Stratfor: we can learn to fight jihadists by studying the anarchists

Summary: We have difficulty dealing with present problems because we have forgotten so much of our past. Here Stratfor seeks lessons for our long war with jihadists by examining our long struggle with anarchists during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is rich with lessons for us.  The subject of this analysis is “nihilist and anarchist terrorism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”  Also read my similar analysis in 2009: Are Islamic extremists like the anarchists?Stratfor

Jihadism: An Eerily Familiar Threat

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 23 February 2017.

As part of my day-to-day job, I read a lot of news reports, books and scholarly studies. Though the never-ending avalanche of information sometimes feels like a mild version of electronic waterboarding, it also allows me to pick out interesting parallels between different events. Not long ago I re-read Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, an excellent book by historian Michael Burleigh that outlines the cultural history of terrorism. As I flipped through the chapters on nihilist and anarchist terrorism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I couldn’t help but notice some intriguing similarities to jihadism. This week I’ll share them with you to put the modern threat that jihadists pose into better context.

The technological tools today’s jihadists use are certainly new; after all, the internet and social media only emerged over the past few decades. But many of the tactics they rely on are as old as terrorism itself. And despite the more primitive means at their disposal, anarchists were often far more successful than their jihadist counterparts in using propaganda and the media to recruit, radicalize and equip their followers.

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Stratfor looks at the next phase of terrorism: ISIS drones

Summary: Stratfor looks at the videos of ISIS using drones and discusses their potential applications of this new weapon. Will we see ISIS drones in the skies of America? Stratfor

Beyond the Buzz: Assessing the Terrorist Drone Threat

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 9 February 2017.

The Islamic State is taking to the skies as the fight for Mosul wears on. Over the past several weeks, the extremist group has been flaunting its use of unmanned aerial vehicles against Iraqi army and Kurdish forces in and around the city. Propaganda videos feature dramatic aerial footage of the precision attacks, and they have produced their intended effect, receiving heavy coverage in mainstream media outlets. So far, the Islamic State has deployed this technique only in Iraq and Syria. That’s likely soon to change, though, considering the attention the group’s drone attacks have been getting and the prevalence of drones in the West. Drone attacks are coming. But they do not necessarily portend death from above.

The Islamic State’s use of drones is nothing new. Since 2014, the group has been using the technology to conduct reconnaissance on enemy defensive positions and to capture aerial footage of attacks for use in propaganda videos. It has also used drone video feeds to adjust fire from mortars, artillery guns and rockets against static targets. And though the group still employs drones for these purposes, over the past year, it has started using them offensively as well, either as guided airborne bombs or as vehicles to carry and drop ordnance on enemy targets. This new development has caused a stir in the media and stoked fears that Islamic State operatives could use the tactic in terrorist attacks outside the group’s core territory.

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Stratfor Predicts that the Islamic State Will Rot From Within

Summary: Remember the hysteria in 2014-15 about the Islamic State? Our geopolitical experts debated whether they would be stopped at Cairo, Paris, or Chicago. Fast forward to today, where Stratfor predicts the rapid decay of ISIS. But even after it fades to irrelevance, a Jihad 3.0 will arise.Stratfor

The Islamic State in 2017: Rotting From the Outside In

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 12 January 2017.

The Islamic State has entered into a slow decline that will continue throughout 2017. After its inception, the group energized the jihadist movement and drew thousands of enthusiastic foreign fighters by announcing the creation of a caliphate and assuring its followers that the end of the world was near. This enabled the Islamic State to rapidly amass manpower and capabilities — at least at first. But both time and geography have worked against the organization since its initial proclamation of a caliphate and an impending apocalypse.

Despite the Islamic State’s frequent and pointed criticism of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group has roughly followed the plan al-Zawahiri laid out in a 2005 letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was then the head of the Islamic State’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq. Nevertheless, there are significant differences between the timeline al Qaeda and the Islamic State have set for that plan’s execution. As we noted last week, al Qaeda argues that the caliphate can be established only after the United States and its European allies have been defeated so thoroughly that they can no longer interfere in Muslim lands, having lost either the ability or desire to do so.

The Islamic State, by comparison, has adopted a more urgent approach based on the belief that the time for taking, holding and governing territory is now. But this strategy hinges on being able to use the territory conquered, resources captured and fighters recruited for greater expansion. This sense of immediacy explains the Islamic State’s decision to quickly trumpet the foundation of a caliphate after it seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria. The group’s message to the Muslim world was plain: The caliphate is a historical fact whose spread cannot be stopped, and all Muslims should migrate to it to help support the Islamic State’s rise. The group thought that it could leverage its initial success to quickly conquer more territory in much the same way the Prophet Mohammed and his followers did.

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Stratfor looks at the stray cubs of the Caliphate

Summary: Here Stratfor examines a growing and disturbing aspect of fourth generation warfare — the increased use of children as soldiers — by jihadists. This can help us to better know what to expect from this dark aspect of our future, and to prepare for it.Stratfor

The Stray Cubs of the Caliphate

By  Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 2 December 2016.

The use of child soldiers is a practice that is as old as the history of warfare itself. Since its founding, the Islamic State has embraced the tactic, but has added a modern twist with the use of social media to gather young recruits into the radical jihadist movement. And as international pressure has squeezed the group on the battlefield, it has increasingly used the children under its sway to carry out combat operations — even suicide bombings.

On Dec. 16, German news outlets reported that a 12-year-old German-Iraqi boy was arrested after twice trying and failing to detonate a homemade explosive device near a Christmas market in Ludwigshafen, a city on the Rhine River across from Mannheim. A passer-by noticed an unattended backpack and alerted police, who found that it contained a glass jar filled with gunpowder. A wire protruded from a hole in the lid of the jar, suggesting that the boy was trying to detonate the gunpowder using a battery or other source of electricity. The jar bomb, covered with nails, was clearly intended to hurt or kill people. Despite its relatively simple design and small scale, had the boy managed to ignite the device in a crowd, it could have done serious damage.

Authorities did not specify how they linked the boy to the device, but it is likely that surveillance camera footage helped. He apparently first tried to set off the device on Nov. 26, then tried again nine days later — indicating the backpack had been in place for some time. It appears as if police waited to publicize the incident until after they had detained the boy.

Police said that the preteen had been radicalized after communicating with an unidentified member of the Islamic State over the Telegram instant messaging app. The boy reportedly expressed a desire to travel to Syria, but it appears as if his Islamic State contact persuaded him to remain in Germany to conduct an attack there. This is in keeping with the trends we have been following in Islamic State propaganda and its efforts to radicalize grassroots jihadists in the West and equip them to conduct simple attacks. In this case, the would-be attacker was a child, offering a glimpse into how the Islamic State is trying to build the next generation of jihadism.

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Stratfor cuts through the hype about grassroots terrorism

Summary:  We have had many episodes of lone wolf terrorism. Each produces a tsunami of stories, but so far no strategic effects. Here Stratfor examines grassroots terrorism, helping us to better know what to expect.Stratfor

Putting Grassroots Terrorism in the Proper Perspective

Lead analyst:  Scott Stewart.
Stratfor, 8 December 2016.

When it comes to claiming attacks, the Islamic State seems to believe in the old advertising adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The group apparently feels that the very mention of its involvement in an attack, successful or otherwise, will serve to fuel public panic — a strategy that has proved effective. No matter how inept an attacker or how ineffective an assault, the Islamic State is quick to take credit, even where credit does not appear due.

One such example is a recent attack in Ohio. Just after 10 a.m. on Nov. 28, an 18-year-old student named Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove onto the Ohio State University campus where he was enrolled. Running his vehicle over a curb, Artan struck a group of pedestrians then exited the car and began attacking passersby with a large knife. About a minute into the incident, a responding university police officer shot and killed the assailant, who managed to injure 11 people in the course of the attack — one of them seriously.

Though the attack was amateurish and unsuccessful, and despite Artan’s documented affinity for al Qaeda leaders such as the late Anwar al-Awlaki, the Islamic State took to the internet to claim responsibility. The group’s Amaq news agency hailed Artan as a “soldier of the caliphate” who had heeded the call to “target nationals” of the countries fighting against the Islamic State, in accordance with the tenets of leaderless resistance. In the wake of the announcement, I noted on Twitter that the fact Amaq claimed such an attack highlights the limited reach of the Islamic State’s core group. (Here at Stratfor, I have also discussed the group’s struggles in projecting its terrorist capabilities transnationally over the past few years. In fact, I consider its adoption of leaderless resistance an admission of weakness rather than a sign of strength.)

But shortly after I posted the tweet, someone responded that I had done a disservice to my audience by characterizing Artan as a grassroots jihadist. The basis of my interlocutor’s complaint, as I understood it, was that the label downplays the threat that such attackers pose. Rather than begin a Twitter fight or try to explain myself in 140-character chunks, I decided to devote this week’s column to the importance of properly contextualizing terrorist attacks.

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Stratfor: What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About ISIS

Summary: The fall of Fallujah and the Ramadan attacks mark a decisive retreat of the jihadist (led by ISIS) from Mao’s Phase 3 operations (holding areas) back to Phase 2 (attacks on the government, terrorism). Last week Stratfor looked at Fallujah; here is their analysis of the Ramadan attacks. Eventually it will get crushed as was al Qaeda, setting the stage for Jihad 3.0.

Stratfor

What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About the Islamic State

Lead analyst:  Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 7 July 2016

Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani called on the group’s followers in late May to launch a spate of attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Looking back on that month, which ran from June 5 to July 5, it is clear that his call was answered. This year’s Ramadan has been the bloodiest on record since the Islamic State declared its caliphate in June 2014.  {See info about the Ramadan Offensives in in 2003 and in 2006.

That is not to say that past Ramadans did not see their share of violence, too. In 2015, the holy month brought significant attacks against a tourist beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia, and against a military reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But this year’s carnage has far surpassed last year’s in both scope and body count, in spite of the Islamic State core’s notable losses of territory and fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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Stratfor: Debunking the Myth of Total Security

Summary: Here Stratfor addresses one of the central myths of 21st century US politics — that the government should provide total security to its citizens, who happily trade away their rights in exchange for this chimera. We can free ourselves from these fears!

Stratfor

Debunking the Myth of Total Security

Lead analyst:  Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 14 April 2016

Last week, someone asked me whether I thought it was safe to travel to Izmir, Turkey. Thanks to my line of work, these kinds of questions no longer surprise me. People have been asking me such things for almost as long as I can remember. And since I have gained visibility through my work as Stratfor’s lead terrorism and security analyst and as the author of a book on travel security, the inquiries have become only more frequent.

Most of the time, I don’t mind offering travel security advice. By Dave Grossman’s model of human nature, I am a sheepdog-type person (as opposed to a sheep or wolf), naturally predisposed to protect people. Moreover, I appreciate people’s efforts to understand the environment they are going to visit. After all, foreknowledge goes a long way toward avoiding unpleasant surprises.

But I suspect that my responses to these kinds of questions often surprise the people asking, especially those who seem to just want an empty reassurance that their trip will be a safe one. This is because in reality, no place is truly safe from every possible threat; the idea of total security is a myth. Risk is inherent in every single thing we do — or don’t do. I incurred a risk when I got out of bed this morning, another when I exercised and countless more during my commute. Although obviously some activities are riskier than others, none of our actions are completely risk-free. Even if I were to live isolated in a hermetically sealed bubble, there would still be risks to my health (and sanity).

And, of course, the same goes for travel.

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