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Jihad Selfie: The Evolving Strategy of Homegrown Radical Recruitment

Dr. Matthew Crosston

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Omar Mateen, Terrorist Who Attacked Orlando Gay Club

In February, an eye-opening new report was released by the Program on Extremism at The George Washington University. This 116-page report, The Travelers: American Jihadists in Iraq and Syria, is a powerful mix of the best of political science and sociology. It exposes the reader to both the definitions and statistics around American- and European-based jihadist travelers, while also providing context via meaningfully detailed backstories of a select few cases.

While this report makes excellent distinctions between the much larger community of European-based jihadists compared to the smaller and more isolated American-based one, there are several key aspects of radical recruitment that deserve further research and greater elaboration.

Addressing Isolation in Immigrant Communities

It is clear that the past three years in America have seen an increase in the same small-scale acts of terrorism that were recently only taking place in Europe.

While the report acknowledges that there is much fanfare about the Islamic State’s savvy use of social media and technology to do “abroad recruiting,” it finds that a personal touch still plays a big role in developing successful recruits who venture all the way over to Iraq and Syria.

In the United States, evidence points to a loosely connected network of radicalization that dates all the way back to the Balkans ethnic conflict in the early 1990s. This provides further evidence of the “social Balkanization” that has remained stubbornly prevalent in the United States when it comes to newer waves of emigrant populations.

The GW report acknowledges the feelings of isolation in many new recruits in America. However, it does not make a connection between the isolation of individuals and the clear failures of select communities to successfully integrate immigrants into American culture. The report does not address this problem, largely because it considers the alienation and isolation process in Europe to be more stark than in America. However, I am not entirely sure this presumption is true and it is certainly not provided for in the report in any evidentiary way.

It also seems clear that the perpetrators of those acts are remarkably similar in their feelings of isolation and alienation from the home culture, whether they are Belgian, French, English, or American. Understanding why some groups in the modern era are coming to the United States but not finding any great attraction to the political and social values of America could be a huge leap in helping law enforcement agencies ascertain where the most vulnerable communities are and which people are most susceptible to such pernicious recruitment.

As a whole, the American diplomatic, social assistance, and academic communities have not done an adequate job investigating the phenomenon best described as being “in the West” but never truly becoming “of the West.” It is this aspect of the recruitment process that is not yet examined in any report but deserves much greater attention.

The gap that supposedly exists between Europe and America in the GW report may in fact be closing and we need to come to terms with its consequences. The report suggests that the West’s success in destroying the political goal of the Islamic State in establishing a Caliphate across the greater Middle East could harbor an unintended negative consequence: Robbing ISIS of the opportunity to achieve their ultimate goal at home may spur recruitment to initiate “revenge” violence back in the West.

Why ISIS’s Recruitment Strategy is More Successful Than al-Qaeda

The report glosses over one of the more unfortunate “successes” of the Islamic State since its inception that makes this so-called “revenge” terrorism more likely: namely, its ability to overcome what I have in the past called al-Qaeda’s “9/11 Syndrome.”

In many regards, al-Qaeda fell victim to its own surprise success with 9/11. After hitting the Pentagon and seeing the total destruction of the Twin Towers, al-Qaeda succumbed to a unique version of self-imposed peer pressure: after such a devastating and history-changing attack, the group would be hard-pressed to consider itself successful if future initiatives only amounted to bus bombings, car attacks, or individual suicide-vest bombers. Such minor acts would only be seen as a regression of relevance and impact.

This has been one of the great conundrums of American counter-terrorist strategists: Was the success in preventing a second 9/11 because of how quickly we reacted and learned from our mistakes? Or was it because al-Qaeda became obsessed with only perpetrating a second version of 9/11, no longer satisfied with smaller-scale acts of terrorism?

We may never know the answer, but what seems clear as a point of distinction between the two terrorist groups is that the Islamic State took any act of terrorism to be a successful act as long as it caused injury, chaos, and death. This is why its social media recruitment is more powerful and more effective than al-Qaeda’s: If you can achieve the same heavenly rewards of martyrdom for an act you can easily commit yourself with little-to-no training and/or consultation (such as blowing up a bus or randomly shooting at people in a nightclub) and don’t need to travel very far from home, then why bother trying to pull off a much more complicated and less-likely-to-succeed fantasy act of high terrorism in a foreign land?

The Islamic State was not handcuffed by the success of 9/11 and its most dangerous weapon so far in terms of Westerner recruitment has been its ability to characterize smaller acts of terrorism as being valuable and important. The report touches on the edge of this reality but does not investigate it fully by encapsulating it within the possibility of “revenge” terrorism. This is where the true epicenter of home-grown Islamic State fanaticism in America is likely to grow and emerge and is therefore an area that needs to be investigated more seriously.

Impacts on Counterterrorism Strategies

The unfortunate truth, as highlighted in the report, is that the perpetrators of future acts of homegrown terror in the United States – motivated by Islamic State recruitment – might only be getting more isolated and more socially alienated, thus becoming harder to detect and preempt. As the Islamic State leans ever-more heavily on social media, demanding less personal contact and perhaps no requirement for foreign travel and training, the prevalence of “lone wolf” acts are likely to become more dominant.

Unfortunately, our methods of counter-terrorism may also be growing antiquated. If this is so, then important reports like “The Travelers” will depressingly become out-of-date much faster than we would like and the emergence of “Jihadi Janes and Johns” will not be marked by travel overseas or by direct personal contacts with known radicalized communities.

Up to now, we have hoped and relied upon that patchwork of loose radicalized elements, centered around well-known communities within major American cities, to produce the most highly motivated recruits, thereby giving us ample evidence of where to focus our law enforcement efforts.

Which leaves one disturbing counter-terrorist Faustian bargain hanging in the air: which do you find more terrifying? Terrorist acts that are large-scale and highly planned, resulting in greater casualties but are quite rare? Or terrorist acts that are smaller-scale and random, resulting in fewer casualties, but are far more common?

Deepening our understanding of evolving recruitment strategies can help us prevent both types of attacks.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Executive Vice Chairman of ModernDiplomacy.eu. He is Senior Doctoral Faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies at the American Military University and was just named the future Co-Editor of the seminal International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. His work is catalogued at: https://brown.academia.edu/ProfMatthewCrosston/Analytics

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Know the psychology of ISIL

Sajad Abedi

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In my opinion, the “ISIS phenomenon” is not new; it distinguishes the factors of this group; for example, the audience of the world’s television networks is watching films that ISIS itself publishes. They have internet sites that send their films and photos to the world. On the other hand, the region is full of journalists because both the Syria war is underway and the Middle East regional issues are so important, so journalists can cover the moment.

In addition, the strategic importance of the Iraqi state and its oil resources was due to the fact that ISIS had its first attacks on oil and refineries, but it was effective in triggering their actions, but the thing that shook the world more than anything else, A pattern of behavior that the group represented during the capture of places; films from ISILs that were showing them on the road and checking cars, while carrying laptops with names of those who worked with the government, or any kind of their thoughts It was different from the ideology of ISIL.

The members of the group matched the driver identification card with the list of these names, and if their names were on this list, they would have been executed without trial!

These films spread throughout the world, and the wonder of the whole world prompted which ideology and religion could be, according to which, people were allowed to kill someone by merely naming and without trial, killing someone along the road and rejoicing.

The problem is that the members of this group, other than themselves, do not know the rest of the people as religious and religious, so they assume any violence and murder as loyal to their religious ideology, while many Muslims around the world, especially their classroom, are astonished at these actions and never do such acts godly and on the basis of religion and hate them.

Is Isis a Terrorist?

“Terror” means the creation of horror and fear. In fact, terror means the use of unexpected, shocking and unlawful violence against civilians to force a state or a society to accept demands based on an ideology.

But what does a terrorist want from a psychological point of view, what happens in society and what is his goal? They create psychological phenomena in society, through which they pressure the people and civilians to push them on to governments, and ultimately, to reach the demands of that group. The psychological phenomena that are caused by terrorist movements and their news in people are horror, discomfort and turmoil, unrest and restlessness, pessimism, anxiety and anxiety, anger, grief and tragedy.

Most importantly, the combination of all these unpleasant feelings is causing a lot of confusion, discomfort and insecurity inside people. But what makes the assassination possible? It is clear that those who do such behaviors do not consider themselves brutal or inhumane, and they have the absolute right to do such acts.

In recent years, investigations have been carried out on those who have had extreme behaviors. One of the most important and best investigated was Dr. Wagdey Luzza at the University of Cantabria on the terrorism of religious groups such as al-Qaeda, with the Middle East approach, and the results could be extended to ISIS. According to the study, it turned out that in the West, most of those joining these groups are men aged 17 to 23, usually from middle-class families with relatively high academic and academic achievements in modern science with academic degrees.

But the results of the 1999 study also revealed that those who carry out terrorist acts in their own countries are people with low and unemployed education who have been roughly dropped out of the text of the community, and themselves have separated themselves from the context of society.

The leaders of these radical and radical religious groups, on average 15 years older than the followers and other members of the group, are about 40 years old, have a great deal of affection and influence, are able to inspire the respect of their followers and their own self, Their ideology, in such a way that they can influence others, have intrinsically an influential personality, inspire others, encourage in the best possible way, usually do not fear death and are professors of death. Of course, in the leaders of these groups, there are people who, incidentally, completely escape death while encouraging others to die in the ideology.

Those who are attracted to groups like ISIS are abnormal?

There is no consensus on this. Some studies show that many of these people have personality disorders. Some even suffer from major psychiatric disorders. But the most important point of the personality that can be mentioned is that they have grown up in a family or a community that has created a feeling of self-sufficiency and humiliation.

These people have never been taken seriously and they feel that they are not first class citizens and their rights are different from the rights of other citizens. They feel like they are not treated to others. One of the most prominent examples of this situation may be seen in the behavior of Arab people living in the suburbs of Paris over the past 2-3 years. They were born in Paris and had a French passport, but their sense of belonging and attachment to the French community was not formed, which caused disturbances in Paris, which caused a lot of damage.

After that, the French government has just realized that it cannot continue to discriminate, and must provide grounds for joining these people to French culture while respecting Arab and Islamic culture in order not to face such rebellion and chaos.

Another aspect of the personality of the members of such groups is that they do not have personality independence and they need to follow someone else with a higher appeal. They have no self-confidence and can only feel confident within an ideology, that is, ideology with rough behaviors so that nobody dares to stand in front of them.

People who lack the sense of empathy and sympathy with others, and they are not basically born of a child of conscience, suffered a severe damage to their self-image from a childhood, which is said to be bad in their family and society, they are a bad people, their religion is not worthless. , Have a brutal nationality, and they are constantly seeking to abandon their anger, and one of the best ways to do this is to join groups that can be abused by membership and violent behavior.

Members of these groups are pessimistic about the world around them and the world, and sometimes have a lot of mental employment, for example, under the control of a very violent parent or violent and punitive rule. Groups like ISIS will be able to empower them. People with such characteristics are so influenced and influenced by a kind of hypnosis that their contacts with the facts are discontinued and their perceptions of facts are confused.

One of the things that the leaders of these groups do well is brainwashing, that is, brainwashing ideological issues in the name of reality in the whole universe, and assuring them that the truth is what their leaders say.

Another group of researchers, according to their studies, has concluded that members of the terrorist groups do not have an abnormal character at all; many of them naturally, educated and highly adhered to their ideology, and are even willing to sacrifice their lives for their ideology. In fact, these people, through sacrificing their lives, feel useful, sacrificed and sacrificed and are proud to be in this way, which ultimately leads to a great name in this world and a fortune-telling to come place for them.

In my opinion, naturally, both groups of these people are seen in groups like ISIL, and perhaps we should look at their behavior in order to find out the reality. I believe that what distinguishes natural people from abnormal is the degree of conscientiousness.

Those who believe in devotion and sacrifice and honesty are surely not willing to surrender their captive family members without trial, roadside, and in front of their eyes.

Unfortunately, due to the actions and actions of the ISIS group, it seems that most of its members have an abnormal character and their thoughts are immortal and primitive. They are usually accustomed to learning to look very straightforward. The example of this is the declaration of the caliphate for the whole world from an area in Iraq and the burning of European citizens’ passports to show that they are universal and do not think nationally! These people believe that they have established a government and a caliphate for the whole world, all of which shows their simplicity.

They see phenomena as absolute black or white, or good or bad. They see the world divided into two categories: the helpless rich, the exploited, and the poor, are miserable, and this means thinking all or nothing. Their beliefs are based on the rejection of the thoughts of others, rather than certain beliefs, and they consider all the rights to themselves. Moreover, they believe that their thinking for all ages and for all people and all the conditions is right, so they want to persuade everyone to force their ideology and if anyone opposes it, they seek to hurt him. Clearly, the analytical system of these groups is weak because the training that they have seen in their schools is more based on memory rather than analysis.

Finally, I emphasize that the formation of ISIS and its groups is the result of being repelled and humiliated by the family and society. Therefore, if any country wants a phenomenon like ISIS not to emerge, one must understand that it is necessary to respect the rights of citizenship and religion of the people

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Radicalisation of Youth in Indonesia and Counteractions

Abhishek Mohanty

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There is a generic proverb that youth are the upcoming leaders of future. But in reality, they are the leaders of contemporary times. Indonesia, with approximately 266 million population, in which almost 25% of the population is occupied by youth falling below the age of 25. Shaping this group for influencing present and future discourses of Indonesia is very important. But this young generation is ghastly being motivated towards radicalism on several pretexts, primarily politically and religiously. One of the several factors is due to identity crisis which is invoked internally by society and externally by subtle indoctrination through mainstream and social media.

There is an increasing consciousness in Indonesia that terror organisations are encouraging youths to join their ranks. This endangerment was clear since 2009 when Indonesian media telecasted a video of an 18-year old preparing himself for suicide bombing at the Hotel Marriott. The video disclosed the serene account about sacrificing one’s life for the sake of religion. The Indonesian media had unconcealed in front of the whole nation that for some of Indonesian youth, it was their responsibility to wage Jihad against infidels in the form of terrorist acts. Indonesian public found it embarrassing to digest this at that time.

But now, a worrying number of Indonesian youth have been exposed to radical political and religious orientation. Approximately 39% of university students have confessed their support to radical organisations. Fifteen provinces of Indonesia now have a “high risk” categorisation. Their students are an easy prey for radical organisations.A related narrative is also going on in Indonesian high schools. Nearly60% of extracurricular Islamic studies students are ready to engage in fierce jihad. This has caused an alarming situation in Indonesia as it is clearly visible that radical radical elements of the society have infiltrated the minds of Indonesian youth.

One of the earliest radical preachers in Indonesia is the Rohani Islam movement, which upsurged after the fall of Suharto’s autocratic regime. It has promoted radical interpretations of Islams to Indonesian youths through evening classes. Rohani apologists are now the most radical section of people in Indonesian society. Around 40% of the supporters backed to transform Indonesia into an Islamic State under a caliphate. The Rohani Islam movement comes under the purview of the Ministry for Education. But there have been negligible attempts to probe or reorient the Rohani Islam movement.

Another renowned radical organisation Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) has also been radicalising Indonesian youth since the last three years. It was established in 2015, as a result of amalgamation of more than a dozen Indonesian terrorist outfits to strengthen the influence of ISIS in Indonesia, with Aman Abdurrahman, who recently was sentenced to death for his involvement in terrorist attacks, as it’s de facto supremo. According to Indonesian authorities, the family of suicide bombers which recently perpetrated the terrorist attacks in Surabaya had strong connections with JAD. The radical organisation also runs unauthorised boarding schools study groups for Indonesian youth. It has been also alleged by Indonesian authorities that students and teachers from these schools have travelled to Iraq and Syria for training purposes.

With the issue of radicalism gaining momentum in Indonesia, several NGOs have stepped up to counter the influence of radicalism in the Indonesian society. They have carried out majority of the initiatives on deradicalisation of youths. The Wahid Foundation, like for example, visits high schools which are soft targets of radicalisation. Their activists teach lessons on subjects like peace, religious tolerance, multiculturalism and pluralism. The Jakarta-settled NGO Maarif Institute organises an annual camp youth camp to assist youth in countering the influence of radicalism. Its also organises visits to Catholic churches and Buddhist temple to promote inter-faith cooperation and has partnered with Google to host workshops on ways to combat baneful online propaganda.

The radicalization of Indonesian youth is now a major concern for the government, as inflammatory thoughts now easily move through cultures and borders with one touch, more precisely with just tapping tweet or post. There is an urgent need for maximising government initiatives towards youth related policies. Such as, there are very less public investments in youth related national programmes to tap their prolific assets. Recently, President Widodo has announced new policies to forbid youth from coming under the influence of radical views. For developing a robust framework of youth deradicalisation involves modifications in policies, societies and families.

Indonesia’s youth deradicalisation initiatives will be more complex and intriguing in the coming times. Albeit Indonesia is the best model of a multicultural, religious tolerant Muslim-majority secular democracy, still a lot has to be done in developing an environment among the youth that is free from any kind of radical orientations. One aspect can be encouraging ambitious youth leadership. Interactive sessions by senior educators won’t appeal the youth as much when compared with passionate youth leaders.

Radicalism is often a harbinger to terrorism and concentrating on radicalism signals to get rid of terrorism at the nascent stage, before it is too late for non-coercive tactics. Triumphing over radicalism will in the end not be reckoned by military actions but by encouraging non-military policies that tones up the institutional support of human development in the country.

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Iran’s military activity strengthens al Qaeda in Syria

Uran Botobekov

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Iranian proxy Shi’a militias in Syria

Iran’s dangerous play in the Levant

The analysis of the activities of Hayat Taḥrir al-Sham and his Central Asian allies Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari and the Turkestan Islamic Party, affiliated with Al Qaeda, testifies that the recent military successes of the Assad regime forces and Iranian-backed foreign Shi’a militias helped al-Qaeda strengthen its ideology among the Sunni part of the population in the south-west of the country.Inter-confessional contradictions between Sunnis and Shi’asand peculiar ethno religious diversities of Syria, where the civil war has not ceased for more than seven years, created unique conditions for al-Qaeda to establish here, its the newest and most important safe haven.And it is the government of Syria and the Iranian regime, who actively use the Iranian proxy Shi’a militias, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Lebanese Hezbollah, Zainebiyoun Brigades and Fatemiyoun Brigades in order to preserve Bashar al-Assad’s bloody regime and to exterminate the Sunni majority, are directly responsible for creating socio-political favorable conditions for strengthening the ideology of Al Qaeda in Syria.

Iran, Russia and Syria are spearheading operations to gain territory in Syria and wrestle with al-Qaeda backed Salafi-jihadi groups. Backed by Russian air-power, Iranian-led Shi’a jihadists including Lebanese Hezbollah, Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigades and Iraqi militias and allies are the main boots on the ground.

Liwa Fatemiyoun is the biggest military unit deployed by Iran in Iraq and Syria. It draws recruits from Afghan refugees in Iran and Syria, and from the Hazara Shi’a minority in Afghanistan. Iran offers citizenship to the families of foreign fighters “martyred” in Syria and Iraq, and offers a year’s residency for a three-month deployment to Syria.The Fatemiyoun Brigade has about 20,000 active fighters according to accounts provided by Iranian officials. The Iranian authorities maintain the fighters are volunteers. According to the top Fatemiyoun Brigade’s official, at least 2,000 Afghan Shi’as have been killed and 8,000 more injured in the Syrian conflict.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps recruits destitute and undocumented Afghan Shi’a refugees who ran from the war in Afghanistan, by offering them permanent residency, financial aid, and other incentives for their families. Other Shi’a refugees were forced to join Iran’s war in Syria to escape prison sentences. Of some 2.5 million Afghans living in Iran, a third are registered as refugees while the remainder are mostly illegal economic migrants.The salaries of Iranian recruits range from $500 to $1,000 a month. Many captured by Hayat Taḥrir al-Sham Afghan Shi’as say that they are attracted to Syria by the promise of a financial reward. The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, using the hopeless situation of Afghan Shi’a refugees, cynically and mercilessly sends them as cannon fodder to the conflict points in Middle East to fight Sunni Muslims, whose goal is to create a large Shi’a arc from the Central Asia to the Western Maghreb.

Iran actively carries out extensive ideological indoctrination among the Shi’a militia from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Recruits are told that the war in Syria is a defense of the holiest shrines of the Shi’a faith from attack by Sunni terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, which their recruiters then describe they as a creation of the United States to destabilize the Middle East.

The Iranian authorities keep strictly in secret how much money Tehran spent on financing the pro-Iranian Shi’a fighting groups throughout the Middle East, which have become key players in political and military scenes in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. But the amount of financing is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars, which are spent not only to satisfy Iran’s geopolitical ambitions, but this money contributes to increasing Sunni-Shi’a hatred and strengthens Al Qaeda in the Levant, situated in the heart of the most important geography in the Muslim world.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in Syria

Al Qaeda backed Central Asian jihadists in the Shia-Sunni conflict

In the ideological doctrine of the al-Qaeda backed Central Asian Salafi-jihadi groups, who have taken the safe haven in Syria, have recently undergone radical changes in anti-Shia and anti-Iranian trends. While earlier in the propaganda materials Sunni fundamentalists from the Fergana Valley emphasized the struggle with the “unbelieving regimes” of Central Asia and the protection of Islam from the Western crusaders, after the bloody clashes with the Iranian proxy Shia militias in Syria, they equated Iran as the main enemies of Sunni Islam.Since 2015, the Central Asian jihadists’ propaganda has begun to focus on the mass terror of Shias that they commit in the Sunni provinces of Syria after the carpet bombing of Russian Air Force.The information agency Ebaa in Arabic, which is the propaganda mouthpiece of Hayat Taḥrir al-Sham, and the Central Asian jihadists Media Center “Voice of Sham” in Uzbek and Russian languages regularly show on the Internet photos of captured and destroyed Afghan Shia military formations Fatemiyoun Brigade, Iraqi Shia militias LiwaZulfiqar and Harakat al Nujaba, the Lebanese Shia militias Hezbollah, which are controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In their religious sermons during the Juma namaz, the leaders of the Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Uygur Salafi-jihadi groups in Syria began to agitate to lead the jihad with “Shia invaders that vilify the sacred name of Islam.”The most wanted Islamic terrorist from Kyrgyzstan, the leader of the Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Abu Saloh, who is a loyal supporter of Al Qaeda, in his audio message, distributed via the Telegram on March 18, 2018, says that: “despite the fact that Iran calls itself Islamic Republic, it was and remains the enemy of Islam.”He then quotes the words of the medieval Sunni Muslim theologian Taqi ad-Din ibn Taymiyyah that “Shias are asses of the Jews, whom they will ride in any trouble”. “And today, when in Sham the Mujahideen defend Islam from the bloody Nusayri regime, the Shias of Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq came to help Bashar al Assad and declared jihad to us, to the Sunnis.Therefore, the expulsion of Shia devils from the Levant is a sacred duty of every Sunni Muslim,”says Abu Saloh.

The analytical department of the Voice of Sham in Idlib, which highlights the activities of the Central Asian Sunni Jihadists affiliated with al-Qaeda, wrote on April 15, 2018: “The Shi’a’s Jihad begins when the Sunnis go to Jihad. That is, against the Sunnis. So this time. Iran is an animal, brainless, ugly. He is kept in a cage for a suitable occasion. And he was let off the leash when Jihad began in Sham. But now the animal must be driven back to its lair, otherwise it can bite its owners. That’s why the so-called “Israel” attacks the bases of the Iranians. It’s time to put the beast back on the chain.”

The leader of another Uzbek group, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari Abu Yusuf Muhojir, who was designated by the US State Department to the list of global terrorist organizations on March 22, 2018, firmly supported Al-Qaeda’s position in trying to spread the jihadist ideology among the Sunni part of the Levant.As is well known, Al Qaeda’s Sunni ideology regards Shi’as as heretics and describes them as dogs and a thorn in the throat of Islam from the beginning of time. In his religious speeches before the Sunni Mujahideen from Central Asia, he regularly narrates the typical ideology of al Qaeda. According to Abu Yusuf Muhojir the Shias are conspiring to destroy Islam and to resuscitate Persian imperial rule over the Middle East and ultimately the world.In his video message entitled “The Dignity of Ribat” on May 27, 2018, he says that “Shias are traitors to Islam and accomplices of Russian infidels in Syria.They together help Nusayri’s lieder Bashar al-Assad, whose policies harm the country’s Sunni majority».He on Telegram described Shia as a gathering of devils, whom Allah will punish for their betrayal to the American Zionist-Crusaders in Iraq yesterday and to the Russian Christians in Levant today.

Uighur jihadists of the Turkestan Islamic Party, which are the military unit of Al Qaeda from Western China, regularly issue statements in which they position themselves as a true defender of Sunni Islam.On June 27, 2018, TIP announced its “full readiness to support the appeal of Hayat Taḥrir al-Sham to protect the province of Dara from the attacks of the Nusayriregime and its Iraqi Shia henchmen.”Recall that at the end of June, the army of Bashar al Assad and the Russian aviation launched an offensive on the southern province of Daraa, a zone that was under a Russian-American ceasefire.American analysts confirmed that they received the first evidence of the participation of the Iraqi Shia militia Liwa Zulfiqar, which is controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Who will force Iran to leave Syria?

As this analysis has shown, Iran’s escalation in Syria, and its mobilization and widespread deployment of ideologically extremist sectarian Shi’a militias from Afghanistan and from throughout the greater Middle East to assist the Assad government is helping Al-Qaeda backed Hayat Taḥrir al-Sham to acquire the title of a true defender of Sunni Islam.The Media Center of Central Asian jihadists “Voice of Sham” described the leader of HTS Abu Muhammad al Julani as “an indestructible mountain that defending the Sunnis from the powerful attacks of Iran’s Shi’a devils and the Nusayri’s army.”

The destruction of predominately Sunni communities by Assad’s army, with the assistance of Iranian-imported, sectarian Shi’a militias, gave al-Qaeda an opportunity to expand its roots in the local Sunni communities.This was facilitated by two factors. First, the fall of the Islamic state who was Al-Qaeda’s ideological competitor in the struggle for leadership in the jihadist world.Secondly, when the international coalition was engaged in the fight against the ISIS, Al Qaeda’s structural units in the Levant restored strength and continued to introduce their ideology among the population.

Today, al-Qaeda’s ideologists have put forward a new thesis that the Assad’s armed forces are helping the Khawarij of ISIS to commit the attacks against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Free Syrian Army and Ahrar al-Sham. One of HTS’s ideologues Abdulfattah Farghaly wrote on Telegram that: “Khawarij again launched an offensive from the Nusayrite territories to the sacred lands of the Sunnis to overthrow these territories in favor of the Assad’s regime, which is evidence that they work for Nusayrites, Shi’as and Russians. Khawarijs are foot soldiers for Shi’a.”In this connection, one of the ideologists of modern Salafism Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al-Tarifi issued the Fatwa that “the Sunni Mujahideen killed by the Khawarijs and Shi’as in paradise will have more reward from Allah than those who were killed by Nusayrites.”

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri subtly feels the changing sentiment of the Sunni majority of Syria and their discontent with the military expansion of the pro-Iranian Shi’a military formations.Al-Qaeda backed Sunni jihadist groups Hayat Taḥrir al-Sham, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari and the Turkestan Islamic Party put forward the idea of fighting the Shi’a invaders and protecting the Sunni territories as the main slogan in their propaganda.

The escalation of Iranian-imported, sectarian Shi’a militias, in the Levant, helps drive recruitment of new Salafi-jihadi fighters for al Qaeda’s military structures.Leaders of jihadist groups from Turkey, Central Asia and China’s Xinjiang have stepped up video, audio and text appeals to recruits to come to join the jihad to protect Islamic lands from Shi’as.My sources in the Fergana Valley reported that the ideology of Al Qaeda is actively spreading among the youth in the region.

After the brutal activity of Iran and its proxy Shi’a militias in Syria and Iraq, the profound transformation took place in the ideological views of Ayman al-Zawahiri about the Shi’as. At the beginning of the Syrian war, he was very tolerant of Iran.On September 6, 2013, in his message “General Guidelines for Jihad” he asked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to refrain from attacking the Shi’a sanctuaries and their mosques, bazaars, and killing Shi’a women and children, and concentrate their attacks on the military, intelligence agencies and police.ISIS accused al-Zawahiri of being venal to Shi’as and Christians for his calling “Avoid fighting the deviant sects such as Rawafidh, Ismailis, Qadianis, and deviant Sufis” in this guidelines. After Iran’s activity in the Middle East, the leader of Al Qaeda in August 2016 called Sunnis to jihad against the Shi’a and Crusaders, and to prepare for guerrilla war in Iraq and Syria.

Zawahiri has ambitions to make al-Qaeda’s Salafi-jihadi ideology the guiding principle and normative experience of Sunni Muslims in the Levant.While there is a threat of armed expansion of pro-Iranian Shi’a formations, the growth and influence of Al Qaeda’s extremist ideology in the Levant will be difficult to stop.Therefore, Russia and Iran, which allowed Bashar Assad to play a Shi’a adventure, are fully responsible for the reincarnation of Al Qaeda in the region.

The problem is that by military methods alone it is impossible to defeat Al Qaeda in Syria.Unlike the ISIS, al Qaeda does not hold the defense of a particular territory: it does not have its own state with its own management system.Al-Qaeda is a network project that leads a subtle ideological struggle for the minds and hearts of Sunnis in the world.The strength of Al Qaeda is in the skillful adaptation to local conditions, which avoids the advertisement of scenes of cruel executions, as ISIS did.Thanks to skillful propaganda work, the group today acquired the image of a defender of the oppressed part of the Sunni majority in Syria.Iran’s Shi’a expansion and the bloody cruelty of the Assad’s regime, which violated the religious and ethnic balance of Syria, is grist to Zawahiri’s mill.

In this situation, only the withdrawal of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxy Shi’a militias from Syria can knock out the support of al Qaeda.But, despite the efforts of the United States and Israel, Iran as a magnet will be staying in the Levant. Only international economic sanctions, strong political isolation and the growing internal protest of the Iranian people can force Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to leave Syria. Then the counter-terrorist force against al Qaeda would be led by moderate Sunni Arab fighters as Syria is a majority Sunni Arab country.

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