Assessing Al Suri’s Individual Terrorism Jihadist Against Lone Wolves

Cory Newton served as a Machinegunner in the United States Marine Corps from 1996-2000 and earned a B.S. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics form Eastern Oregon University in 2012.  Cory authored Constitutional Capitalism and Common Defense in 2014 and can be found on Twitter @corynewton78 or on the web at www.corynewton.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Al Suri’s Individual Terrorism Jihadist Against Lone Wolves

Date Originally Written:  December 11, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 19, 2018.

Summary:  Terrorism is a tactic and often results in dead or wounded civilians.  Both individual terrorism jihadists and lone wolves use this tactic.  Despite this tactic producing similar results by whomever uses it, there is a distinct difference between individual terrorism jihadists and lone wolves.  Until governments understand and accept this difference, data related to attacks that use terrorism tactics will be skewed.

Text:  The Global Islamic Resistance Call was published by Abu Mus’ab al-Suri in January 2005[1].  The military theory of the Resistance Call is based on applying two forms of jihad.  The first form is individual terrorism jihad and secret operational activity of small units totally separated from each other.  The second form is participation in jihad at the open fronts wherever the necessary preconditions exist.  The individual terrorism jihadist differs from an open front jihadist in that the individual jihadist is unable to make it to the open front.  The individual terrorism jihadist also differs from the small cell jihadist in that their actions are truly independent.  Individual terrorism jihad was specifically designed to maximize feelings of helplessness of the targeted population by unleashing the innovation, initiative, and creativity inherent in a decentralized structure.

Individual terrorism jihad enables anyone, anywhere, at any time to wage jihad using terrorism without formally being affiliated with a terrorist organization.  All the individual terrorism jihadist must do is be properly motivated to take action in the name of jihad, identify a weakness or vulnerability, and apply force to exploit it.  Although the attacker does not have any direct ties to a terrorist organization, the attacker has rationally chosen to wage jihad using terrorism in a manner which they expect the attack to produce more benefits than costs.

There is a clear distinction between participation in what Al-Suri identified as individual terrorism jihad and lone wolf violent extremists who use terrorist tactics in the name of their cause.

Suppose a person who is inspired by, but not directly affiliated with, any one of the 917 hate groups in the United States identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)[2] carries out a lone wolf terrorist attack.  Despite the violent extremists’ non affiliation with an SPLC-identified hate group, the attack will likely be investigated as an act of terror.

On the other hand, suppose a marginalized person is seduced by an outside of the mainstream Islamist organization.  The person lacks affiliation to a terrorist organization but possess “a resolute, personal decision to perform the individual duty of jihad[1]” which motivates them to conduct an active shooting, knife attack, or vehicular ramming assault in which they verbalize their intentions with an Allahu Akbar war cry.  Despite the attacker’s non affiliation with a terrorist organization, the attack will likely be investigated as an act of terror.

One difference between the two acts of terror described above is that the former is carried out by a lone wolf using terrorism to wage war on a local scale, while the latter is performed by an individual terrorism jihadist locally waging war on a global scale.  The lone wolf who carries out a terrorist attack does not belong to a decentralized military theory of global Islamist resistance, as the individual terrorism jihadist does.  Individual terrorism jihad is similar to an independent franchise.  A lone wolf attack is independent, but usually does not occur within the context of a global resistance movement.

The individual terrorism jihadist and the lone wolf are two different threats.  As terroristic violence that specifically originates from the concept of individual terrorism jihad differs from terroristic violence that originates from the lone wolf, consideration should be given to classifying each differently in order to measure the frequency and severity of individual terrorism jihadist attacks.  If the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks by lone wolves is measured separately, terrorism data will be more accurate.  Both types of terrorist attacks will often have identical consequences.  The carnage wrought by an individual terrorism jihadist may very well be indistinguishable from the carnage wrought by a lone wolf white nationalist or lone wolf ecological extremist.  One is the result of global jihad attacking locally.  The other is a localized attack seeking national media attention.

As individual terrorism jihad and lone wolf attacks continue to increase, it is important properly identify and properly categorize each.  Theodore Kaczynski is the best example of a lone wolf who waged war using terrorism.  The threat posed by a person in that category is significantly different from an individual jihadist locally attacking a variety of soft targets using rifles, blades, explosives, or vehicles in the context of a global resistance movement.

Both individual terrorism jihad attacks and lone wolf attacks will continue to increase and evolve.  In order to combat these attacks in the future it is best if government officials understand whether the terrorist actions are part of global resistance movement or based on a personal or localized motivation.  In the case of individual terrorism jihad, these attacks will continue until the cost far exceeds the benefits.  The U.S. is very effective at determining the amount of force necessary to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.  Unfortunately, the U.S. still has a long way to go in determining the fine line between the amount of force necessary to destroy the enemies’ will to fight, and the amount of force that will galvanize the enemies’ will to resist.


Endnotes:

[1] Lia, Brynjar (2008) Columbia University Press, Architect of Global Jihad, The Global Islamic Resistance Call (Key Excerpts), Military Theory of The Global Islamic Resistance Call, Page 371

[2] Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

Assessment Papers Cory Newton Information and Intelligence Violent Extremism

The Impact of Extremists in Civil War: Syria’s Shabbiha

Estelle J. Townshend-Denton is a post-graduate student at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.  She is currently working on a Phd on religion and foreign policy.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  The Impact of Extremists in Civil War: Syria’s Shabbiha

Date Originally Written:  December 9, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 12, 2018.

Summary:  Violent extremists frequently emerge when state authority breaks down within civil wars.  Escalatory dynamics are particularly hard to avoid when extremist groups emerge that are embedded in the existing social framework of their identity group.  In Syria the Shabbiha has grown from a trans-border criminal network to sectarian militias fighting for the regime.  The Shabbiha are a significant impediment to the resolution of the Syrian civil war.

Text:  Extremist groups in Syria such as the Shabbiha often emerge from existing social phenomenon.  For instance, prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the Shabbiha were Allawite smugglers and racketeers that primarily operated out of the Allawite heartland in coastal Latakia.  Given the poverty of the Allawite community opportunities were scarce, and Allawite young men saw a way to purchase highly sought after, but banned, Western items in Lebanon, and smuggle them back across the border into Syria.  This smuggling was largely overlooked by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in return for Shabihha loyalty to the Assads[1].

In order to understand the Shabbiha, their place in Syrian society, and their role within the civil war, it is necessary to look into the history of the Allawite sect to which they belong.  The Allawites are a Shia sect whose religion incorporates aspects of Islam, Christianity, Paganism and Zoroastrianism.  The Allawites have been persecuted and marginalised throughout their history.  A Syrian analyst concluded that this persecution has become built into the Allawite identity.  As a result Allawites are highly security conscious[2].

The embattled Assad regime is primarily, but not exclusively, Allawite.  The collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1 provided an opportunity for the Allawites to climb out of their position at the bottom most rung of Syrian society to control the state and it’s military.  The Ottoman territory had been divided up between the French and the British.  The French received the mandate for the territory that was to become the state of Syria.  The ruling elite in Syria had been Sunni and they were resistant to French rule.  In order to subdue the Sunni resistors, the French employed a strategy of divide and rule.  Thus the French created a military that consisted of minorities, including the Allawites[3].  Soon, joining the military emerged as the key means for Allawites to climb up the social and economic ladder, and over time they came to dominate the officer class.  Eventually the military emerged as what Horowitz identifies as a “significant symbol of ethnic domination[4].”  Later, Druze and Allawite military leaders staged a coup which ultimately led to the Allawite dominated Assad regime.

Syria was relatively stable under the Assads until the “Arab Spring” of 2011, when the protests sweeping the region spread to Syria.  The regimes of Tunisia and Egypt had already toppled, and most of the world predicted that the Syrian regime would be next.  However, unlike the Tunisian officer class which contributed to the toppling of the Tunisian Government, the Syrian military leadership was heavily invested in the Assad regime.  Furthermore the Assad regime took a lesson from the Egyptian experience and dealt decisively with the protests.  As such, the Assads used the military against the protesters, working to turn the peaceful protests into an armed rebellion.  The regime then developed a narrative that denied the unrest was part of the “Arab Spring” but alternatively asserted it was spawned by external actors and led by Islamist extremists.

Soon the Assad regime faced another problem.  Whilst the Syrian army’s officer class was mostly Allawite, the rank and file was predominantly Sunni.  Sunni were more reluctant to fire on what was emerging as a largely Sunni protest movement.  The regime had Allawite crack units, but they needed to expand the loyal Allawite base of their military capacity through encouraging Allawite civilian participation in the fighting.  One of the ways the Assad regime did this was through the Shabbiha, whose networks were developed and expanded into civilian militias who fought for the Assad regime[5].  Since then, the links between the Assads and the Shabbiha have become increasingly apparent.  The European Union imposed sanctions in 2011 on two of Bashar al Assad’s cousins, Fawwar and Munzir, for their involvement in the “repression against the civilian population as members of the Shabbiha[6].”  According to a relation of the President’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, the expansion of the Shabbiha from a regime linked Allawite criminal network into an extremist paramilitary force loyal to the regime, doing the regime’s dirty work within the civil war, was planned by Makhlouf and the President’s brother Maher al Assad[1].  The presence or absence of gangs of violent fanatics such as the  Shabbiha is described by Ethnic Conflict and International Relations theorist Barry Posen as “a key determinant of the ability of groups to avoid war as central political authority erodes[7].”  Thus the Shabbiha were a significant escalatory dynamic within the Syrian civil war.

Rhetoric from the Shabbiha accessed via the internet is sectarian, brutal, and very loyal to Bashar al Assad with mottos like “Bashar, don’t to be sad: you have men who drink blood[8].”  With a corresponding brutality and sectarianism emerging amongst Sunni Islamist fanatics within the rebellion, the violence and rhetoric of extremists on both sides escalated the civil war.  This brutality and sectarianism worked to strengthen the regime’s legitimacy as protectors of Syria’s minority religious groups against repression from the Sunni majority.  The regime’s reliance on extremist sectarian militias such as the Shabbiha to support the security forces was not only responding to sectarian tension within the unrest but also heightening it[9].

Posen identified that extremists on both sides escalate retaliatory violence and drive up insecurity.  He stated that fanatics “produce disproportionate political results among the opposing group – magnifying initial fears by confirming them….the rapid emergence of organized bands of particularly violent individuals is a sure sign of trouble[7].”  The initial fears resulting from the historical persecution of Allawites under Sunni elites, coupled with fears of revenge on the sect as a whole for the violence of both the Shabbiha and the regime within the civil war, has mobilised the sect in defense of the Assad regime.  What began as a grass-roots protest movement for the removal of the autocratic regime has escalated into a sectarian driven civil war intensified by the violent acts of both the Shabbiha and the Sunni Islamist extremists, to the advantage of the Assads.


Endnotes:

[1] Amor, Salwa and Sherlock, Ruth. How Bashar al-Assad created the feared shabiha militia: an insider speaks. The Telegraph. [Online] March 23, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10716289/How-Bashar-al-Assad-created-the-feared-shabiha-militia-an-insider-speaks.html

[2] Worren, Torstein Schiotz. Fear and Resistance: The Construction of Allawite Identity in Syria. Oslo : University of Oslo, 2007.

[3] Whitman, Elizabeth. The Awakening of the Syrian Army: General Husni al-Za’am’s Coup and Rein, 1949: Origins of the Syrain Army’s Enduring Roel in Syrian Politics. Columbia University. [Online] April 4, 2011.

[4] Horowitz, D.L. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. London : University of California Press, 1985.

[5] Salih, Y. The Syrian Shabbiha and their State. Heinrich Boll Stiftung. [Online] December 21, 2012. http://www.lb.boell.org/web/52-801.html

[6] Flamand, H.M. Syria: Brutally Violent Militaia Member tell it like it is. Global Post. [Online] June 15, 2012. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120614/syria-shabbiha-thug-assad-mafia-guns-smuggling-violence-houla

[7] The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict. Posen, Barry R. 1993, Survival, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 27-47.

[8] Sherlock, H. A. The Shabiha: Inside Assad’s Death Squads. The Telegraph. [Online] June 2, 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9307411/The-Shabiha-Inside-Assads-death-squads.html

[9] Abdulhamid, A. The Shredded Tapestry. Syrian Revolution Digest. [Online] November 9, 2012. https://ammar.world/2012/09/11/the-shredded-tapestry-the-state-of-syria-today/

Assessment Papers Estelle J. Townshend-Denton Illicit Trafficking Activities Syria Violent Extremism

An Assessment of Violent Extremist Use of Social Media Technologies

Scot A. Terban is a security professional with over 13 years experience specializing in areas such as Ethical Hacking/Pen Testing, Social Engineering Information, Security Auditing, ISO27001, Threat Intelligence Analysis, Steganography Application and Detection.  He tweets at @krypt3ia and his website is https://krypt3ia.wordpress.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Violent Extremist Use of Social Media Technologies

Date Originally Written:  November 9, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 5, 2018.

Summary:  The leveraging of social media technologies by violent extremists like Al-Qaeda (AQ) and Daesh have created a road map for others to do the same.  Without a combined effort by social media companies and intelligence and law enforcement organizations, violent extremists and others will continue to operate nearly unchecked on social media platforms and inspire others to acts of violence.

Text:  Following the 9/11 attacks the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and AQ, the violent extremist organization who launched these attacks, lost ground.  With the loss of ground came an increase in online activity.  In the time before the worldwide embrace of social media, jihadi’s like Irhabi007 (Younis Tsouli) led AQ hacking operations by breaking into vulnerable web pages and defacing them with AQ propaganda as well as establishing dead drop sites for materials others could use.  This method was pioneered by Irhabi007, who was later hunted down by other hackers and finally arrested in 2005[1].  Five years after Tsouli’s arrest, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) established Inspire Magazine as a way to communicate with its existing followers and “inspire” new ones[2].  Unfortunately for AQAP, creating and distributing an online magazine became a challenge.

Today, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, VKontakte, and YouTube are now the primary modus for jihadi extremists to spread the call to jihad as well as sow fear into those they target.  Social media is perfect for connecting people because of the popularity of the platforms and the ease of use, creation of accounts, and ability to send messages that could have a large audience.  In the case of Daesh, they use Twitter and YouTube as their primary means of messaging not only for fear but also command and control as well as recruitment.  Daesh sees the benefits of using social media, and their use has paved the way for others.  Even after Twitter and YouTube began to catch on and act against the Daesh accounts, it is still easy still for Daesh to create new accounts and keep the messages flowing with a new user name followed by a digit.

AQ’s loss of terrain combined with the expansion of social media set the conditions for movement toward inciting the “far war” over the local struggle as AQ saw it before Osama bin Laden was killed.  In fact, the call to the West had been made in Inspire magazine on many occasions.  Inspire even created a section of their magazine on “Open Source Jihad” which was later adopted by Dabiq[3] (Daesh’s magazine), but the problem was actually motivating the Western faithful into action.  This paradigm was finally worked out in social media where recruiters and mouthpieces could, in real-time, talk to these potential recruits and work with them to act.

Online messaging by violent extremist organizations has now reached a point of asymmetry where very little energy or money invested on the jihadi’s part can produce large returns on investments like the incident in Garland Texas[4].  To AQ, Daesh, and others, it is now clear that social media could be the bedrock of the fight against the West and anywhere else if others can be incited to act.  This incited activity takes the form of what has been called as “Lone Wolf Jihad” which has caused several incidents like the Garland shootings to current day events like the attack in New York City on the bike path by Sayfullo Saipov, a green card holder in the U.S. from Uzbekistan[5].

With the activating of certain individuals to the cause using the propaganda and manuals put out by the jihadi’s on social media, it is clear that the medium works and that even with all the attempts by companies like Facebook and Twitter to root accounts out and delete them, the messaging still gets to those who may act upon it.  The memetic virus of violent extremism has a carrier and that is social media.  Now, with the advent of social media’s leveraging by Russia in the campaign against the U.S. electoral system, we are seeing a paradigm shift into larger and more dangerous memetic and asymmetric warfare.

Additionally, with the advent of encryption technologies to the social media platforms the net effect has been to create channels of radicalization, recruitment, and activation over live chats and messages that cannot be indicted by authorities easily.  This use for encryption and live chats and messages makes the notion of social media as a means of asymmetric warfare even more prescient.  The jihadis now have not only a means to reach out to would be followers, but also a constant contact at a distance, where before they would have to radicalize potential recruits a physical location.

Expanding this out further, the methodologies that the jihadi’s have created and used online are now studied by other like-minded groups and can be emulated.  This means that whatever the bent, a group of like-minded individuals seeking extremist ends can simply sign up and replicate the jihadi model to the same ends of activating individuals to action.  We have already started to see this with the Russian hybrid warfare at a nominal level by activating people in the U.S. such as neo nazi’s and empowering them to act.

Social media is a boon and a bane depending on it’s use and it’s moderation by the companies that create the platforms and manage them.  However, with the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech in the U.S., it is hard for companies to delineate what is free speech and what is exhortation to violence.  This is the crux of the issue for companies and governments in the fight against violent extremism on platforms such as YouTube or Twitter.  Social media utilization boils down to terms of service and policing, and until now the companies have not been willing to monitor and take action.  Post Russian meddling in the U.S. election though, social media company attitudes seems to be changing.

Ultimately, the use of social media for extremist ideas and action will always be a problem.  This is not going away, and policing is key.  The challenge lies in working out the details and legal interpretations concerning the balance of what constitutes freedom of speech and what constitutes illegal activity.  The real task will be to see if algorithms and technical means will be helpful in sorting between the two.  The battle however, will never end.  It is my assessment that the remediation will have to be a melding of human intelligence activities and technical means together to monitor and interdict those users and feeds that are seeking to incite violence within the medium.


Endnotes:

[1] Katz, R., & Kern, M. (2006, March 26). Terrorist 007, Exposed. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/25/AR2006032500020.html

[2] Zelin, A. Y. (2017, August 14). Inspire Magazine. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://jihadology.net/category/inspire-magazine/

[3] Zelin, A. Y. (2016, July 31). Dabiq Magazine. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://jihadology.net/category/dabiq-magazine/

[4] Chandler, A. (2015, May 04). A Terror Attack in Texas. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/05/a-terror-attack-in-texas/392288/

[5] Kilgannon, C., & Goldstein, J. (2017, October 31). Sayfullo Saipov, the Suspect in the New York Terror Attack, and His Past. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/nyregion/sayfullo-saipov-manhattan-truck-attack.html

 

Al-Qaeda Assessment Papers Cyberspace Islamic State Variants Scot A. Terban Violent Extremism

An Assessment of the Conceptualizing of Charisma / Persuasion and Coercion

Dr. Michael Warstler has served in the United States Navy from 2008 to Present and has worked as an adjunct professor and task manager for the Department of Defense.  He recently completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Leadership from the University of the Cumberlands and successfully defended a dissertation addressing group psychological abuse experienced in fundamental religious organizations.  He can be found on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-warstler-908805109.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Conceptualizing of Charisma / Persuasion and Coercion

Date Originally Written:  December 4, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January, 29, 2018.

Summary:  Charismatic leaders embody personalized qualities that allow them to influence followers – oftentimes, in the case of destructive leaders, at the detriment of the follower.  Coercion occurs when a threat against an individual is levied in exchange for obedience and submission[1] and the influencing of an individual through various techniques to perform a task that he or she would normally not want to do[2].

Text:  Le Bon[3] wrote that it is not all that difficult for inspiring leaders to persuade individuals if their needs are being fulfilled and if they are ready to sacrifice self-interest for their “happiness.”  Coercion, on the other hand, requires that a charismatic leader leverage social elements against the better judgment of the individual – oftentimes through manipulation.  Sandberg and Moreman write that charisma is a relationship where followers typically transfer control and accountability to the leader “often in a worship-like manner[4].”  Being that charisma, in itself, is intrinsically morally neutral; instances of abuse of authority are derived when either party in the relationship is given too much influence over the other.

Coercion and persuasion are noted as the forces at work in the conceptualization of the nature of power in relationships.  Coercion, as noted by Hartshorne is the “power to determine every detail of what happens in the world,” and persuasion is the power to “significantly influence the happenings in the world[5].”  Ultimately, coercion and persuasion remain intrinsically neutral until employed for good or evil ends; but both are grounded in the nature of power.  Referring to the individual perspective of charismatic attribution from followers to leaders, if the individual has a perspective of empowerment as coercive, he or she will typically conceive any form of influence as “coercion.” While if he or she has a perspective of empowerment in terms of “love” or “compassion” then he or she might view such empowerment as “persuasion[6].”

Coercion, as noted by famed cult researcher Robert Lifton, is when a threat against an individual is levied in exchange for obedience and submission[7].  It is saying “obey, or else” – the threat of “or else” might be “anything from death to social ostracism, any form of physical or emotional pain[8].”  With any form of non-rational imbalance of authority also comes an imbalance in individual responsibility[9].  A deficit in individual responsibility allows the controlling leader to make the primary decisions for the subservient follower.  While the follower is given a semblance of control over his or her own decisions and well-being, bullying has been known to occur in imbalanced leader-follower relationships from the subtle to the more blatant and grotesque[10].

Power is a central theme in the process of coercive and persuasive influence.  “Leadership” in itself, is a process of influencing and mobilizing individuals towards the attainment of a collective goal.  It is important, then, to differentiate between leadership as a positive attribution of social influence[11] where followership is voluntary, and abuse of authority, “where followers are coerced into compliance or obedience[12].”  A charismatic leader might passively persuade an individual that a course of action is in his or her best interest, while the coercer might leverage some form of threat against the individual in order to force them into compliance.

Coercion is the “despot’s ideal of power[13].”  It involves the coercer and the coerced – and the outcome typically resembles a diminished freedom and responsibility of choice on part of the coerced. Or as Reichard notes “a violation that most would argue, at least in practical terms, is a moral violation[14].”  In a leader-follower relationship where a significant imbalance of power is granted to the leader to “adjust the psyche” of his or her followers (oftentimes masked as the attainment towards a collective goal), such influence could just as easily be abused to fulfill the motives of the respective leader.  This dilemma, as noted by Ciulla[15] has been aptly named the “Hitler problem.”  It is posited by Tourish and Pinnington, could a “Hitler,” then, be viewed as a transformational leader?  If so, could one that displays these characteristics also be grouped in the same category with those perceived as moral leaders such as Gandhi or Mother Teresa[16]?

Hitler, Mao, and Stalin are case examples of individuals that displayed high levels of charisma as well as a lack of morality and a focus on idealized influence.  Such individuals often influence followers to negatively pursue destructive ends[17].  Research has identified two forms of charismatic leadership, socialized and personalized[18].  The socialized leader focuses on the needs and service to others in the group, while the personalized leader focuses on his or her own needs[19].  A personalized leadership approach often results in magnetism towards the fulfillment of the leader’s own needs vice that of the collective group[20].  Such actions are often self-serving and any doubt of loyalty to the group and its leadership are highly discouraged[21].

While doubt and resistance to authority within these groups certainly occurs, coercion and persuasion are key methods employed by abusive charismatic leaders in order to influence individuals to obtain a “converted” mindset[22].  Oftentimes when “converted” individuals may relinquish his or her resistance to doubt and submit to authority, he or she may become more liable to display the most zealous characteristics and become the most vocal proponents “aligned with the belief system chosen for them by powerful others[23].”  In the instance of Saul’s conversion to Paul in the Book of Acts, one might find that the most zealous resistors to change are also the most likely proponents once converted.  Coercion and persuasion, when employed effectively, can evolve into a “discursive system of constraint” that is often highly difficult to challenge and resist even if one considers themselves to be a “strong-willed” individual[24].


Endnotes:

[1] Lifton, R. J. (1961). Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China. Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing.

[2] Tourish, D., Collinson, D., & Barker, J. R. (2009). Manufacturing conformity: Leadership through coercive persuasion in business organisations. M@n@gement, 12(5), 360-383.

[3] Le Bon, G. (1917). The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

[4] Sandberg, Y., & Moreman, C. M. (2015). Common threads among different forms of charismatic leadership. Journal of Religion and Business Ethics, 3(1), p. 13.

[5] Hartshorne, C. (1984). Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. 11.

[6] Reichard, J. (2014). Relational empowerment: A process-relational theology of the spirit- filled life. Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, 36(2), 226-245, p. 231.

[7] Lifton, R. J. (1961). Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China. Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing, p. 438.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sandberg, Y., & Moreman, C. M. (2015). Common threads among different forms of charismatic leadership. Journal of Religion and Business Ethics, 3(1).

[10] Samnani, A., & Singh, P. (2013). When leaders victimize: The role of charismatic leaders in facilitating group pressures. Leadership Quarterly, 24(1), 189-202.

[11] Shamir, B. (1999). Taming charisma for better understanding and greater usefulness: A response to Beyer. The Leadership Quarterly, 10, 555-562.

[12] Tourish, D., Collinson, D., & Barker, J. R. (2009). Manufacturing conformity: Leadership through coercive persuasion in business organisations. M@n@gement, 12(5), 360-383, p. 362.

[13] Hartshorne, C. (1984). Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. 12.

[14] Reichard, J. (2014). Relational empowerment: A process-relational theology of the spirit- filled life. Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, 36(2), 226-245, p. 231-232.

[15] Ciulla, J. (1995). Leadership ethics: Mapping the territory. Business Ethics Quarterly, 5, 5- 28.

[16] Tourish, D., & Pinnington, A. (2002). Transformational leadership, corporate cultism and the spirituality paradigm: An unholy trinity in the workplace? Human Relations, 55(2), 147-172, p. 149.

[17] Vann, B. A., Coleman, A. N., & Simpson, J. A. (2014, September). Development of the Vannsimpco Leadership Survey: A delineation of hybrid leadership styles. SBS Journal of Applied Business Research, 3, 28-38.

[18] Howell, J. M., & Shamir, B., (2005). The role of followers in the charismatic leadership process relationship and their consequences. The Academy of Management Review, 30, 96-112.

[19] Howell, J. M. (1988). Two faces of charisma: Socialized and personalized leadership in organizations. Charismatic Leadership: The Elusive Factor in Organizational Effectiveness. (pp. 213−236). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[20] Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2013). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development (6 ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.

[21] Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

[22] Tourish, D., Collinson, D., & Barker, J. R. (2009). Manufacturing conformity: Leadership through coercive persuasion in business organisations. M@n@gement, 12(5), 360-383.

[23] Ibid, p. 364.

[24] Ibid.

Assessment Papers Dr. Michael Warstler Leadership

An Historic Assessment of the Role and Participation of Women as Active Agents in Violent Extremist Organizations

Brandee Leon is a freelance analyst of counter-terrorism and international relations, focusing on terror in Europe.  She frequently covers women in terrorism.  She has been published in Business Insider, The Strategy Bridge, and The Eastern Project. She can be found on Twitter at @misscherryjones.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Historic Assessment of the Role and Participation of Women as Active Agents in Violent Extremist Organizations

Date Originally Written:  December 4, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 22, 2018.

Summary:  Despite their continual portrayal as being exploited by violent extremist organizations, women have actually been active agents for decades. From purveyors of propaganda and operational support, to participating in combat and suicide missions, women have been involved in the anarchist campaigns of the turn of the century, the anti-colonial fights in the mid-century, and the current wave of religious-based terrorism.

Text:  “Women as victim” is a common narrative, told for ages. Its current form is manifested in stories of “jihad brides,” those women and girls supposedly lured to Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State. That narrative fails to capture the reality of the role of women in the Islamic State, or any other terrorist or violent extremist group. The real story is that women have been playing an active role in these groups for over a century.

In the late 1800s, an anarchist group founded in Russia, Narodnaya Volya, planned assassinations of state officials and other political persons. One of the group’s leaders was a woman named Vera Figner. Figner helped organize the underground, as well as help plan attacks. Several other women were involved in the group’s activities. A member named Anna Yakimova helped construct bombs, and Figner’s own home was used as a workshop[1]. Several other women played active roles in Narodnaya Volya’s plots. Narodnaya Volya’s influence lived on, most notably in the Paris terror campaign in the 1880s[2]. That campaign included the participation of many women.

Throughout the Twentieth Century, women would play prominent roles in violent extremist groups all over the world. During the Algerian War, women featured prominently, planting bombs for the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Battle of Algiers. Djamila Bouhired[3] planted a bomb in a café which killed 11 people in 1957. Hassiba Ben Bouali was killed alongside other FLN militants during a French bombing raid. Perhaps the most well-known female militant in Algeria was Zohra Drif. Drif was very active in the anti-colonial independence movement, gathering support, running the underground, and planting bombs.

Germany’s Red Army Faction (RAF), also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, was co-founded in 1970 by a woman named Ulrike Meinhof. During the group’s first two years, Meinhof participated in numerous robberies and bombings. Although Meinhof was captured in 1972, she was not the only woman active in RAF’s twenty-plus yearlong campaign. Verena Becker was imprisoned in 1977 for criminal involvement, but later released. She was also convicted in 2012 for a murder committed during her time with RAF.

Women’s roles in violent extremist groups took a new direction when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) began using women as suicide bombers in their bid for independence. In Sri Lanka, women were second-class citizens, but LTTE women were viewed as equals, having roles in military leadership, and even having their own divisions. Women were trained and participated in all areas of combat, and like their male counterparts, were given the title of martyr[4].

In the late 1990s, Germany saw another terror campaign in which a woman played a role. Between 1998 and 2011, the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Nazi group, was responsible for ten murders, three bombings, and 15 bank robberies. Though the German prosecutors say the group only comprised of three members – Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt, and a woman, Beate Zschäpe – others say they have ties to neo-Nazi groups all over Germany. Zschäpe, the only surviving member of NSU, has admitted to arson, but is accused of aiding in the robberies and murders. Before turning herself in, she set fire to an apartment in order to destroy evidence[5].

The insurgency in Chechnya during the First and Second wars produced some of the most well-known women as active agents. Women from the North Caucasus were responsible for over 30 suicide bombings in Russia between 2000 and 2010. Women were also participants in the Dubrovka Theater and Beslan School sieges[6]. Their actions have not been limited to Chechnya; a Dagestani woman is thought to have blown herself up in Istanbul in 2015.

Since al-Qaeda’s inception, women have played an active role. Many women in al-Qaeda have conducted surveillance, run propaganda accounts in order to recruit, and some have even conducted operations themselves. On November 6, 2005, a Belgian woman named Murielle Degauque strapped on a suicide belt and detonated herself near a U.S. Army patrol in Baquba, Iraq. Sajida al Rishawi attempted to detonate a suicide belt in Amman, Jordan. Sajida was the first woman of al-Qaeda arrested. And in December 2015, Tashfeen Malik, along with her husband, committed an act of terror in San Bernardino, California. Malik was inspired by both al-Qaeda and Islamic State[7].

As the Islamic State faces military defeat in Iraq and Syria, the roles the women are playing as supporters are evolving. Previously, women had participated in online propaganda campaigns, and in policing other women as part of the Al-Khansaa and Umm Al-Rayan brigades[8]. But in September 2016, a group of French women guided by the Islamic State were intercepted before they could carry out a bombing plot in Paris[9]. There have even been reports of Islamic State women as suicide bombers, but as of this writing, nothing has been confirmed.

Throughout the decades, women have played an active role in violent extremist organizations. Their roles have varied from organization to organization, and the ideology spans the spectrum. One thing is certain, women as violent extremists does not seem to be a phenomenon that will disappear any time soon.


Endnotes:

[1] John Simkin, “Vera Figner,” http://spartacus-educational.com/RUSfigner.htm, (accessed November 2017)

[2] John Merriman, The Dynamite Club (Boston New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)

[3] Ali Adeeb Alnaemi (translator), “Djamila Bouhired: A Profile From the Archives,” http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/27072/Djamila-Bouhired-A-Profile-From-the-Archives

[4] Mia Bloom, Bombshell (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011)

[5] Antonia von der Behrens, “The NSU Case in Germany,” https://www.nsu-watch.info/2017/03/the-nsu-case-in-germany/, (accessed November 2017)

[6] Brandee Leon, “The Curious Case of Russia: History and Russia’s Female Suicide Bombers,” https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2014/4/16/the-curious-phenomenon-of-russia-history-russias-female-suicide-bombers, (accessed November 2017)

[7] Brandee Leon, “The Roles Women Play: al Qaeda and Islamic State,” https://misscherryjones.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/the-roles-women-play-al-qaeda-and-islamic-state/, (accessed November 2017)

[8] Brandee Leon, “Women and the Islamic State,” https://wordpress.com/posts/misscherryjones.wordpress.com, (accessed December 2017)

[9] Souad Mekhennet and Joby Warrick, “The jihadist plan to use women to launch the next incarnation of ISIS,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-jihadist-plan-to-use-women-to-launch-the-next-incarnation-of-isis/2017/11/26/e81435b4-ca29-11e7-8321-481fd63f174d_story.html, (accessed November 2017)

Assessment Papers Brandee Leon Violent Extremism Women

Assessment of the Factors Leading to the Recruitment of Violent Extremists

Jason Baker is an Officer in the United States Air Force, with a recent deployment supporting the fight against the Islamic State.  Jason is also an M.A. candidate at American University’sSchool of International Service.  He can be found on Twitter @JasonBakerJB.  All opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official positions of the United States Department of Defense or United States Air Force.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Factors Leading to the Recruitment of Violent Extremists

Date Originally Written:  December 3, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 15, 2018.

Summary:  Governments traditionally focus counterterrorism efforts on intelligence, kinetic capabilities, and enhanced domestic security policies.  Neglected still, and likely why terror attacks persist, is governments understanding the forces that motivate people to join violent extremist organizations in the first place.  Unfortunately, a marriage between counterterrorism efforts and the study of socioeconomic equality, may still be far off.

Text:  Terror attacks around the world continue to occur with a regularity that has made them a seemingly normal part of life.  As such, the response to, and prevention of, such attacks is a topic regularly covered by journalists, news anchors, and security experts.  These analyses usually focus on the need for intelligence to identify terrorists, the use of kinetic capabilities to target terrorists, and enhanced domestic security policies to prevent and protect against attacks.  While the majority of the U.S. counterterrorism strategy focuses on these three areas, terror attacks persist.  An area of study that continues to be neglected is that which seeks a better understanding of where recruits for violent extremist organizations come from and why they join, so that policy to prevent people from being radicalized in the first place can be made.  The biggest drivers of extremist propaganda and recruitment are not a religious message, but income inequality, social resentment, and unstable governments or refugee situations.

Income inequality is a growing problem throughout the world.  So much so that in 2015 the World Economic Forum ranked rising income inequality as the world’s top priority[1].  The economically disenfranchised develop strong feelings that can often turn into anger and resentment about their situation, which can drive a need for revenge when they feel they have no power to change the status quo.  Such an income equality situation creates favorable conditions for violent extremist organizations to win new recruits and operate[2].

Similar to feeling economically disenfranchised, many extremist recruits come from the ranks of the socially ostracized.  To be certain, this is not to say those who just “don’t fit in” (although that can contribute) to society, but those that are marginalized by their government or large parts of their society.  This socially ostracized population could be migrants in a new land who are not afforded the chance to assimilate into society (as seen in Europe) or religious or ethnic minorities in states with hard-line governments (Sunni majorities being governed by Shia hardliners and vice versa).  Sometimes ostracism even metastasizes into something as awful as the situation in Myanmar where many Rohingya feel as though they are left with almost no option other than to attack the government.

The greatest of all these factors that leads to terror recruitment are failed states and refugee situations.  In violent, lawless places like Syria the group that can offer a better way of life whatsoever is often the one that is joined.  Violent extremist organizations such as the Islamic State offer services and security in exchange for committing to their cause.  A similar situation is seen in Yemen.  These failed states create refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) situations that can become breeding grounds for violent extremist recruiting.  Violent extremist organizations have their choice of recruiting tactics when dealing with refugee camps and IDPs.  Some violent extremist organizations offer food and cash in exchange for joining, and some offer a message of hope and promise of revenge to those angry about their situation.  The situation then feeds itself.  While anything from failed states to climate change can cause refugee and IDP situations, violent extremism is clearly becoming a more important factor in driving people from their homes.  In Iraq, the pre-2003 Christian population of 1.5 million is estimated to have dwindled to 400,000, while over half a million of Syria’s 1.8 million Christians have been displaced[3].  Elsewhere, there are in excess of 2.5 million displaced in Yemen[4] and over 600,000 in Myanmar[5].   The humanitarian reasons for solving the displaced persons crisis the world faces are evident, but it is also a dire security issue.

All of these are problems the world needs to address individually, for their own specific reasons, but also because they create fertile grounds for violent extremist organization recruitment.  There is not often a lot of cross over between those who care deeply about countering violent extremism, and those who care about socioeconomic equality.  Connecting the two together however, can bring more urgency to the issue of fighting violent extremist organization recruiting with more problem solvers at the table.  Policy and decision makers who focus on the drivers of violent extremism organization recruitment may be able to go further than intelligence, kinetic capabilities, and policies that enhance domestic security have thus far.


Endnotes:

[1] The Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015. World Economic Forum. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://reports.webforum.org/outlook-global-agenda-2015/

[2] Seaver, B. M., Hyman, G. F., Toft, M. D., & McCarthy, D. (2015, September 1). The National Interest. This Is Why Global Income Inequality Is a Real National-Security Threat. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-global-income-inequality-real-national-security-threat-13747

[3] Koser, K. (2016, July 29). IDPs, Refugees, and Violent Extremism: From Victims to Vectors of Change. The Brookings Institute. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/02/20/idps-refugees-and-violent-extremism-from-victims-to-vectors-of-change/

[4] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Norwegian Refugee Council. (2015, December 31—updated May 2016). Yemen IDP Figures Analysis. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://www.internal-displacement.org/middle-east-and-north-africa/yemen/figures-analysis

[5] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Norwegian Refugee Council. (2017, September 28). How many internally displaced Rohingya are trapped inside Myanmar? Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://www.internal-displacement.org/library/expert-opinion/2017/how-many-internally-displaced-rohingya-are-trapped-inside-myanmar

Assessment Papers Economic Factors Jason Baker Violent Extremism

An Australian Perspective on Identity, Social Media, and Ideology as Drivers for Violent Extremism

Kate McNair has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from Macquarie University and is currently pursuing her a Master’s Degree in Security Studies and Terrorism at Charles Sturt University.  You can follow her on Twitter @kate_amc .  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  An Australian Perspective on Identity, Social Media, and Ideology as Drivers for Violent Extremism

Date Originally Written:  December 2, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 8, 2018.

Summary:  Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is a leading initiative by many western sovereigns to reduce home-grown terrorism and extremism.  Social media, ideology, and identity are just some of the issues that fuel violent extremism for various individuals and groups and are thus areas that CVE must be prepared to address.

Text:  On March 7, 2015, two brothers aged 16 and 17 were arrested after they were suspected of leaving Australia through Sydney Airport to fight for the Islamic State[1].  The young boys fouled their parents and forged school letters.  Then they presented themselves to Australian Immigration and Border Protection shortly after purchasing tickets to an unknown middle eastern country with a small amount of funds and claimed to be on their way to visit family for three months.  Later, they were arrested for admitting to intending to become foreign fighters for the Islamic State.  October 2, 2015, Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar, 15 years old, approached Parramatta police station in Sydney’s West, and shot civilian police accountant Curtis Cheng in the back[2].  Later it was discovered that Jabar was inspired and influenced by two older men aged 18 and 22, who manipulated him into becoming a lone wolf attacker, and supplied him the gun he used to kill the civilian worker.

In November 2016 Parliament passed the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2016 and stated that “Keeping Australians safe is the first priority of the Turnbull Government, which committed to ensuring Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the tools they need to fight terrorism[3].”  More recently, the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act of 2002 was extensively amended to become the Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Police Powers and Parole) Act of 2017 which allows police to have more powers during investigations and puts stronger restrictions and requirements on parolees when integrating back into society.  Although these governing documents aim at honing in on law enforcement and the investigation side of terrorism efforts, in 2014 the Tony Abbot Government implemented a nation-wide initiative called Living Safe Together[4].  Living Safe Together opposed a law enforcement-centric approach and instead focused on community-based initiatives to address the growing appeal of violent extremist ideologies in young people.

Levi West, a well-known academic in the field of terrorism in Australia highlighted that, in the cases of the aforementioned individuals, they have lived there entire lives in a world where the war of terror has existed.  These young men were part of a Muslim minority and have grown up witnessing a war that has been painted by some as the West vs Islam.  These young men were influenced by many voices between school, work, social events, and at home[5].  This leads to the question on whether these young individuals are driven to violent extremism by the ideology or are they trying to find their identity and their purpose in this world.

For young adults in Australia, social media is a strong driver for violent extremism.  Young adults are vulnerable and uncertain about various things in their life.  When people feel uncertain about who they are, the accuracy of their perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes, they seek out people who are similar to them in order to make comparisons that largely confirm the veracity and appropriateness of their own attitudes.  Social media is being weaponised by violent extremist organizations such as the Islamic State.  Social media, and other communicative Peer-to-Peer sharing platforms, are ideal to facilitate virtual learning and virtual interactions between young adults and violent extremists.  While young adults who interact within these online forums may be less likely to engage in a lone wolf attack, these forums can reinforce prior beliefs and slowly manipulate people over time.

Is it violent extremist ideology that is inspiring young individuals to become violent extremists and participate in terrorism and political violence?  Decentralized command and control within violent extremist organizations, also referred to as leaderless resistance, is a technique to inspire young individuals to take it upon themselves, with no leadership, to commit attacks against western governments and communities[6].  In the case of the Islamic State and its use of this strategy, its ideology is already known to be extreme and violent, therefore its interpretation and influence of leaderless resistance is nothing less.  Decentralization has been implemented internationally as the Islamic State continues to provide information, through sites such as Insider, on how to acquire the materiel needed to conduct attacks.  Not only does the Islamic State provide training and skill information, they encourage others to spread the their ideology through the conduct of lone wolf attacks and glorify these acts as a divine right.  Together with the vulnerability of young individuals, the strategy of decentralized command and control with the extreme ideology, has been successful thus far.  Based upon this success, CVE’s effectiveness is likely tied to it being equally focused on combating identity as a driver for violent extremism, in addition to an extreme ideology, and the strategies and initiative that can prevent individuals to becoming violent extremists.

The leading strategies in CVE have been social media, social cohesion, and identity focused.  Policy leaders and academics have identified that young individuals are struggling with the social constraints of labels and identity, therefore need to take a community-based approach when countering violent extremism.  The 2015 CVE Regional Summit reveled various recommendations and findings that relate to the use of social media and the effects it has on young, vulnerable individuals and the realities that Australia must face as a country, and as a society.  With the growing threat of homegrown violent extremism and the returning of foreign fighters from fighting with the Islamic State, without programs that address individual identity and social cohesion, violent extremism will continue to be a problem.  The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have designated Community Liaison Team members whose role is to develop partnerships with community leaders to tackle the threat of violent extremism and enhance community relations, with the AFP also adopting strategies to improve dialogue with Muslim communities. The AFP’s efforts, combined with the participation of young local leaders, is paramount to the success of these strategies and initiatives to counter the violent extremism narrative.


Endnotes:

[1] Nick Ralston, ‘Parramatta shooting: Curtis Cheng was on his way home when shot dead’ October 3rd 2015 http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/parramatta-shooting-curtis-cheng-was-on-his-way-home-when-shot-dead-20151003-gk0ibk.html Accessed December 1, 2017.

[2] Lanai Scarr, ‘Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said two teenage brothers arrested while trying to leave Australia to fight with ISIS were ‘saved’’ March 8th 2015 http://www.news.com.au/national/immigration-minister-peter-dutton-said-two-teenage-brothers-arrested-while-trying-to-leave-australia-to-fight-with-isis-were-saved/news-story/90b542528076cbdd02ed34aa8a78d33a Accessed December 1, 2017.

[3] Australian Government media release, Parliament passes Counter Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill No 1 2016. https://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Mediareleases/Pages/2016/FourthQuarter/Parliament-passes-Counter-Terrorism-Legislation-Amendment-Bill-No1-2016.aspx Accessed December 1, 2017.

[4] Australian Government, Living Safer Together Building community resilience to violent extremism. https://www.livingsafetogether.gov.au/pages/home.aspx Accessed December 1, 2017.

[5] John W. Little, Episode 77 Australian Approaches to Counterterrorism Podcast, Covert Contact. October 2, 2017.

[6] West, L. 2016. ‘#jihad: Understanding social media as a weapon’, Security Challenges 12 (2): pp. 9-26.

Assessment Papers Australia Cyberspace Islamic State Variants Kate McNair Social Media Violent Extremism