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The ceasefire in force in Syria as from September 12, 2016

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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On Saturday, September 10, between Geneva and Munich, the traditional venues for the numberless negotiations on war in Syria, the US State Secretary, John Kerry, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Serghei Lavrov, reached an agreement for truce among the various factions fighting for the spoils of the Middle East State. The agreement will enter into force as from the sunset of September 12 and it will last one week only.

Who is concerned by the ceasefire? First and foremost Assad’s forces, namely the Syrian Arab Army, including its Russian and Iranian allies and the various groups of the Syrian Free Army, of which it is impossible to know the real size of its forces and its inconstant relationship with the other movements of the Syrian jihad.

Hence the agreement regards neither Daesh-Isis nor the militia of Fateh al-Sham, the new name chosen by the Al Nusra Front to distance itself from Al Qaeda as much as possible.

The hostilities will cease especially in the Aleppo area which, for everybody, is the key to the Syrian strategy, with a view to allowing the inflow of supplies, aid and relief to the local populations, hardly hit by both opponents’ actions.

It is worth recalling that so far the war in Syria has had a toll of 350,000 deaths and 11 million refugees, namely 50% of the Syrian population.

The essential political result of the September negotiations is – first and foremost – that the removal of the “tyrant” Bashar al-Assad from power is no longer on the agenda.

In fact, Assad is probably the only one who can keep Syria united – hence he is a necessary and valuable asset for Russia.

Conversely, in one way or another, all the Western countries involved in the conflict are interested in Syria’s splitting up and fragmentation.

Following its neo-Ottoman dream, Turkey wants to annex the Syrian Sunni area, also with a view to counterbalancing the Kurds’ influence both in Syria and on its own territory, by separating them with an enclave controlled by it.

Rojava (the West or Western Kurdistan in the Kurdish language) consisting of three self-governing cantons, namely Afrin, Jazira e Kobani, as well as the Shahba region, are located in the Syrian al-Hasakah Governorate. It is worth noting that the tree Kurdish cantons are multiethnic.

Obviously the Kurdish presence is the real target of the Turkish operations.

Shortly before the ceasefire, Turkey had deployed 43 self-supporting units and at least 200 soldiers, in addition to those of the Turkish garrison, in Gaziantep.

Shortly afterwards the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) started clashes with the Turkish forces in the Hatay Province.

Moreover no maps of Turkey’s operation “Euphrates Shield” are available and, at the same time, Isis demobilized its elite militants from the Al-Bab region, in the North-East province of Aleppo. Therefore we can predict a future jihadists’ counterattack from the South

The real aim of the Operation Euphrates Shield is to create a “safety area” for Turkey (90 kilometres long and   40 kilometres wide), with a view to avoiding the connection between the Kurds of Rojava and those in Turkey, as well as to definitely breaking Syria’s unity, which means creating strategic continuity between Anatolia and the Sunni Islam of Central Asia.

The United States want to “bring democracy” to Syria and intend to keep on controlling the areas held by their allies of the Syrian Free Army, the well-known “moderate” jihadists.

Without admitting so, also the United States want Syria’s splitting up and fragmentation so as to implement the unfortunate “Yugoslav model” also there, by creating ethnical statelets which – as happened in Kosovo – may possibly become recruiting centres for the jihad in the coming years or centres for managing drug trafficking.

Finally Russia wants a sufficiently united State which can protect the Alawite coastal territory where its naval bases in the Mediterranean are located.

Moreover Iran wants Syria to be a united State, under the leadership of the Alawites, who are Shias – as Imam Mussa Sadr established – which can be a bulwark against the Sunni Turkey and the destabilization trends from Saudi Arabia.

Hence the political and strategic sense is that – once the one-week truce is over – the United States and the Russian Federation should be reunited to fight against Isis-Daesh and Fateh al-Sham, namely the new Al Nusra “brand”.

As envisaged by the agreement of September 10, Assad’s forces should stop bombings “wherever the other forces are present” so as to allow the arrival of humanitarian aid in Aleppo.

Furthermore, the priority for the inflow of aid will be the city of Aleppo and its surroundings, in addition to the areas which are “hard to be reached”.

Again according to the agreement of September 10, both Assad’s forces and the “rebel” ones should leave Castello Road, which runs throughout the centre of Aleppo from the North of the city to the Eastern area, still held by the “rebels” of Jaish al Fateh and Isis-Daesh.

Also a part of the Kurdish YPG is present along the Aleppo road, which is currently monitored by the Russian soldiers.

There must also be a “secure access” to the area of Ramouseh and, if there will be seven consecutive days of successful truce, even partially, the United States and Russia will operate together to “develop military actions” (sic) against Fateh al Sham and Isis.

At the regular end of the ceasefire, a Joint Implementation Centre will be established to exchange the information required for military activities, but the problem is that the United States will continue to support the “rebels” close or allied to Jaish Al Fateh and that Russia shall convince its ally Assad to stop bombing the cities.

However, if the ceasefire is successful, all the forces whose territory borders on the “Islamic State” can concentrate their forces only against Isis. This will generate a sort of competition between allies, at least as regards the fight against Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate.

Furthermore, a few days before the deal, two “rebel” groups – both supported by the United States – clashed with each other in Jarabulus, north of Aleppo, namely Jaish al Tahrir and the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Hence the situation of military power relations in Syria just before the ceasefire was complex: on September 4, Assad’s forces started again the siege of Aleppo while, on September 5, Isis initiated a series of suicide attacks in Tartous, Homs and Damascus, as well as on the YPG Kurdish positions in Qamishli and Hasaka.

The Isis attack came just a few hours after the elimination of the Caliphate – along the Turkish-Syrian border, in the Aleppo area – by the Turkish Armed Forces and their jihadists of reference, namely the Turkmen.

A military success which was evidently the harbinger of the deal under discussion between Russia and the United States.

It is therefore likely for Isis to seek a new expansion in Western Syria, pending the ceasefire.

However, the deal reached on September 10 is very hard to be maintained.

The agreement is undoubtedly a success of Russian diplomacy, as both President Obama and part of the Pentagon and CIA did not want to acknowledge any role for Bashar al-Assad, while now – at least figuratively – they have sat at the same negotiating table as Syria’s emissaries.

The obsession of President Obama and much of the Pentagon was “Assad must go!”, as if the fall of a “tyrant” could magically change the political balance of a whole country.

The same mistake made with Saddam Hussein in Iraq and with the old “democratic” President, Hamid Karzai, in Afghanistan.

Certainly, if the two major powers on the ground really join, the end of Isis will be a matter of weeks, if not days.

But many ceasefires are “in water writ” and that of September 10 is no exception to the rule.

The Russian Aerospace Defence Forces have continued to hit jihadist targets despite the truce and the coordination center between the United States and Russia, envisaged by the deal, has not yet been definitively put in place to operate. It cannot certainly be created magically from nothing at the end of the fateful one-week truce.

On September 13 the parties exchanged artillery fire in the Aleppo area, while Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian Arab Army and the Hezbollah engaged combat with Jaish al Fateh in the aeras of Qarassi, Zeitan, Khan Touman and Khalsah.

Jaish al Fateh responded by hitting Assad’s outposts in the Malah Farms and the Ramouseh Artillery Base.

On September 12, all Jaish al Fateh forces stated they did not accept the ceasefire because their leaders had not been called to discuss the document and hence their role as primary group of “resistance” to Assad had not been recognized.

The following day, at least according to their sources, the air forces of the Syrian Arab Army shot down an Israeli jet and a drone near Quneitra, but Israel denied it.

However what is the strategic significance of the ceasefire, apart from the repositioning on the battlefield?

Russia emerges as the true leader of the future in Syria. The United States operate with their Turkish allies in the North, but this is an anti-Kurdish operation and the various Kurdish militias are US allies.

Shortly a clash will be recreated between both factions backed by the United States, which evidently have no strategy whatsoever in Syria except for the stale and impossible “exporting of democracy.”

Maybe the ceasefire will hold, but later the Syrian crisis will remain stable, with tensions on the Euphrates, the Kurdish reaction, the backlash of the Iranian Shiite units and the Russian raids.

The Western forces have no strategic project and therefore Russia – and hence Bashar al-Assad – will win because it has one, but after unimaginable ruins and the creation of a flow of migrants to the EU that will be very difficult to manage.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Content in New Media as an instrument of interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign States

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Over the recent years we have observed a significant increase in the use of ICT-instruments to disseminate specially prepared content to achieve malicious political and economic goals. Many experts explicitly claim that ICT-instruments have increased manifold the capabilities to achieve objectives by non-military means. Confirmed are the predictions of competent experts that the new ICTs allow oneself to fight directly at the level of consciousness.

Thus, Chaz Freeman, a senior scientific adviser at the Watson Institute for World and Public Policy at Brown University, said in his article: “Since knowledge about society and the world is largely concentrated in cyberspace, abilities of State and Non-state actors to shape public opinion in other countries have increased unprecedentedly… During wars, psychological operations allow for rapid dissemination of fake electronic messages, fake news, compromising information about political leadership. This is done, among other ways, through social networks and results in distorted perception of the situation, disruption of political coordination and decision-making process. Technology allows for a gentle conquest through concealed actions in cyberspace. The application of scientific achievements leads to erosion of sovereignty, facilitating influence actions that go beyond diplomacy, but not bringing the matter to open war…”

Theoretical foundations and methodology of social behaviour management

Currently, one of the fundamental theorems of social sciences is the so-called Thomas theorem: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”. William Isaac Thomas, a classic of American sociology, formulated this statement in 1923 and did not attach much value to it. At the same time the consequences of this statement were constantly used in political practice of many states to manipulate the social behaviour of the masses.

Many experts predicted that the Thomas theorem will become increasingly important with the development of new technologies for information dissemination. For example, A.V.Lukov in his article “Consequences of the “Thomas theorem” with emergence of information civilization”, notes: “What was a special case at the beginning of the century has become the global situation by the end of the century thanks to the development of information technologies“.

For practical applications the most important consequences of the Thomas theorem are those, which allow management of the social behaviour. It was a common belief that only two “realities” – subjective and objective – influenced actions of an individual. Now a “third reality” has emerged – the global media sphere, through which, according to the Thomas theorem, one can influence the decisions and actions of people. Under these conditions, objective reality in the minds of “common people” (an average man) that goes beyond their everyday problems, worries and interests is replaced by the perception of this reality, which is formed by the “third reality” (more precisely, by those fragments of the “third reality”, which he trusts). Here, the words “common person” (an average man) mean a person who is not professionally engaged in economic, social and political issues and has neither the knowledge, nor the capacity, nor the desire to look for grains of objective reality in information flows.

The use of these consequences of the Thomas theorem in the organization of large-scale information campaigns of recent years (Colin Powell’s vial, maidan in Kiev, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Skripal poisoning, etc.) fits into the same arrangement. Initially, a large-scale, well-directed campaign is carried out using all possible channels of the global media sphere to replace objective information about the situation in people’s minds with an idea of this situation that corresponds to the goals of the campaign developers. This stage can be called the “Replacement of reality by media events”.

After this goal has been achieved, the second phase of the campaign begins, the meaning of which, according to the Thomas theorem, is that people will now consider all the consequences of the formed perception of the situation as correct (you can attack Iraq, you can dislodge Yanukovych, you can bomb Syria, and etc.). This stage can be called “Information support for the implementation of the consequences of media events”. At the same time, in this phase “the fire is periodically plied with fresh fuel” – meaning that another campaign is launched to “update” the media event. Here we could mention the series of publications by the authoritative Russian expert Andrei Massalovich, in which he studied, in particular, the graphics of interest decline in specific topics on social networks and demonstrated the need for periodic support for this interest.

The technologies for deliberate preparation and dissemination of content are constantly developing: information targeting, use of Internet profiles of the users, “fake news” and employment of opinion leaders to rollout this news. In the recent article by Anders Fogh Rasmussen (former Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Prime Minister of Denmark ) and Michael Chertoff (former US Homeland Security Secretary) a generalized concept was proposed for the characterization of such technologies –hyper-partisan content.

Evolution of the views of the Pentagon on Information Warfare

The first to appear was the notion of “Information Warfare”, which was introduced in 1992 top secret directive TS 3600.1 of the US Secretary of Defense. It seems that the accurate translation of this notion into Russian would be “information confrontation”, or “information struggle”. This directive was a document of heightened secrecy, and therefore of limited use. In 1996 the US Department of Defense issued Directive S 3600.1 which introduced a concept broader than the information warfare – “information operations” – Actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems while defending one’s own information, and information systems. At the same time, information operations are carried out not only in wartime, but also in peacetime. American experts admit: “The fact that the United States was writing strategy to conduct operations in peacetime against nations was considered very risky, therefore IW [Information Warfare] remained highly classified throughout much of the 1990s”.

Information operations were finally consolidated in the military lexicon and practice of the United States in 1998 with the advent of the Joint Doctrine for Information Operations, a document that was intended for the widest possible use. According to this doctrine, information operations include Electronic Warfare, Computer Network Operations, Psychological Operations, Military Deception, Operations Security. By the early 2000s the US came to a realization that in the future Information Operations will become a separate type of warfare and will gain the same importance as operations in other environments – maritime, land, air, and space.

In 2002 the Psychological Operations Field Manual (FM 3-05/30) was adopted, which formulated the goals and objectives of psychological operations, as well as the definition: Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. Note that the Joint Vision 2010 defines the concept of information superiority as the capability to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an adversary’s ability to do the same.

Over the past 10 years there has been an ongoing division of Information Operations and Cyber Operations. And this is confirmed in the latest edition of the Information Operations doctrine, published in 2014. And therefore, today, in the framework of Information Operations much more attention is paid to the Information and Psychological impact. If we refer to the official interpretations of definitions, information operations are understood as the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries…

At the State level one can observe not only the implementation of offensive psychological measures, but also an active search for scientifically based solutions for implementation of protective and defensive measures. Accordingly, the problems of information-psychological confrontation are receiving increased attention in the scientific community – primarily in the centres affiliated with the relevant agencies.

In September 2018 the US presented two new important documents that would determine their policy in cyberspace for years, and possibly decades ahead. First, the Trump Administration announced the US National Cyber Strategy. The second document was the Cyber strategy of the US Department of Defense. It is noteworthy that the spectrum of malicious activity now includes not only cyberattacks, but also malicious propaganda and disinformation campaigns – under the pretext of response to Russia’s unproved interference in the US presidential election process. All available means, including diplomatic, information, military (both kinetic and cybernetic), etc. can be used to prevent, respond and deter malicious cyber activity.

Conclusions

  1. As Methods and implementation techniques develop and mature the number and effectiveness of large-scale information and psychological operations will rise.
  2. The most important prerequisite for successful countering of such operations is the timely exposure of the signs of their start and their objectives. This information should be used as a foundation for a counteroperation to neutralize the media event (which replaces the reality) and prevent the realization of the Thomas theorem.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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A new approach to information management

Sajad Abedi

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The American people, both directly and through their representatives, are more focused on organizing and conducting the work of intelligence agencies than ever before. Because of intelligence operations play an important role in life and security. From the September 11, 2001 incident, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are debates that are constantly being raised in American families.

Not surprisingly, there are suggestions for the transformation of organizations and the US intelligence system beyond the public awareness. Foreign countries are demanding this, and many people inside the country also need to understand such a change. Many of the organizational methods and structures that have proven successful over the years have failed in some cases, especially in the September 11 incident, and have provided enough information to the United States in dealing with Saddam Hussein’s weapons designs in Iraq. They did not set up the country.

Information managers and many other people who are involved do not agree with such changes. They often prefer to deal with marginal issues because information is every day and it is time consuming to make such changes. In 1986, Casey, former head of the CIA, created a counterterrorism center. He believed that the center created the necessary coordination in design and operation, and analysts were working in the immediate vicinity of the operators, but many of the old members of the CIA and intelligence operations threatened their place and those under their control. They knew even years after the establishment of the anti-terrorist center, there has been tension between the function of the center and other elements of the organization.

The CIA, after receiving adequate guidance from the military, should provide an official mechanism for post-operative investigations. A review of human gathering about Iraq should include the history of that program, the selection of personnel for it, the targeting of Iraq and the recruitment of people and benchmarking it for deployment and operation.

Such a “post-operation” review should not undermine the level of shielding, accusing, defining or denigrating anyone. It should also be ensured that managers and leaders discuss important goals such as Iran and North Korea, systems for designing breakthroughs, tools for deploying a framework for spy operations based on accurate surveys and information to adjust the plan to maximize the quality and ensure optimal operations. Other human resources managers should have a summary of the methods that have been effective in reducing the failure rate. Really important operational information should not be compromised in this way.

Managers and information leaders should work on re-use of “post-operation” formal surveys, planning, recruiting, training, recruitment, assessment and promotion of their staff. In many cases, the development of such systems is not required by law. The system needs to be explicit, honest and accurate, and also requires a co-operative work force. This system examines the need for a foreign country in order to increase the success of a successful business person, not a business, policy or training consultant in a team. Such a foreign country has a new perspective and can ask questions that do not come to the minds of others.

A commitment to using the best results in these reviews is essential. The US government and politics are eager to face a crisis and failure to design new policies or seek quick solutions and examine the issue. In any organization, it’s difficult to transfer funds from steady plans to creative and new ones. Especially in the US government, the fundamentals of the country’s budget are old and weird. Every year the congress and executive branch decide on budgeting for personnel, logistics, operational programs and infrastructure – they decide to continue the same or increase it with a slight change. When the management of the organization, the budget and congress organization agrees with the operational plans, then they will be licensed and funded. It is difficult to compete for the new budget, but basically the competition between the initiatives takes place, not between the new plans and the fixed plans.

One of the hallmarks of CIA operations is the development of creativity. Creative leaders and officers will identify problems and provide solutions, But spending too much on new creativity, regardless of cutting or cutting out budgets. The “stirring up” of something in the database is hard and frustrating. But when all US intelligence facilities are under investigation and new threats, they must be shuffled.

Spying, human gathering and other programs will never be fully realized. Because of this is the nature of the world of information. The only thing they guarantee is that their performance in the context of informing policymakers and military and operational commanders emphasizes the quality, accuracy, accuracy and utilization of the best available technical and human-coordinated programs.

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Trends in the Spread of Radical Islam in Africa: The Case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Authors: Galina Sidorova and Natalia Zerlitsina*

Islamic radicalism and extremism are perceived around the world as a major threat to international security. The Islamists started developing terrorism and took it to a global level. Today, perhaps, there is no continent where this problem would not be acute. This is the standpoint of scientist D. V. Trenin who presents his reasoning in the article Traditional and New Security Challenges in International Relations [Trenin 2015: 138]. Indeed, one could easily agree with him.

In recent times, intrusion and spread of radical Islam has become evident in African countries, where, as it is, the problems of national and continental security have not been solved due to the never-ending armed conflicts. The most prevalent Islamic groups in sub-Saharan Africa are the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Other widespread groups are the Sheikh Balala sect in Kenya with an active subdivision in Zimbabwe, the Sunni Muslim Association in Cote d’Ivoire, the People against Gangsterism and Drugs, and the Islamic Jihad in the Republic of South Africa (the RSA). In Nigeria, the greatest danger is posed by the Boko Haram extremist organization imposing the Shariah laws and extirpation of the Western lifestyle; in Senegal — the Al-Falah Movement for Salafi Islamic culture; in Burkina Faso, there is Jama’at Ahl al-Sunnah al-Muhammad; in Somalia — Al-Shabaab and Jihad al-Islamiyya, the radical wing of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (headed by Oumar Ould Hamaha); Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, that seized control over the northern territories of Mali and, in October 2012, was holding 9 European citizens as hostages, 6 of whom were French [Kemal 2015: 156].

The revivalists’ backbone is not only Islam coming from Arab countries of the East and the Maghreb. The African reality has seen some examples of religious extremism conceiving in the depths of the African society itself. These are various sects and groups primarily calling attention of disadvantaged population of the country, striving for a better life. They all differ in terms of dogmatic principles. Although the majority of them are constituted by Sunni Muslims, in a number of countries there is also the Shia minority (notable for bravery in combat, no fear of death, belief in afterlife), which is also influential due to the financial, organizational and moral support of Iran. The influence of Shia revivalists is apparent in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and the RSA.

It should be noted that the term “Islamic revivalists,” which is most often associated with terrorism did not always bear this negative connotation. If we look back in history, we will see that it entered the political lexicon in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, after rise of the anti-Shah regime in Iran. Russian diplomat and orientalist A. I. Vavilov asserts that “it is not always justifiable that Islamic revivalism is applied to fairly broad, vague and, in many respects, motley religious-political movement standing for return to the “original, radical values of Islam” (not incidentally, the Arabic word for “revivalists” means “radicalists”) [Vavilov 2009: 229]. Another scientist, Africanist A. D. Savateyev, maintains the position that Islamic revivalism is far from the national spirit, although it “incorporates a range of diverse outlooks from the spiritual and religious point of view, and reflects the interests of various social strata and sentiments of many categories of Muslims” [Savateyev 2006: 201]. He mentions the following classification of Islamists. The first category is focused on the intrinsic values of eternal order — justice, equality, and fair work in accordance with Koranic precepts. The second category does not follow the rules and regulations of the “true” Islam and appeals to the brothers of the religion with proposals to follow the prophetic directives. The third one goes beyond the “brothers” circle and seeks to impose its standards of behavior upon adherents of other confessions. The fourth category of the Muslims includes representatives of secular intellectuals, merchants; it stands for connecting Islam to the government, and, in fact, for the re-establishment of a theocratic state. Although, the views of the adherents are far from being identical in this case. The fifth category of the revivalists is the armed jihad, manifested as achieving the goal (creation of a unified Islamic religious and political entity) by any means including the fight against “expansion” of Christians and reprisal against infidels. The basic features of the moral portrait of the revivalists’ extremist wing are cynicism and resentment aimed at breach of native African values. According to the ideology of Islamic extremism, a Muslim is merely obliged to fight the non-Muslims, that is, to conduct armed jihad. [Savateyev 2006: 230].

Study of penetration of Islam and its implications to one of the Central African countries — the DROC — provides a visual representation of the topic addressed. In the DROC, Islam has been recognized relatively recently, though islamization of the country, advancing from the east of the DROC, had been known as early as before the arrival of the Portuguese to the continent (1482). In March 1972, the President of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko issued Decree 72/194 on the foundation of the Islamic Community of the Republic of Zaire (COMIZA), which later transformed into the Islamic Community of the DROC (COMICO) [Cheik Ali Mwinyi…La Référence plus. Kinshasa 2014: P. 2]. This organization is officially recognized and unites only a part of the Muslim community in the DROC. Besides COMICO, there are other Islamic organizations acting “on a private basis”. In March 2014, from among 12 contenders for the post of the Head of the Islamic community Mufti Sheikh Ali Mwini Mkuu was elected to a 5-year term — a politically literate, well-educated person maintaining an active position in the subregional, continental and international organizations [Les musulmans de la RDC…L’Observateur. Kinshasa 2014: P.11]. Wide connections and communications with regional and international colleagues enable the Mufti to collect information, “keep his finger on the pulse”, and control the situation in the country.

In 2012, the Islamic Community of the DROC launched the programme “Peaceful Settlement of Conflicts, Administration and Efficient Governance,” with the view to train representatives in the provinces of the country. The initiative involved 48 regional committees and 288 Islamic centres, which employ about three thousand activists. According to the Deputy Chairman of the Islamic Community of the DROC M. Seto-Bagoni, who is in charge of legal issues, trained specialists will provide indispensable support to the DROC Government in establishing peace and supremacy of the statute law across the country. In the provinces, Congolese people are also provided with the necessary legal, expert, and advisory assistance to settle the internal political situation in the Republic. With the assistance of local, regional and international sponsors, about USD 130,000 were allocated for the implementation of the Islamic Community’s project.

It should be kept in mind that the role of religious denominations in the social and political life of the DROC, taking into account the deep piety inherent in the Africans, is extremely high. The dominant position is held by Catholicism, which is practiced here by more than 50% of the 80 million population, and by Protestantism as its branch — 20%. This data identifies the DROC as the largest Catholic country in Africa and draw special attention to Kinshasa from the Vatican. The National Episcopal Conference, declaring its position on key issues of domestic and foreign policy on a regular basis, demonstrates significant interest in this region. Catholic structures, traditionally involved in political processes, occupy senior positions in the government. For example, Abbot Apollinaire Malumalu has been elected as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission twice — in 2006 and in 2013. Religious leaders mediate the processes of settlement of the Eastern crisis, coordinate the provision of humanitarian assistance, and offer a wide network of higher and secondary educational institutions.

Afro-Christian syncretic sects (especially Kimbanguism) also have numerous congregations in a number of provinces, and, according to their postulates (chosenness of the Africans and etc.), are characterized by considerable political engagement, often of separatist or anti-European orientation (about 10%). There are many various religious sects. As a rule, they are fee-paying, but due to the preachers’ rhetoric skills and their ability to attract attention, the sects are very popular among the local population. Orthodox Christianity is represented thinly (five parishes). It is professed by about 3% of the population. According to 2015 estimates, 10% of the Congolese are Muslims.

The largest number of adherents of Islam is concentrated in the east of the country, in the Provinces of Orientale, Maniema, and in the north of Katanga. In the DROC, along with Christian buildings for public worship, there are 70 mosques belonging to different Muslim communities: Pakistani, Iranian, Lebanese, Indian and others.

Year by year, the percentage of the Congolese people professing Islam is growing. This is partly promoted by the presence of Muslim peacemakers in the country, who serve with the UN Stabilization Mission in the DROC, and by numerous Pakistani military units that provide financial support for the Islamic communities, in particular in construction of mosques. The severe internal political, economic and social situation in the country fosters the spread of the radical wing of Islam.

In one of the author’s conversations that took place in Kinshasa in 2013, Sheikh Abdalah Mangal told that the Islamic Community in the DROC has nothing to do with so-called radical, aggressive Islamists. The Community is thoroughly monitoring manifestations of proselytism with the purpose of nipping it in the bud; it aims at reconciling hostile ethnic groups, at settlement of conflict situations including those in the east of the country, and stands for consolidation of the peoples of various religious confessions. Muslims try to spread and introduce their culture, open schools and provide humanitarian assistance to the poverty-ridden Congolese population. However, according to the Mufti, in spite of the attractiveness of Islam, the Congolese authorities inhibit the spread of this religion in the “Catholic country”. He gave the following example. On April 18, 2013, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the DROC signed a decree on suspension of the activities of the Islamic Community for three months (the reasons are not disclosed). The decree was abolished after the Mufti had argued against it and appealed to the Congolese authorities.

As Congolese analysts assert, although within the period of 2011–2014 no radical Islamists’ organizations were detected in the country, still there are certain fears about penetration of jihadist ideas. According to the experts, the Muslim influence is, albeit slowly, but moving to the DROC. In the west the “Muslim wave” is coming from Mali and Nigeria; in the east — from Kenya through Uganda and Rwanda; in the south — from Tanzania and Zambia; and in the north — from the Central African Republic (the CAR), subsequent to the coup in March 2013.

It is Mali — the “citadel” of Islamism in Africa — which is often named by the experts an “epicenter of the spread” of radical Islam. They do not exclude that the conflict between Salafists, who differ dogmatically, ideologically, politically and culturally, can be brought to the Republic Congo, similar to the conflict between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, which was brought to the DROC from outside. In this regard, a large Malian community in the DROC, living by its own laws and having its own mosque, raises certain concerns. Another threat originates in Nigeria, where ethnic antagonisms between the “Christian south” and the “Muslim north” pose a real danger, up to division of the country into two states. Consequences of the conflict may well have an effect on the central region of Africa where the refugees of different faiths will rush into. As a result, “foreign” problems will affect the already existing ethnic and religious contradictions. A serious danger is also posed by crossing the “unconsolidated” border by militants-illegal aliens from South Sudan, who partially “settled down” in the DROC. This makes the Congolese society extremely vulnerable in the face of the permanent terrorist threat.

Another source of threat of the spread of Islam in the DROC is the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) where, as already noted, a coup took place. According to MONUSCO Russian military observers, on December 5, 2013, near the residential community of Zongo in the Province of Équateur (the DROC), bordering the residential community of Bangun (the CAR), armed clashes broke out between the Muslim Seleka and the Christian Antibalaka organization. By the experts’ assumption, the ethnic conflict escalated as a result of mass activity of French troops, which deployed the “Sangaris” (which means “red butterfly” in Swahili) operation in the CAR. It was also reported that about 10 militaries of the Seleka movement oppositional to the CAR government entered the DROC territory. Streams of refugees from the CAR were crossing the border and “dissolving” in the forests of the DROC since they did not want to stay in the refugee camps because of the unstable situation in the region. The Congolese people, who lived in the areas bordering the CAR, also responded to the situation and fled from the country. Generally, the situation complicated because the civilian population of the DROC was extremely irritated by the aliens from the neighboring country who provoked conflicts and worsened the already disastrous conditions in the state. The incomers were not only “pressing” the local population in the Province of Équateur, but were also bringing with them Islamic culture alien to the Congolese Christians and to those, who adhere to the local faiths. According to the UNHCR, in May 2014 in the DROC, there were about 70 thousand refugees from the CAR and six thousand Congolese returnees. In addition to the arriving refugees, another problem arose in the country. The CAR militants started seizing the DROC territory. The risks of migration processes and the destabilization associated with them are addressed in details in analytical notes by Russian researchers K. Borishpolets and A. Babadzhanov [Borishpolets K., Babadzhanov A. 2007: 3-7].

The threat of radical Islam in the DROC and other African countries comes not only from the East and the Maghreb. After the investigations of the terrorist attack that was carried out in Nairobi on September 21, 2013 (67 people died), the non-governmental organization Red Cross came to the conclusion that the militants had also been recruited in Europe. Germans, Scandinavians, Americans were among them. According to the European Union Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, “it is necessary to find out how people get there”. In Belgium, for example, there exists an organization for recruiting mercenaries, the so-called Sharia4Belgium Organization (L’Organisation de la Chariat pour la Belgique). European mercenaries were seen in Syria and Kenya [Les Shebabs…L’Observateur 2013: P. 11].

The eastern regions of the DROC are the most vulnerable and susceptible to jihadist influence. Considerable length and “unconsolidated” nature of borders with 9 neighbour countries, geological and climatic characteristics (mountainous terrain, multilayer equatorial forest, rainfall seasons) along with the absence of roads and traffic infrastructure precondition the inefficiency of the border safety system and create a “back door” not only for cross-border criminality, but also Islamic revivalists.

The growth of terrorism spread by armed groups on the African continent as a whole is the additional risk factor for the destabilization of situation. For more than a decade illegal armed groups, the members of which profess Islam, have been acting in the eastern part of the DROC (North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, Orientale and the northern part of Katanga) uncontrolled by central authorities. These were primarily the Uganda Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) groups. Consequently, flashpoints of conflict emerge and create opportunities for terrorist attacks. As a rule, the criminal activity of illegal armed groups is connected with illegal exploitation of valuable natural resources, being smuggled abroad, and with uncontrolled cash flow. Leaders of illegal armed groups quite often control the process of valuable minerals and metals extraction and selling on the black market, using locals as free labour in the mines. In remote areas civilians often become victims of robbery, lawlessness and violence inflicted by various military forces. Local population is tortured and humiliated, often killed, robbed of cattle; their houses are burned and their crops are destroyed. There are numerous cases of people being kidnapped into slavery. Some of them are used for service support of gunmen in the rear, others are forced to participate in combat operations. Recruiting of child soldiers deprived of education and prone to psychological traumas remains a painful problem. Gunmen use underage children as labour force under the threat of bodily harm. It provokes mass exodus of population into the frontier zones where new centres of tension emerge.

Authorities of the Republic are gravely concerned by such actions of militants as ransom kidnappings, including those of foreigners. Thus, in April 2010, in the province of Équateur the illegal armed group of Enyele rebels took a number of foreign citizens hostage to draw attention of the international community to their activity. At the same time they occupied the airport and municipal buildings of the provincial capital of Mbandaka.

The situation is aggravated by the catastrophic condition of social sphere, extreme poverty of population, non-payment of monetary allowances to the members of national army. Destitute population, largely comprised of young people, is the most susceptible to Islamist influence, which promises to improve their living conditions. They are the people who join armed groups and unwillingly become carriers of the ideas of Islam.

Virtually all the neighbouring counties are involved in extraction and sales of valuable raw materials on foreign markets. According to experts, over 80% of the DROC economy remains shadow, and so far nobody sees the way out of this dramatic situation. Experts state that there are mafia formations in this field having direct access to offshore centres. Customs Administration of the Democratic Republic of the Congo intends to fight money laundering, illicit trade and cross-border criminality at large. On November 21, 2013, they signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Judicial Police of the Public Prosecution Office. This document proposes a programme for enforcement of customs officers’ authority, which is aimed at criminal investigations. Article 2 of the Memorandum states that “the Judicial Police of Public Prosecution Office is obliged to provide education for customs officers within the prescribed time limits and create, with assistance of Interpol, the database of the Customs Administration aimed at combating theft”[ Lutte contre la criminalité transfrontalière…Le Potentiel. Kinshasa 2013: P. 10]. In their reports, based on facts and investigations, human rights nongovernmental organizations like Human Rights Watch draw special attention to correlation between income from sales of contraband goods on world market and illegal arms traffic in the eastern regions of the DROC. Considerable amounts of arms and uncontrolled cash flow enter combat operation zones. In the context of armed groups activity there arises a problem of illicit trade in small arms acquired in exchange for the so called “conflict diamonds” (compact and convenient form of mutual payments). Strengthening of control over illicit trade in small arms, which is detrimental to relations between the DROC, Rwanda and Uganda, is still one of the sensitive issues for the whole region.

Militants from illegal armed groups commit terrorist acts not only overland. From time to time, the mass media reports on piracy on Lake Tanganyika. According to witnesses, it is highly unadvisable for cargo vessels to appear on the lake after 6 PM (i. e. at nightfall). Thus, on the night of July 1, 2014, Mai-Mai Yakutumba rebels attacked a merchant vessel near the City of Uvira (South Kivu Province). Pirates forced the captain to give them two thousand dollars, defueled the vessel and stole the board instrument. According to the report, militants were well armed and trained [Des miliciens Maï-Maï arraisonnent…Le Potentiel 2014: P. 9]. A similar incident took place in 2011, when armed combatants hijacked “Maman Wundja” vessel (about 100 passengers and 40 tonnes of cargo were on board) sailing across Lake Tanganyika from Uvira (South Kivu Province) to Moba (Katanga Province), and made the captain change the course, virtually taking him hostage [Les Maï-Maï Yakutumba prennent…APA. Kinshasa 2011: P. 8].

National separatists fuel terrorism in the DROC. According to estimates by authorities, over the last decade the most active was the religious and political movement Bundu dia Kongo. During the transition period (from 2003 to 2005), this organization controlled the largest part of the Lower Congo Province, advocating its complete independence as historical successor of the Great Kingdom of Kongo. Although after conflicts between the followers of movement and law enforcement forces in spring of 2008 the activity of Bundu dia Kongo was officially banned, it has not lost its “audience” and continues to influence its followers. Formally, the slogans of Bundu dia Kongo seem quite democratic. For example, in the proclamation of October 8, 2012, representatives of this organization call for protection of the Bakongo people [Document de l’organisation réligieuse de la RD Congo «Bundu dia Kongo»…Kinshasa 2012: P. 3].

Bursts of separatist sentiment fostering national differences are constantly observed in the Katanga Province. In the middle of 2014, Kata Katanga illegal armed group militants announced that on June 11, on the anniversary of proclamation of the Republic of Katanga, which existed from 1960 to 1963 but was not recognized by the world community, they intended to seize its provincial capital, the City of Lubumbashi. The purpose of seizing the second most important city after the capital was to proclaim independence of Katanga once again and plant their flag at the strategic sites of the city. They considered the monument to Moise Tshombe, “the President” of the Republic of Katanga, as one of such sites. Although the announcement of Kata Katanga was not implemented and only frightened the civilians with gunfire, security agencies including military and police forces were prepared to meet the attack with a massive array of military equipment [Tensions à Lubumbashi…Agence Presse Associée. Kinshasa 2014: P. 1].

One of the ways for Islam to penetrate the DROC is trading with neighbouring countries. “Trust relations in business”, a Congolese diplomat said in a conversation, “create a fertile ground for discussing, among all, religious topics”. Besides, long distance drivers, for example, from Tanzania and Zambia, as bearers of Islamic culture are considered here to be spreading Islam in the eastern and western parts of Congo. As the diplomat emphasized, the National Committee for the Coordination of Anti-International Terrorism cooperates with regional and international organizations in this field, and “uses analytical potential of the CIA”. According to him, this organization traced the activity of Somalian radical Salafi Ash-Shabaab movement, which was founded in the DROC. It was created in 2000 (translated from Arabic as “youth”) and is the part of Al-Qaeda, which seeks to establish strong relations within the DROC. In 2011 Ash-Shabaab emissaries tried to contact Islamic organizations in the eastern regions of the country, primarily in South Kivu Province, where Pakistani subunits of MONUSCO were quartered. The Islamic group Ash-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in the capital of neighbouring Uganda, the City of Kampala, on July 11, 2010. The Ugandan authorities stated that terrorists supposedly entered the country from the territory of the DROC. Military command of Uganda put forward a public assumption of Ash-Shabaab connection with Uganda rebel anti-government ADF group, based in the western regions of the DROC.

Ash-Shabaab counts 7 to 9 thousand militants from various illegal armed groups [Kongo 2013: P. 12]. The prospect of its penetrating the DROC poses an additional grave threat to both national security of the country and improvement of conditions in the central region of Africa as a whole. In the interview to the Potentiel magazine Congolese researcher of the problems of Islam Valentina Soria mentioned that Ash-Shabaab aims to adapt to the local African cultures, thus capturing political and economic space and establishing stable relations [Cinq questions…Le Potentiel. 10.10.2013: P. 4].

One of the documents, which was ostensibly left in the car of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed from Ash-Shabaab and later got into the Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star, contains information about special operation performed in Bombay in 2008, in Nairobi in 2013, and in The Ritz Hotel in London. In the same document it is also said that such countries as Uganda, Ethiopia and Burundi are considered to be “the enemies of Islam” and are to be fought against by all means. Arming of the adherents of Islam is also mentioned. They consider Kalashnikov rifle to be “a bulky weapon” and prefer to arm themselves with guns and hunting knives! [Cinq questions…Le Potentiel. 10.10.2013: P. 4].

Radical Islam and terrorism are constantly in the focus of Congolese authorities’ attention. Article 52 of the Constitution serves as a ground for banning terrorist activities. It states: “No individual or group of individuals may use part of the national territory as a basis for subversive or terrorist activities against the Congolese State or any other state” [La Constitution de la Republique Démocratique du Congo 2006: P. 23]. The issues of antiterrorist and anti-criminal activities as well as of spreading revivalism are among priorities in the work of the DROC security agencies, as in the eastern regions of the country there constantly emerge flash points of military conflict, which are fertile ground for serious terrorist attacks. The National Committee for the Coordination of Anti-International Terrorism investigates these issues. This body was established by the Presidential Decree No. 070/2001 as of 26 December 2001. This regulatory act is, in fact, the only internal document regulating interdepartmental cooperation in this field.

The activity of the Committee is controlled directly by the Head of State, while the Special Adviser to the Head of State on Security is responsible for coordination. In accordance with the Decree, the tasks of the Committee include executive decision-making on all the issues in the field of fighting terrorism, coordination of application of the field-specific international conventions, development and conduct of national activities, provision of corresponding cooperation with foreign countries and international organizations. Among the members of the Committee there are Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (the post is currently divided in two), Minister of National Security (the post was abolished), Minister of Defence, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Justice, military, political and diplomatic advisers to the Head of State, and Special Adviser to the Head of State on security. The latter acts as the permanent Secretary of the Committee and controls the work of its technical secretariat.

Kinshasa is the member of several international and regional conventions in the field of antiterrorist protection, including the African Union. It supports similar initiatives in the network of subregional organizations. In May 2008, under the auspices of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism the decision was made about cooperation in the field within the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS), brought back to life by efforts of the DROC.

As the present study has shown, the prospect of radical Islam spreading in the DROC poses a certain threat to both national security and improvement of conditions on the African continent as a whole. As of now, Congo still has not reached the so-called “red mark,” signifying the reign of terrorists. However, it may happen that tomorrow terrorists’ hegemonic ambitions will spread to this central African country as well [Des terrorists menacent…Le Phare.Kinshasa 2012. P.2]. “Vacuum” of governmental authorities in the provinces of the country creates favourable conditions for spread of terrorist attacks. Being weak, security agencies currently cannot ensure safety in these regions. Congolese politicians state that if the territory of the country is not controlled by the authorities, army and the republican police (taking into account geostrategic situation of the DROC on the African continent), nothing can constrain the surge of terrorists, who have already set foot in Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan. It may happen that the ideas of revivalists from the “Islamic State” (ISIL) group, formed in 2014, will also be promoted in the African countries. It will cause new flash points of religion-based conflicts, which, combined with the “traditional” conflicts, such as, for example, ethnic ones, will further complicate political and military situation in some African countries and will lead to armed conflicts.

Taking into consideration the important role of religious denominations in political life and shaping of public opinion in African countries, spread of Orthodoxy and its cultural values can act as a counter-force to aggressive Islam in Africa, as well as religious extremism at large. Greek communities, which, in addition to religious worship use religious institutes and local congregation to address their own political and economic issues, should play an important role in developing and supporting Orthodox culture.

*Natalia Zerlitsina, Institute of International Relations and Social and Political Sciences, Moscow State Linguistic University

References

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