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Is ISIS Moving its Capital from Raqqa to Mayadin in Deir ez-Zor?

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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Authors: Asaad H. Almohammad, Ph.D. & Anne Speckhard, Ph.D.

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]here is a recurring scene of cheerful crowds in Iraqi towns and city that have been liberated from ISIS; older women, men, and young adults exhaling cigarette smoke and grinning as they relish in this recent regained symbol of liberty and freedom. There was a moment circulated on social media of an older woman cursing ISIS on camera after her town was liberated by Kurdish-led forces. She didn’t hold back! One grievance that she ranted about more than any was ISIS’ ban of cigarettes and smoking.

On the evening of March 30, 2017 we communicated with some of our contacts in Raqqa. A number of trusted sources reported something extraordinary was taking place in the city: more and more people were smoking in public. If it were an act of defiance, it would have come at a steep price—at least 16 lashes, a prison sentence, and a fine. Smoking was not only about defiance; it was also about sating their long-repressed cravings for nicotine in the absence of an enemy that forbids it. Our sources confirmed that ISIS cadres are rarely seen in the city. It was also reported that ISIS had shut down all of its directorates there. It seemed that civilians were beginning to experience some sense of normalcy with the absence of ISIS operatives at every corner.

Since the battel to retake Tabqa dam started in March 2017, ISIS has reacted in unexpected ways. One of these reactions could be sensed by their minimal presence in the city of Raqqa, Syria. However, this limited presence resembles a similar trend that occurred in 2014. Then, ISIS was on the retreat, or at least it appeared to be, when al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-sham, and affiliates of the Syrian army were battling it to retake Raqqa. Notwithstanding their efforts, the aforementioned groups lost that battle against ISIS. ISIS fighters carried out significant attacks from the outskirts of Raqqa city, weakening their rivals, and ultimately defeating them. After that battle, ISIS grew stronger with a greater presence in Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor, Syria. Currently ISIS does appear to be on the retreat in Raqqa governorate. Multiple sources have confirmed that they rarely see any ISIS operatives in Raqqa, including both foreign and local ISIS members. One source reported hearing ISIS members who were fleeing the city asking civilians to “Forgive us.” Other sources confirmed that injured ISIS members who were involving in the fighting in Rif Dimashq governorate were only in the city to receive medical treatment.

However, one might argue that ISIS is using the same strategy that previously gave its adversaries the illusion of winning, while actually out manuevering them. It would be shocking for one of the most ruthless non-state actors to flee its declared capital without a fight. In two separate investigations, one on the significance of the Tabqa Dam[1] and the other on ISIS security forces (forthcoming), evidence points to some degree of readiness and preparation to relocate its stronghold in Syria from Raqqa to the city of Mayadin in Deir ez-Zor.

Financial Operations

Trusted sources from the city of Raqqa reported that between the second half of February and first half of March 2017, ISIS security forces pressured the directorates of public services, electricity, communication (landline and satellite internet), agriculture, water, and finance to expedite the collection of all outstanding bills, fines, and taxes, according to one source within one month’s time. It was reported that other directorates that functioned within this same controlled territory experienced the same pressure. However, unlike the directorates mentioned earlier, we were not able to directly confirm that this same pressure was applied to the other Raqqa directorates. For the specified directorates, other trusted sources confirmed the reports and added that ISIS security forces assigned a financial inspector to oversee the implementation of this order. Additionally, the inspector was reported to lead a team of members from ISIS security forces. This team was tasked with listing the details of those involved in the collection of outstanding taxes and fines with each directorate. Members of the team made sure that all collected money was reported and that each directorate didn’t exceed a month to fully implement the order.

The inspector and his team were reported to meet at the Wali’s (ISIS governor’s) office every day after 5 p.m. to report to the leadership of ISIS security forces and the Wali of Raqqa. In addition, the team and inspector assisted another group formed by ISIS security forces to transport the collected money. On an almost weekly basis, the group provided security to move money collected by the directorates within Raqqa city to the city of Mayadin in Deir ez-Zor. On one occasion ISIS security forces managed to move just over USD $20 million. One source described the operation, that ISIS security forces carried out an operation to move such large amounts of money. The source added that ISIS used three taxies, two medium agricultural trucks, and three pick-up trucks to move the money. The pick-up trucks provided security and were full of ISIS fighters. The agricultural trucks had civilians and their belongings along with two armed ISIS fighters in each truck. The taxis transported the cash and had women and children in them.

The timing, pressure, and detailed workforce involved in implementing the financial collections order within Raqqa city indicate some degree of urgency. It is unclear why ISIS made such a move. Raqqa city is not only an ISIS stronghold in militant terms but also functions as the center of its financial operations. Its grip on the financial aspects of the provision of public services, oil and gas, real estate, and dealing in stolen goods (e.g., vehicles) has allowed the group to finance its operations within Syria, Iraq, and abroad.

To that effect, ISIS might be moving its cash reserves to reduce the losses it might endure if the American forces and their Syrian allies manage to succeed in their operations within Raqqa city. Another justification could be the increasing pressure of forces around Raqqa governorate. In this sense, ISIS might be planning to relocate its financial center to the city of Mayadin in Deir ez-Zor. In either case, ISIS loses much of it’s maneuvering power if its financial reserves and operations are eliminated. To execute this, American forces and their Syrian allies may need to consider simultaneous attacks, not only in Raqqa but also in ISIS controlled territories in Deir ez-Zor.

Key Figures and Their Families

Details from trusted sources showed that during the second half of August 2016, key ISIS players and their families were moved from the city of Jarabulus in Aleppo to the city of Tabqa in Raqqa governorate. In Tabqa, units from ISIS security forces hosted the members and their families for a day and then suggested moving them to Raqqa city. ISIS’ decision to get the families out of Tabqa was due to a number of mysterious assassinations of the major ISIS players in the city. On the first day of the families’ arrival in Raqqa city, ISIS security forces provided them protection and escorted them to the city of Mayadin in Deir ez-Zor. Moreover within the same month, ISIS security forces removed additional major players and their families from Raqqa city. It seemed that the additional ISIS members who were relocated from Raqqa had prior knowledge of such an order. Those members were reported to have sold their belongings (personal cars and real estate) for extremely low prices. In addition, ISIS restricted the movement of unauthorized operatives from the southern outskirts of Raqqa city. Civilians who did not reside in that area were totally banned from any entry into the southern outskirts of Raqqa city. Furthermore, it was reported that ISIS kept only trusted residents and moved the ones who were not deemed to be as such to Raqqa city.

Sources reported that during late September 2016 ISIS moved leading foreign members (not Syrians or Iraqis) to the eastern outskirts of Raqqa city. Many of those members were staying at Al-Thakanah, Raqqa city. During October 2016 over 500 fighters and their family members were resettled in Al-Thakanah. The order for that resettlement came from the leadership of ISIS security forces. All of the resettled fighters came from Mosul, Iraq. As of mid-November 2016, leading Iraqi ISIS members who had fled Mosul were settled in the southern outskirts of Raqqa city.

Recently obtained information indicates that a large number of leading foreign and local (Syrians and Iraqis) members of ISIS and their families were moved to the city of Mayadin and towns in close vicinity of it. Moreover, the movement of key ISIS members and their families were restricted to Mayadin. Those members needed to obtain permission and protection prior to any movement outside the city and towns within close vicinity.

To that effect, the city of Mayadin is clearly viewed by ISIS as safe haven. Information obtained from trusted sources has shown a trend of ISIS moving highly valued members to the city of Mayadin. The data indicates that the trend started during the second half of 2016. This makes the city of Mayadin of great significance in the fight against ISIS. If high numbers of key ISIS members are indeed operating from this place, it might be worthwhile to consider taking the fight to that city. However, the American forces and their Syrian allies are at a disadvantage there. Deir ez-Zor presents a mixed cocktail of extreme violent jihadists and Syrian regime forces, backed by the Russians and Hezbollah. It is important to note that controlling the city of Mayadin and towns in its immediate vicinity gives ISIS a financial advantage. That is to say, through the oil and gas fields in that area, ISIS may be able to generate more revenue—including selling commodities to the Syrians—to fund its ongoing operations.[2]

Conclusion

Information obtained from trusted sources presents concrete evidence of the value of Mayadin city in the fight against ISIS. Recent accounts indicate ISIS financial reserves have been moved to that city. In addition, leading foreign and local ISIS members have made the city their safe haven. As mentioned earlier, such operations might be in place to reduce the potential losses in the event that American forces and their Syrians allies take the fight to ISIS’ stronghold and self-declared capital. It might also be a ploy to draw the American forces and their Syrians allies to the city of Raqqa only to carry out a major assault against them. The American forces and their Syrian allies might try to reduce civilian causalities, slowing down their reaction time in hitting potential civilian targets. ISIS has proved that the loss of human lives is inevitable in their fight and civilian lives are expendable for them. In fact, statements from their social media operatives suggest that they might be preparing the local population in the city of Raqqa for such a loss. ISIS social media operatives presented on Telegram a hadith, a saying from Mohammad, the Islamic Prophet that suggests that out of a hundred, only one righteous believer will survive to carry out Jihad. [3] Below are some comments on it.

Moreover, the Russians, through their forces and influence on the Syrian regime, have an advantage in taking the fight to the city of Mayadin. The current American administration has been preaching about the invaluable significance of American-Russian cooperation in the fight against ISIS. The Whitehouse, insofar, has given the Russians the benefit of the doubt on many domestic and foreign issues on the premise that this unusual trust will prevail in such a moment.

In this report we argue taking the fight to ISIS’ safe haven in the city of Mayadin could result in massive financial and insurgent losses on the part of ISIS. It might very well be a key operation that leads to the decline of ISIS in Syria. More fundamentally, if the United States cannot and or will not get the Russians’ support in taking the fight to ISIS’ safe haven then why is such cooperation needed? If not to eliminate ISIS operations in the city of Mayadin, then where and when will this cooperation come into play?

The sign of ISIS’ defeat in Syria might be people triumphantly cheering—and defiantly and jubilantly smoking cigarettes in the city of Mayadin. ISIS’ defeat might first be sensed in Mayadin barbershops where men are getting their previously imposed beards shaved. It might be also seen as the city dumps become littered with burqas. However, foremost it will be sealed by an older woman recounting the horrors of ISIS as she inhales the smoke from her long-awaited cigarette.


(*) Asaad H. Almohammad, Ph.D. is a Syrian research fellow and novelist. He completed his doctorate in Political Psychology and Marketing. His academic work addressed how psycho-political factors alter implicit and explicit emotional responses and to what levels these responses are predictive of political behavior. He has also spent several years coordinating and working on projects across ISIS-held territories. To date, drawing upon a strong network of sources on the ground in Syria, he has addressed a number of financial, operational, and militant activities of the terrorist organization. He is also interested in political branding, campaigns and propaganda, post-conflict reconciliation, and deradicalization. In his spare time Asaad closely follows political affairs, especially humanitarian crises and electoral campaigns. He is especially interested in immigration issues.

Reference for this article: Asaad H. Almohammad & Speckhard, Anne (April 3, 2017) Is ISIS Moving it’s Capital from Raqqa to Mayadin in Deir ez-Zor?ICSVE Brief Reports

[1] Asaad Almohammad and Anne Speckhard, “Why Taking the Tabqa Dam is Important in the Fight against ISIS and Retaking of Raqqa,” International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, Washington, DC, 2017. Retrieved from http://www.icsve.org/brief-reports/why-taking-the-tabqa-dam-is-important-in-the-fight-against-isis-and-retaking-of-raqqa/

[2] Speckhard, A. (April 27, 2016). ISIS revenues include sales of oil to the al-Assad regime. ICSVE Brief Reports. Retrieved from http://www.icsve.org/brief-reports/isiss-revenues-include-sales-of-oil-to-the-al-assad-regime/

[3] “Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The Last Hour would not come before the Euphrates uncovers a mountain of gold, for which people would fight. Ninety-nine out of each one hundred would die but every man amongst them would say that perhaps he would be the one who would be saved (and thus possess this gold). (Book #041, Hadith #6918)”

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine and Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). She has interviewed over 500 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, the West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union and many countries in Europe. She is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Follow @AnneSpeckhard

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A Resurging Possibility and an Increased Hope for a United Balochistan

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According to the Balochistan Liberation charter formulated under Hyrbyair Marri, the division of Balochistan into several parts is a legacy of the British Empire. The ultimate aim of the Baloch Liberation Struggle is to reunify the divided territories of Balochistan into one country and to grant full sovereignty to a single national Baloch state. Balochistan has for long been cheated out of its sovereignty and faced discrimination within Pakistan. Insurgencies against the Pakistani government started after Pakistan annexed the Baloch state of Kalat in 1948. This state is now divided between Iran and Pakistan. Along with continuous suppression of the Baloch in Iran by the government, Pakistan has been accused of committing genocide in the Balochistan region by Baloch Leaders such as Naela Qadri Baloch, a politician who fled Pakistan and in 2016 even asked India to intervene and free Balochistan.

Many, however, call the movement dead or dying and lack of media coverage in the region has shown a lack of detailing of the current Balochistan movement. This movement has not died down in actuality and there seems to be a spike in the number of attacks carried out around the region by its proponents, most of the recent ones centered around Quetta. A majority of these attacks have been aimed at either the military, paramilitary or police forces. Claims have appeared for most of the major attacks especially by the Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar, a coalition of the Balochistan Liberation Front, the Balochistan Liberation Army and the Balochistan revolutionary guards which have been designated as terror groups by the Pakistani Government. However, there have been no claims against the recent attacks in Quetta which are seemingly random in nature. The attacks may lack in intensity but definitely not in frequency.

This Liberation movement for Balochistan does not only occur in Pakistan but in the Iranian provinces of Sistani and Baluchestan as well. However, there are two different, distinct groups on either side. The Baloch on the Pakistan side find support in the BLA and BRAS and the Iranian side finds its support in Jaish Al-Adl. Their attacks are mostly in retaliation to the Suppression on either side. The Jaish Al-Adl was formed in 2012 by Salahuddin Farooqui and has carried out attacks in the Southeastern province of Iran in retaliation to the oppression of Sunni Muslims. According to reports the BRAS and the Jaish Al-Adl have their differences mostly in regards to Jaish Al-Adl’s religious motivations. The aims of both the groups concerning each other are unclear as there have been skirmishes on the border between them. An alliance between the two seems unlikely as the BLA are beneficiaries of Iran’s ignorance of the group, whereas the Jaish Al-Adl are active fighters against Iran.

On September 9th 2019, banners appeared in front of the venue for the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, highlighting the acute violation of human rights in Balochistan. There have been massive efforts to internationalize this movement in the past as well, but it has always been impeded by the lack of autonomy the people possess. Suppression and extensive military operations have been carried out against the “insurgents” by the Pakistani army in Balochistan, which has been justified on the same basis. However, as mentioned previously, after 30 years of suppression the Baloch still fight on which is apparent in the spike of their continuous efforts against the suppression. These attacks are highlighted in the table below.

Date Death count and attack Attack details Location Perpetrator Reason
30/8/2018 3 Chinese engineers injured Suicide attack by son of Baloch leader Dalbandin, Pakistan BLA  
16/10/2018 12 Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Kidnapped from border outpost Mirjaveh, Iran Jaish Al-Adl In response to previous attack on 4 Sunni militants by IRGC
23/11/2018 4 people (Indian police and civilians) Hour long shoot out at the Chinese consulate Chinese Consulate, Karachi, Pakistan BLA Against Chinese occupation and CPEC
6/12/2018 5 dead + 44 wounded Suicide car bomb Chabahar, Iran Jaish Al-Adl  
14/12/2018 6 Pakistani Soldiers + 14 wounded (Frontier Corps)   Kech District, Pakistan BLA, BRAS  
29/1/2019 3 police wounded Double bombing  Zahedan, Iran Jaish Al-Adl  
29/1/2019 9 Killed (5 police+ 4 civilians), 21 injured Bombing plus firing Office of deputy Inspector General, Loralai, Pakistan Terrorists?  
2/2/2019 1 IRGC killed and 5 wounded   Basij Base, Nik Shahr, Iran Jaish Al-Adl  
13/2/2019 27 Iranian border guards killed Suicide vehicle attacks Bus Between Zahedan and Khash, Iran Jaish Al-Adl  
16/2/2019 2 Frontier corps Killed   Loralai, Pakistan Unknown  
18/2/2019 4 Frontier corps Killed   Panjgur district, Pakistan BLA  
29/3/2019 Several Chinese engineers and workers killed 22 vehicle envoy attacked by remote controlled bomb Hamdard University, Karachi BLA Seeking termination of CPEC- Coincides with Pakistani Prime ministers visit to Gwadar
18/4/2019 14 (10 navy, 3 air force, 1 coastguard) 15 attackers stop bus Makran coastal highway, between Karachi and Gwadar, Pakistan BRAS  
12/5/2019 5 killed (4 hotel workers and naval officer) Bomb on 5-star hotel Gwadar, Pakistan BLA Retaliation to Chinese projects in Balochistan
20/7/2019 1 policeman killed, 10 injured   Double road, Quetta, Pakistan Unknown  
30/7/2019 5 killed, 32 injured Bomb near Police station Quetta,Pakistan Taliban  
26/9/2019 3 policemen wounded   Bypass, Quetta Unknown  
29/9/2019 3 killed and almost a dozen injured Bomb Chaman, Pakistan Unknown  
16/10/2019 1 police killed, 5 injured   Bypass, Quetta Unknown  
21/10/2019 3 killed, 9 wounded   Spinny road, Quetta Unknown  
30/10/2019 1 policeman killed Suicide bomber on Motorbike Loralai, Balochistan Unknown  
(Source: Multiple news agencies based in Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi and US)     16/11/2019 3 paramilitary troops killed Roadside Bomb Kalach, Quetta Unknown  

Source: Multiple news agencies based in Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi and US

The general increase in the attacks in the Balochistan region is pretty clear through the data on the aforementioned table. The attacks in Quetta consist of multiple unknown attacks where no groups claimed responsibility. The responsibility of such attacks is generally claimed within one week of the attack but the perpetrators of these attacks are yet to come to the forefront. Seeing that Quetta is the prime factor in Balochistan, being termed as its capital, these attacks must be motivated by the BLA and the BRAS, if not directly carried out by them.

2019 has also seen attacks by the Balochistan against Chinese sponsored enterprises which are part of the China Pakistan Economic corridor. Balochistan sentiments angle away from the investments citing it to be more detrimental to the Baloch rather than beneficial. Hyrbyair Marri, the leader of the Free Balochistan Movement, said that the allegiance of Pakistan to CPEC would be another step in turning Balochistan into a Military Garrison for China. The Baloch now don’t only have to deal with the Pakistanis that have destroyed their sovereignty but also the Chinese influx into the country as well.

The fight for international support has also been on the rise where advertisements have been released in certain prominent papers in the US. A particular advertisement placed by the World Baloch Organization and the Baloch Republican Party in July 2019 in the Washington Post sought support from President Donald Trump. This advertisement addressed to the President calls on the US support in addressing Human rights exploitation, economic deprivation and political exclusion in Balochistan. It also called on the US to bring restriction to the use of US-supplied weapons used on the Baloch nationalist group which were meant to help suppress religious extremist groups rather than them. However, the US government has not issued any official statement regarding the same and it doesn’t seem like it will. The US recently branded both the Jaish Al-Adl and the Baloch Liberation Army as terrorist organizations and seem to classify the entire movement as being motivated by these “terrorists”. Even an appeal from Members of the European Parliament regarding the deteriorating situation in Balochistan in a letter in July 2019 has not received a response from the US government.

On the Iranian side, the Jaish Al-Adl seem to be motivated more by the Sunni identity of the Population rather than the Baloch identity. And therefore, apparent cross border conflicts with the group and the BLA have emerged as well with reports of it being caused due to the over-emphasis on the religious identity. Especially with allegations that the Sunni militant group has support from the Pakistan government, it is unlikely to partake in a unified movement. At odds with Pakistani support, the BLA apparently enjoys covert support through the lack of Iranian attention whereas all the Jaish Al-Adl’s attacks are aimed at the Iranian government. These groups are on two opposing ends of the spectrum not only in terms of their allegiances but also on the basis of religion. The Balochistan Liberation movement in Pakistan aims at a secular Balochistan nation which is at complete odds with Jaish Al-Adl’s Sunni leanings.

The spike in attacks indicates the possibility of a mass resurgence of the Balochistan Liberation Movement. Leaders of the multiple movements have become even more active on twitter such as Hyrbyair Marri, Mehran Marri, Naela Quadri Baluch who have also shown support for the Kurdish cause and the Indian stance on Kashmir in defiance of Pakistan. There has also been a resurgence of protests outside the UN and across cities seeking a Free Balochistan. The Balochistan republican Party in London and the Balochistan Voice Association in other major cities including outside the UN in Geneva have actively protested for Balochistan.

Select active leaders of the Baloch Freedom movement

Hyrbyair Marri

Hyrbyair Marri was born to the family of Baloch national leader Nawab Khair Baksh Marri in Quetta, capital of Balochistan. He completed his early education in Quetta and then moved to study journalism in Russia. In 1997, he was elected to the Balochistan Provincial assembly and became the Education minister of the province. In 1999, after his father was arrested and charged with the murder of Balochistan high court judge, Justice Nawaz Marri, he left Pakistan. He traveled to Europe and was granted political asylum in the UK in 2011. He is the leader of the Free Balochistan movement and Pakistan alleges he is the head of the Balochistan Liberation Army. He has accepted the invitation of, Bharatiya Janata Party’s senior leader and president of Delhi Study Group, Mr. Vijay Jolly to travel to India. On the 10th of December 2019, he will address a seminar on ‘Human Rights in Balochistan,’ in New Delhi.

Mehran Marri

Mehran marri is the sixth son of Baloch nationalist leader Khair Bakhsh Marri and is believed to be the current leader of the United Baloch Army (UBA). He is the brother of Hyrbyair Marri. The UBA was classified as a terrorist organization by Pakistan and also Switzerland. Since being banned in 2013 by the Pakistani government, the group has been largely inactive with no resurgent attacks on any news websites. Marri was arrested at Zurich Airport and put under a lifetime ban on entry to Switzerland on the 16th of November 2017. He was later deported from Switzerland and currently resides in the United Kingdom. Mehran Marri is active on Twitter and continues to show support for the Baloch insurgency in Eastern Pakistan.

Brahumdagh Bugti

Brahamdagh Khan Bugti or Brahumdagh Khan Bugti is the founder and leader of a Baloch nationalist political organization, the Baloch Republican Party which broke away from his uncle Talal Akbar Bugti’s Jamhoori Watan Party in 2008. After the assassination of his grandfather Akbar Bugti, a Baloch nationalist politician, he fled his hometown Dera Bugti in Balochistan in 2006. Initially, he lived as a state guest in Afghanistan and was then flown to Switzerland in October 2010 where he has been living in political asylum with his family. In 2018, India was in talks about granting him citizenship. India would have also given citizenship to Brahumdagh’s key lieutenants in Switzerland, including Sher Muhammad Bugti and Azizullah Bugti, his trusted aides. The BRP has held campaigns all over the UK under the banner of End Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan. The month of June saw an increase in campaigns all over London, resulting in newspaper advertisements, billboard signs and joint awareness campaigns with the World Balochistan Organization. These campaigns also included the flying of “Free Balochistan,” Banners during a Pakistan Afghanistan match at Headingley Stadium, London on June 29th this year. On the 27th of August 2019, Brahamdagh Bugti delivered an address during the martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Nawab Akbar Bugti saying, “We do not mourn this day but rather celebrate it, for it reminds us, the Baloch in Balochistan and abroad, how Shaheed Nawab Akbar Bugti founded this movement with his blood.” The Baloch Republican Party held events across Balochistan and overseas in places like London, Switzerland, and Busan in South Korea, and his speech was broadcast in the same. He is also believed to be the head of the Baloch Republican Army by Pakistan.

Khalil Baloch

Khalil Baloch is currently the chairman of the Balochistan National Movement (BNM). This party was one of the strongest in Balochistan during the 1990s. It still retains a stronghold and according to its manifesto will actively form a political coalition outside of Pakistan’s National Assembly. It has pledged its support to the Balochistan freedom fighters under this released manifesto. In an email interview, he stated, “The recent escalation in militant attacks is a direct reaction to Pakistan army’s growing atrocities in Balochistan and China’s relentless plunder of Baloch resources.” This interview was published on the 15th of July 2019, and since then there have been multiple attacks again as can be seen in the table above. He also stated in the same interview that the Baloch National Movement is no longer ready to negotiate autonomy in the Pakistani political system but in fact, will fight for a separate state altogether. Dil Murad Baloch, the cultural secretary of the BNM is also a key proponent against the Pakistani forces and atrocities carried out by them. He posts regularly on Twitter as well, condemning the Pakistani armed forces, recently calling out the kidnapping and continuing torture of BNM member, Rafiq Baloch.

Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch

Allah Nazar Baloch is the founder and the chief of the Balochistan Liberation Front. He was born in Mashkai, Awaran District in 1968 and has a premedical degree. He heads the BLF which was designated as a terror organization since being one of the prime fighting groups seeking Balochistan Liberation. In an interview published on 22nd July 2019, when asked about why democratic means have not been used to resolve grievances with Pakistan he said that there is no democracy in Pakistan and the Baloch are compelled to rebel against the oppression and slavery. In a statement, he said that the Baloch liberation movement was moving towards the right direction and every supporter of the Pakistani state are enemies of the envisioned Baloch nation.

Implications of a Resurgence

This resurgence of activity surrounding the Balochistan Freedom Movement can only signify a shift in the lull it had experienced for a while. Though many may call it dead, a united Balochistan may still be in the making. Details of any resurgent movements in Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan is lacking but it is clear that the movement in Pakistan has begun to regain traction. Coinciding with the increase of attacks in the Balochistan region, active protesting across the world in multiple organizations has emerged. The call for help from India has increased especially since Prime Minister Modi showed support in a speech indirectly instigating Baloch Activists to actively seek help.

Quetta has been termed as the home base of the Balochistan Liberation movement seeing that it is the apparent capital of Balochistan. The increase of attacks in this very city emphasizes the significance of the movement’s resurgence. Perhaps, not all attacks accounted for are carried out by either the BLA or the BRAS but the unrest in the city is apparent, further egged on by the heightened international movements surrounding the Balochistan freedom struggle. The Baloch are spread from Iran to Pakistan and even in southern Afghanistan and an integrated new Baloch nation would lead to an uproar in South Asia. Whether the fight for a unified Balochistan would materialize in success is yet to be seen and if so, how much of the region would actually fall to them is another cause for speculation. A proposed map of Balochistan (image 1.0) shows it to possess a landmass almost equaling that of current day Pakistan. It is very unlikely that any of the countries involved would give up their territory as has been clear in the failures of the previous resurgences in the 1970s and 1980s, but the fight for autonomy and sovereignty still persists. The success of a resurgence in Pakistan would depend greatly on successful movements across the border in Iran. Though the council of Independent Balochistan formed in 2009 under Mir Suleman Dawood the Khan of Kalat did not lay claim to the Baloch dominated region in Afghanistan, who is to predict what new demands may or may not be made.

A new country would not only ruffle a good many feathers of these three neighboring states but also of other countries who have vested interests in the current region, the most prominent of which is China. The China Pakistan economic corridor would be the worst affected which is clear in the Baloch hate for the country and its investment in the region. A unified Balochistan or even a radical resurgent movement would bring a complete halt to all the infrastructural under the CPEC. The total CPEC project was valued at about $62 Billion as of 2017, which has definitely been surpassed as of 2019. The Gwadar International Port along with its international airport and the East-Bay Expressway which fall under this CPEC project, all run through the Balochistan region and have been the site of multiple attacks. Interestingly, unified Balochistan will not only contain this port of Gwadar but also the Chabahar port on the Indian side.

Though this resurgence would be highly detrimental to the CPEC corridor and Chinese investments in the Larger One Belt One Road initiative, it is important to acknowledge an important outcome of the same which is the gains that another particular country would make. India has for long been accused of supporting the Balochistan cause in Pakistan and a resurgent Balochistan movement serves to bolster support for India in laying claim to an extra ally in the region. Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to Balochistan in his speech was meant as anti-Pakistan rhetoric concerning the Kashmir issue or actual support for the movement is yet to be understood. However, it is clear that many vested interests in the region will serve to either bolster the fight or open increased fronts against the Balochistan Freedom Movement. Though the movement seems to be increasing in intensity one can still question the optimism that the Baloch and its supporters can afford to have in seeking their sovereignty.

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Lesson to be Learn from Monsanto’s Involvement in the Vietnamese War: The Agent Orange

Petra Mosetti

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Monsanto is an American multinational company founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, a thirty-year pharmaceutical veteran married to Olga Mendez Monsanto, for which Monsanto Chemical Works is named. In the 1920s Monsanto expanded into industrial chemicals and drugs, becoming the world’s bigger maker of aspirin and acetylsalicylic acid, which was found toxic. During this time period, the company introduced their polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), an oil that wouldn’t burn, resistant to degradation and with limited applications. Eventually, its use was banned after fifty years for causing such devastation, but it is still present in almost all animal and human blood and tissue cells across the globe and is considered one of the most dangerous chemicals on the planet.

The Vietnam War (1961-1975) is most known for the extensive bombings of North Vietnam. More dangerous, however, yet less well-known to the general public, was the chemical war carried out from 1961 to 1971 against South Vietnam. The involvement of the U.S. government escalated over a period of twenty years, peaking in 1968 and ending with a complete withdrawal of troops in 1973. During this period, it engaged with the companies Dow Chemical and Monsanto, which were assigned the task of designing herbicides that would contaminate the jungles where the North Vietnamese forces operated. The project, known as ‘’Rainbow Herbicides’’ included Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent White, and Agent Orange. As a result, a total of 20 million gallons of herbicide have been sprayed across Vietnam for ten years, that is until scientific research studies had proven that the dioxin present in Rainbow Herbicides, caused cancers in laboratory rats.                                                           

American air forces, the navy as well as tanker trucks, and men with backpack sprayers, diffused 72 million liters of the chemical Agent Orange to spoil the coverage of communistic North Vietnam, as well as destroy the rice fields. Their goal was to pursue from the jungle the combatants taking shelter there, to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail by which supplies, weapons, and medication arrived down from the North, to facilitate surveillance of roads, coastlines, and waterways and to destroy the rice fields, depriving the guerrillas of food and aid.

The contained dioxin TCDD in Agent Orange was classified as “super poison” and as a consequence 3 million people got sick, and 150,000 children were born with disabilities. Even today there are still 3,500 children a year who are born disabled according to the aid group Green Cross. Lavallard claims that to the millions of Vietnamese victims, must be added the American veterans and their Canadian, South Korean, New Zealand and Australian allies who used defoliants without knowing they were dangerous. Herbicides were delivered separately, and mixtures were made on the scene before being loaded into tanks, without provision and without protection. Military bases and they’re encircling were regularly sprayed with defoliants to remove the bush growth. Furthermore, soldiers saved rainwater for drinking or washing in empty drums and prepared barbecues in them. Indeed, veterans have experienced same pathologies as the Vietnamese, and their children have also been affected.

An immense environmental disaster and a human catastrophe taking different forms, including health, economic as well as socio-cultural, which had dramatic consequences that are still felt today. For years, a conspiracy of silence has ulterior the toxicity of the defoliants used. Agent Orange was one of them, a chemical containing two herbicides, one of which turned out to be contaminated with a highly toxic strain of dioxin.

According to official and unofficial documents about the history of the dangerous defoliants, the U.S. chemical companies that made the Rainbow Herbicides as well as the government and military authorities who ordered its spraying on Vietnam, knew the human health cost it could take. Indeed, a review of the documents related to the use of Agent Orange, a dioxin-laden herbicide, including public papers from the companies that manufactured it and the government that used it, provides compelling evidence that those in charge also covered information about the devastating effects it could have on people.

Nowadays, Monsanto is a known agricultural company, claiming to help farmers grow food more sustainably. From seed to software, to fiber and fuel, they are developing tools to assist growers in protecting natural resources while providing sustenance to the world. With it headquarter in St. Louis, 69 subsidiaries across the world, including over 20.000 employees, Monsanto believes that in the face of a changing climate and other environmental challenges, it is helping to ensure that the agricultural system continues to suit the needs of everyone.

In regard to legal and non-legal responses, the international community has done a lot to hold the company liable, however without results. In fact, many lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto, and various activists and organizations worldwide had and are still fighting against the atrocities committed. The greatest accomplishment was, therefore, the establishment of the ad hoc International Monsanto Tribunal, which aimed to include the crime of ecocide in the Rome Statute that would allow the prosecution of individuals and legal entities suspected of having committed this crime. Yet, without positive outcomes.

Monsanto, being one of the largest and most powerful companies in the United States, is an ambitious target for non-profit organizations and protests groups. Moreover, their direct cooperation with the government makes it even more difficult to prosecute. As Derricks points out for the last 50 years, the company has gotten away with this crime. However, I believe justice can and must be done with the right resources and support of the international community. Indeed, with the support of different governments worldwide programs such as Agent Orange Education can be set up to share awareness about the wrongdoing.

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Intelligence

Psychological programming and political organization

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Contemporary politics and the ensuing organization of consensus currently employ techniques and methods never used before.

 We are going through an era in which completely new mechanisms operate within the traditional Parliamentary political representation, inherited from the liberal and democratic thought of the eighteenth century and of the following century. These mechanisms are much more powerful than those that – in the modern imitation of the Athenian agora -formed the will of the people and the guidelines and directions of the government.

 Democracy of Ancients and Democracy of Moderns – just to use the simile of Benjamin Constant – were basically similar, but different in their functioning.

 The number of citizens did not constitute a substantial difference, except that, according to Constant, modern democratic citizens delegated to the ruling class what did not fall within their being “private individuals, with private interests”.

Again according to Constant, the reason lay precisely in the new category of “private individuals” who, with a view to maintaining their wealth or work, deemed it right to delegate to someone else their power to make and break laws. Nowadays the private sphere does no longer exist. But not in the sense of the society of “one thousand eyes” and of continuous supervision and surveillance, but because the very category of “private” is over even in the political discourse.

Hence a mass totalitarian society, with a repressive apparatus that applies to everything would previously have been the subject of the strictly personal sphere of life.

 Everything has currently changed, but everything still appears to be similar to the criteria and principles we have studied in the manuals of history of political doctrines. This is not the case.

 Meanwhile, since the beginning of the 20th century, Eduard Bernays, Freud’s nephew and the father and pioneer of public relations, had established some connections between Sigmund Freud’s psychology (and with Gustave Le Bon’s Psychology of the Crowds, Mussolini’s favourite book) and political practice.

 That was the beginning of what we now call “corporate communication”.

 The suffragettes smoked and that was an operation funded by Bernays through the US tobacco producers.

  The exaltation of sex – following the publication of the Kinsey Report and the mass spread of the contraceptive pill-changed and upset the consumption styles and habits of vast masses of young people who, in the 1960s, were to shape the consumption habits of what Galbraith called the “affluent society”.

 That was the objective, not sex.

Hence, based on what discovered by Sigmund Freud, with a view to selling or prompting and inducing political behaviours, there was the need to “work” above all on the unconscious.

Currently, whatever is implanted from outside into the unconscious – if repeated constantly – always becomes real in the future.

 The real for itself always becomes in itself, because what individuals think -in crowds, but solitarily (Riesman’s “lonely crowd”) -becomes either consumption or political behaviour, which is basically the same.

 The subconscious has a huge power, i.e. controlling all subjective experiences. It is the autopilot of life, also from a practical viewpoint.

Nowadays no one speaks to the “reason”, the myth of the eighteenth century, but to instincts, to the subconscious, even to the unconscious.

The whole mechanism of the subconscious is already well in place and ready at 7-8 years of age and continues all lifelong.

With a view to reprogramming it, we need at first to limit the external and environmental negativities.

Indeed, we need to look for fully “positive” people, things and environments, as well as information.

 Needless to say, this rule is carefully followed by all political propagandists and, above all, by advertisers.

Currently politics always follows the rules of consumer goods advertising. The leader is a testimonial. The script is the program and the government an oligopoly.

 With a view to de-programming the “negative” mind, we need instead to visualize – as in a daydream – positive situations which we have already experienced.

We also need to reprocess the feelings of joy, which reach the subconscious immediately, well before the other ones.

 The subconscious mind always and only knows the present.

 Past and future are conceptual notions and processing – hence they are conscious. The subconscious interprets the negative of a negative proposition only as negative.

Creating positive propositions that counteract the negative ones processed and produced by the subconscious and then continuously repeat these actions. This is the basic technique.

 This is, in short, the subjective mechanism that is currently used in political and commercial communication.

What are, however, the current technologies used to program and reprogram people’s minds?

 We can mention the theory of social warfare, the virtual but all-out clashtaking place in the minds of citizens of a target country, using current technologies.

 The aim of any reprogramming campaign is, in fact, to make the enemy (the enemy people, indeed) think like us.

 It is a new kind of manipulation, much wider than the one carried out with the old disinformation or with the intelligence intoxication that was the non-violent part of the Cold War.

 The most used information technologies are now Precision Targeting – which sends messages and behavioural inductions to a specific group – as well as the wide range of Artificial Intelligence mechanisms that are used to simulate online the behaviour and thought in relation to the primary information we wants to convey. There is also the algorithmic decision-making, which processes information through specific algorithms in view of formulating recommendations or taking fully automated decisions.

 This holds true both for decision-makers and for the vast mass of users, citizens and voters of the aforementioned decision-makers.

We can also mention the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, which create partially or completely artificial environments for both the programmers of the public opinion and the public itself.

  But also the Internet of Things (IoT) is used in this field, by correlating machines and sensors for the construction of a Complete Reality, which becomes facts and data to be spread as such.

 In this context of complete manipulation of information, which becomes the Complete Reality, also voice interfaces are useful. They allow to exchange information between the Source and the User or between Users, thus allowing the psychological reinforcement of news.

 Again in the field of information manipulation, blockchains are also important. They allow to control and process information only through the users enabled to use the “chain”.

We should also recall the computerized programs that generate completely false videos and images – fakes which, however, are absolutely plausible.

Precision Targeting is used above all to reprogram groups of pre-selected individuals, who provide the Web with a continuous flow of information, from mobile phones, from the Web and from the other channels, to those who can selectively access the Web. All this is currently used, above all, through social media.

 In this case, we have already reached the phase of neuromarketing, which changes the desires and habits of specific population groups, by combining the mental effects with the emotional ones.

 As if it were a sign which, according to De Saussure, is the indestructible connection between signified and signifier. But the product of neuromarketing is not at all a language sign.

In this case, the above mentioned technology could be used for indirect facial recognition, manoeuvred by Artificial Intelligence systems.

 Facial recognition will enable those who manoeuvre -also temporarily – the Web to quickly check the emotions of millions of people, and we all know how important emotions are now to tamper with the psyche and communicate concepts that often have very little relevance at conceptual and even at emotional or mental levels.

 By 2035 these technologies are expected to be spreading like wildfire, since they are very important both for commercial operations and for political marketing.

 Artificial Intelligence is the primary axis of development of all the other technologies we are talking about.  AI will be used above all in verbal and textual recognition, as well as in the collection and analysis of very broad spectrum data, and for the processing of raw initial data, again in a very large population.

AI, however, will above all be used for defining an automated decision-making that can support the human decision-makers when they do not know, remember or understand all facts and, above all, the underlying determinants of facts.

 We will get to imitate, without realizing it, Elsa Morante’s book “The World Saved by Kids” and certainly what is happening in global communication already guarantees this future to us. They are more manipulable. They have no memory and they are perfect for the Brave New World that stands before us.

We can easily imagine what all this means for advertising, for the selection of markets, for business decisions but, above all, for the development of political platforms, both in terms of the electoral process and for the more specific decision-making process.

 The next level will be content, which will often be produced directly by AI systems.

 But let us better analyse what algorithmic decision-making is.

 It is often currently applied in medicine.

 Disease analysis, therapy forecasting, statistical analysis of diseases and their effects, both at subjective and population levels. In the near future, however, other sectors will be ever more like the banking system. Human Resources, even political decision itself, will be the subject of these applications, which will often become so complex as not to be understood – in the future – by the computers using them.

 If you collect a lot of data, it is increasingly likely that a sequence of decisions or simple new data is not recognized by the program operating in the computer.

 Also for AI networks we will have a process of learning by doing.

 There are two dangers. Firstly, that the private ownership of the most important databases makes competition between systems impossible; secondly that the algorithms are hackable or manipulable by third parties unknown to the system.

 There are also Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

If we proceed with the increasingly analytical and obsessive adaptation of the devices to the Ego of the User, or to his/her tastes- considered, for some reason,  immutable – we risk an ideological drift of new technologies, i.e. that of hyper-subjectivism and, as happens in current educational practice, that of the permanence of the mass Ego in an eternal childhood.

 The “Minor Ego” advocated by some people is a very real risk and it is not even clear how a super-massified production can be adapted to the increasingly self-referential psychologies of the Consumer Ego.

 Not to mention the natural limit – currently often evanescent – that the Augmented Reality keeps between the imaginary and reality – a limit that, in the propaganda and political implementation of the Virtual Reality, could become very dangerous to cross.

 Immanuel Kant spoke of the 100 gold Thalers that can be in your pocket or just in your imagination, but that cannot certainly be mistaken one for the other.

Hence beyond any technological processing, Reality is never the Imaginary.

 Although the imaginary can induce behaviours very similar to those that the subject would have if subjected to reality, the one that – as Voltaire said – has “hard head”.

By Internet of Things (IoT) we generally mean an environment full of machines that interact with one another through the Web.

As can be easily guessed, the IoT information potential is huge.

 Human consumption habits, but also communication, ways of life, lifestyles, exchanges between subjects, positions and information exchanged between individuals will be part of huge databases.

Probably, in the future, it will be difficult to find exactly what is needed in those databases, considering that the bias of the IT and data storage systems tends to increase with the quantity and complexity of data.

 It is estimated that, by 2030, there will be over one and a half trillion sensors connected to IoT networks, which will be worth half of the entire Internet traffic of “simple” users.

 According to Deloitte, the entire IoT market is expected to be worth a trillion, in addition to further 750 billion for IoT network connection modules.

 It can be easily imagined to what extent this makes it possible to hack data not only from IoT networks, but also from all other networks connected to the Internet and ending up in an IoT structure.

By 2030 blockchains will be the basis of financial, control, check and analysis networks.

 It will be the beginning of virtual monetization, which is, in itself, the opening of the financial gates of Hell.

 The miserable level of the current economic thinking allows it.

Nevertheless, all this technological development – between imagination and reality – will lead us towards a society of the unverifiable and probable, with no possibility of responding to a   government financial or information fake and with an increasing penetrability of information networks, to which the whole social fabric and not only its control will be delegated.

However, the society of the imaginary 100 Thalers – believing that the imagined ones are already in the pocket – will not be able to pay anything.

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