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ISIS psychological war

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he attack perpetrated in Manchester on May 23 last is a turning point for the Daesh-Isis war in Europe and, in the future, in the rest of the Mediterranean. We must focus our attention on two factors, in particular: firstly, the attack on the Manchester Arena is the first terrorist attack in Europe perpetrated by a Libyan jihadist, although born in Great Britain in 1994 from parents opposed to Gaddafi’s regime.

The generation of millennials, to which the Manchester terrorist partially belongs, is the generation in which so far the largest number of boys (and girls) ready for the “martyrdom” fi sabil Allah (on the way to Allah) have been found.

If you think about it, this is obvious.

The young people born after the end of the Cold War are tabulae rasae; they have been raised up in schools, in families, and especially on the media – and so much so on the web – to be manipulated as quickly as the way in which styles, trends, symbols and jobs change.

They have no identity so as to adhere to the gig economy, the “gigonomics” or “micro-job economy” theorized by many American and European gurus and so-called economists. They have no memory so as to be adaptable to new consumption styles and trends, without too much advertising effort. They have no history so as to be transferable and interchangeable, in the future, in the new large spaces of the geoeconomics that will be created by mass poverty.

The first clue to study is the following: the Daesh-Isis jihadist myth is both the substitute and the opposite of this postmodern passive revolution – in Gramsci’s sense of the term – with which the global ruling classes in the West accept and even stimulate the worst behaviours of masses so as to later use them in their favour.

While some years ago the “two-thirds” society was theorized, in which the “affluent” two thirds abandoned the poor third to its destiny, today we have the “three thirds” society: a very small walk of society getting increasingly rich; a third of middle class divided between new poor and members of the establishment; a huge mass of old and new poor abandoned to their destiny.

Currently politicians protect the rich and gives them the spoils of the middle class that is close to its end. They tell the poor to go to hell by creating for them a mythical and media-like Disneyland distracting them from their condition and destiny.

Hence the Caliphate myth against Western uprootedness; the obsession of a faked identity against the destruction of identity; the mnemonic and silly – but far too strong – jihad doctrinarism against the Western “weak thinking”.

Finally, against the infinite present of Euro-American consumption, the jihadist myth of the “near-end times” of the Sunni Mahdism which, by no mere coincidence, was the first political and military goal to be destroyed by the Ottomans’ Caliphate, namely the true one.

Therefore, while there is persistent economic crisis in our “extreme West”, savings are made on processes and products and hence the labour costs and the number of workers are reduced. Workers are scarcely paid, they are delocalized and hence a great amusement park is built for them until old age.

Resuming a Marxist analysis model, which is often not useless, the myth of the Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate is also the great identitarian and even professional myth of many uprooted and marginalized young people in the outskirts of our cities.

As proletarians and bad guys went to Fiume as volunteers with Commander D’Annunzio, proletarians and petty criminals consider themselves blameless and recreate a mythical, warlike, ennobling and inspiring identity – and with a salary.

A Western amusement park for the poor in which you survive only if you accept to remain poor and devoid of identity, at the same time – the identity which is provided, as a substitute, exactly by the jihad of the new Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate.

This reminds us of the terrible and enlightened Nietzsche of the Posthumous Fragments, when he imagined our times as an immense mass of “Chinese” on which the “soothing oil” is poured, thus making them go on – like “soma”, the acceptable hallucinogenic drug of Orwell’s 1984.

No longer religion as the “opium of the people”, but the myth of desiring desire, of the instinctive matter, of the immediate and irrational fulfilment and satisfaction.

It is no coincidence that in all the propaganda dedicated to Daesh and Al Qaeda’s youth, as well as in magazines and online material, the focal point is the end times and the urgency of conversion to Islam, before it is too late – a conversion to be carried out also and above all with the sword jihad.

The second more strategic factor to be studied is that – given the scarce presence of the Caliphate’s jihadists in Raqqa and Mosul during and after the evacuation following the victory of the Syrian forces of Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies – we can only infer that many Daesh militants fled before the Caliphate’s fall into those regions and retreated behind the lines so as to quickly spread to Europe and other areas of our “extreme West”, probably protected by tribes such as Zu-bi and al-Masalmeh that participated in the initial uprisings against Bashar el Assad.

What we generally call “terrorism” is primarily an instrument of psychological war, considering that it is terror – and the most brutal one, in particular – to indefinitely block the enemy’s reactions, our reactions.

It was Genghis Khan’s tactic and now it is the primary instrument of the jihad presence in the “enemy” territory, in our territory.

After terror, there comes the sequence of other war actions, all linked to the primacy of a well-known Islamic psywar technique: the systematic deception of the enemy, namely us.

Taqyya – namely the lawful deception, a sort of “honest dissimulation”, just to use the title of Torquato Accetto’ book of 1641, which Croce brought back to fame – has sound Qur’anic foundations.

The basic criterion for understanding the issue is the one found in Al Tabari’s commentary of Qur’an verse 3:28, which reads as follows: “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Auliya (friends, supporters) instead of the believers, and whoever does that will never be helped by Allah in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger for them. And Allah warns you against Himself (His Punishment), and to Allah is the final return. “

Al Tabari’s commentary on this Qur’anic verse is enlightening and vey topical: “Let not believers take disbelievers as friends and allies rather than believers. Whoever does that has nothing to do with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence, obeying them if they are in power but always preserving animosity towards the infidels.”

Hence the theory of deception and later – as first stage of the jihadist clash – the terror which blocks the infidels’ reaction for the desired time – and the more terrifying the better.

Then, in sequence, the other techniques of psychological and material war, which always go hand in hand in the Islamic universe.

Furthermore, the Qur’anic doctrine of war is linked to two psychological and political characteristics: the recognition of the possible “repression” made by infidels against the Islamic community seen as a whole – just as it happened at the beginning of Muhammad’s preaching by the Mecca’s Quraysh enemies – and the absolute right of Islam to its universal expansion – and its being peaceful or not only depends on the “infidels”.

A theory of war which is both victimist and arrogant at the same time .

In fact, in recent years, the Muslim Brotherhood has always repeated that “Europe will be conquered peacefully” and hence the sword jihad is not needed.

Is it Taqyya? Certainly so, but rather Western stupidity and myth of the so-called “multiculturalism”.

It is worth recalling that there are as many as 40 major Islamic texts on war and its techniques, written in the period between the 8th and the 15th century AD.

Without a philosophy of war you cannot understand Islam, not even the so-called “moderate” Islam.

The jihad techniques, however, are Qital, “fighting” or even “killing”, witnessed in the Qur’an since its first Mecca’s Surahs; Ghazw, namely the direct fight or raids for expanding the territory subject to Islam; Siriya, namely the fight ordered by the Prophet or by one of his successors, but not directly led by Muhammad or by Islamic people; Baatha, a mission or expedition which can be diplomatic, but does not rule out the armed clash.

Terror, at first, and then the sequence of these techniques – obviously modernized.

Furthermore, in the Qur’anic texts of the Wahhabi tradition, there is a final chapter on jihad – which is not the case in other interpretative traditions.

Moreover, in the Wahhabi world, which is at the origin of contemporary jihad, also the verses prohibiting suicide (195 of Al Baraqah, Al Nisa’29-30) are not considered, besides translating as a vital and generic obligation the fact of “giving” (even life) fi sabil Allah, “on the way to Allah” – a “giving” that was previously referred specifically to the tax to be collected by the “infidels”.

Hence, to recap, now the Caliphate’s network will soon extend to Europe and will start to spread terror, so as to later use normal warfare techniques, but always according to the sequence we have seen above.

We should not forget that the first great battles of Prophet Muhammad were all against Medina’s Jewish tribes – and this is an essential factor.

The final clash will be between Judaism and Islam – the clash for the End Times – and Christianity is “infidel” because it derives from Judaism and accepts Jesus, the Mediator and Risen Christ, not as a Prophet (which would also apply to the Qur’an), but as Filius Dei and Deus.

If there is an Israeli reaction against one single Muslim, as was the case with Osama Bin Laden, it can be inferred – on the basis of the theology that Ibn Taymiya developed against Tartar Islam – that the jihad can be declared.

Also other theologians of the Islamic war infer that the mere existence of the State of Israel can justify the jihad. All the wars between Jews and Palestinians, secular and non-secular Arab countries, jihadist Islam and the Jewish State were exactly a jihad, ending only with the victory of believers and the arrival of “End Times” – another eschatological and military factor at the same time.

Islam clearly perceives that the current West does no longer want and possess eschatòn.

It wants and possesses the recurring cycle of births and deaths, which will continue to recur in a similar form – the Nietzschean Eternal Return or Recurrence.

However relegated to an increasingly reduced consumption cycle.

The carnivalesque, materialistic and satanic vision of the Cycle that Nietzsche had in Sils Maria.

But what is eschatòn? It is the neutral form of the Greek word “end”. End Times.

For us “infidels”, initially the theme is that of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.

Conversely, the katechòn about which Saint Paul speaks is precisely the Antichrist.

It holds the Evil because it is held back by the Saint who is partially present in the world; it prevents it from being seen, it keeps time still. It masks, tames and stabilizes it. And it cannot do evil in all its power.

It is on its relationship with the Evil, in its temporary “holding and standing still” – as Carl Schmitt maintained – that the West bases Politics, with the “social contract” and the previous Hobbes’ bellum omnium contra omnes, whose king becomes the only one who can do evil to defend his subjects’ lives, property and freedom.

It is the beginning of dialectics.

Macbeth, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s tragedy, rose to power and lost it due to the same and only witchcraft of the three witches, who predicted he would lose everything when the “walking forest” came against him – an apparent paradox.

Katèkhon does not lead to eschatòn.

In the first Letter to the Corinthians Saint Paul maintained that, after the end of time, “we will all be changed” (15: 51).

The model is the model of resurrection narrated by Ezekiel, with the dry bones wrapped with muscles and skin coming back to life

In Saint Paul, however, faith in the Kingdom – which is still an acceptable model for an Islamic person, namely a perfect future Caliphate in universal Islam – becomes only faith in the Risen Christ, that even replaces the Kingdom.

And faith in the Risen Christ may even defer His return indefinitely; it can “contain” evil on its own and defeat the katechòn without the Fullness of Time coming.

As we can see, it is in the subtleties of theological, Catholic and Islamic analysis that we can properly read the political-religious dimension of jihad and its possible cultural, strategic, and even military contrast on our part.

Moreover, if the Risen Christ does not want to reappear, instead of building his Kingdom – as the jihadist Islam believes it can do against the “sinners-infidels” (sinners insofar as infidels) – Saint Paul’s eschatòn becomes internal. The return of Christ and the end of time are secondary, because we are all in Christ, who has already resurrected.

It is the notion of pleroma, namely Christ who always fills the world with Him and brings it to Salvation within the Church, but also within mankind.

Thinking of the constant mechanism inimicus-hostis, personal enemy- public enemy, which – as already seen – characterizes the practice and the doctrine of jihad, we cannot fail to note the radical nature of the separation between the West, founded by the Judeo-Christian theology, and Islam.

The Catholic theology is a specific theory of the End Times, but of parusia, namely the Fullness of the Spirit, which has to face the Islamic theology of the End Times, which is a doctrine of the war to which, afterwards, Allah responds by destroying this phase of the visible world.

In this regard it is important to reflect upon the Qur’anic verse stating that “Allah is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. If he wishes, he could destroy you and bring about another creation” (Al Fatir, 16).

This means that, without any mediation, our universe will be destroyed and later Allah, if He so wishes, will create another one we cannot even imagine. He will bring us back to life and will separate the souls going to Hell and those going to Paradise.

There is no possibility in Islam to stop the katechòn. Everything happens inside Allah and not even the elimination of all “infidels” is a harbinger of the end of time, but only one of its preconditions.

Hence the nihilism of current jihadists – to use our historical-political notions and definitions: they know they only have to destroy the world of infidels, and later Allah only – without any sign – will recreate a new one.

A kind of nihilism which, apart from its theological foundations, reminds us much of the Russian nihilism of the mid-19th century. However, it also reminds us of the nihilism of the so-called millennials, who put their bodies to test, climb up to the top of skyscrapers, attempt suicide and are violent without a cause.

Certainly this is an action of the Enemy that, in Islamic theology, Allah creates from “smokeless fire” and is expelled from the Grace of God when he refuses to pay tribute to Man, created by Allah with clay and not with fire, without using fire.

The devil will die at the end of time after having deceived mankind – but this is his task.

Nevertheless it is precisely mankind who is the sole enemy of Iblis, the devil; Allah cannot obviously be his enemy.

It has always been above the enemy – and here lies the ambiguity of Islam about Evil, an unresolved theology according to which what is evil for us may appear to Allah in a different way.

These are probably remnants of gnosticism in Islamic theology while, in Catholic theology, Jesus, the Risen Christ, is already the Lord of History and has already defeated the devil.

The devil who is Man’s enemy, but also enemy of God’s designs.

However, it is exactly the ritual of violence that sometimes imitates the Satanist death rituals so widespread among Western youth, which creates the terrorist specific death ritual shaping the deep identity of Islamic jihadists.

For Daesh-Isis militants, participating in the materialization of Evil, which will destroy this unfaithful world, is a gnostic way of “calling God” after the end of this world.

We always revert to the game of the reverse and the opposite about which we have previously spoken.

Polytheistic gnosticism in the West, gnosticism of the One to be called int0 History for the Islamic jihad.

It is also worth noting how the Daesh-Isis use of the web is obviously for propaganda purposes, but it is also identitarian and often overlapping with the advertising or political mechanisms (assuming that there is a difference today) with which the Web is used in the West.

I do not want to reiterate the usual trivial platitude of those who say that Isis videos are “well-done” or that the communication of the two Caliphate’s magazines, namely Dabiq and Rumiyah, seems to be developed by excellent professionals who know the Western media rules.

Quite the reverse. I wish to say that the Western political mix – namely the “idea-platform-specialists” that made Obama, Trump and Macron rise to power and made Brexit possible, and will keep on doing harm in the future – is currently the same paradigm of Daesh- Isis.

Barack Obama used the VoteBuilder platform that enabled him to collect 72 million US dollars in tiny donations, but above all enabled him to know the tastes, trends, preferences and idiosyncrasies of a huge mass of his potential voters.

Conversely, Donald Trump used his ProjectAlamo platform, which identified potential voters through the LookalikeAudiencies software, measuring also the efficacy of advertising with the BrandLift system.

Cambridge Analytics’s planned Brexit at communication and political levels (which is currently the same thing).

On the contrary, Daesh-Isis uses its social media or traditional networks especially to urge a response from its users.

It is very likely for the Caliphate – especially now that it is moving to Europe and probably in the United States – to use platforms that are very similar to those of the West, with a view to tracking news, data, areas of possible protection-flanking and new militants, in addition to information about the “infidel” enemy.

The Caliphate’s communications are often included – by pre-selected audiences – in the most popular Arab news websites, such as Al Ahram. In the social media fora, indicators increasingly appear for collecting messages according to the various entries: shar’ia, militancy, news from the Caliphate, Qur’an interpretations, etc.

It is certainly possible to obscure and create networks tracking this mass of jihadist big data simultaneously, but it is also worth recalling the cultural, theological and political postulates we mentioned earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Online Radicalization in India

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

               Indian Context

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

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

               Undermining Indian Threat

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

               Radicalisation Strategies/methods: Indian vs global players

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

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

               Adoption of online platforms and technology

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

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

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

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

Rise of radicalization in southern India

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

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

               Radicalization: Similarities/Distinctions in North and South

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

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

               Impact of Radicalisation

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

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

               Challenges Ahead

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

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

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

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

India’s Counter Measures

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

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

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

Prognosis

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

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

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Intelligence

Is Deterrence in Cyberspace Possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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