The year 2019 witnessed the rout of the Islamic Caliphate – the pseudo-state entity created on the territories of Iraq and Syria by the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a.k.a. the Islamic State or IG, ISIL, Daesh (Arabic), a terrorist group outlawed in the Russian Federation.
On March 1, 2019, just three or four years after the Islamic Caliphate terrorized the entire world, Kurdish units of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria launched an offensive to flush out 500 jihadist fighters holed up in the city of Baguz, ISIL’s last stronghold in the country.
Does this mean that Islamist terrorism is now done for?
During the first decade of the 21st century, ISIL emerged as the biggest threat to international security and world order. On June 29, 2014 ISIL terrorists announced the creation of an Islamic Caliphate with claims to global domination.
As seen on the map , the Islamic Caliphate, comprising numerous provinces, was to extend from China to the Atlantic Ocean, and from Central Europe and Siberia all the way down to equatorial Africa. The Caliphate encompasses all Muslim states without exception, including Iran and non-Muslim Israel, the territories “occupied by infidels,” as well as the whole of the Middle East and North Africa. Moreover, the Caliphate lays claims to Western Asia and Europe, including Spain, the Balkans, Romania and Austria.
The Islamic Caliphate went on to make the Syrian city of Raqqa its de-facto capital in 2014.
Although still far from achieving global dominion, the jihadists started building the basis of their future Islamic Caliphate by enslaving between 8 million and 10 million people in the occupied territories of Iraq and Syria, and virtually annihilating Syrian and Iraqi Christians, Yezidis, Shiites and Kurds.
In addition to Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State and its affiliates controlled parts of Afghanistan, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ISIL also used its substantial financial resources to increase the number of “sleeper” terrorist cells in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Indonesia, the Philippines, the North Caucasus and various European countries.
During its criminal heyday in 2014-2017, ISIL was one of the most numerous and well-armed terrorist groups in the Middle East, boasting over 100,000 fighters active mainly in Syria and Iraq.
Add to these 27,000 to 31,000 mercenaries from 86 countries who, according to the Soufan Group analytical center, fought in the ranks of this terrorist organization.
Equally noteworthy is the distribution of foreign ISIL militants by region and country (2016 – 2017):
|Former Soviet republics||8,717|
|Near and Middle East||7,054|
|Maghreb countries (North Africa)||5,356|
|South and Southeast Asia||1,568|
Countries –main suppliers of fighters for ISIL:
Equally noteworthy is data pertaining to the number of ISIL mercenaries from former Soviet republics (2015)
ISIL owes its temporary success in Iraq and Syria to these countries’ weak militaries, the seizure of their arsenals of advanced US-supplied weapons, and to the considerable financial resources looted from Iraqi banks.
And also to its militants’ religious fanaticism, the professional skills of former Iraqi and Syrian military officers who joined ISIL, to foreign mercenaries, the cruel and fear-instilling daily activities of this quasi-state, the ideological brainwashing of jihadist fighters and to professionally organized advocacy work.
ISIL’s bloody and ruthless way of dealing with opponents and the medieval laws it imposed on its subjects shocked the world. Even the ill-famed al-Qaeda that ISIL spun off from has come out against its “daughter,” with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri officially announcing in February 2014 that he did not recognize ISIL as a member of his group.
In their effort to secure the locals’ support, ISIL members tried, within the framework of their quasi-state, to restore the cities’ economic life by rebuilding their war-ravaged infrastructure. Imitating state authority, they paid salaries and benefits to the unemployed, collected taxes and paid monthly salaries of $700 to their militants. At the same time, in their brutal imposition of Islamist medieval order, they surpassed even the Afghan Taliban.
Propaganda and PR feature prominently in the ISIL leaders’ activity.
ISIL has “revolutionized” the field of online promotion of jihadist ideology by creating a powerful social movement and recruiting thousands of fighters from around the world, Russia included, through a web of social networks alone.
According to Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, director of the Center for Analysis and Conflict Prevention, a leading expert on the North Caucasus, ISIL created a highly professional and ramified propaganda machine for recruiting online, consisting of “central” media organizations, such as Al-Furqan and al-Hayat, and “regional” ones. In addition, the AMAQ News agency provides coverage for the Caliphate’s military operations and its everyday life even without having the status of its “official” media outlet.
Propagandists enjoy a privileged status in ISIL. According to the propaganda researcher IG Charles Winter, during the organization’s halcyon days (2014–2015), spin doctors were paid seven times as much as regular fighters.
Since its outset, ISIL has put out over 41,000 media releases, with an additional 2.3 billion releases made by its supporters (The New York Times).
“The loss of territory, resources, the retreat and evacuation of fighters, compounded by problems with the Internet has significantly reduced the flow of jihadist propaganda,” Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya writes.
“Daesh will not be able to maintain the previous level and quality of its propaganda materials any time soon. Realizing that with the loss of its ideological machine the whole project of the Islamic Caliphate will eventually be doomed, the ISIL leadership is adapting to new realities with affected references to a high mission now making way for more down-to-earth calls for one-off attacks with knives and axes on unarmed people. This change of tactic began in late-2015, after security agencies of various countries had seriously complicated the process of bringing in new fighters to Syria. ISIL initially advised its supporters to look for workarounds, and later – to move to other “provinces” of the Caliphate. Finally, last year, ISIL said that those who could not reach the Caliphate proper should stage attacks back at home,” she continues.
This is an extremely important trend. Just as the Caliphate ceases to exist as a quasi-state, its subjects, who have survived the antiterrorist battles, remain. Islamist terrorism is taking a new shape.
The Islamic Caliphate created by ISIL is perhaps the highest organizational quasi-state form of modern-day Islamist terrorism. Terror (“Fear,” “horror” in Latin) was used by ISIL as a primary method of warfare. Therefore, it could be compared (in function, if not in scale) with Nazi Germany or militaristic Japan, where international terrorism was part of official state policy.
Even though chances of a complete reincarnation of either ISIL or the Islamic Caliphate are pretty slim, dangerous options thereof can’t be ruled out.
That terrorism is often used by non-state actors – whether left-wing, right-wing or nationalist – and religious groups, is well known. In the 19th and 20th centuries, hundreds of political parties and groups were known to have used terror in their work.Their activities covered virtually the whole world: from small settlements and countries to continents, and were often supervised and financed by individual states to achieve geostrategic ends.
It is highly probable that the routed ISIL will still be trying to preserve its remaining terrorist groups, rebrand old ones, and recruit new fighters. Moreover, what has remained of the Daesh forces will spread throughout the world.
As BBC columnist Frank Gardner writes, “At the recent Munich Security Conference, Alex Younger, the chief of Britain’s secret intelligence service (MI6) said this: “The military defeat of the ‘caliphate’ does not represent the end of the terrorist threat. We see it therefore morphing, spreading out… within Syria but also externally… This is the traditional shape of a terrorist organization.”
Speaking at the same event, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that ISIL was going deeper underground and building networks with other terrorist groups.
General Joseph Votel, who runs US Central Command, also said that even though the ISIL network is dispersed, pressure must be maintained or its components will have “the capability of coming back together if we don’t.”
Indeed, much of the ISIL militant force has not been destroyed and is now breaking up into small terrorist groups, which is only natural since ISIL is a plethora of jihadist groups fully capable of acting autonomously. .
With the rout of the Caliphate now a hard fact, ISIL is desperately looking for a way out of the situation. There are several such “exists” to speak of.
The first is the dispersal of jihadist fighters among the local population in Syria and Iraq, and the creation of “sleeper cells” waiting for an order to resume the fight.
A second option would be to redeploy militants to remote areas of Syria and Iraq, and the formation of guerilla units there.
Thirdly, this could be gradual infiltration into other countries where ISIL already has a base, or at least has supporters necessary for the organization to function further, perhaps under a different name, but with similar ideology and military-political doctrine. Primarily into Libya, where ISIL controls the cities of Derna, Nofalia, Sirt, and the Al-Mabrouk oil field. Moreover, in Libya, ISIL could become a third party in the ongoing confrontation between Tripoli and Tobruk.
In Afghanistan, ISIL has already become a third party in the long-running standoff between Kabul and the Taliban. However, the ongoing negotiations between the international community, primarily Russia and the US, with the Afghan Taliban (though in a separate format) could eventually ease tensions in that country which, in turn, would seriously undercut ISIL’s ability to influence the situation there.
In Egypt, local jihadists, taking orders from ISIL, control parts of the Sinai Peninsula.
Also, the Boko Haram group, which controls the north-east of Nigeria and is making inroads into neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, has recently subordinated itself to ISIL.
There are certain opportunities now opening for ISIL also in Yemen, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Another “exit” option could be the return of the remaining jihadist fighters to their home countries, either individually or as part of small but closely-knit groups.
In the wake of the Islamic Caliphate’s downfall, many militants have recently returned home. About 30 percent of the 5,000 ISIL fighters (1,500) happen to be EU citizens. Of these, 300 have returned to France, about 900 people – to the former Soviet republics (including 400 to Russia), 800 – to Tunisia, 760 – to Saudi Arabia, and 250 – to Jordan.
This process is characteristic of all 86 countries Islamist volunteers once set out from to defend the ideas of radical Islam.
Clearly, the presence of experienced and battle-hardened ISIL terrorists, sometimes even armed, in the countries of their current residence is dangerous, even disastrous for these and other countries’ security. Small wonder, therefore, that the world is getting increasingly aware of the real threat posed by this jihadist-terrorist contagion.
Religious leaders are united in their denunciation of Islamist terror.
Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Mufti Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh has branded the al-Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists the main enemies of Islam. He also quoted a verse from the Koran, which calls to kill the perpetrators of acts that “have a disastrous effect on Islam.” Any compromises with bloodthirsty fanatics are simply out of the question. They must be eliminated once and for all.
Pope Francis has approved the use of force against Islamist radicals. The Pontiff believes that coercive methods should be used to protect religious minorities from militants.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) has urged the entire world community to stand together against the “disgusting wave of violence” against Christians in the Middle East.
In Iraq, the Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has reiterated his call for the Iraqi people to resist ISIL militants.
Important as religious leaders’ rejection of terrorism and its perpetrators is, however, the same can hardly be said about the world community. Indeed, even in the midst of the fight against ISIL in Syria, the antiterrorist forces failed to present a shared understanding of the danger posed by their common enemy.
It is really unforgivable that a universally accepted definition of international terrorism has not yet been worked out. The term is often used as an instrument of political struggle, because each country actually decides for itself whether a certain group is “terrorists” or “freedom fighters.” In Russia, 21 Islamist organizations are recognized as terrorist, and 33 in the United States . Moreover, actual definitions of “terrorism” often vary.
Coordinated fight is the only possible and effective way of ridding the planet of the scourge of terrorism. Unfortunately, there is no international legal basis for a collective solution of the problem. The experience of the past few years shows that a slow-moving and bureaucratic UN is not capable of providing quick and effective response to the threat posed by international terrorism. The world needs a fundamentally new and mobile international mechanism, structured to counter the terrorists’ extensive and diverse criminal activities.
The proposed idea of creating a supranational system uniting antiterrorist forces that would include administrative, information, analytical, intelligence, financial, counter-propaganda and power structures – well-equipped counter-terrorist units ready for quick deployment to troubled regions looks pretty viable. However, this international antiterrorist system must be established under the auspices of the United Nations, with its blessing, and rest on a solid legal foundation.
First published in our partner International Affairs
Strategy of Cyber Defense Structure in Political Theories
Since the principle of defense addresses a wide range of threats, it applies both in the field of justice and in the field of military and strategic affairs. But implementing cyber-defense is only recommended if the risks that can be identified have a direct impact on the security and even survival of a state, so each government is obliged to address any challenges that may arise. To eliminate it. Challenges of identifying the author or authors of an attack, estimating the likely impacts and reconstructions of the attack and setting targets, within the context of public networks and actors, distinguish cyberspace from other spaces in which defense is formed. Defense in cyberspace, while feasible, may not only be limited to existing actions, but unique concepts must be developed and presented.
In fact, some of the challenges in cyber defense are similar to those in other forms of defense. For example, the problem of identifying cyberattacks is reminiscent of the challenge of defending nuclear terrorism. Identifying the effects of a cyber-attack is very similar to identifying the effects of biological weapons. Also, the invisibility of computer weapons is, in many cases, very similar to the challenge posed by biological weapons.
Defensive methodological approaches can therefore be used to define some elements of cyber defense: against the threats of terrorism the concepts of “defense through denial” and “indirect defense” can be conceptualized against biological threats. Applied “symmetrical defense”.
In practice, however, we find that, although governments appear to be heavily dependent on computer systems for their deployment, they are not the same as those charged with using malicious equipment against computer systems. . For this reason, the impact of using cyber defense equipment against them is questionable. In fact, hacker groups that sell or lease knowledge or networks of infected machines to others, often to attack, plan malware or spyware or even to detect security flaws in systems, often the only things they need are a few (powerful) computers and an internet connection. So the question arises whether they can be prevented from doing so only by threatening to respond exclusively to cyber.
The need to establish a balance between action and response and the necessity of influencing the answer itself presents another challenge that must be met with the ability to ensure that the response is repeated and repeated as needed. Some experts believe that cyber defense can disrupt or temporarily disrupt a competitor’s activities, or temporarily disrupt the competitor’s activities, despite the physical (physical) measures that more or less neutralize the competitor; but none of the cyber solutions. It cannot lead to definitive neutralization of the threat.
In such a situation, the impact of the Aztemeric countermeasures point-by-point action cannot be ignored. Therefore, better enforcement of cyber defense against criminal groups – whose realization of financial interests is their top priority – can be resorted to by law enforcement (including actions aimed at the financial interests of the actors). Military responses can also be used if confronted with actors with little reliance on information technology.
Achieving safety and security in an age of disruption and distrust
The ability of citizens and businesses to go about their daily lives with a sense of safety and security is vital to prosperity, but citizens in many countries feel unsafe. Whether it’s because of inadequate responses to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, massive data breaches or the spread of disinformation, trust in governments’ ability to protect society is declining.
To address this requires a new, systemic approach to security that broadens its definition beyond defence and policing. Governments, local authorities and the private sector need to work closely together across all areas that contribute to security. PwC identifies four overlapping domains – physical, economic, digital and social — underpinned by trust, that form the foundation of a secure and prosperous society.
That’s the conclusion of PwC’s new report, “Achieving safety and security in an age of disruption and distrust.” Itchallenges the traditionally narrow view of physical safety and security, expanding the concept of what security means to include citizens’ basic needs; including food, water and utilities; and the organisations that deliver them.
The report draws on academic research* and case studies to show the necessity and benefits of a collaborative approach to security. It identifies the different elements that cause citizens and businesses to feel unsafe and the players, from private sector communications firms and infrastructure companies to security forces and non-governmental organisations, who need to work together to deliver security in all the domains.
Tony Peake, PwC Global Leader, Government and Public Services, says:“Unless you create a safe and secure environment in which people can go about their daily lives without fear, they won’t be able to work and sustain their families or carve out a decent standard of living.
The breadth of the challenge of delivering security has never been greater, requiring agility in response and innovation in prevention. And while security is a core task of governments, it can’t be achieved in isolation. It needs to be viewed holistically, with governments taking the lead in facilitating collaboration across organisations, sectors and territorial divides to deliver the security that is vital to a functioning society.”
The building blocks of security: physical, digital, social and economic
The report explains how these domains overlap and impact each other, adding to the complexity of delivering security. For example, economic security is closely tied to cyber security and thwarting data theft. Critical infrastructure services like telecommunications, power and transportation systems that rely on technology to operate must be secured both physically and digitally. Border control systems such as passport readers and iris scanning machines rely on digital interfaces that require cyber security.
Peter van Uhm, former Chief of Defence of the Armed Forces of the Netherlands, summarises in his foreword to the report:“It has become increasingly clear that delivering the safety and security that citizens and businesses need to prosper requires ever closer collaborations across borders, sectors and institutions. I learned that (re)building a failed state means realising that everything in a nation is interlinked and that it is all about the hearts and minds of the people. If you want the people to have trust in their society and faith in their future, safety and security in the broadest terms are the prerequisite.”
How governments can safeguard and protect citizens
PwC has identified six key actions that government leaders can take to develop a collaborative, systemic approach to delivering safety and security to their citizens:
1) Take stock: look at the interplay of the different physical, digital, economic and social domains and spot any weak links across sectors.
2) Identify and engage the right stakeholders and collaborate to develop a joint agenda and a national and/or local safety and security policy.
3) Identify what each stakeholder needs to provide in the process and assess their level of interconnectedness to deliver safety and security, e.g. back-up systems for telecommunications failures.
4) Work with leadership in the different overlapping domains and empower people in the right places to make decisions.
5) Invest in leaders so that they are skilled in engaging the public and instilling a sense of trust.
6) Manage carefully the trade-off of security with safeguarding personal data and citizens’ rights.
The recommendations for private sector firms and non-profit organisations include these steps:
1) Work more closely with trusted governments to improve engagement and collaboration.
2) Align organisational purpose with the broader societal safety and security agenda.
3) Develop the capacity and capability to improve safety and security for stakeholders.
Examples of how this works in practice
Crisis readiness and response to a terrorist attack in Sweden
The 2017 Stockholm terrorist attack illustrates the need for collaboration between governments and non-profit partners. This attack was perpetrated by one individual who drove at high speed down a pedestrian street, killing five people and injuring 10 more. A scenario planning exercise between government and security agencies had been carried out several months before the attack and is credited with limiting the number of casualties and the swift arrest of the attacker.
Government authorities and the private sector collaborate to thwart cyber threat
A major cyber attack in Australia, dubbed Cloud Hopper, was identified and mitigated through close collaboration between cyber security experts in both the public and private sectors.
War of shadows: The psychological and media dimension of future clashes
The Soviets called it “the shadow theatre”, i.e. the set of psychological warfare techniques of the time, in the Cold War world.
Maskirovka, in particular, e.g. everything is camouflage, deception, real psychological warfare, disinformation.
In fact, if we analyze the psywar techniques currently used, we realize that we are still at the Cretaceous period.
No sectoral influence operations, no action on subjects or public targets, little knowledge of the new discoveries of social psychology and biopsychic evolution.
The scenario of Western psywar operations is still not very brilliant.
Obviously, explaining to the Defense Ministers of Western countries what these operation are about is a very difficult mission that few people would be able to accomplish successfully.
Actually, nowadays the old maskirovka is not the cover, the shell of real operations, but its true essence.
Just as today’s industrial production is, above all, communication, induction of a certain behaviour, identification of a target of customers, development of a product that meets their psychological and symbolic needs, currently also war is above all maskirovka well before being military and destructive struggle.
Nobody cares where engines are produced, which are now all the same, but certainly the market is interested in the symbolism of goods, in its evocative potential and in the ability to define the status of those who buy them.
Furthermore, in an old CIA manual, the Soviet “active measures” were defined and classified as follows: a) the Center gives the green light for a strategic disinformation campaign; b) the news, which is never entirely true or entirely false, is prepared and packed; c) the dezinformatsja news is disseminated abroad so as to later check the results.
The results are eminently practical: the “Euromissile battle” narrated by Michel Tatu, the long end of the Vietnam war, the management of Soviet foreign policy after the Helsinki Treaty.
But that is not all: currently, the intelligence mainly consists of economic effects, which are continuous and complex. The shift from the Soviet “active measures” and from the political-military clash to the industrial one marks a large part of the post-Cold War period.
All true psychological warfare is active and proactive, but the whole Western warfare doctrine is defensive and passive, which means it does not exist.
Hence it is not necessary to wage war manumilitari, for the additional reason that the enemy’s enterprises and infrastructure will be good also for us. At a time when the value chains are now fully global, when cars are manufactured in Spain for the German market and in China for the Indian one – not to mention drugs, the active ingredients of which are produced in India for the French market and even in Mexico, but for the Canadian one.
All contemporary intelligence, however, is targeted to the economic and technological resources of the possible enemy and operates – 24 hours a day – on the Web and also in the traditional media machinery.
Hence, those who win are not those who have the best weapons or the best products, but those who creates the best and most convincing storytelling around them.
It is therefore useful to see how the old “shadow theatre” is being changed and perfected.
This is what is needed in a situation of actual integration of all large companies, not only global but also national ones.
In the field of social media, for example, the most widespread tactics are those of “selective censorship”, or the hacking of sensitive information, which becomes hegemonic in the common discourse, or even the manipulation of the Internet search algorithms, with a view to linking some content to other one, in a completely unreasonable way.
30-40% of the news that can be found online is designed to deceive at least some of the readers.
Deception: not to mention something and tell the truth about everything else or, instead, to create a storytelling in which real things appear surrounded by completely fake data.
By changing the perception of facts, or the news about the facts, with strong or weak adjectives and nouns, or with universal symbols, and even with references to people or things of great fame, either negative or positive.
15% is the average quota of experts taken out by the automated texts that can be found on the World Wide Web, while about 60% of all readers are usually put on the spot by the texts and news available on the Web.
The Canadian Services have provided this statistics.
The operating techniques are now known to everybody: a) the Bot, a software that automatically operates on the Web, by selecting the content; b) the countermessage, indeed a message that offers the “true” or “fake” version of what has been said previously; 3) the Denial of Service (DOS), the temporary disruption of the Web for a certain user, and the old Disinformation; 4) the Noise that covers the relevance of the data sequence useful for understanding a certain message; 5) the Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the optimization of the number of visitors to any website.
On the technical and ideological levels, there are other online practices that are used daily by the authors of Disinformation: a) the BOTs coordinated with each other, which create a series of cross-references that reinforce the (fake) news that is to be spread; b) the use of false Internet “domains” in which websites and content similar to those of the “enemy” are created; c) the use of e-mails or websites that are pirated and disseminate news opposite to those that the primary user would like to spread.
Contradiction, lie, defamation.
We are still at the old theme of the aria “La Calunnia” (“slander is a little breeze”) of the Barber of Seville, as well as the “flower duet” of Madama Butterfly, but all with a firepower that Rossini or Puccini could not even imagine.
There are two profound and conceptual limits to these operations. The first is that, in spite of all possible technological refinement, the basic psychological mechanisms are always the same: personal defamation by sexual or other means- just think of the “Tangentopoli” operation in Italy (the judiciary probe known as Bribesville) at the end of the Cold War and, finally, of the elites’ structural inability to separate wheat from chaff, news from disinformation.
If we do something to help a government and then it falls into the trap of dezinformatsja, everything is useless. And this has often happened.
Ministers who tell you that they read it in the newspaper “Corriere della Sera” (bravo!) or that it was whispered to them by some intelligence agents without any qualification – and hence you need to check whether, as Harlequin, they are Servants of two Masters. It has often happened.
Hence, in many cases, currently the maskirovka strikes back and negatively changes the decision-making of those who have carried it out. The ruling classes that know it can save themselves, while the others and their countries are bound to become “servant of two masters” and, in any case, irrelevant.
There are also the undesired effects.
For example, it happened that the reputation of a ruling class was tarnished by convincing citizens that all politicians were “dishonest and thieving” and later we needed to stabilize a country in disarray and adrift without a guide, possibly recovering some of those who had been dismissed as “thieves”, thus creating a cognitive dissonance with the previous message conveyed.
However, how can we optimally develop the possibility of an IT attack (but not necessarily this type of attack only) on the decision-making system and on the public of a target country?
The attack will be successful if, for example, there are no useful sources of good information.
Without a reserve of serious, objective and truthful news and interpretations, the whole public and private system of security and education will fail in the long run.
Another excellent condition to launch an attack is uncertainty: in a phase of financial, geopolitical, technological and even military insecurity, with terrorism any news – regardless of its importance -can generate innumerable domino effects.
Probably those who maintain uncertainty have a return – in this case mainly and economic and industrial one.
Nor should we neglect the fact that, if there is a lack of effective information available, the media channels can be bought and sold, infected by adverse agents and induced to acquire information only from certain sources, which are already compromised.
If the commercial goal is the target and above all the audience, everything becomes possible for a foreign operator with bad intentions.
No country, not even those which control the Web at best, is protected from similar operations.
With a view to keeping the situation under control – and this applies above all to those who deal with State Security – we need, at first, to ascertain who makes disinformation.
Very often an individual or a private organisation.
Then, obviously, the exact opposite must be done, but preferably using different mechanisms of action: a similar and possibly “fake” website in case of a Bot, or a personal attack if we are faced with a press campaign.
Hence never use the same usual means and mechanisms.
Generally, abstract and political motivations should not be overlooked: there are NGOs, States, political parties, and companies that usually keep on misinforming.
And often they are not even traced by the intelligence Services.
Obviously, there are also terrorists – but in this case we are talking about another communication system.
Who can say, for example, that German cars are better than Italian ones? Yet it is common sense, albeit wrong.
Nowadays all the environmental propaganda consists of behaviours that favour some countries and companies instead of others. But no one tells you so.
Indeed, this is the real news.
Fake news to be spread, of course, but also generic discontent and uncertainty.
A mass perception that a great Portuguese poet, Pessoa, would have defined as desassosego (disquiet and restlessness).
Obviously, it is even better to let all disinformation go on, with its parallel and unexpected processes, so as to see who makes it and what goals are pursued.
Usually such operations end quickly, but neither the perpetrator nor the victim knows their effects or duration.
Hence the primary goal of all dezinformacja techniques is the partial or complete alteration of the perception of reality.
It is therefore essential to understand the divisions within the opponent’s field.
Popular or elitist.
If we believe that all enemies are the same, we operate for their propaganda and any operation of “psychological warfare” is always inhibited to us.
An essential resource in this field is the conspiracy theory.
The field of others is segmented, but the absolute uniqueness of those who generated the content we do not like or that harm us is assumed.
A well-managed conspiracy manages to work well where few other maskirovka techniques do so.
Perfect for simplifying all matters, it immediately identifies the aim of each psywar: to find the enemy, either true or false.
Another procedure is usually to use entities that everybody deems “third parties” to spread messages against the enemy (once again the current ecologism is full of examples in this regard) and then reinforce their message through other information sources: truth comes from repetition and the mind learns not from a single fact or event, or from a single person, but always from what Fritj of Capra called the mental ecosystem.
The human brain is made in such a way that it tends to believe both in repetition, but also in similarity and homogeneity.
Our brain has evolved only among human groups already formed. It is not by chance that, unlike what happens to animals, our brain maturation must take place in a post-natal social, family and group context.
Otherwise – as Nietzsche said – to live alone, one must be either a beastor a god.
Another factor not to be overlooked is that, as in all Gestalt psychologies, what counts is not only what you see, but also what you do not see.
As in the Rorschach test, the inkblots can be perceived either as a glass or two butterflies, but it is the outline, not the inside of the image that can suggest one answer or the other.
However, how can we counteract such an operation? Denial is always the best answer.
But it is simple and repetitive, always prone to others’ psyops.
We can simply deny having received funding from a certain country.
Mere denial stops the game of cross-references and shadows that would develop if the victim of the operation were to dwell and go into explanations that 87% of the audience – on the Webor even in the old media, never follow. Those who justify themselves are always wrong.
Denial is used to make a quick fix, but it is certainly not a stable and definitive answer.
Another technique is to defame and attack those who make disinformation.
It works well, but once again it is a mechanism that does not last long.
A disinformation campaign is never opposed with temporary and limited makeshift interventions and stopgap measures.
Dezinformatsja is always a potentially endless flow, to which we must respond by creating a state of mind (not “news”, but a stable and possibly ungrounded mental state) that is always potentially and equally endless.
It should also be added that our intelligence Services know nothing about these things. We are still focused on the protection of redundant critical infrastructure and possibly even of selected military and information networks. Everything is even too obvious.
Nevertheless, how can we avoid the defamation of one of our most famous chocolate creams in China?
Furthermore no one will be able to tell you what happens when there is defamation against our production system, as well as against our political system, which is, in fact, also a critical infrastructure.
Goodness knows what happened to our rubber before Pirelli’s deal with ChemChina. And it was not China that took the first step.
If we also study the issue of the F-35 fighter that was not acquired by the German Armed Forces, you will also understand the resulting weakness of Chancellor Merkel and her “heir”, as well as the short-lived successes of the Right, which always remains under the threat of being dismissed as neo-Nazi.
The neo-Nazis, however, were still pasture land mainly for the Eastern and Russian intelligence Services.
Hence using the professional ignorance of our politicians to defame our intelligence Services – as is currently happening – is certainly a perfectly orchestrated defamation operation.
A cheap politician who uses the intelligence Services to protect himself is like the main character of the “Manuscript Found in Saragossa”, who files the silver ball he will put into the gun to commit suicide.
In a different way and with different effects, Italy is drifting to a condition very similar to Great Britain’s in the Brexit phase.
A slow and subtle Italian destabilization, with a terrible and useless fragmentation of the voters and the political classes.
Nowadays in Italy there is a sort of geopolitical strike: the country is on the sidelines and reluctant to understand the reality of power relations and national interests.
In the case of the operations carried out by China, however, we have a completely different picture.
It should be recalled that, as early as 2014, China established the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization, chaired directly by Xi Jinping, in addition to the Cyberspace Administration of China. The Chinese leaders’ central idea is to make national sovereignty possible in cyberspace.
This is not easy, but it can be achieved with technological hegemony and strategic wisdom.
Hence the importance of Huawei’s 5G global fight and the concrete possibility of “controlling world innovation”, as some Chinese leaders say.
Therefore, in the “war of shadows”, we currently have to deal with the great influence operations, which are actions of cognitive modification, i.e. actions to change the perceptions, behaviours and decisions of certain target groups, in the country to be influenced, which can be changed to the benefit of the acting Power.
Or even very broad operations, which regard the whole political audience.
Conversely, the “influence campaigns” are operations carried out by an adverse and alien Power that tend to put together various small-scale and sectoral influence actions, which may have common goals or, in any case, not contradictory and opposed goals.
This means that through “influence operations”, we can influence the actions of the rulings class, as well as all or part of the public in a country, or the activities of an allied country.
Influence actions are always linked to strategic deception and the possibility of exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses, particularly those typical of moralism.
Currently moralism is a tool used by some countries against others.
Hence influence operations are certainly deception, but above all they mark a new Intention, or an Interference.
Nevertheless everything happens in the epistemic chain formed by single individuals, and then in the social or para-social sphere, characterized by the real relations among individuals, the real public sphere, the media, the elites, the “experts”, the scientific and technical system of a country.
Currently all Western media are ever weaker and often not very attentive to influence operations because they are subjected to a very fast change of technologies, as well as a quick commercial trend of the system. We are all market oriented in the short term, and currently all the influence operations made so far exploit above all the technological, legal and economic weaknesses of the various countries to reach their own aims.
The vulnerability of the public is yet another issue. Considering the new technologies, there is not only the possibility for each psywar operator to change the perception of others’ world, but also to do so in a covert way.
This applies to any Internet operator and any millennial kid.
And that is what counts. One hundred “denials”, however developed, are always news.
There is also a psychological problem.
The above mentioned evolution has not provided us with a brain that always seeks the objective truth of facts, but we have a cognitive system that finds an acceptable reality day by day.
Phylogenetically, the conformity to a group is more important than a subjective psychology that always seeks only truth, be it objective or linguistic.
In economics as in politics, free riders always have a hard life. And they are always those who define a new paradigm. Enzo Ferrari invented luxury sports cars against everything and everyone. Some pasta makers in Northern Italy discovered they could sell dried Italian pasta any where in the world.
Not to mention advanced technologies, where Italian companies were bought to be destroyed (Hewlett-Packard with Olivetti, for example) or to be put out of business, or the export of mass technologies, such as Piaggio in India.
Hence we often have to deal with the confirmation bias, i.e. the psychological tendency to ignore information that goes against accepted beliefs, or with the creation of a protective apparatus against threats to identity and team spirit.
Therefore we have to do with a series of mass influence actions that are now typical:
a) Terrorism. Creation of fear, an essential element of influence operations, but also of the radicalization of certain themes. A primitive, but very effective solution. In this respect, just consider the case of Italy in the 1970s and in the 80s. The sword jihad is a different story, but often not dissimilar to that of “red” terrorism in Europe.
b) The operations of para-State organizations, i.e. criminal structures and vast organized crime. Or do you really think that the international crime organizations have been created and have become powerful on their own, like the Baron Munchausen, who rescued himself from quicksand by pulling himself out at his own hair? All criminal organizations have always been influence instruments.
c) There are also hackers, who operate divided to strike together. Consciously or not, 78% of them are operators of the Powers that support their projects.
d) Not to mention hackers having only economic goals. After making money they, too, are not aware of the fact they have resold their data to some countries, but not always those they like.
Hence how can you create a “narrative” for influence operations?
Nowadays you can certainly create a consistent, long, credible and wide-ranging storytelling.
Conversely, “negative” techniques tend to disrupt the narrative over a long period of time.
There is also distraction, the creation of an external objective far from the themes discussed.
Therefore, we propose to create an Agency or a unit of it dealing with the disruption of influence operations which, before the end of the Cold War, Italy hosted like no other country in the world to later maintain its Kantian “minority status” in the following years.
An Agency that can really carry out influence operations – actively, with no curbs and restraints other than the operational and technical ones.
Therefore, in terms of protection of Italy’s industrial values, patents, as well as “reputation” of the country and its brands, even the less famous ones, we are now almost at death’s door.
Hence it will be good to quickly reverse the course.
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