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Terrorism

How Can Hollywood Help Fight ISIS and Similar Terrorist Groups?

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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photo: ICSVE

Authors: Anne Speckhard & Ardian Shajkovci

BAGHDAD – The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) researchers recently took part in Department of Defense (DOD – CENTCOM) and Iraqi government jointly sponsored incubator program held in Baghdad, Iraq. Facilitated also by American Abroad Media (AAM), the program served to bring together Iraqi forces, Iraqi filmmakers, and personalities from the Hollywood film industry, such as Bill Marsilii, Janet Batchler, and Tim Clemente. The participants shared important ideas on how to narrate and recreate powerful and appealing stories of Iraq’s recent war with ISIS, including how to create appropriate images of struggle, heroism, and unity in a war against one of the most barbaric terrorist groups to date, and how to attract audiences to such stories in a manner that builds national unity, heals wounds of sectarianism, and binds back a society torn apart by terrorist ideologies and actions.

During the conference, Iraqi forces and filmmakers featured a number of intriguing war stories presented on film, particularly of heroes who gave their all trying to rescue their country out of the hands of a brutal terrorist group, portraying them from different perspectives and with varying objectives. The conference also shed light on the relationship between the armed forces and the film industry. Both Hollywood participants and members of the Iraqi military reminded us of the prevailing popularity of movies and documentaries about heroic men and women in the battlefield and the ordinary citizens whose amazing courage sets examples for all of us.

Members of the Iraqi military chronicled stories of honor, heroism, patriotism, and the Iraqi army’s ability to protect the nation. They also portrayed acts of courage, as they did those of human suffering and tragedy in equal measure. Many found such stories emotional yet uplifting. Army soldier Hussein died while saving the weak and carrying injured companions to safety. In death, in the words of those who knew him personally, he gained fame as a “national hero.” Reminiscent of Mona Parson’s courage in hiding Allied airmen in her house in the outskirts of Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, Umm Qusai, a brave Iraqi woman, courageously pulled it off without being caught by ISIS. She was determined to enter a clandestine world of rescuing the vulnerable, by some accounts saving dozens of Iraqi soldiers from ISIS by sheltering them in her home. The story of Baiji refinery, just north of the capital, Baghdad, and the brave men who stoically fought back against ISIS was depicted as a symbol of national resistance against ISIS, while also serving to celebrate the government’s determination to prevail over the terrorist group.

ISIS-related horror stories also took center stage in many of the presented documentaries, as though the Iraqi military and security establishment was seeking a way to eliminate future carnage. Hiding in plain sight, there were also images of those who seem to want to go on with their lives, exhausted and disinterested in revisiting the conflict. Some suggested injecting laughter in the midst of death and destruction found in the recent conflict. As we listened to numerous presentations by the Iraqi military and young movie producers, we also wondered if images of peace, romance, and comedy often found during times of war could augment those of cinematic combat in restoring a sense of hope for the future. The movie Life is Beautiful comes to mind, a touching fictional movie of a Jewish father determined to shelter his son from the horrors of the Holocaust by convincing him that their time in a concentration camp is merely a game.

Conferences such as these highlight not only the importance of rebuilding national identity and solidarity through documenting heroic stories of war and human suffering, but also countering the narrative of terrorist groups like ISIS. The Hollywood screenwriters and producers offered their expertise in creating story lines that could challenge ISIS and other terrorist groups’ powerful use of video and imagery, especially important in the face of ISIS’ prolific Internet distributed video productions and their clever use of social media to identify and contact vulnerable youth who like, share, Retweet or otherwise endorse such products—swarming in to lure them further into the group. Given Hollywood’s long-standing history of countering enemy narratives, it seems that they might have just the “medicine” for dealing with the ISIS poison spewed out over the Internet over the last five years and capable of luring over 30,000 foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq to cause devastation and suffering to so many.

Hollywood screenwriter, Janet Batchler reminded participants that many Westerners have stood up to neo-Nazism in modern day times precisely because they learned from movies that the symbols of Nazism represent evil. Similarly, today we need new films to help youth recognize the lies of groups like ISIS and to redirect them to better paths to truly heroic acts, finding significance and to pursuing nationhood.

We at ICSVE continue to understand the importance of generating theatrical productions that capture audience attention and imagination. In our Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narratives Project, we use the voices of actual ISIS insiders—defectors, returnees and ISIS cadre prisoners—we have interviewed on film to denounce the group as the un-Islamic, barbaric and corrupt group they found it to be. We use ISIS propaganda pictures and videos to illustrate the horror stories they tell, effectively turning ISIS’ propaganda back on them. At ICSVE, we know the power of film to turn hearts and minds. The presence of Hollywood filmmakers in Baghdad this past week was crucial to further strengthen the fight against terrorist groups like ISIS and advance education in filmmaking in ways relevant to furthering the Iraqi national context.

first published in our partner ICSVE

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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Terrorism

Bioterrorism and the role of the country’s information structure in its control

Sajad Abedi

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Today’s wars are a new form and have a lot of complexity. Changes and widespread changes in the type and structure of wars have led to the introduction of new vocabularies into the world’s military literature, which is bioterrorism as a new form of terrorism. The unpredictability and suddenness, the power of mass destruction and destruction and the psychological stress caused by bioterrorism have made it one of the top priorities of societies and countries that want peace and security.

The fear of being exposed to a variety of diseases has always been a concern for man over the course of history. In the meantime, humane animals with animal temperament have always sought to exploit various factors to dominate and harm others. These people, with knowledge of the general panic of disease and the power of pathogens in paralyzing societies, have always sought to make the most of these factors in order to achieve their goals. With the advances made in genetic and medical sciences, this concern and general panic in diseases have been somewhat resolved, but these developments have led to some abuse.

Although bioterrorism is one of the main problems of public health and a threat to infection control, the fact is that bioterrorist thoughts and practices have always been in the aggressive nations, incite mental and political-economic rivals on the one hand, and in adversarial or retaliatory thoughts in individuals On the other hand, thousands of years ago, the armies, governments, and threatened personalities have existed and have sometimes come up with an incredible myth that all of these events reflect the oldness of thoughts and rarely bioterrorist practices. But the word Bioterrorism and Terrorist Wars came back after the 9/11 incident, so that the annual US budget was tens of times tallied to fight these criminal acts. The widespread propaganda that has taken place in this area has caused more and more people to be afraid of this phenomenon and compromising the mental health of societies. However, many people still believe that biological warfare has come to fruition of military imagination, while today, political developments and biotechnology advances have changed this belief.

Despite the irreparable risks and impacts of bioterrorist attacks on various societies, the fear and fear of society, patients, health workers and the general public is much wider than their real consequences. The mental responses of people who have been traumatized may be horror, anger, unnecessary worries about infection, and fear of spreading illness, desires, getting out of the community and turning to immoral things. Therefore, when planning to prepare for bioterrorist attacks, the psychological aspects of the problem as well as the way to prevent fear among people should be considered.

In assessing the factors affecting a bioterrorist attack, a number of other factors must be considered in addition to the assessment of the potential risks of biological agents or the likelihood of bio terroristic attacks. Therefore, it cannot be said that a terrorist’s unwillingness to use a dangerous biological risk reduces the risk of a terrorist attack on it, and on the contrary, even the most dangerous terrorists, in order to achieve their terrorist goals, need to have biological agents for harm and terror.

Dependency of factors causes each other to disproportionately focus on the above branches and to ignore the link between factors that reduce the threat, preventing a bioterrorism operation will be impossible. A tangible example of the above is that by reducing the vulnerability through a general vaccination against a specific agent, the bio terroristic motives and goals will be weaker in applying this particular factor.

In dealing with bioterrorism purposes, in addition to practical (objective) evaluations such as: determining the value of assets, the target vulnerability or the potential risk of a particular factor, consider the mental aspects of the case (the lines in the above diagrams Note). Knowing this subtlety can formulate separate policies that cannot be achieved without tackling terrorist intentions. For example, it is impossible to completely eliminate the vulnerability of the masses to a particular factor, but diverting terrorists’ thoughts from the vulnerability of a region’s people will reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack. Most of the debates on bioterrorism focus more on the potential risk and less attention is paid to qualitative aspects such as the motivation of terrorists to use such deadly weapons or the vulnerability of different societies to bioterrorism.

One of the new theories about bioterrorism is “opportunity theory.” Thus, rationally, a bioterrorist attack occurs when a person is induced by a bioterrorist attack in a cost-benefit analysis and finds more than its cost. The aforementioned theory states that if the interests of the bioterrorists are more than the costs incurred by them, the probability of committing the crime from the strikers will increase. This theory states that by changing the cost-benefit components, the probability of a crime can be reduced. Also, by eliminating the excuse of the opposition groups to carry out bioterrorist activities, it is possible to prevent such offenses to a very large extent.

Any action taken to prevent the proliferation of biological agents will make it harder to achieve biological agents and will offer more opportunities to counteract the use of these agents. Therefore, by increasing the cost of doing such operations and taking into account the cost benefit analysis, incentives for using biological weapons are reduced.

The country’s capabilities in this area can be evaluated in various areas such as: public awareness, coping and prevention, treatment and removal of attack lesions. Since our country is an incident and a natural disaster is abundant in it, so looking at how to deal with these crises can be used to counteract bioterrorism attacks in most areas as well. Unfortunately, the unconscious, weak and slow handling of various devices in events such as floods and earthquakes and subsequent reconstruction shows that our country is by no means prepared to deal with such crises. The low level of knowledge and understanding of the executive bodies of the country and the people in coping with crises such as floods and earthquakes, which are well-known phenomena, illustrates the fact that there is a lot of work against threats such as bioterrorist attacks, which are even somewhat unfamiliar to specialized organizations such as the Ministry of Defense and Health. It is difficult and perhaps impossible. As preparations for dealing with these crises are not achieved in the short term, so at the present time, we should focus more on our strength, the country’s intelligence and security systems, which have proven their effectiveness in confronting various threats and prevent them from doing. Such operations will be ideal for the country as well as preventing such attacks from the consequences and pathology.

Preventing bioterrorism attacks using information work is much better and less costly than coping with it. And intelligence and security services have a great role to play. On the other hand, the use of a bioterrorist agent may become so rapid that it is impossible to control it, and the damage and losses incurred even for users is unpredictable and surprising. In some of the bioterrorist attacks, its perpetrators, which are more than the domestic opposition, are not intended to inflict human injuries or economic damage, but to mock the intelligence and security services and to weaken them in preventing and detecting these handicap threats. They take such actions.

Regarding the geographical situation of our country and opposition groups with the regime, it can be said that among the above groups, the MEK, the Kurdistan Workers Party and most importantly ISIS have the motivations to carry out bioterrorist operations against our country. It should be noted, however, that the MojahedinKhalq Organization has recently announced that it is no longer planning to carry out terrorist operations in order to gain EU-US support more openly and more openly. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party also does not have such terrorist operations on its record. The most important threat that can be mentioned is the ISIS group, whose history shows that there is no shortage of widespread and horrific operations. The hatred of this group of Iran’s Shiite system may well be due to the cause. But in my opinion, and given the recent developments in the region, emerging groups such as Jundallah, which do not have a clear and accurate regulation, are far more dangerous, given the violent and overwhelming attacks that have been taking place in recent years. The dependence of these emerging economies on large and advanced countries has increased the risk of these attacks, which indicates the heavy responsibility of the country’s intelligence and security systems at the present time.

Since the terrorist attack may not follow the expected pattern, the military and police forces’ efforts to identify and respond to biological attacks should remain high. In addition, a small prevalence of the disease can be a primary warning to more serious attacks, and the detection and use of preventive measures, such as vaccines and effective antibiotics, can save thousands of lives. In order to facilitate the rapid identification of bioterrorist attacks, all personnel of the military and police forces, such as health and medical personnel, should have at least basic “epidemiological” skills. Any small or widespread disease should be considered as a bioterrorist attack. This preliminary study should not be time consuming or requires new rules. In order to determine everything that seems unusual and refers to bioterrorism, the prevalence of surroundings should be considered.

The discussion of biological wars is a sensitive and preventable task by politicians of military strategists, scientists and lawyers. Performing a pre-biologic action is to create a strong barrier against less-likely threats, but with wider consequences, the most effective way to deal with these attacks. The discussion of bioterrorism attacks is not a cross-sectional one, and the readiness to deal with the bioterrorist attacks should be permanent and permanent.

All countries are vulnerable to biological terrorist attacks (Bioterrorism) and should not be ignorant of these attacks. Evidence suggests that the threat of biological attacks is on the rise, and emerging-age groups with less ethical responsibilities are expanding, so focusing on ways to confront the terrorist and concealed biological invasion is necessary. Finally, it should be noted at the end that, as ignoring and disregarding the bioterrorism threats is extremely dangerous, the magnitude and controversy in this case is also false and should be addressed logically.

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Terrorism

Revival of ISIS in Iraq if Iran continues to influence Iraqi militias

Bahauddin Foizee

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The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 conditions on Iran nuclear deal – that were outlined in a speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 2018 – have merits; particularly his condition of “Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias“.

If Iranian influence on the Iraqi militias is allowed to be continued, they would again be encouraged to marginalize and torture the Sunni Arab population, whose sufferings would then become the rallying point for the revival of ISIS or emergence of an ISIS-like new group/s.

What’s more, if Iranian influence continues to prevail on the Iraqi Shia militias, the Shias – who are the followers of those schools of thoughts that are different from what these militias follow – will also come under attack from the Iran-backed Shia militias.

ISIS rose on capitalizing the marginalization of Sunni Arabs

When the US was largely withdrawing its forces in Iraq, they left an Iraq that was sectarian and chaotic. The Sunni population – specifically of Arab ethnicity – had to face widespread tortures from the hardliner sectarian elements across Iraq.

Before the emergence of ISIS, the continuous protests by the Sunni Arabs in Iraq’s Anbar province (including in Fallujah) and the breakout of armed clashes every now and then between Sunni Arab protesters and security forces — increasingly showed frustration of the Sunni Arab population, as they were being neglected by the sectarian regime in Bagdad and were being tortured by some sectarian elements in the Iraqi army and the Iran-backed Shia militias.

After the rise of ISIS, a substantial portion of the Iraq’s Sunni Arab population – who were extremely frustrated from the tortures by the Shia militias and the sectarian Iraqi army personnel – had either directly jointed ISIS after embracing its ideology or atleast cooperated with ISIS in many issues.

Hence, the sufferings of the Sunni Arab tribes in the hands of the sectarian Iraqi regime (under the premiership of Nouri al-Maliki), the sectarian elements in army and the Iran-backed Shia militias had pushed a substantial number of the Iraqi Sunnis (of Arab ethnicity) to align themselves with ISIS.

But once the administration of Haider al-Abadi (who succeeded Nouri al-Maliki) managed to bring the Sunni Arabs on board by marginally wining their trust, the situation took an about-turn. The Sunni Arabs joined the US, the Iraqi army, the Kurds (the other Sunni ethnic population in Iraq), the Iran-backed Shia militias and the militias of Muqtada al-Sadr in order to fight the ISIS.

The result was obvious. The presence of ISIS in Iraq was substantially diminished.

Revival of ISIS if Iranian interference in Iraq continues

Now that ISIS’s presence has largely reduced in Iraq, the Iran-backed Shia militias might again turn their guns back on the Sunni Arab population — a scenario that will pave the way for either the revival of ISIS or emergence of an ISIS-like new group/s, who will try to capitalize on the renewed sufferings of the Sunni Arabs.

Hence, it is important to curtail Iranian interference in Iraqi politics. It is important to reduce Iranian influence on the Shia militias and to disarm them, so that they can cause no harm to not only the Sunni Arabs, but also the Shias from those schools of thoughts that are different from what these militias follow.

It, thus, appears that the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s aforesaid condition of “Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias” is something that should be taken seriously by the governments of stakeholding countries (including Iraq), who then should put pressure on Iran to do exactly what Pompeo has asked to do in this regard.

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France: New terrorism laws may undercut human rights and freedoms

MD Staff

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While commending efforts by the French government to combat terrorism, a United Nations rights expert has raised concerns about the effect recent counter-terrorism laws are having on fundamental human rights there, including freedom of movement, religion and association.

Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights said she was particularly concerned that tough new security laws passed last November, may disproportionately stigmatize and further marginalize Muslim citizens.

She said it was clear that Muslims in France “have been the community primarily subject to exceptional measures both during the state of emergency and the new law, in tandem with other counter-terrorism measures,” Ms. Ni Aolain said, highlighting the example of mosque closures as an encroachment on religious freedom.

“There is no doubt that the State may lawfully engage in restrictions to protect public order, but a clear tipping point to exceptionality arises when counter-terrorism measures engage profound, sustained and potentially disproportionate effects on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and civil liberties,” she added.

At the Government’s invitation, Ms. Ni Aolain visited France from 14 to 23 May where she took account of the serious security challenges faced by French authorities. But she said the on-going threat of terror attacks and pressure on security services, did not excuse how laws were being implemented.

“It is deeply concerning that the Muslim minority community is being constructed as a per se ‘suspect community’ through the sustained and broad application of a counter-terrorism law,” she said at the end of the visit.

The new counter-terror measures came into force last November, formally ending a nearly two-year state of emergency after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

Ms. Ni Aolain expressed concerns during the emergency period, that there were insufficient checks and balances to protect against administrative measures, including freedoms of movement, privacy, religious belief and practice.

According to the Special Rapporteur’s assessment, the continuing effect of these measures constitutes a de facto state of qualified emergency in ordinary French law.

She was particularly mindful of the effects these laws had on the of rights by French Muslim citizens and recommended that the Government create an independent body to oversee counter-terrorism and exceptional national security powers.

“France must continue to work in genuine partnership with all its citizens and take specific steps to prevent this conflation, which includes best practice on independent oversight, community consultation, prevention, and remedy when violations of human rights are established through legal and administrative action,” underscored the UN expert.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, on an honorary basis, to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or country situation.

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