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NATO and Russia in the Baltic and the North Pole

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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NATO strategic response to Ukraine’s annexation by the Russian Federation in March 2014 is currently focused on the forward defense of the Baltic countries, which are increasingly important in Western geostrategic planning and which control from Europe the Arctic zone, the area in which Russia can hit the US interest more easily.

Cleary the Alliance believes that the Baltic countries can be Russia’s next “enlargement”, as happened precisely with Ukraine.

More probably, however, Russia wants to weaken and, indeed, “finlandize” NATO’s Baltic region which, as is also well-known to Russia, is a key point even for the Atlantic interests.

Not to mention the North Pole’s wealth of mining and oil resources, which would really be the economic game changer for the whole Russian system.

And it would also be the Russian solution to replace the Middle East OPEC countries, all with oil wells which are depleting to a greater or lesser extent.

The Russian Arctic region is the area in which approximately 80% of the Far North’s oil is extracted, especially in the Russian autonomous region of Khanty-Mansiysk, in addition to 11 offshore extraction sites in the Barents Sea, 182 in the Kara Sea and a large number (185) in the Russian autonomous region of Nenets.

Hence the Arctic would be the area in which Russia can become the global leader of the oil and gas market.

With specific reference to minerals, in the Russian Arctic area there are large – albeit not yet accurately measured – amounts of copper, gold, nickel, uranium, iron, tungsten and diamonds.

The Russian Arctic area is by far the richest in minerals – and the same holds true for oil and gas, as we have already mentioned.

Russia is protecting its Arctic to avoid future financial dependence on the West and to diversify its economy.

If the United States hit the Russian Arctic, they will destroy the future of Russian resources.

The considerations made above lead us to think that the Russian conflict with NATO in relation to the Baltic countries is also a clash with the Western Alliance for the control, security and safety of the most rational ways of communication between Russia and its Arctic riches.

Hence the aim would be eliminating the possibility of NATO having close bases along the way between Russia and its economic potential in the North Pole.

The issue is whether Russia will be able to fully exploit its Arctic oil and gas.

Gazprom and Rosneft have not yet the technology to extract natural gas and oil, while Western sanctions do not enable Russian companies to obtain the necessary technologies in the West.

And the very limited loans that Russia can obtain in the West – again as a result of sanctions – do not certainly allow the self-funding of these advanced technologies.

According to IAEA, the US oil agency, the Russian Arctic oil will generate profit only when the barrel price reaches 120 US dollars.

However this is not the problem: Russia knows that, in the near future, the Middle East oil will start to run low and it will sell its oil and gas at the highest (fixed) price.

Hence, for the Russian Federation, the ideal solution can only be the stable relationship with China, at least to reach its first strategic goal on its oil and gas market, namely to reduce its dependence on the EU significantly.

Nevertheless there are also other countries on the waiting list.

For example, in November 2014, Russia proposed to India a joint plan for exploiting the oil and gas resources in the Arctic and Siberia, a region that Russia considers to be strategically and politically contiguous to the North Pole.

Currently the amount of natural gas extracted does not meet the expectations of President Putin, who would like to increase the market share of the Russian natural gas from 5% to at least 10%.

It is precisely for this reason that he has urged a partnership on an equal footing with India, together with China.

Hence while NATO is planning its “North’s design”, Russia is developing a Russia-China-India strategic triangle which, for the time being, is mostly economic, but will soon be turned into a political, military and strategic initiative.

For Russia, however, the Arctic is both a geoeconomic issue and a geopolitical and patriotic myth: the Russians participating in a Swedish mission to the North Pole in 2007 planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed so as to claim the area as “national territory” to all intents and purposes.

In short, on the basis of its current foreign policy doctrine, Russia wants to become a great power, as in the USSR times, but without the limitations of that system.

Hence, above all it fears the encirclement by large and small powers and, in fact, this explains much of Russia’s current postures and attitudes.

Russia’s Arctic strategy, however, is to make their very long polar coast useful also for maritime trade and – as already mentioned – use the North Pole region as the necessary plus to become an oil and economic superpower.

In principle, the Arctic line is much shorter than the one using the Suez Canal. Even China will participate in this project, with its North-Eastern ports, such as Dalian, from which in 2003 the first Chinese icebreaker heading for the Arctic, namely Yong Sheng, left on August 8, which is a lucky day in the Chinese tradition.

From Dalian to Rotterdam, via the Arctic, the Chinese vessel spared thirteen days of navigation compared to the traditional route heading for Suez.

Obviously there is an equally important consideration in Russia’s mind, whereby the Arctic line is the longest border between the Russian Federation and the United States.

This is the reason why NATO is trying to reassure the Baltic countries, which fear above all to end up like Ukraine and hence become the most comfortable passageway for Russia to reach the North Pole from the West and control it.

Russia, however, does not want to “conquer” the smallest Baltic countries – it only wants to have a right of free passage and a strategic and political insurance that attacks on Russia will not be launched from the Baltic region.

Let us revert, however, to NATO operations in

the North Sea and its shores: the naval military exercise BALTOPS, carried out by ships from 17 countries, began on June 5, 2016 and ended on June 20.

As many as 49 ships, with important exercises of submarine warfare, as well as amphibious actions in which 700 Swedish, US and Finnish soldiers participated, and finally with an air force consisting of 61 jet aircraft and the participation of Georgia and thirteen other non-NATO members.

The Atlantic Alliance’s exercises in the North Sea have always been very important: it is in the framework of this type of operations that a submarine, probably a British one, disengaged itself and later went to attack and sink the well-known Russian submarine Kursk equipped with the very advanced VA-111 Skval, a torpedo reaching a speed of 7 to 13 kilometers per second.

In addition to BALTOPS, in November 2014 the three Baltic States created an autonomous military alliance, called NORDEFCO, while Denmark and Sweden agreed on close defense cooperation in January 2016.

For the Atlantic Alliance NORDEFCO should be rapidly extended particularly to the European States such as Germany, Great Britain and Poland and to the United States, almost as an embryo of the “North’s NATO” that some people theorized at the beginning of this millennium

Nevertheless, once again the strategic assessment of the enemy is still based on the old idea – which we deem wrong – whereby Russia would simply like to recover three former Soviet territories, namely Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

We do not believe that this is the Russian strategic motivation: Russia only wants to ensure the security and safety of its sea lines and of its communication with the Arctic, as well as the equivalence of the war potential with the United States on the long Arctic border between the two great countries.

However, there are also Russian territorial claims on the Arctic, which are of considerable political significance.

In 2007, two Mir submersibles reached the maximum depth of the North Pole.

The naval means have scientifically proven that the Lomonosov and Mendeleiev submarine ridges, which reach up to Greenland, are a geological extension of Russia’s continental shelf.

This would enable Russia to claim exploration rights for additional 1.2 million kilometers in the Arctic, which would allow to autonomously exploit the large oil fields of the Chikotka-Murmansk-North Pole region.

It is an evident threat to the almost total hegemony the United States have over the Arctic polar area, which is an essential theme of the US global strategy. The US military bases are scarce and, above all, the US strategy is based on 12 fully-operational icebreakers, in addition to two new recently-built ships.

Once again, however, the United States are lagging behind compared to Russia: the latter has 22 icebreakers and other 19 vessels suitable for the Arctic climate. The United States are better equipped in terms of submarines: they have 41 nuclear ones, while Russia has only 25 units of this type.

With specific reference to the forces on the ground, the United States have three brigades in Alaska, each consisting of three thousand soldiers.

Two new air squadrons, with stealth aircraft, are planned to be deployed in a base near Fairbanks, Alaska.

In short, the largest force in the Arctic is still the American one, while Russia is lagging behind in the construction of its Arctic forces.

And the various attempts made by NATO and the Western countries bordering on the Arctic Ocean to decide, on their own, the control areas and the respective territorial changes, in addition to the presence of US military bases on their share of the North Pole, have led Russia to militarize its Arctic region so as to defend its mining networks and avoid the United States even “listening” their signals.

Hence the current Russian defense network is organized as follows:

1) new air bases in Franz Josef Land and in Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, as well as in four other areas;

2) naval bases in Franz Josef Land and in the New Siberia’s islands;

3) infantry bases: the imminent creation of the North Arctic Group and of two Arctic brigades, a motorized infantry one in Murmansk and the other in the Nenets district;

4) the electronic warfare regiment of the Northern Fleet deployed in Alakurtti, near Murmansk;

5) five fixed radar centers in Sredni, Alexandra Land, Wrangel Island, Juzhnii and Chukotka;

6) the air defense positions: the Pantsjr-S1 system has already been adapted to the Arctic climate and the different modes of use in extreme cold weather conditions;

7) a joint strategic command of the Northern Fleet, the Arctic brigades, the air force, the air defense and the electronic and signal intelligence centers.

The Arctic and the control over it are a sort of insurance that Russia will continue to be a global power at energy level, while strategically the North Pole is already part of the US missile defense system, which could weaken the Russian nuclear potential and hence make Russia irrelevant at geostrategic level.

Hence, according to the Russian decision-makers, the Arctic is the region where, in the future, the Atlantic Alliance’s pressure will be mostly felt. The Atlantic Alliance will not operate by making people rise up with “color revolutions”, as there is no population in the Arctic, but it will directly threaten the Russian military apparatus in the region and hence also in South-Central Russia.

Furthermore, considering the now stable tendency to ice melting, the Arctic will increasingly become a potential conventional war area.

Therefore NATO would use the Baltic region as an area to make its operations in the North Pole safe, while a remote and irrational invasion of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia is expected.

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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Cyber Warfare in the World

Sajad Abedi

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The concept of information warfare began as a technology oriented tactic to gain information dominance by superior command and control. This soon developed into a realization of the power of information as both a ‘weapon’ as well as a ‘target’. The importance of information rather than its associated vehicle – information technology − created a situation where influence became a critical factor in conflict. As the nature of conflict changed to being an almost ongoing situation, control over mass communication be-came a high priority task for governments as well as the military. As such, the manipulation of information became an essential function.

Information warfare is primarily a construct of a ‘war mindset’. However, the development of information operations from it has meant that the concepts have been transferred from military to civilian affairs. The contemporary involvement between the media, the military, and the media in the contemporary world of the ‘War on Terrorism’ has meant the distinction between war and peace is difficult to make. However, below the application of deception in the military context is described but it must be added that the dividing line is blurred.

Of course, deception has been an attribute of humans throughout history. Its informal use in war also has a history as long as war itself. However, only in the twentieth century with its formal use by governments and the military did the development of its theoretical base begin. The Soviet Union used Maskirovka to great effect during the Cold War and was first to develop it as an integrated part of normal diplomatic and military procedure (Smith, 1998). It also became a formal part of doctrine in Western militaries in that late twentieth century.

The U.S. Joint Doctrine for Information Operations defines deception as:

Those measures designed to mislead the enemy by manipulation, distortion, or falsification of evidence to induce him to react in manner prejudicial to his interests

However, the Joint Doctrine for Military Deception gives a fuller definition:

Military deception is defined as being those actions executed to deliberately mislead adversary decision makers as to friendly military capabilities, intentions, and operations, thereby causing the adversary to take specific actions that will contribute to the accomplishment of the friendly mission.

A later doctrine from the US Air Force (2005) on information warfare (actually, information operations) refers to ‘influence operations’ as one of the four major components of the information environment (network warfare operations, electronic warfare operations and integrated control enablers are the others). The components of influence operations are psychological operations, military deception, operations security, counter-intelligence, public affairs, and counter-propaganda. All of these activities have one aim: to influence the mind and behavior of the adversary in ways beneficial to the perpetrator. As such, all involve deception to a greater or lesser degree. This is in contrast to a decade earlier where the emphasis was on technology and its use. The objective of deception is to be used with the other tactics to gain ‘information superiority’ where this is defined as “the state that is achieved when a competitive advantage is derived from the ability to exploit a superior information position”. It is attempting to get the adversary to believe what the deceiver wants them to believe for the advantage of the deceiver and the disadvantage of the deceived. It is truly using information as a weapon. Information superiority is the raison d’être of information warfare. The theory of deception was also developed outside the formal doctrinal area. For instance, since the mid-1990’s investigators from RAND examined the use of deception and its theoretical basis and produced a model for deception planning.

In 1991, J Bowyer Bell and Barton Whaley published Cheating and Deception as an attempt to theorize about the nature of deception in its broadest sense. They created a classification of deception types. In it, they speculated that there were two basic types of deception: Level 1; that consisted of hiding the real, and Level 2; this showed the false. Of course, Level 2 is always a part of level 1.

These fundamental types are further divided into six categories. Hiding can be broken into: masking (basically means blending in for example, camouflage), repackaging (where something is given a new ‘wrapping’), and dazzling (which consists of confounding the target for example, using codes). Showing can be broken into: mimicking (this means producing replicas, which have one or more characteristics of reality), inventing (which involves creating new realities), and decoying (which involves misdirecting the attacker).

Information warfare is split into offensive and defensive modes. Deception has its place in the offensive mode although counter-deception is regarded in U.S doctrine as defensive. However, the distinction is somewhat artificial and, as will be illustrated below, it can be used in all the elements of information war-fare.

Information warfare (information operations) consists of various functions. These include defensive activities such as: operations security (this denies knowledge of your own operations to the enemy), counter deception (decreases the effect of an enemy’s deception activities), and counter propaganda or counter psychological operations (which attempts to counter the impact of the enemy’s messages). Offensive activities include: military deception (measures designed to mislead the enemy by manipulation, distortion and falsification of evidence), and psychological operations (measures to influence attitudes and behavior of allies and enemies).

Added to these are the closely aligned Public Affairs and Civil Affairs. Public Affairs is concerned with military/government interaction with the media, whilst Civil Affairs is concerned with those actions needed to influence the relations between the military and the civilian population in a military operation. American sources are used in this paper as they are the most published. For instance, the Australian and United Kingdom doctrines for information operations have a classification of ‘Restricted’.

By definition, information warfare has information and its use as a weapon as the core of its activities. As deception is about limiting access to and manipulation of information, it is a fundamental requirement for successful information warfare. This permeates all its levels: tactical, operational and strategic.

Arquilla and Rondfelt (1996) describe nations as being at different stages in the development of a networked society. They proffer four stages: clan/tribal, institutional, market, and organizational networks. Developed nations such as America, Australia, and the United Kingdom would fit into the latter category. As much of the data storage and processing, and communications is achieved by electronic networks in these nations, digital deception would take prime place. In other less developed nations, other methods would take prominence. In developed and developing nations, the combination of mass media and communication networks has provided a rich, if challenging, environment for information warfare and deception. Ironically, this ‘information rich’ environment makes deception both more and less achievable. The ubiquity of communications makes the dissemination of data much easier. Hence, people have access to various views. However, the context with which this information is interpreted is primarily determined by the mass media that is generally owned by small cartel of interests. It is in this paradoxical world that future deceivers will work.

The theory of deception was also developed outside the formal doctrinal area. For instance, since the mid-1990’s investigators from RAND examined the use of deception and its theoretical basis and produced a model for deception planning

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How AlQaeda and ISIS Teach Central Asian Children: Different Methods, Common Goals

Uran Botobekov

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Uzbek children in the Abdullah ibn Abbas Madrasa in Idlib

Some Western countries mistakenly think that the al Qaida-linked Salafi-jihadi groups from Central Asia and Chinese Xinjiang are fragmented, weak and less dynamic; therefore they do not pose a big threat compared to the Islamic state.However, in-depth study of their activities and ideological doctrine shows that the Central Asian al Qaida ally groups today are actively engaged in the ideological education of children and youth, which in the future will become faithful fighters of the global jihad.

The following comparison covers the methods of ideological education of Central Asia’s children and youth, and their use by ISIS and al Qaeda to achieve their goals.

It is known that during the bloody reign of the Caliphate, more than 10 thousand citizens from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and the Uyghurs from northwest China fought on the side of ISIS.Many of them made a Hijrah (the migration of Muslims for Jihad) to Iraq and Syria to “protect the values of true Islam” and brought their families with small children there.Subsequently, some of these children entered the battalion ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’ and became protagonists in the Islamic State’s Propaganda.

According to my statistical research, in 2013-2018, more than 55 video, audio, and text materials were released by the Islamic State’s media wings with the participation of Central Asia’s children in Arabic, Uygur, Uzbek, Russian, Kyrgyz, and Tajik.After the fall of the Caliphate, propaganda videos with the participation of Central Asian children almost ceased.But the ideological “virus” ISIS continues its mutation among the youth of the former Soviet republics.

With the diminishing possibilities of the Islamic state’s media resources, the propaganda and ideological activity of the al Qaida-linked Central Asian Salafi-jihadi groups have recently increased in contrast.As is already known, the Uzbek militants of Katibat al-Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) and Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (KIB), as well as Uyghur jihadists of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP)from the Chinese province of Xinjiang are affiliated with al Qaeda.All three groups regularly publish propaganda videos of children from the Syrian province of Idlib where they are fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.Since 2013, al Qaeda has posted about 30 videos, audio and text materials in which Central Asia’s children made up the main plot.

It should be noted that in Syria and Afghanistan about 200 Uyghur and Uzbek children are now being raised, whose parents are associated with al Qaeda.Many of them came to the Middle East with their parents. However, among them, there are those who were born already in Syria.

Common aspects of the ideological school of al Qaeda and ISIS

Based on a comparative analysis of video, audio and text materials regarding the participation of Central Asian children, it is possible to point out the common and specific aspects of the alQaeda and ISIS ideological schools, and what different methodologies they use in raising children and youth.

The main common characteristic of the curriculum in al Qaeda’s and ISIS’ madrasas is learning the Quran by heart, Tawhid (monotheism), Fiqh (jurisprudence), Salat (prayers), Aqidah (creed), Hadith, and Sura (life of Prophet Muhammad).

The second common feature in the education of Central Asian children in alQaeda and ISIS’ camps is the call to Jihad.The doctrine of Jihad is the main place in the ideology of both Sunni terrorist groups, and accordingly, in the madrasas and training camps, children are brainwashed from early childhood with ideas of holy Jihad.Imams explain to children in detail about all forms of Jihad and the sacred purpose of the Shahid (martyr).As a result, children after training in such religious schools, as a rule, replenish the “reserve fund” of ideologically hardened jihadists.

Uyghur children in al Qaeda’s Madrasa in Syria

The difference between alQaeda and ISIS in the education of children and youth

A sharp ideological confrontation between the two main Sunni groups has escalated into armed conflict, which also affects the education of the younger generation of Islamists.To achieve victory in the struggle for hegemony in the global jihadist movement, the ideologists of al Qaeda use all means, including children’s education in madrasas.

Al Qaeda-sympathized Uzbek and Uyghur imams in madrasas in Syria tell children about the enemies of Islam, which they ranked on a par with the “Kafir regimes” of the USA, Russia and China also the Kharijites (those who defected from the Ummah and rebelled against the Caliph) of the Islamic state and its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

KTJ and TIP opened several madrasas to teach their children in Uzbek and Uyghur languages on the territory of the so-called “Liberated land of Sham”, which is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), former al-Nusra Front.KTJ on the Internet often disseminates information about the activities of two madrasas: the Abdullah ibn Abbas Madrasa and the Umar ibn al-Khattab Madrasa.

Also, the Uyghur Salafists of TIP own several madrasas in in Jisr al-Shugur in northwestern Syria.This was possible thanks to the fact that the Uyghur and Uzbek jihadists live compactly and separately in last major rebel stronghold of Idlib.In accordance with the guiding doctrine of al Qaeda, they have skillfully adapted to local conditions, and have virtually no conflicts with the local Arab population.

As is known, during the ideological confrontation, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri accused ISIS of excessive cruelty towards other Muslims, an unjustified using of Takfir (accusation of apostasy), ignoring the high goals of the Shari’a, which split the Mujahideen ranks.In 2015, the ideologues of al Qaeda even published a special book entitled “The Islamic State is the succession of tyranny and corruption,” in which they raised the problem of excessiveness in Islam (Ghulu fid-deen) and called al-Baghdadi to moderation.Zawahiri brought to mind him the Hadith, in which Prophet said: “Beware of ghulu (excessiveness) in religion, for indeed, what devastated those before you was ghulu in religion.”

ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani replied that the Caliphate did not swear al Qaeda because it was not appropriate for the State to swear organizations. As a result, ISIS began to use mass executions and public beheadings with incredible cruelty.Unlike ISIS, al Qaeda advocated a more gentle approach to convince local Muslims to accept its views and not force them to do.Ayman al-Zawahiri noted that it is impossible to unite Muslims, trying to impose their power on them with the help of violence.

Indeed, during the peak of his reign in 2015–16, ISIS released dozens of videos with the participation of Central Asian children, who not only taught the Quran in the madrasas, but also cut off the heads of prisoners, executed “kafirs”, and blew themselves up as martyrs. Central Asia’s children were integrated into the military machine of the Caliphate as cruel executioners and suicide bombers, becoming an ideological tool in the struggle for leadership in the global jihad.

The ideological differences between the Islamic state and al Qaeda manifested themselves with the example of teaching children in madrasas.The Uyghur and Uzbek jihadists of TIP, KTJ and KIB, in organizing the teaching of children in the madrasas, took into account the recommendations of their spiritual leader Zawahiri to show a sense of practicality, pragmatism and not to demonstrate excessive cruelty.

When analyzing video plots, the “peaceful nature” of the educational process stands out and the excessive cruelty of the students of the madrasa does not appear.For example, in the Abdullah ibn Abbas Madrasa, in addition to studying the Quran, children also study mathematics, Arabic and Uzbek languages, military science and sports.Imam says that the madrasa is fully equipped with books and textbooks, and books on the Uzbek language brought from Central Asia.According to him, the goal of training is to bring up a new generation of educated and highly intelligent warriors of Allah so that in the future they can resist the technological know-how of the West and defeat the enemies of Islam.

Another video shows the educational process in the Umar ibn al-Khattab Madrasa, where the Uzbek children study among local Arab children. For Uzbek children, a bus-service has been organized that to take and pick children up from Madrasa.

On October 29, 2018, TIP published a video entitled “Protectors of the Quran”, where Uighur children demonstrate excellent knowledge of the Quran, social science classes, swimming in the pool, exercise and military training.The Imam tells them about the atrocities of the Chinese authorities against the Uyghur Muslims and sets the task that they must liberate the lands of East Turkestan from the yoke of Beijing in the future.An analysis of these videos shows that in madrasas, the learning process is organized according to the concept of al Qaeda and the upbringing of children is conducted according to its ideology.

The USA is the main enemy for al Qaeda-backed Central Asia’s jihadists

The fall of the Caliphate revealed that Ayman al-Zawahiri had strategically calibrated the priorities of al Qaeda and its affiliated groups from Central Asia, and managed to implement an action plan that allowed them to survive in the struggle for leadership of the global jihad.For him, it is important not the seizure of territories or the creation of his own state with Sharia rule, but the process of jihad against the USA and its allies, and the widespread of al Qaeda ideology in the Islamic world.

Al Qaeda’s tactic is that it tries not to draw enemy’s fire, slyly and prudently leads the game on its own survival, fundamentally creates its own ideological infrastructure and persistently teaches the next generation of jihadists.

The activities of TIP, KTJ and KIB showed that over the past five years the influence of al Qaeda among the Salafis of Central Asia has increased significantly. There is not only the rejuvenation of al Qaeda militants, but also the ideology of global jihadism is rejuvenating.

In his manifest address named General Guidelines for Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined al-Qaida’s priority task of fighting against the far enemy – the United States and its allies.According to him, the local regimes and other Islamic movements (Rawafidh, Ismailis, Qadianis, and deviant Sufis, etc.) are nearby enemies for Al Qaida. He urged not to attack the “nearby enemies”, but instead focus on fighting the “far enemy.”

There is no doubt that TIP, KTJ and KIB will firmly adhere to the strategic line designated by Zawahiri.For them, the main priority remains a blow to the US and its military, diplomatic missions near the conflict zones in the future.But they are not in a position to carry out such an operation now and so far securely hide their true intentions.Therefore, the US should not underestimate the potential threat posed by the al Qaeda-affiliated Central Asian Salafi-jihadi groups

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The relations between Malta and Libya and economic crimes inside Libya

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Since the beginning of hostilities against Gaddafi, operations – carried out mainly by the French intelligence services -started from Malta to send weapons, intelligence, instructors and trainers to the “rebel” forces in Cyrenaica who were fighting the Rais.

The French military reached the coast of Benghazi with two nuclear submarines and the Brigade Action of the intelligence services, while the links had already been established abroad, and sometimes just outside Rome – even with the help of the United States.

I also watched the first internal documentaries of the anti-Gaddafi rebel forces, trained with materials and means which were usually available to the best hit squads of the Western intelligence services.

It was hard to believe how the Libyan “rebels” were so able to use very refined weapons.

The French agents also used “covert” flights to monitor the arrival and distribution of weapons, especially to avoid they could end up in the hands of the wrong people. Since the first attacks in Tripoli, the French agents had also provided to their “rebels” as many as 9.1 billion US dollars of weapons and had later continued to supply other weapons to their local champions, for large sums of money and always using Malta as a base.

The preferred channel of the French agents was General Abdul Fatah Younis Al Obeidi, who had been the Head of the Libyan National Liberation Army, a force of Cyrenaica made up of approximately 13,000 soldiers originated from a tribal rebellion within Gaddafi’s army.

Yunis Al-Obeidi, however, had been murdered on July 28, 2011 near Benghazi.

As reported at the time, he had probably been killed by jihadists, who had already penetrated the pro-Western “rebel” armies – a 1968-style stupid terminology that immediately reveals what the operational and intelligence culture of Western politicians is.

Nevertheless, according to Wikileaks data, the United States also knew that Yunis was a very secret contact with Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, while it was very likely that the 9 billion US dollars for the French weapons sold to Malta came from Gaddafi’s frozen accounts in Belgian banks – accounts not yet fully investigated.

On the one hand, France was afraid that – after the fall of Gaddafi’s regime, the various Libyan “revolutionaries” could carry out a series of terrorist actions directly in France, but hence why promoting the anti-Gaddafi insurgency? We will never know.As Ennio Flaiano used to say, also stupidity has its mysteries and unfathomable depths.

On the other hand, France heavily controlled the migrant networks, already active at the time, and finally selected their forces of reference mainly to avoid the US hegemony in the fight against Gaddafi.

Nevertheless, everything started from Malta, which always acted as a support base and a remote intelligence and economic control area.

In fact, since its establishment, the Government of National Accord (GNA) secretly granted to France 35% of Libyan oil to thank it for its support in the “liberation” struggle. A 35% which added to the already used 15% of oil processed regularly by Total, much more linked to the French intelligence services than ENI is to the Italian ones.

France officially supports the National Transitional Council of Libya (NTC) (as well as Khalifa Haftarin Cyrenaica) and, in fact, believes that the issue of migrants – which financially also takes place in Malta – shall be central to Libya’s future economy: in fact, France believes that the issue must be solved only on the spot, namely in Libya.

This means that the refugees present on the Libyan territory, who possibly passed through the areas controlled by the French Armed Forces to Agadez and elsewhere between Chad, Niger and Mali, can be divided as it still happens today: since 2011 as many as 696,000 migrants have fled to neighbouring countries, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Niger, Chad, Algeria and Sudan, while other 30,000 ones have left, by sea, to Italy or to Malta.

The migration issue that is solved on its own and to Italy’s detriment – this is the French strategic idea.

Many other migrants have reached Italy through other ways, often certainly not unknown to many of its traditional allies in Europe.

Great Britain, the other actor of the anti-Gaddafi conflict besides France, carried out a set of military actions between Zilla and Southern Libya – starting from Malta and with a series of forward bases along the coast – to collect and expatriate mainly non-British oil workers – the imaginary core of some hit squads active in the anti-Gaddafi “revolution”.

Coincidentally, the airlift – useful for 150 foreign operators in the Libyan desert – was always based in Malta.

The Libyan oil smuggling from the coast of Tripolitania and Sirte to many small ports in Malta continues – a trafficking that, under the cover of the Sicilian Mafia and of some Maltese politicians and members of Parliament, has permitted annual earnings of over 82 million euros.

This was exactly what the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had been dealing with before being killed in a car bomb attack – a technique well known to the Sicilian Mafia clans.

The oil is supposed to come from the port of Zuwara, mainly with the support of Ben Khalifa’s Libyan militia, but the oil hidden in vessels suitable for fishing and later sent off Malta’s coast – with ship-to-ship transfers – arrives at the ports controlled by the same Maltese company and is distributed throughout Europe in a traditional way.

The Maltese fishermen of Marsaxlokk have often noted how the ship-to-ship exchange of oil cargoes has never been stopped by the Maltese maritime police authorities, while the (fake) certificates held by the oil traffickers refer to products originating from “Saudi Arabia”.

Moreover, the Italian law enforcement agencies have well-grounded reasons to believe that the fake certificates have been regularized by a Maltese notary public and also signed by a Director of the Maltese Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

All this in favour of well-known Mafia families and clans from Catania.

According to local insurance experts, oil smuggling costs Libya at least 750 million US dollars a year, which is equivalent to the commercial tampering of 35-40% of the Libyan oil extracted every year.

Another issue to be analyzed in depth at the next conference on Libya.

Furthermore, the Italian and non-Italian investigators report that the Maltese smugglers, jointly with many Libyan ringleaders, always devise new traffic routes and new methods to conceal their trafficking, with a route that currently prefers the small ports in Southern Spain so as to later head for Cyprus.

Initially, until 2011 hashish left mainly from the Moroccan coast, with small ships (as is currently the case for migrant trafficking) and arrived directly on the Southern or Eastern-Southern coasts of Spain.

After the famous “revolution” against Gaddafi, currently all hashish leaves from Tobruk, where the big stacks of hashish for smoking are stored and protected by local militiamen.

Then the Sicilian Mafia clans distribute these loads in Italy and in the rest of Europe.

Nowadays, however, there is still something new: while, in the past,drugs were brought to Europe by large ships, often owned by Syria, now the small loads of drugs are transferred from the Libyan to the European coasts by Italian or Maltese fishing vessels, which later leave their royalties in the Maltese banks.

The mechanism is always the same: on the high seas, hashish is transferred from smaller to larger ships.

The same holds true for the illegal trafficking of cigarettes- an old Mafia business which, however, is always a source of excellent profits.

In this case, the third port used by smugglers is still the port of Bar in Montenegro.

It was the area where Slobodan Milosevic was hidden, while everyone was looking for him elsewhere, although NATO knew where he was.

In the past, smuggling – somehow permitted by Gaddafi for his most trusted friends – was mainly related to lawful goods, but rare on the Libyan market, while – after 2011 – smuggling has been no longer focused only on goods not available on the Libyan market, but rather on clearly illegal goods (weapons, drugs) and migrants.

The Libyan economy, however, is still a war economy, where the predatory and violent actions prevail over all the others.

Nevertheless, it is above all the smuggling of migrants that is still essential for Libya’s internal economy, regardless of the area considered.

In fact, in 2017 the Libyan factions obtained almost one billion US dollars from migrant trafficking, while in the current year they have already gained 985,000 dollars of net income, by using other routes and other methods.

According to the Libyan offices, 30% of the oil used for transport is traded illegally, with as many as 105 phantom distributors, while the oil for other types of consumption is traded illegally via Darfur or South Sudan to the sub-Saharan rich marketnot covered by large distributors.

Diesel is usually stolen at sea and later sold to Italian and other European distributors by people in contact with the Libyan gangs.

Every year 18% of the proceeds from Libyan oil is hence left in the hands of smugglers.

With specific reference to drugs, after 2011 Libya has become a point of transit, but also of consumption (as is currently the case with Afghanistan), particularly for heroin and cocaine, while there are signs that the internal market for methamphetamines is spreading, which are widely traded also towards Italy and the Spanish ports.

Moreover, the executives of the Central Bank of Libya in the Tobruk Parliament have accused as many as 24 foreign companies and 44 Libyan companies of being involved in currency trafficking from the areas for cash collection in Libya to the Maltese banks and, sometimes, to Cypriot and Spanish banks.

Hence this is the link between the EU illegal economies and the criminal economies of Libya, divided into factions fighting one another at military, but above all at economic levels, while the State disappears or is divided into two parts.

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