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New Ideological Tactics of al-Qaeda To Revive Its Power

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Leaflets with the oath of loyalty to the military wing of al-Qaeda

According to American intelligence agencies, in the recent six months the influx of new recruits from post-Soviet states of Eurasia to Syria, who want to fight for the establishment of the Caliphate, has significantly reduced. It has occurred after the fall of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and also after a significant weakening of positions of the jihadist group Hay’at Tahrir Al –Sham associated with al-Qaeda.

However, al-Qaeda, via its groups in Central Asia and Caucasus, which are fighting within Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has developed and actively used new tactics of recruitment and distribution of the radical ideology of jihadism. Since March 2018, two terrorist groups from Central Asia, Katibat Imamal Bukhari and Katibat al Tawhidwal Jihad have started to actively distribute photocopies of leaflets via social media supporting the jihadist line of al-Qaeda.

The leaflets in Russian, Uzbek, Kazakh, Uighur and Tajik advocating the support of pro-al-Qaeda groups in Syria and calling on the continuation of the “jihad to protect Islam” have been regularly published on a Telegram channel. The geography of such leaflet distributors is rather broad. For reasons of security, the leaflets don’t contain full names or surnames of the new supporters of al-Qaeda. Instead, they contain only a region, country, town or village of the leaflet senders. The senders’ addresses imply that the senders reside in Western Europe, Russia, Caucasus, Central Asia and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.

Despite the fact that leaflets are written in various languages and sent from various regions of the Eurasian continent, the contents of such leaflets are identical.The fundamental idea behind the leaflets is to support the jihadist groups fighting in Syria and to become a member of the main Sunni terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

Thus, March 4, 2018, the Telegram page of Central Asian militants of Katibat al Tawhidwal Jihad contained the leaflet with the following content in Uzbek, “Dear Muslims mujahideen Ahlu al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaah! We support the holy struggle pursued by the brave warriors of Allah Hay’at Tahrir Al –Shamon the blessed land of Sham (Syria) against atheists. Your actions are meant to establish the sharia laws on earth. May Allah be pleased with you. Soon we will come to you to support you. Allahuakbar! Tajikistan, Hudjont, 03.04.2018.”

Another leaflet said that “the Muslims in On Adyr micro-district, Osh, Kyrgyzstan, support the mujahideen of Hay’atTahrir Al –Sham. Let Allah give you victory in the war against the crusaders.” Also a leaflet from Dagestan, Russia, has been published with a call to “support the mujahideen of Hay’at Tahrir Al –Shamand a prayer for the early establishment of the caliphate.” Tawhidwal Jihadon his Telegram page has published the photocopies of over 100 leaflets calling to support jihad under the leadership of pro-al-Qaeda groups in Syria. These leaflets have been sent from Moscow, Chelyabinsk of Russian Federation; Jizak, Ferghana, Namangan regions of Uzbekistan, Chimkent, KyzylOrda of Kazakhstan; Uzgen, Osh, Aravan, Nookat, Jalal-Abad of Kyrgyzstan; Ukraine (no town specified), South Korea (no town specified), Western Europe (no state specified) and Jeddah of Saudi Arabia.

The leaflets have been written mainly in Uzbek and Russian by hand by an ordinary pen. There’s no doubt in the authenticity of these leaflets. The grammar of presentation, the authors’ handwriting and the time of publication in the Telegram indicate that the leaflets have been written by different people, at different times and in different countries.

Among the numerous leaflets published by Katibat al Tawhidwal Jihad on the Telegram channel, we have paid attention to those sent from Turkey and Egypt. The leaflet from Turkey was in the form of an Islamic flag of al-Qaeda and contained the promise that “we will soon arrive in Sham and together with the Mujahideen Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham we will sing Takfir (devotion to Allah). And then the dead bodies of the kafirs will lie under our feet.” The leaflet from Cairo was written by hand in literate Arabic, in which the support of al-Qaeda is expressed on behalf of the Mujahideen of Egypt.

Katibat al Tawhidwal Jihad is affiliated with the Jabhat Al-Nusra group and its ancestor Al Qaeda. The leader of the group is the Uzbek jihadist, Abu Saloh. His real name is Sirojiddin Mukhtarov, born in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan. According to the Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies, in 2014 Abu Saloh was wounded in the eye in fighting against the Syrian governmental forces and then was treated in Turkey. Abu Saloh jointly with the Uighur terrorists from the Turkestan Islamic Party organized the explosion in the Bishkek-based Chinese embassy in August 2016. Also, the Federal Security Service of Russia accuses him of organizing an explosion in the metro of St. Petersburg on April 3, 2017, which killed 15 people, and wounded more than 50 others. The bomb was blown up by a suicide bomber, Akbarjon Jalilov, a 22-year-old native of Kyrgyzstan.

Another jihadist group from Central Asia Katibat Imam al Bukhari, close in its ideological doctrine to al-Qaeda, has also published on its Telegram page many dozens of leaflets. It should be emphasized that the main core of militant groups are nationals of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, who are fighting today in the Syrian province of Idlib in alliance with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham against the regime of Bashar Assad. The leader of Katibat Imam al Bukhari is a native of Tajikistan, ethnic Uzbek, Abu Yusuf Muhojir, who is known for his deep religious knowledge in the field of jihad and devotion to the idea of al-Qaeda. He has trust-based relations with the leadership of the Taliban movement. Some of the militants of the Uzbek group help the Taliban in Afghanistan. But Abu Yusuf Muhojir himself is now in Syria, and he leads the group there.

A leaflet with the al-Qaeda emblem decorated with an Arabic engraving “Allah is Great” was published on the Telegram page of Katibat Imam al Bukhariat the bottom of which is written in Kyrgyz,“By the will of Allah, we love, respect and support the brave lions of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Soon we will follow the path of jihad, and we will fight shoulder to shoulder with you against the enemies of Islam. Kyrgyzstan, Osh, Nookat. 03.04.2018.”

Similar leaflets in support of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham positions have been widely published on the Telegram by the media structures of Central Asian jihadists JihodShamoli (Wind of Jihad), Sham Ovozi (Voice of Sham) and Tavhid Xabarlari (News of Tawhid).

Tactics of Survival of alQaeda

We have quoted the leaflets in detail and tried to reveal their deep meaning so that the counterterrorism experts could understand the ideological tactics pursued by the main Sunni terrorist organization of al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups Hay’at Tahriral-Sham, Katibat Imamal Bukhari and Katibat al Tawhidwal Jihad.

As the analysis shows, the content and ideological platform of all these leaflets are identical. This campaign aims to, first of all, consolidate al-Qaeda supporters in Western Europe, Russia, Central Asian countries, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China and the Middle East.

Internet and social media have become the main tool of virtual consolidation and recruitment for Salafi-jihadi groups, affiliated with al-Qaeda. The al-Qaeda recruiting strategy in the regions of Central Asia and Caucasus accepts only ideologically verified people who are directly related to the factions of Katibat al Tawhidwal Jihad, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, Turkestan Islamic Party and Katibat al-Ghuraba.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is known to strictly observe all the requirements of secrecy (no cell phone, no social media usage, no internet usage, and no emails). Therefore, the ideologists of the leaflet campaign have decided not to mention al-Qaeda in leaflets directly, rather they have organized public and mass support of his fighting wing, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Despite the latest tactical differences between Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the ideological position of the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham group today fully corresponds to the position of al-Qaeda.

The new ideological tactics of al-Qaeda proves the statement of the Council on Foreign Relations of the US that“in recent years, al-Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding and fortifying its various branches, systematically implemented an ambitious strategy and discreetly consolidated its influence wherever the movement has a significant presence.”

The wars in Syria and Iraq have shown that al-Qaeda and ISIS have different tactics for using militants from Central Asia in a real battle. ISIS is known for using the militants from Central Asia as cannon fodder, neglecting human lives. In the protection of Mosul and Raqqa, Tajik and Uzbek jihadists have been massively used as suicide bombers who blew themselves up in the name of Allah as martyrs. According to the study of The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, in the ISIS ranks, people from Central Asia were leading in terms of the number of suicide bombers. As a result, more than 80% of the Central Asian militants in the ISIS were destroyed. The surviving militants have managed to move to Afghanistan and rejoin ISIS-Khorasan. Some of them have returned to their countries and surrendered to law enforcement agencies, as a result, many of them were sentenced to prison.

Unlike ISIS, al-Qaeda follows the doctrine of its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri who said, “We should adapt to the practical reality wherever it is. We would take into account the circumstances of each jihadist arena and what achieves its interests”.Due to this tactics, al-Qaeda has managed to survive and maintain the efficiency of its groups in Syria, including Katibat Imamal Bukhari and Katibat al Tawhidwal Jihad from Central Asia. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, in Syria alone, al-Qaeda now has upwards of twenty thousand men under arms, and it has perhaps another four thousand in Yemen and about seven thousand in Somalia.

Due to the strategy of adoption to the practical reality, al-Qaeda has survived from unmanned aircrafts, ground clashes with the Assad forces and won in the tough competition with ISIS for the leadership in the global jihad. ISIS no longer can compete with al-Qaeda in terms of influence, coverage of territories, militant force or solidarity. The only trump card of ISIS is its ability to launch transnational terrorist strikes in Europe and USA. Today only due to “lone wolves” ISIS can still maintain its menacing brand and hold intelligence services on western countries in suspense.

Purpose of Leaflet Campaign

The leaflet campaign in support of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham group pursues the three aims that comply with the strategic task ofal-Qaeda.

First, as we have already mentioned, this is a consolidation of supporters and distribution of the al-Qaeda ideology in the post-Soviet territory. Compared to the Arabic countries of the Middle East, African Maghreb, and Southern Asia, the post-Soviet countries of Central Asia and Muslim republics of Russia remain the least exposed to the radical ideology of al-Qaeda. Therefore, al-Qaeda thinks that it’s time for the deeper invasion in the Eurasian region.

Second, the recruitment of new members for Salafi-jihadi groups affiliated with al-Qaeda is an important aim of this leaflet campaign. After the fall ofISIS, many of its supporters and potential jihadists in Central Asia have become confused. In this situation, al-Qaeda has decided to fill in the gap and convert the former ISIS members to their side.  Moreover, the war in Syria and Iraq has shown that Central Asia has a good potential for the recruitment of jihadists.

Third, al-Qaeda is intending to open another branch in the post-Soviet area of Central Asia in addition to the five existing branches. These tactics supports the ambitions of al-Qaedato become the leader of the global jihad. After the defeat of ISIS, Ayman al-Zawahiri has turned into a powerful leader able to set strategic tasks and to implement them successfully step by step.

In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the main target of al-Qaeda is, according to the will of Bin Laden, the USA and its allies. Therefore, western countries at the head of the US should take the “leaflet campaign” of al-Qaeda seriously because it has far-reaching goals and poses a serious threat to the interests and partners of the USA all over the world.

Doctor of Political Science (PhD), expert on Political Islam. Modern Diplomacy Advisory Board, Member. SpecialEurasia, Team Member.

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The means to manage cyberspace and the duty of security

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Over and above the ethical concepts regarding the near future, it is also good to focus on the present. Governments are required to protect their national resources and infrastructure against foreign and domestic threats, to safeguard the stability and centrality of human beings and political systems and to ensure modern services for civilians. Suffice it to recall the chaos that arose some time ago in the Lazio region for the well-known health issues.

Governments must play a key role in developing and leading the local ecosystems, but this national effort must involve many other stakeholders: local businesses, entrepreneurs, multinational companies, local and foreign investors, State agencies, Ministries and academics, people in education, professional institutions and the public at large.

Furthermore, cybersecurity is a national opportunity for developing the local economy and for positioning any country in the international arena as a safe place to establish and develop economic relations between States and companies. It is also important as a regional cyber hub.

Cyber strategy therefore consists in prioritising operational cyber activities with a view to optimising and monitoring the overdevelopment of cyber intelligence that could one day take such turns as to be ungovernable.

This is the reason why investment in technology, local capacity building and resource allocation and concentration are required. This means providing strategic advisory services to government agencies that are seeking to advance cyber security at a strategic and operational level.

It is therefore necessary to work with governments to develop their strategic and operational capabilities in cybersecurity, either at the national or sectoral level, as well as providing comprehensive cyber projects that combine cyber defence and the development of a local cyber ecosystem, based on the models tried and tested by various countries around the world, such as the People’s Republic of China, Israel, the United States of America, etc.

There is a need to specialise in setting up Cyber Units and Cyber Centres (SOC & Fusion Centres) and in developing Cyber Eco-Systems and Cyber Strategies. This means providing various cyber solutions, services and know-how to companies in various sectors, such as financial, industrial, energy, health, technology and many other sectors.

Stable OT (operational technology) security services and strategic advice to companies in the fields of energy, manufacturing, security, medicine, transport, critical infrastructure and many others create the prerequisites for defending cyberspace. As well as helping OT-based organisations integrate cybersecurity into their processes and products. Design, develop and deliver advanced technologies and solutions to protect critical assets in OT environments, such as ICS, SCADA, IIoT, PLC, etc.

In this regard there is a basic need for creating professional IT schools around the world that teach the meaning of cyberspace, and not just how to use Word and other simple Office programs.

The expansion and creation of universities and institutes of cyber knowledge is a starting point from which partnerships are launched with organisations seeking to create their own cyber schools or with academic or educational organisations offering cyber training to their students.

Providing comprehensive solutions for IT schools, enables the training of IT professionals and new recruits in all IT roles, so that hackers do not remain the sole repository of digital truth. Advanced training is a solid starting point for organisations seeking to train their IT professionals. Professionals who can manage and master schemes such as Cyber Defender, Cyber Warrior, Cyber Manager, SOC Analyst, Digital Forensics, Basic Training and many others, including through the use of simulation.

Leading the creation and development of the high-level cybersecurity ecosystem is a duty of States towards the citizens who elect their leaders. The same holds true for seeking and employing highly experienced experts in the various security subject matters, including strategic cyber defence, cyber warfare, cyber intelligence, cyber research and development and cyber strategy, as well as defining training policies for these branches of operation.

Having examined the prerequisites for protecting cyberspace, it is worth addressing the structure of some of the risks faced by institutional network systems.

One of the most typical operations made by hackers relates to the use of client/server technology to combine several computers as a platform to launch DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks against one or more targets, thus exponentially increasing damage.

A malicious user normally uses a stolen account to install the DDoS master programme on a computer. The master programme will communicate with a large number of agents at any given time and the agent programmes have been installed on many computers in the network. The agent launches an attack when it receives an instruction. Using client/server technology, the master control programme can activate hundreds of agent programmes in a matter of seconds.

A DDoS uses a group of controlled machines to launch an attack on a computer, be it server or client. It is so fast and hard to prevent that is therefore more destructive. If we consider that in the past network administrators could adopt the method of filtering IP addresses against DDoS, it becomes more difficult to prevent such actions today. How can measures be taken to respond effectively?

If the user is under attack, defence will be very limited. If there is a catastrophic attack with a large amount of traffic pouring onto the unprepared user, it will very likely that the network will be paralysed before the user can recover. Users, however, can still take the opportunity to seek defence.

Hackers usually launch attacks through many fake IP addresses. At that juncture, if users can distinguish which IPs are real and which are fake – and hence understand from which network segments these IPs come – they can ask the network administrator to change them. Firstly, the PCs should be turned off to try to eliminate the attack. If it is found that these IP addresses are coming from outside rather than from the company’s internal IP, a temporary investigation method can be used to filter these IP addresses on the server or router.

The solution would be to discover the route through which the attackers pass and block them. If hackers launch attacks from certain ports, users can block these ports to prevent intrusion. After the exit port is closed, all computers cannot access the Internet.

A more complex method consists in filtering the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), a service protocol for packet networks transmitting information regarding malfunctioning, monitoring and control information or messages between the various components of a computer network. Although it cannot completely eliminate the intrusion during the attack, filtering the ICMP can effectively prevent the escalation of the aggression and can also reduce the level of constant damage to a certain extent.

The DDoS attack is the most common attack method used by hackers. Some conventional methods of dealing with it are listed below.

1. Filter all RFC1918 IP addresses. The RFC1918 IP address is the address of the internal network, such as 10.0.0.0, 192.168.0.0, 172.16.0.0, etc. These are not fixed IP addresses of a particular network segment, but confidential local IP addresses within the Internet, which should be filtered out. This method serves to filter out a large number of fake internal IPs during an attack, and can also mitigate DDoS attacks.

2. Use many PCs to resist hacker attacks. This is an ideal response phase, if the user has sufficient ability and resources to enable a defence against hackers who attack and continue to access and take over resources. Before the user is fatally attacked, the hacker has little means to control many PCs. This method requires considerable investment and most of the equipment is usually idle, which does not correspond to the actual functioning of the current network of small and medium-sized enterprises.

3. Make full use of network equipment to protect resources. The so-called network equipment refers to load balancing hardware and software such as routers and firewalls, which can effectively protect the network. When the network is attacked, the router is the first to fail, but the other devices have not yet collapsed. The failed router will return to normalcy after being restarted and will restart quickly without any loss. If other servers collapse, their data will be lost and restarting them is a lengthy process. In particular, a company uses load balancing equipment so that when a router is attacked and crashes, the other will work immediately. This minimizes DDoS attacks.  

4. Configure the firewall. The firewall itself can resist DDoS and other attacks. When an attack is discovered, it may be directed to certain sacrificial hosts, which are able to protect the actual host from the attack. The sacrificial hosts may obviously choose to redirect to unimportant hosts or to those having systems with fewer vulnerabilities than some operating systems and with excellent protection against attacks.

5. Filter unnecessary services and ports. Many tools can be used to filter out unnecessary services and ports, i.e. filter out fake IPs on the router. For example, Cisco’s CEF (Cisco Express Forwarding) can compare and filter out Source IP and Routing Table packets. Opening only service ports has become a common practice for many servers. For example, WWW servers open only 80 ports and close all the others or use a blocking strategy on the firewall.

6. Limit SYN/ICMP traffic. The user must configure the maximum SYN/ICMP traffic on the router to limit the maximum bandwidth that SYN/ICMP packets can occupy. Therefore, when there is a large amount of SYN/ICMP traffic exceeding the limit, this means it is not normal network access, but hacking. In the beginning, limiting SYN/ICMP traffic was the best way to prevent DDoS. Although the effect of this method on DDoS is currently not widely used, it can still play a certain role.

7. Scan regularly. Existing network master nodes should be scanned regularly, checked for security vulnerabilities and new vulnerabilities cleaned up promptly. Computers on backbone nodes are the best locations for hackers to use because they have higher bandwidth. It is therefore very important to strengthen the security of these hosts. Furthermore, all computers connected to the major nodes of the network are server-level computers. Hence regular scanning for vulnerabilities becomes even more important.

8. Check the source of the visitor. Use suitable software to check whether the visitor’s IP address is true. This should be done by reverse-searching the router: if it is fake, it will be blocked. As said above, many hacker attacks often use fake IP addresses to confuse users and it is hard to find out from where they come. Therefore, for example, the use of Unicast Reverse Path Forwarding can reduce the occurrence of fake IP addresses and help improve network security.

As seen above, we need experts who know more than hackers, and this is the duty that States and governments have towards their institutions, but primarily towards their citizens.

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The visit of the head of Israeli Mossad intelligence to Bahrain

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The visit of the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed to Damascus on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 and the meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, sparked a great controversy that began from the moment it was announced, which was highlighted by Western analyzes mainly from outside the region, that it comes for a (comprehensive Arab reassessment of the reality of the relationship with Syria and its importance in combating terrorism in the region, and the importance of the current Syrian reality in the calculations of Arab and Gulf national security, primarily towards Iran, and breaking the American “Caesar Law” towards imposing an economic blockade on Syria), and various analyzes and speculations about the future of these have increased. The Emirati step, its implications and dimensions in the Arab and Gulf relations towards the Syrian regime, and whether it represents one of the indicators of the transition to another new phase of political action towards opening up to Damascus, and the return of Syria to its regional and international role. Especially with the clarification of the “Emirati-Syrian coordination” some time before that visit to arrange the rapprochement between the two sides, which became clear by the announcement of the contact between the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and President Bashar Al-Assad), as well as an official invitation to Syria to participate in the “International Expo Exhibition In Dubai” and then my meeting with the Syrian and Emirates oil ministers in Moscow.

    But what stopped me in that Emirates visit, was perhaps other events that were not addressed during those analyzes, which caught my attention analytically and academically, and the most different of them was (I was alerted by a foreign researcher during my commentary on the same analysis, that the Emirates move is mainly in the interest of Tehran the Iranian regime, not to stifle and besiege Iran in its areas of influence and its known role in Syria).  Despite the strangeness of this analysis, I occupied my mind with another matter to respond to it, regarding: (the significance of the visit of the head of the Israeli Mossad to Bahrain, and the visit of Emirates officials to Tel Aviv, and what is even clearer to the public is the organization of joint naval exercises in the Red Sea with the joint Israeli naval forces with Bahrain and the UAE), at the same time as the aforementioned visit.

    Accordingly, my analysis mainly focuses on whether that visit took place through (arranging and coordinating with Tel Aviv to curb Iran in Syria and the region, by attracting Syria to the Arab League and collective Arab action again), and the Gulf rejectionist and Arab reservations towards the step of rapprochement.  The Syrian-Iranian, or did I aim for a clearer Gulf rapprochement with Iran through rapprochement with Syria, as I went to a number of mainly Western analyzes, which I received.  From here, the Egyptian researcher will analyze all the following elements:

Analyzing the implications of the visit of the UAE Foreign Minister (Bin Zayed) to Syria on November 9, 2021.

And its relationship to the “joint naval maneuvers” between (Israel, the UAE and Bahrain) in the Red Sea on November 10, 2021 on the Iranian existence at Syria

The visit of (the head of the Israeli Mossad intelligence service to Bahrain) at the time of the naval joint maneuvers with Israel in the Red Sea, with (the visit of the UAE Air Force commander to Israel).

Then, finally, analyzing the impacts of the Israeli Mossad intelligence moves in the Red Sea on its rapprochement with the USA in the face of (China, Russia and Iran).

   To answer those questions, it is necessary to verify and respond to number of inquires and some other different analyses, such as:

The UAE’s motives for taking such a step of rapprochement with Syria, through the visit of the UAE Foreign Minister “Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed” to Damascus on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, and the meeting with Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad”.

Rather, will this Emirates step (encourage the rest of the Arab countries to follow the Emirates footsteps)  and open up to the Syrian regime?

What is the fate of the “Syrian opposition to the Emirati-Syrian rapprochement”, and is this Emirates move aimed at weakening the Syrian opposition track, especially the Syrians opposing the regime of President “Bashar Al-Assad” abroad?

Then, it will remain to analyze (the Syrian opposition’s options if more Arab countries open up to the Al-Assad’s regime).

Will there be a (Syrian-Emirati consensus) towards the step of solving the (return of Syrian refugees from abroad and the settlement of their situation with the current Syrian regime)?

Finally, the question arises, regarding: (the impact of the intensity of American and international criticism of the UAE’s step of rapprochement with the Syrian regime and President “Bashar Al-Assad” on the completion of the remaining Arab steps seeking to integrate and return Syria once more to its membership in the League of Arab States)?

In fact, the most dangerous and important analysis for me remains completely analytical, namely: (What was raised about the fact that the UAE obtained the green light from the United States of America itself and from the Israeli side before the visit of the UAE Foreign Minister “Bin Zayed” to the Emirates, in pursuit of forming (Gulf-UAE-Israeli alliance against Iran), and seeking to neutralize the Syrian regime in the face of these Iranian moves as a closely related ally of the Iranians?) Accordingly, we can analyze that, as follows:

Perhaps what reinforces and supports my recent view regarding the “Israeli Gulf mobilization with the help of the UAE and Washington’s support to confront Iran through Syria” is (the joint security coordination between Israel and the Emirati and Bahraini naval forces to conduct joint naval maneuvers in the Red Sea, which lasted for five full days), which began on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, which comes at the same time as the UAE rapprochement with Syria, meaning:

 (There are joint security arrangements between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in the face of Iran through the move of rapprochement with Syria as an ally of Iran)

As I mentioned, the joint naval maneuvers between Israel and the UAE at the same time as the UAE visit confirms (the continuation of joint security coordination between Israel and the UAE), especially to curb and limit Iranian influence.  Knowing that the step of joint security coordination between the Emirates and Israel began three years ago, when the naval forces of the Gulf states, mainly the “UAE and Bahrain”, began conducting joint naval maneuvers with the Israeli side, which were the first for them ever with their Israeli counterpart, in cooperation with the forces of the United States of America’s Navy.

We find that the current joint naval maneuvers in the Red Sea with the participation of the UAE and Israel, with the participation of (warships from the Emirates, Bahrain and Israel), in addition to the United States of America, is a “joint Israeli-Gulf assertion” to send a message to the Iranian side, that these naval maneuvers with  Israel, aims to:

 “Securing the maritime traffic in the face of Iran, and seeking to secure the movement of the straits and maritime navigation in the Red Sea with the help of Israeli security, especially that these joint maritime training operations included training on encirclement and raid tactics”

This was confirmed by the US Naval Forces Central Command, in an official statement, to confirm that:

“The Israeli, Emirates, and Bahraini training aims to enhance the ability to work collectively among the forces participating in the maneuvers”

From here, we understand that the step of joint Israeli-Emirati security coordination, and the consequent step of the joint naval maneuvers, came after the signing of the “Abraham Accords” in September 2020, and the normalization of their relations with Israel by the UAE and Bahrain. Since then, it has strengthened the (diplomatic, military, and intelligence relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, as the two most important Gulf countries that share Tel Aviv’s concerns about Iran’s activities in the Red Sea and the region).

The most prominent here, is (the visit of the head of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad in a public visit to Bahrain at the time of the joint naval maneuvers with Israel in the Red Sea, with the commander of the UAE Air Force heading at the same time also on a first-of-its-kind visit to Israel in October  2021).

In general, the (re-opening of the Emirati and Bahraini embassies in Damascus) in December 2018, was considered at that time as (a major change in the Gulf policy towards Syria, and it was among the first indications of a more comprehensive normalization). There is no doubt that these steps came after consulting Saudi Arabia.  However, it seems that Saudi Arabia, as usual, is taking a cautious and secretive attitude towards the move of rapprochement with Syria due to its fear of the “Al-Assad regime’s relations with Tehran”.

At the time, the UAE and Bahrain talked about (the geopolitical benefits of rehabilitating the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad). The State of Bahrain confirmed that “the step of integrating Bashar Al-Assad aims to strengthen the Arab role and prevent regional interference in Syrian affairs”.

The most important analytical question for me is whether Abu Dhabi has completely severed its relations with Damascus at all, given (the continued presence of prominent Syrian figures loyal to Damascus living and working in the Emirates).

In general, this (continuous stream of signals emanating from Damascus and other Arab capitals, led by the Emirates for rapprochement with Syria), indicates that the former opponents of the Syrian government have come close to reaching mutually beneficial arrangements with the Syrian government, some of which pledged a few years ago to drop it.

The most important gains for the Syrian regime from that rapprochement with the UAE and the rest of the Arab countries will be (reconstruction contracts for Syria and energy deals), in addition to the markets that will be opened to it if they reconcile with the Arab countries, which may later pave the way for “inclusion of Damascus again and  returning its membership in the League of Arab States”, which is of course the most important strategic step for the UAE and the Gulf states, to help Syria to return back to the “Arab House”, and consequently put pressure on it not to rapprochement with Iran, as it is a rival opponent for the UAE and the Gulf states.

    In this context, the Syrian capital, Damascus is now hoping for (influential Arab voices to exert international pressure in order to lift the severe sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime), which aims to (punish Syrian officials and Syrian organizations for their alleged involvement in human rights violations).

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Features of ISIS’ Information Warfare

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The most significant feature of our modern world is the large-scale popularization and application of the Internet, which has transformed our society and formed a substantial information society. Initially, the information society was only a theoretical projection, but it has now become a reality. When the world transforms into an information society, the great impact of such a transformation will be felt. The governance structures of the world have not prepared for such changes, and thus are unable to deal with these transformations effectively, resulting in massive risks and social disorder.

In the field of information and anti-terrorism, a major concern is the impact of the Internet. The Internet has accelerated the flow of information, and the boundary of truth and falsehood are at times, indistinguishable. At the same time, social conditions can be exaggerated online. Combined with the psychological activities and circumstances of the masses, it is extremely easy to create a larger scale of dissatisfaction which will, to a certain extent, lead to the collapse of the original social ideological and belief systems. The United States and Western countries ignoring the social and stage of countries and regions in the Mediterranean region, Africa, and the Middle East and Central Asian countries, blindly export their ideology, and driven by the amplification effect of the Internet, this process of collapse has been accelerated.

A terrorist organization such as ISIS has harnessed the great potentials offered by the Internet, and as such, it laid the foundation for the large-scale development of ISIS’s information warfare. First of all, the Islamic State has established a professional public relations organization, responsible for producing and disseminating content. ISIS has its homepage and accounts on major social networking sites, and even has multi-layered sub-accounts, thereby evading censorship. They launched DABIQ, an attractively designed online magazine with extremely provocative content, and developed a smartphone app called Dawn of Glad Tidings, focusing on the Western “high-end customer base” as their target group to inform them of the latest “news of jihad in real-time”. In addition, the Islamic State has also launched the online game, which creates scenarios for players to attack the U.S. military, police, and civilians, and rewards criminal acts and even terrorist attacks in the game.

Today, ISIS can be seen almost on all social media platforms and is accessible in Western countries. It has thousands of accounts on Twitter alone, including both organized public accounts and terrorist personal accounts. ISIS is proficient in the so-called “viral marketing” model in information warfare. Through the user’s network, the information spreads like a virus and spreads to thousands of audiences using rapid replication. The organizer clearly achieves the word-of-mouth “relationship marketing” by providing a certain product or service, allowing others to become “marketing and communication levers” inadvertently. 

ISIS is often far more professional and sensitive than the government departments of various countries that hold the power of national governance. It has long been keenly aware of the evolution of political discourse from propaganda to information dissemination in contemporary society, and this trend is one of the keys that is enabling it to lead public opinion. Traditional propaganda methods such as sermons and speeches, obviously, lack interaction with the target audience. Therefore, ISIS encourages followers to use various websites as platforms to establish various forms of “self-media”. ISIS also cultivate Internet influencers to encourage netizens to create audio messages, videos and even websites. As ISIS cleverly hides its ambitions behind high-level productions and attractive propaganda, more and more people in the West, especially young people, have been successfully brainwashed, are actively participating in the dissemination of ISIS-related information, even going to the Middle East to become jihadists on the battlefield and gain the satisfaction of realizing their supposed self-worth.

This kind of information warfare was so successful that in 2016, the official website of Tsinghua University in China was hacked by ISIS hackers where ISIS recruitment advertisements were posted. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has found cases where teenagers as young as 15 years old were recruited by ISIS, and in some cases in the United States, parents even encouraged their children to participate in terrorist organizations. In fact, the information warfare of ISIS is very active and successful not only in Western countries but also in Turkey and Syria. As a result, ISIS has obtained the human resources of thousands of sacrificial young people.

The information society and the Internet have created a huge imbalance for the future world, making this world an unbalanced world and a world in transition. The formation of various transnational virtual organizations is now possible using simple network tools. This also means that terrorist organizations like ISIS cannot theoretically be eliminated at all. They can easily evolve into virtualized organizations that exist everywhere and can be found by search engines at any time due to the ubiquity of the information society and the Internet.

They will continue to grow, gain popularity, and evolve into a new type of network-based anti-government organization. Terrorist organizations of various types have shifted their focus from the real world to the virtual world, and then back again. This is the enormous governance challenge that the information society will undoubtedly face in the future. 

Final analysis conclusion:

Although ISIS faces restrictions as it is a terrorist organization, it has used the information society and the Internet to launch successful information warfare and has achieved remarkable results worldwide. In an age of information asymmetry, simple and easy network tools have made it possible to establish a variety of transnational virtual organizations. This will pose a huge governance challenge to the future information society.

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