s Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT,” and documenting that the rocket had actually — and clearly — been fired from an area that even the U.S. Government’s own maps showed to be under the control of the ‘rebels’, whom the U.S. Government supported, and definitely not of the Syrian Government, whom those ‘rebels’ were trying to overthrow. (That was the incident in which U.S. President Barack Obama announced to the world his “red line” and then said that the Government headed by Bashar al-Assad had crossed it and that this justified a U.S. invasion, but Seymour Hersh said that it had become blocked by the UK/s intelligence lab at Porton Down, by their finding that the sarin which had been used in this attack wasn’t of a type that the Syrian Government had in its arsenals.) There have been several such “false-flag” attacks, in order to get the public to support invading Syria. However, the main way that the U.S. and its allies try to overthrow Assad and his Government is to arm and protect Al Qaeda in Syria, which leads the various jihadist groups there (other than ISIS).
From Radical Ecology to Ecoterrorism
The schools of thought of contemporary eco-terrorism are many, but those that use an antagonist theoretical-practical approach can be identified in deep ecology, feminist ecology, Marxist ecology, primitivism, degrowth ecology, the Slow Food movement, ecology, animalism (which together with vegetarianism is a logical consequence of radical ecology) and, finally, eco-terrorism. In this sense – beyond the often demagogic rhetoric – eco-terrorism does not differ from the above-mentioned schools of thought because of its ethical-philosophical assumptions but rather by the operative procedures through which its antagonism is carried out. Therefore, an ideological community exists, whether implicit or explicit, in the main schools of thoughts of ecology and eco-terrorism. These schools of thought, however, can be associated with the idea of radical ecology.
Definition of radical ecology
While continuing to take the complexity of current ecology into account, the expression “radical” is used to indicate extremely antagonist ecology, from Pinochot’s utilitarian conservationism, which was deeply anthropocentric and aimed to rationalize the use of nature toward a lasting economic exploitation, to Haeckel’s neo-Darwinian approach, Tanskey’s view, Lotka’s trophic-network ecology, and finally, Odum’s thermodynamic approach. Firstly, radical ecology comprises the holistic preservationism of Thoreau, Emerson, and Leopold, ecofeminism, political ecology, deep ecology, primitivism, social ecology, the degrowth movement, the Slow Food movement, eco-regionalism, animalism, and eco-terrorism. Secondly, although the list of the organizations is not complete, it is important to underline that the several “-isms” do not exclude the possibility of profitable contaminations among the different schools of thought. Thirdly, the epistemological, political and philosophical features shared by the above-mentioned schools of thought can be identified as follows:
- they all support a structural modification of the current economic system and are against the supranational institutions that control global capitalism, in particular, the IMF, the WTO, and the World Bank;
- they are in favor of the anti-globalization movement, and know its limits and potentials;
- they share an eco-centric, bio-centric, anti-anthropocentric, holistic and sometimes organicistic perception of natural reality;
- they are against a mechanistic vision of reality such as Bacon’s and Descartes’, and are in favor of legal extensionism;
- they support a relevant extension of representative democracy or a radical exceeding of it in favor of an anarchic, neo-tribal society, or a participatory democracy;
- they share and develop apocalyptical and radical scenes of current society’s environmental and economic condition;
- they advocate a change in the ethic of western civilization through an eco-pacifist reorientation carried out by counter-information;
- they are against military institutions and share a typical interpretation of irenic pacifism;
- they are against the use of biotechnologies in agriculture and the civil and military use of nuclear energy;
- several members of radical ecology share a new interpretation of nature according to neo-romantic or oriental philosophies (such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Zen philosophy);
- many scholars and activists belonging to radical ecology embrace animalistic and vegetarian views which they deem deeply coherent with an ecocentric vision of nature.
- Finally, several exponents of radical ecology refer to 1968 culture, and to underground American and tribal cultures.
In short, regarding the operative procedures carried out by the several schools of thought or radical ecology, we should point out the difference between non-violent and terroristic ones. There are three levels of antagonist procedure: a) non-violent practice strictly antagonist toward political and legal institutions; b) non-violent practice with an entryist political logic toward national and supranational political institutions; c) publically terroristic practice. We should, nevertheless, underline the differences between positions a) and b) both of which are well-organized and opposing: the first clearly condemns the use of terroristic procedures, the second supports terrorist procedures – but without putting them into practice – and is therefore ambiguous.
The historical predecessors of radical ecology
According to Livorsi, the genesis of radical ecology can be easily traced from a historical point of view to the philosophical and religious interpretation of Bachofen and the Marxist psychoanalysis of Reich as well. The author of the “Canticle of the Sun” (“Cantico del Frate Sole”) not only asserts the sanctification of the world by God – in other words, the sun, the moon, and the animal world – but also refers to Mother Earth, anticipating the modern concept of “Gaia” . Moreover the heterodox pantheism of Saint Francis implies a brotherhood between human beings and creatures according to an ecocentric and egalitarian view. The French philosopher Rousseau, in his “Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men” (“Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les homes”), emphasized the goodness of the state of nature and the existential authenticity of the human being in this pre-civilized context, while condemning in the meantime private property and therefore civilization determined by technique. Moreover, unlike civilized society, tribal society conducted an ecocentric, egalitarian and communal style of life. Bachofen, in his reinterpretation of the history of civilization, emphasized the existence of a gynocratic, anti-patriarchal view in pre-Achaean society in which there was no private life, there was sexual freedom, nature was accepted as a living organism, and above all, the modus vivendi was built on egalitarian pacifism.
In short, regarding Reich, the rise of patriarchy brought about the triumph of capitalism, the closed family, and sexual repression. The natural and erotic man who struggles for a libertarian socialism has reemerged only rarely in history, such as in the Paris Commune in 1871, for example.
Definition of Terrorism and Eco-Terrorism
According to Pisano, terrorism can be defined as a non-conventional form of conflict because it lies outside both democratic, organized and civil dispute and the traditional battlefield of war regulated by international law. Terrorism is characterized by three elements: a) physical and psychic criminal violence, b) political, religious political or social political movement, and c) the use of illegal structure. Traditional terrorism, as Pisano explains, together with neo-terrorism, coexist both as a threat and as a concrete aggression. Neo-terrorism is performed by dynamic and polymorphous schemes that can intertwine while preserving their methodological and operational autonomy at the same time. Pisano indicates ecologic terrorism, narco-terrorism, the NRBC, and cyber-terrorism as the most important.
Ecologic terrorism (the topic of our research) is based on lay and/or religious ideological ideas and from an organizational point of view is carried out alternatively by cellular organizations with no hierarchies and by binary structures that are cellular and propagandistic at the same time. Ecologic terrorism furthers its antagonism through several operative procedures: 1) obstructive human barriers (lock box), 2) machinery sabotage, 3) arson and explosive detonation, 4) legal instruments focused on reporting abuse by police, 5) assemblage and road blocks, 6) intrusion within military installations or scientific and university institutions, 7) wide use of misinformation through media, internet and magazines, and 8) instigation to tax evasion. The enemies or targets to strike are several in number as well: 1) national and supranational capitalism, 2) the state, which defends its interests and consolidates its power, 3) national and supranational military institutions, and 4) scientific and university laboratories.
In a nutshell, eco-terrorism presents two fundamental trends: animal (such as ALF, ARM or JD) and environmental (e.g. Earth First!). In conclusion, Pisano suggests that the dangers of eco-terrorism are linked to the potential strengthening of its organizational power, creation of operative or ideological ties with traditional terrorism, and the consolidation of its relations with the anti-globalization movement.
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