Assessment of the North Korean Cyberattack on Sony Pictures

Emily Weinstein is a Research Analyst at Pointe Bello and a current M.A. candidate in Security Studies at Georgetown University.  Her research focuses on Sino-North Korean relations, foreign policy, and military modernization.  She can be found on Twitter @emily_sw1.  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 North Korean Cyberattack on Sony Pictures

Date Originally Written:  July 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  August 20, 2018.

Summary:   The 2014 North Korean cyberattack on Sony Pictures shocked the world into realizing that a North Korean cyber threat truly existed.  Prior to 2014, what little information existed on North Korea’s cyber capabilities was largely dismissed, citing poor domestic conditions as rationale for cyber ineptitude.  However, the impressive nature of the Sony attack was instrumental in changing global understanding of Kim Jong-un and his regime’s daring nature.

Text:  On November 24, 2014 Sony employees discovered a massive cyber breach after an image of a red skull appeared on computer screens company-wide, displaying a warning that threatened to reveal the company’s secrets.  That same day, more than 7,000 employees turned on their computers to find gruesome images of the severed head of Sony’s chief executive, Michael Lynton[1].  These discoveries forced the company to shut down all computer systems, including those in international offices, until the incident was further investigated.  What was first deemed nothing more than a nuisance was later revealed as a breach of international proportions.  Since this incident, the world has noted the increasing prevalence of large-scale digital attacks and the dangers they pose to both private and public sector entities.

According to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, the primary malware used in this case was a Server Message Block (SMB) Worm Tool, otherwise known as SVCH0ST.EXE.  An SMB worm is usually equipped with five components: a listening implant, lightweight backdoor, proxy tool, destructive hard drive tool, and a destructive target cleaning tool[2].  The worm spreads throughout the infected network via a trial-and-error method used to obtain information such as a user password or personal identification number known as a brute force authentication attack.  The worm then connects to the command-and-control infrastructure where it is then able to begin its damage, usually copying software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems, known as malware, across to the victim system or administrator system via the network sharing process.  Once these tasks are complete, the worm executes the malware using remotely scheduled tasks[3].

This type of malware is highly destructive.  If an organization is infected, it is likely to experience massive impacts on daily operations, including the loss of intellectual property and the disruption of critical internal systems[4].  In Sony’s case, on an individual level, hackers obtained and leaked personal and somewhat embarrassing information about or said by Sony personnel to the general public, in addition to information from private Sony emails that was sensitive or controversial.  On the company level, hackers stole diverse information ranging from contracts, salary lists, budget information, and movie plans, including five entire yet-to-be released movies.  Moreover, Sony internal data centers had been wiped clean and 75 percent of the servers had been destroyed[5].

This hack was attributed to the release of Sony’s movie, The Interview—a comedy depicting U.S. journalists’ plan to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  A group of hackers who self-identified by the name “Guardians of Peace” (GOP) initially took responsibility for the attack; however, attribution remained unsettled, as experts had a difficult time determining the connections and sponsorship of the “GOP” hacker group.  Former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey in December 2014 announced that U.S. government believed that the North Korean regime was behind the attack, alluding to the fact that the Sony hackers failed to use proxy servers that masked the origin of their attack, revealing Internet Protocol or IP addresses that the FBI knew to be exclusively used by North Korea[6].

Aside from Director Comey’s statements, other evidence exists that suggests North Korea’s involvement.  For instance, the type of malware deployed against Sony utilized methods similar to malware that North Korean actors had previously developed and used.  Similarly, the computer-wiping software used against Sony was also used in a 2013 attack against South Korean banks and media outlets.  However, most damning of all was the discovery that the malware was built on computers set to the Korean language[7].

As for a motivation, experts argue that the hack was executed by the North Korean government in an attempt to preserve the image of Kim Jong-un, as protecting their leader’s image is a chief political objective in North Korea’s cyber program.  Sony’s The Interview infantilized Kim Jong-un and disparaged his leadership skills, portraying him as an inept, ruthless, and selfish leader, while poking fun at him by depicting him singing Katy Perry’s “Firework” song while shooting off missiles.  Kim Jong-un himself has declared that “Cyberwarfare, along with nuclear weapons and missiles, is an ‘all-purpose sword[8],’” so it is not surprising that he would use it to protect his own reputation.

The biggest takeaway from the Sony breach is arguably the U.S. government’s change in attitude towards North Korean cyber capabilities.  In recent years leading up to the attack, U.S. analysts were quick to dismiss North Korea’s cyber-potential, citing its isolationist tactics, struggling economy, and lack of modernization as rationale for this judgement.  However, following this large-scale attack on a large and prominent U.S. company, the U.S. government has been forced to rethink how it views the Hermit Regime’s cyber capabilities.  Former National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis argues that cyber is a tailor-made instrument of power for the North Korean regime, thanks to its low-cost of entry, asymmetrical nature and degree of anonymity and stealth[9].  Indeed the North Korean cyber threat has crept up on the U.S., and now the its intelligence apparatus must continue to work to both counter and better understand North Korea’s cyber capabilities.


Endnotes:

[1] Cieply, M. and Barnes, B. (December 30, 2014). Sony Cyberattack, First a Nuisance, Swiftly Grew Into a Firestorm. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/31/business/media/sony-attack-first-a-nuisance-swiftly-grew-into-a-firestorm-.html

[2] Lennon, M. (December 19, 2014). Hackers Used Sophisticated SMB Worm Tool to Attack Sony. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://www.securityweek.com/hackers-used-sophisticated-smb-worm-tool-attack-sony

[3] Doman, C. (January 19, 2015). Destructive malware—a close look at an SMB worm tool. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from http://pwc.blogs.com/cyber_security_updates/2015/01/destructive-malware.html

[4] United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (December 19, 2014). Alert (TA14-353A) Targeted Destructive Malware. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA14-353A

[5] Cieply, M. and Barnes, B. (December 30, 2014). Sony Cyberattack, First a Nuisance, Swiftly Grew Into a Firestorm. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/31/business/media/sony-attack-first-a-nuisance-swiftly-grew-into-a-firestorm-.html

[6] Greenberg, A. (January 7, 2015). FBI Director: Sony’s ‘Sloppy’ North Korean Hackers Revealed Their IP Addresses. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from https://www.wired.com/2015/01/fbi-director-says-north-korean-hackers-sometimes-failed-use-proxies-sony-hack/

[7] Pagliery, J. (December 29, 2014). What caused Sony hack: What we know now. Retrieved July 8, 2018, from http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/24/technology/security/sony-hack-facts/

[8] Sanger, D., Kirkpatrick, D., and Perlroth, N. (October 15, 2017). The World Once Laughed at North Korean Cyberpower. No More. Retrieved July 8, 2018, from https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/15/world/asia/north-korea-hacking-cyber-sony.html

[9] Ibid.

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Emily Weinstein Information Systems

An Assessment of U.S. Women in Islamic State-related Cases

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 Assessment of U.S. Women in Islamic State-related Cases

Date Originally Written:  June 20, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  August 13, 2018.

Summary:  Since the inception of Islamic State, ten percent of the related cases in the United States have involved women. The roles of the women involved have varied, from material support to bomb-making. The numbers are small compared to their European counterparts, but there is a definite presence in the United States. But like those in Europe, they are not a group that should be ignored.

Text:  George Washington University’s Program on Extremism (PoE) has been compiling cases of U.S persons involved in Islamic State(IS)-related offenses since 2014[1]. As of April 2018, they have found that 160 individuals have been charged. This article’s analysis to date reveals that 16 of those cases have involved women. The following is an overview of those cases, as well as why they are worth paying attention.

According to the latest infographic put out by GWU PoE, 90 percent of those charged with IS-related offenses in the U.S. have been male. This is up from 86 percent as of December 2015. The average age for the women in the cases is 33, five years older than the overall average age of 28. The oldest woman was 55, and the youngest was 19.

Thirteen of the women are U.S. citizens, six of whom are U.S.-born. Other nationalities represented among the women include Bosnia-Hercegovina[2], Pakistan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia. Nearly half of the women have children. In one case, the woman’s sons had traveled to Syria in support of Islamic State[3].

The women involved tend to received drastically shorter prison sentences than the overall average: just 5.4 years compared to 13.4 years. One woman (so far) has been acquitted by trial, while another is still at large.

Most of the charges leveled against the women fell under 18 USC §2339, providing material support to terrorists or designated terror organizations. The next, most-frequent charge was 18 USC §1001(a)(2), providing false statements. Money laundering, transmission of a threat, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government were among the other charges. Two women were charged with 18 USC §2332a (a)(2), use of weapons of mass destruction, which represents the only straightforward “operational” charges against IS-connected women in America to date[4].

Several of the women conspired with a romantic partner, whether via online contact with a purported member of IS[5], or with a husband or boyfriend[6]. One woman actually traveled to Syria and married a well-known IS fighter[7].

Women in America who have been charged with crimes relating to the Islamic State tend to be slightly older than the male average. The women who have been sentenced to date have received significantly lesser sentences. Nearly all the women were charged with crimes relating to support rather than traveling to join the terror group. The women rarely act on their own, usually partnering with a significant other, either in person or virtually. While comprising just ten percent of the known cases of Americans in Islamic State related offenses, women are actively supporting the cause.

The numbers of American women getting involved with Islamic State are still small compared to the numbers of European women supporting the terror group. One estimate puts the number of European women traveling to join IS at over 500[8], with nearly 100 from Britain, and over 300 from France. The proximity to the Middle East and the larger Muslim population in Europe are likely factors in the numbers. U.S. women, however, could have greater ease of movement and agency, as some European countries are cracking down on Muslim women by way of headscarf and burka bans.

As the author has written before, the roles of women in these groups continue to evolve, and those in the business of counterterrorism and countering violent extremism will need to shed any preconceived notions of women-as-victim. Women are increasingly playing active roles in these organizations, and doing so voluntarily[9]. Most of the focus of women and terrorism remains on European women, but as shown in this article, there is a presence in the U.S.

However small the number of U.S. women actively supporting IS, it does not mean they should not be taken as serious a threat as the men. As the group’s territory disappears, they will find other areas in which to operate. They group has repeatedly called on its supporters to attack locally if they cannot physically travel to Syria or Iraq. And most recently, the group has seemingly loosened its restrictions on women taking up arms for the cause[10]. The Trump administration’s rhetoric and policies toward Muslims could also be a driving force. Whether the above mentioned factors mean there will be an increase in activity in the United States remains to be seen, but this is an issue deserving additional study, particularly regarding the motivations of Western women who choose to affiliate themselves with IS.

“To underestimate or neglect women jihadists would be a huge mistake for security services…– and one they may pay for in the near future.” – Abu Haniyah


Endnotes:

[1] ISIS in America, https://extremism.gwu.edu/isis-america

[2] Seamus Hughes & Bennett Clifford, “First He Became an American—Then He Joined ISIS,” The Atlantic, 25 May 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/05/first-he-became-an-americanthen-he-joined-isis/527622/

[3] US Department of Justice, Collin County Couple Sentenced for Lying to Federal Agents, 13 February 2018, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edtx/pr/collin-county-couple-sentenced-lying-federal-agents

[4] “2 Women Arrested In New York City For Alleged ISIS-Inspired Terror Plot,” CBS New York, 2 April 2015, http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/04/02/sources-tell-cbs2-2-women-arrested-in-new-york-city-for-alleged-isis-inspired-terror-plot/

[5] “Shannon Conley, Arvada teen who tried to join ISIS to wage jihad, sentenced to 4 years in prison,” TheDenverChannel, 23 January 2015, https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/sentencing-for-shannon-conley-arvada-teen-who-tried-to-join-isis-to-wage-jihad

[6] Joshua Berlinger and Catherine E. Shoichet, “Mississippi woman pleads guilty on charge that she tried to join ISIS,” CNN, 30 March 2016, https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/30/us/mississippi-isis-guilty-plea-jaelyn-young/index.html

[7] Tresa Baldas, “FBI translator secretly married Islamic State leader,” USA Today, 2 May 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/02/fbi-translator-secretly-married-islamic-state-leader/309137001/

[8] Shiraz Maher, “What should happen to the foreign women and children who joined Isis?,” New Statesman, 28 August 2017, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/middle-east/2017/08/what-should-happen-foreign-women-and-children-who-joined-isis

[9] Brandee Leon, “Thinking about women’s roles in terrorism,” The View From Here, 12 June 2017, https://misscherryjones.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/thinking-about-womens-roles-in-terrorism/

[10] Brandee Leon, “Changing Roles? Women as Terror Threat,” The View From Here, 28 February 2018, https://misscherryjones.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/changing-roles-women-as-terror-threat/

Assessment Papers Brandee Leon Islamic State Variants United States Women

Assessment of the Security and Political Threat Posed by a “Post-Putin” Russia in 2040

Sarah Martin is a recent graduate from George Mason University, where she received her Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  Her thesis examined the motivations of Chechen foreign fighters in Syria fighting for the Islamic State.  She can be found on Twitter @amerikitkatoreo.  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 Security and Political Threat Posed by a “Post-Putin” Russia in 2040

Date Originally Written:  June 5, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  July 9, 2018.

Summary:  In the upcoming decades, news feeds will probably continue to have a healthy stream of Russian meddling and Russian cyber attack articles.  However, a reliance on cyber attacks may be indicative of deeper issues that threaten Russia’s stability.

Text:  As Americans gear up for the midterm elections in November 2018, there have been a number of articles sounding the alarm on continuing disinformation campaigns from Russia[1].  Vulnerabilities exposed in 2016 have not been adequately addressed, and worse yet, the Kremlin is making their tools and methods more sophisticated, jumping even more steps ahead of policymakers and prosecutors[2].  However, in another 20 years, will the West be engaged in these same conversations, enmeshed in these same anxieties?

In short, yes.

In long—yes, but that might be an indicator of a much deeper problem.

Moscow has been deploying disinformation campaigns for decades, and when it knows the target population quite well, these operations can be quite successful.  Barring some kind of world-altering catastrophe, there is little doubt that Russia will stop or even slow their course.  Currently, disinformation stands as one of many tools the Russian Foreign Ministry can use to pursue its objectives.  However, there are political and economic trends within the country that might make meddling one of Russia’s only diplomatic tool.  Those trends are indicative of rather deep and dark issues that may contort the country to react in unpredictable ways, thus threatening its immediate neighbors, and spark trouble for the Transatlantic security apparatus.

Disinformation is a well-used tool in Russia’s foreign policy arsenal. Its current form is an inheritance from old Soviet tactics.  Under the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB), Service A was responsible for meddling in the West’s public discourse by muddying the waters and sowing discord between constituents, ultimately to affect their decisions at the polling booth[3].  These campaigns were known as “active measures.”  Some of America’s most popular conspiracy theories—like the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) having a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—actually originated as a Service A disinformation campaign[4].  Russia has the institutional knowledge to keep the momentum rolling well into the future.

Not every campaign delivers a home run (see the French 2017 presidential elections).  However, Russia has the capability to learn, adapt, and change.  Perhaps the most appealing aspects of disinformation is its efficiency.  Cyber active measures also have the added benefit of being incredibly cost-effective.  A “regiment” of 1,000 operatives could cost as little as $300 million annually[5].

The economy is one of the trends that indicates a boggier underbelly of the Russian bear.  Russia may have to rely on its cyber capabilities, simply because it cannot afford more aggressive measures on the physical plane.

Russia, for all of its size, population and oil reserves, has no right having an economy smaller than South Korea’s[6].  Its economy is unhealthy, staggering and stagnating, showing no sign of any degree of sustained recovery.  That Russia is a petrostate is one factor for its economic weakness.  Politics—sanctions and counter-sanctions—also play a part in its weakness, though it is mostly self-inflicted.  However, each of these factors belies responsibility from the true culprit—corruption.  According to Transparency International, Russia is as corrupt as Honduras, Mexico and Kyrgyzstan[7].

Corruption in Russia isn’t simply a flaw to be identified and removed like a cancer; it is built into the very system itself[8].  Those who participate in corruption are rewarded handsomely with a seat at the political table and funds so slushie, you could find them at 7-11.  It is a corrupt system where the key players have no incentive of changing.  Everyone who plays benefits.  There has always been an element of corruption in Russia’s economy, especially during the Brezhnev years, but it only became systematic under Vladimir Putin[9].  Corruption will remain after Putin leaves the presidency, because he may leave the Kremlin, but he will never leave power.

Many Kremlin observers speculate that Putin will simply stay in politics after his final term officially ends[10].  If this does happen, taking into account that Putin is 65 years old, it is likely that he could reign for another 10-20 years.  Physically and practically then, Putinism may continue because its creator is still alive and active.  And even if Putin stepped back, the teeth of his policies are embedded so deeply within the establishment, that even with the most well-intentioned and capable executive leadership, it will take a long time to disentangle Putinism from domestic governance.

Another component of Putinism is how it approaches multilateralism.  Putinism has no ideology.  It is a methodology governed by ad hoc agreements and transactionalism.  Russia under Putinism seeks not to build coalitions or to develop friendships.  Russia under Putin is in pursuit of its former empire.  Nowhere is this pursuit more evident than with its Eurasian Economic Union.  While the European Union has its functional problems, it at least is trying to build a community of shared values. None of that exists in the EAEU[11].

Putinism, combined with a foreign policy designed to alienate potential allies and to disincentivize others from helping in times of crisis, connotes fundamental and systematic failures, that in turn, indicate weakness.  The tea leaves are muddy, but the signs for “weak” and “failing state” are starting to form, and weak states are erratic.

Weakness is what pressed Putin into Crimea and the Donbass in 2014, when the possibility of a Western-embracing Ukraine looked more probable than speculative.  Weakness is what pushed Russian troops into Georgia in 2008.  Russia had no other means of advancing their foreign policy objectives than by coercion and force.  One must wonder then what “Crimea, But Worse” might look like.

Russia will continue to use disinformation campaigns to pursue its foreign policy goals, and currently, this is one of many ways it can interact with other countries.  However, disinformation may be the only tool Moscow can afford to keep around.  This lack of other tools would indicate a rotting and faulty economic and political structure, which Russia currently has no incentive to change and may not have the ability to change after President Putin.  A sick Russia is already challenging for the world.  A failing Russia could be absolutely disastrous.


Endnotes:

[1] Rasmussen, A. F., & Chertoff, M. (2018, June 5). The West Still Isn’t Prepared to Stop Russia Meddling in Our Elections. Politico Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/06/05/russia-election-meddling-prepared-218594

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kramer, M. (2017, January 1). The Soviet Roots of Meddling in U.S. Politics. PONARS Eurasia. Retrieved from http://www.ponarseurasia.org/memo/soviet-roots-meddling-us-politics

[4] Ibid.

[5] Bergmann, M. & Kenney, C. (2017, June 6). War by Other Means. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2017/06/06/433345/war-by-other-means/

[6] The World Bank. (2016). World Development Indicators. Retrieved from https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/gdp-ranking

[7] Transparency International. (2017). “Russia.” Corruption Perceptions Index 2017. Brussels. Retrieved from https://www.transparency.org/country/RUS

[8] Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2017). In Brief: Corruption in Russia: An Overview. Washington, DC: Massaro, P., Newton, M. & Rousling, A. Retrieved from https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/publications/corruption-russia-overview

[9] Dawisha, K. (2015). Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? New York City.

[10] Troianovski, A. (2018, March 19). Putin’s reelection takes him one step closer to becoming Russian leader for life. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/putins-reelection-takes-him-one-step-closer-to-becoming-russian-leader-for-life/2018/03/19/880cd0a2-2af7-11e8-8dc9-3b51e028b845_story.html

[11] Chatham House. (2018). The Eurasian Economic Union Deals, Rules and the Exercise of Power. London: Dragneva, R. & Wolczuk, K.

Alternative Futures Assessment Papers Russia Sarah Martin

Assessment of Al-Qaeda’s Enduring Threat Seven Years After Osama bin Laden’s Death

Tucker Berry is a rising graduate student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.  He has conducted and briefed research on counterterrorism methods to the U.S. and three partner nations.  He has also spent time learning about the Arabic speaking Islamic world from within, in locations such as Oman, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.  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 Al-Qaeda’s Enduring Threat Seven Years After Osama Bin Laden’s Death 

Date Originally Written:  April 26, 2018. 

Date Originally Published:  June 25, 2018. 

Summary:  A comparative analysis of al-Qaeda messaging from the Osama bin Laden-era to today demonstrates continuity. Such messaging indicates that al-Qaeda continues in the well-worn path of bin Ladenism, even with the seventh anniversary of his death, still adamantly focusing on the United States as enemy number one.

Text:  In 1996, bin Laden faxed an Arabic message from Afghanistan to newspapers titled in part, “Expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula[1].” Included in this message was a call for all Muslims to defend the Ummah, or the global Islamic community, from the United States. Bin Laden commanded, “Clearly after Belief there is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the Holy land[2]…” Then, in 1998, bin Laden co-authored a fatwa, or Islamic legal ruling. This message demonstrates al-Qaeda’s anti-United States point of view, thereby framing the killing of Americans under bin Laden’s leadership as a legitimate strategic goal. 

Killing the Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can carry it out in any country where it proves possible, in order to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy sanctuary [Mecca] from their grip[3]…

A comparative analysis of messaging from the bin Laden era to that of the current al-Qaeda leadership demonstrates continuity. Just days after the death of bin Laden, al-Qaeda issued a formal response, which contained a steadfast reference to planning, plotting, and spilling the blood of Americans. Further fostering the analytical judgment that al-Qaeda maintains the strategic goal of striking any target deemed “American” is language pertaining to both temporality and endurance. If one listens to al-Qaeda, recognizing that in the past they told the world what they meant and meant what they said, this language demonstrates that al-Qaeda has absolutely no intention of replacing their black banner of terror with the white flag of surrender. Aiding analysis is a translated segment[4] of al-Qaeda’s 2011 Arabic response[5], released after the death of bin Laden.

[The death of bin Laden] will remain…a curse that haunts the Americans and their collaborators and pursues them outside and inside their country…their joy will turn to sorrow and their tears will mix with blood, and we will [realize] Sheikh Osama’s oath: America, and those who live in America, will not enjoy security until our people in Palestine do. The soldiers of Islam, together or as individuals, will continue to plot tirelessly and without desperation…until they are struck with a calamity that will make the hair of children turn white.

Reacting to bin Laden’s death, al-Qaeda wanted to demonstrate its perseverance. The tone and language of the response indicated that the death of bin Laden would not impede al-Qaeda. Furthermore, other sections highlight bin Laden’s “martyrdom.” Such language may inspire members to engage in martyrdom operations, paying a posthumous homage to their former leader. Though the death of bin Laden eliminated an unquestionably charismatic leader, the organization has demonstrated a patient commitment to continue harming the so-called far enemy, the United States. Bin Laden’s strong message still resonates loudly with his followers and the new leadership. 

Seven years after the death of bin Laden, the challenging question is now whether the new messengers can carry the same influence. Such a messenger is one of bin Laden’s sons, Hamza. Introduced as “the lion of jihad[6],” Hamza is following in the steps of his father, calling al-Qaeda adherents to attack the United States. In a message from Hamza, he orders, “Know that inflicting punishment on Jews and Crusaders where you are present is more vexing and severe for the enemy[7].” Hamza is calling for attacks wherever a fighter is. Such a call maintains, if not escalates, the threat to the United States in the form of inspired and low-intensity terrorist attacks. Therefore, even with the seventh anniversary of bin Laden’s death, Hamza continues in the well-worn path of his father. Hamza and al-Qaeda continue to perpetuate the legacy of bin Ladenism as first established in the 1996 and 1998 messaging, adamantly focusing on the United States as enemy number one.


Endnotes:

[1] Declaration of Jihad against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holiest Sites, Arabic – Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ctc.usma.edu/harmony-program/declaration-of-jihad-against-the-americans-occupying-the-land-of-the-two-holiest-sites-original-language-2/

[2] Declaration of Jihad against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holiest Sites, English – Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2013/10/Declaration-of-Jihad-against-the-Americans-Occupying-the-Land-of-the-Two-Holiest-Sites-Translation.pdf

[3] Usamah Bin-Muhammad Bin-Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu-Yasir Rifa’i Ahmad Taha, Shaykh Mir Hamzah, & Fazlur Rahman. (1998, February 23). Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders World Islamic Front Statement. Retrieved from https://fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm

[4] Al Qaeda statement confirming bin Laden’s death, English. (2011, May 6). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-binladen-qaeda-confirmation-text/text-al-qaeda-statement-confirming-bin-ladens-death-idUSTRE74563U20110506

[5] Al Qaeda statement confirming bin Laden’s death, Arabic. (2011, May 6). Retrieved from http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/05/06/aq_binladenmessage.pdf

[6] Riedel, B. (2016, July 29). The son speaks: Al-Qaida’s new face. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2015/08/19/the-son-speaks-al-qaidas-new-face/

[7] Joscelyn, T. (2017, May 15). Hamza bin Laden offers ‘advice for martyrdom seekers in the West’. Retrieved from https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/05/hamza-bin-laden-offers-advice-for-martyrdom-seekers-in-the-west.php

Al-Qaeda Assessment Papers Tucker Berry Violent Extremism

An Assessment of Information Warfare as a Cybersecurity Issue

Justin Sherman is a sophomore at Duke University double-majoring in Computer Science and Political Science, focused on cybersecurity, cyberwarfare, and cyber governance. Justin conducts technical security research through Duke’s Computer Science Department; he conducts technology policy research through Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy; and he’s a Cyber Researcher at a Department of Defense-backed, industry-intelligence-academia group at North Carolina State University focused on cyber and national security – through which he works with the U.S. defense and intelligence communities on issues of cybersecurity, cyber policy, and national cyber strategy. Justin is also a regular contributor to numerous industry blogs and policy journals.

Anastasios Arampatzis is a retired Hellenic Air Force officer with over 20 years’ worth of experience in cybersecurity and IT project management. During his service in the Armed Forces, Anastasios was assigned to various key positions in national, NATO, and EU headquarters, and he’s been honored by numerous high-ranking officers for his expertise and professionalism, including a nomination as a certified NATO evaluator for information security. Anastasios currently works as an informatics instructor at AKMI Educational Institute, where his interests include exploring the human side of cybersecurity – psychology, public education, organizational training programs, and the effects of cultural, cognitive, and heuristic biases.

Paul Cobaugh is the Vice President of Narrative Strategies, a coalition of scholars and military professionals involved in the non-kinetic aspects of counter-terrorism, defeating violent extremism, irregular warfare, large-scale conflict mediation, and peace-building. Paul recently retired from a distinguished career in U.S. Special Operations Command, and his specialties include campaigns of influence and engagement with indigenous populations.

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 Information Warfare as a Cybersecurity Issue

Date Originally Written:  March 2, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  June 18, 2018.

Summary:  Information warfare is not new, but the evolution of cheap, accessible, and scalable cyber technologies enables it greatly.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s February 2018 indictment of the Internet Research Agency – one of the Russian groups behind disinformation in the 2016 American election – establishes that information warfare is not just a global problem from the national security and fact-checking perspectives; but a cybersecurity issue as well.

Text:  On February 16, 2018, U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for interfering in the 2016 United States presidential election [1]. Beyond the important legal and political ramifications of this event, this indictment should make one thing clear: information warfare is a cybersecurity issue.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Russia created fake social media profiles to spread disinformation on sites like Facebook.  This tactic had been demonstrated for some time, and the Russians have done this in numerous other countries as well[2].  Instead, what’s noteworthy about the investigation’s findings, is that Russian hackers also stole the identities of real American citizens to spread disinformation[3].  Whether the Russian hackers compromised accounts through technical hacking, social engineering, or other means, this technique proved remarkably effective; masquerading as American citizens lent significantly greater credibility to trolls (who purposely sow discord on the Internet) and bots (automated information-spreaders) that pushed Russian narratives.

Information warfare has traditionally been viewed as an issue of fact-checking or information filtering, which it certainly still is today.  Nonetheless, traditional information warfare was conducted before the advent of modern cyber technologies, which have greatly changed the ways in which information campaigns are executed.  Whereas historical campaigns took time to spread information and did so through in-person speeches or printed news articles, social media enables instantaneous, low-cost, and scalable access to the world’s populations, as does the simplicity of online blogging and information forgery (e.g., using software to manufacture false images).  Those looking to wage information warfare can do so with relative ease in today’s digital world.

The effectiveness of modern information warfare, then, is heavily dependent upon the security of these technologies and platforms – or, in many cases, the total lack thereof.  In this situation, the success of the Russian hackers was propelled by the average U.S. citizen’s ignorance of basic cyber “hygiene” rules, such as strong password creation.  If cybersecurity mechanisms hadn’t failed to keep these hackers out, Russian “agents of influence” would have gained access to far fewer legitimate social media profiles – making their overall campaign significantly less effective.

To be clear, this is not to blame the campaign’s effectiveness on specific end users; with over 100,000 Facebook accounts hacked every single day we can imagine it wouldn’t be difficult for any other country to use this same technique[4].  However, it’s important to understand the relevance of cybersecurity here. User access control, strong passwords, mandated multi-factor authentication, fraud detection, and identity theft prevention were just some of the cybersecurity best practices that failed to combat Russian disinformation just as much as fact-checking mechanisms or counter-narrative strategies.

These technical and behavioral failures didn’t just compromise the integrity of information, a pillar of cybersecurity; they also enabled the campaign to become incredibly more effective.  As the hackers planned to exploit the polarized election environment, access to American profiles made this far easier: by manipulating and distorting information to make it seem legitimate (i.e., opinions coming from actual Americans), these Russians undermined law enforcement operations, election processes, and more.  We are quick to ask: how much of this information was correct and how much of it wasn’t?  Who can tell whether the information originated from un-compromised, credible sources or from credible sources that have actually been hacked?

However, we should also consider another angle: what if the hackers hadn’t won access to those American profiles in the first place?  What if the hackers were forced to almost entirely use fraudulent accounts, which are prone to be detected by Facebook’s algorithms?  It is for these reasons that information warfare is so critical for cybersecurity, and why Russian information warfare campaigns of the past cannot be equally compared to the digital information wars of the modern era.

The global cybersecurity community can take an even greater, active role in addressing the account access component of disinformation.  Additionally, those working on information warfare and other narrative strategies could leverage cybersecurity for defensive operations.  Without a coordinated and integrated effort between these two sectors of the cyber and security communities, the inability to effectively combat disinformation will only continue as false information penetrates our social media feeds, news cycles, and overall public discourse.

More than ever, a demand signal is present to educate the world’s citizens on cyber risks and basic cyber “hygiene,” and to even mandate the use of multi-factor authentication, encrypted Internet connections, and other critical security features.  The security of social media and other mass-content-sharing platforms has become an information warfare issue, both within respective countries and across the planet as a whole.  When rhetoric and narrative can spread (or at least appear to spread) from within, the effectiveness of a campaign is amplified.  The cybersecurity angle of information warfare, in addition to the misinformation, disinformation, and rhetoric itself, will remain integral to effectively combating the propaganda and narrative campaigns of the modern age.


Endnotes:

[1] United States of America v. Internet Research Agency LLC, Case 1:18-cr-00032-DLF. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download

[2] Wintour, P. (2017, September 5). West Failing to Tackle Russian Hacking and Fake News, Says Latvia. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/05/west-failing-to-tackle-russian-hacking-and-fake-news-says-latvia

[3] Greenberg, A. (2018, February 16). Russian Trolls Stole Real US Identities to Hide in Plain Sight. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/russian-trolls-identity-theft-mueller-indictment/

[4] Callahan, M. (2015, March 1). Big Brother 2.0: 160,000 Facebook Pages are Hacked a Day. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2015/03/01/big-brother-2-0-160000-facebook-pages-are-hacked-a-day/

Anastasios Arampatzis Assessment Papers Cyberspace Information and Intelligence Information Systems Justin Sherman Paul Cobaugh Political Warfare Psychological Factors

Assessment of the Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

David Mattingly serves on the board of directors for the Naval Intelligence Professionals and is also a member of the Military Writers Guild.  The views reflected are his own and do not represents the United States Government of any of its agencies.  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 Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  March 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  June 11, 2018.

Summary:  Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. policy in Africa has focused primarily on defeating Al-Qaeda franchises and other violent extremists.  Djibouti’s natural deep-water harbor and stable government have made it the primary transshipment point for maritime trade in Northeastern Africa and as a naval base.  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) recent investment in the Port of Djibouti, a country with a U.S. military base, begins another chapter in geopolitical competition.

Text:  The U.S. has a standing requirement for overseas bases to support its global operations.  The U.S. Navy ship USS Cole was attacked in October 2000 in Yemen by Al Qaeda.  In 2003, the U.S. established Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) on the French Army’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, to support combat operations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

In 2007, a reorganization of the U.S. military’s unified command structure created United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) based in Germany.  In Djibouti, since the establishment of USAFRICOM, the CJTF-HOA mission has increased with the growth of al-Qaeda and other groups such as the Islamic State, the conflict in Libya and Yemen, and pirate attacks on merchant shipping in the region.  In addition to the U.S., Camp Lemonnier is used by France, Japan, and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners.

Djibouti’s growth as a transshipment port has increased with the global demand for containerized shipping[1].  Additionally, Africa depends on maritime shipping to carry 90% of its imports and exports.  France created the port of Djibouti in 1888 and it became the capital of French Somaliland in 1892.  Once established, the port of Djibouti quickly became an important refueling station and cargo storage facility for ships traversing the Red Sea to and from the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.  During the closure of the Suez Canal (1967-1975) Djibouti suffered a severe decline in shipping volume.

Today, Djibouti is the linchpin to the PRC’s access to trade with Africa.  Business Tech’s 2015 assessment of African shipping ports states, “Djibouti’s is the only reliable port along the main shipping lanes between Europe and the Gulf and also between Asia on the eastern coast of Africa.” Additionally, Ethiopia lost its access to the sea during its war with Eritrea (1998-2000) and now relies on Djibouti as its transshipment access point.

In 2013, PRC President Xi Jinping, announced the resurgence of the ancient “Silk Road” which linked the PRC to markets in the Middle East and Europe and the idea was formalized in the Belt and Road Action Plan released in 2015.  This plan set out to improve trade relationships through infrastructure investments.  The PRC planned to invest $8 trillion for infrastructure in 68 countries which included Djibouti[2].  The port of Djibouti is critical to both the PRC’s African and European Roads. With the increasing demand for port services, the PRC negotiated to expand existing facilities, build new port facilities, and expand the inland transportation network of Djibouti and Ethiopia.  Due to the lack of natural resources, Djibouti depends on the revenue of its transportation facilities and a 2015 International Monetary Fund Report states “Diversifying [Djibouti’s] economic base remains difficult given that the country lacks natural resources and [its] agriculture and industrial sectors are almost non-existent[3].”

The PRC is the largest source of capital in Djibouti and has provided 40% of the financing for Djibouti’s major infrastructure projects.  Additionally, PRC-based firms built three of the largest projects in Djibouti and the PRC is the minority owners and operators of two of the three[4].

Since the emergence of the Somali pirate threat, the PRC has sought basing rights for the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) ships which joined in the international effort to protect shipping in the region.  The PRC’s interest in a navy base was born out of several ship engineering problems that developed while PLA(N) ships were deployed to the region and military ties had not been established between the PRC and Djibouti.  Although it was only speculated at the time, the PRC negotiated basing rights for the PLA(N) ships in a 2015 finance package and the base became active in September 2017.  The South China Morning Post reported, “The scale of the wharf should allow for the docking of a four-ship flotilla at least, including China’s new generation Type-901 supply ship with a displacement of more than 40,000 tons, destroyers and frigates, as well as amphibious assault ships for combat and humanitarian missions[5].”

The Trump administration released its 2017 National Security Strategy and though the administration appears to be aware of the situation in Djibouti stating, “China is expanding its economic and military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today,” the strategy lacks any concrete steps describing how U.S. diplomacy should proceed in the region.

An analysis of U.S. soft power in the Trump administration was recently published in Foreign Policy by Max Boot.  The article notes a recent Gallup Poll of “approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%.”  While the PRC is leveraging its economic power to enhance its military position, Boot opines that Trump’s America First campaign has resulted in the declining global opinion of the U.S. which in the long-term may result in a global environment more hostile to U.S. interests.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Henry Kissinger was quoted regarding trends and events that emerged from the Cold War and concludes, “…the rise of India and China is more important than the fall of the Soviet Union[6].”  The U.S. and PRC competition in Djibouti is only the beginning.  While both nations assess each others military forces in Djibouti, other instruments of national power are at work both in Djibouti and elsewhere on the continent.  The U.S. and PRC competition in Africa will likely expand, and be worthy of monitoring over the coming decades.


Endnotes:

[1] Africa’s biggest shipping ports. (2015, March 8). Business Techhttps://businesstech.co.za/news/general/81995/africas-biggest-shipping-ports/

[2] Bruce-Lockhart, Anna. China’s $900 billion New Silk Road. What you need to know. World Economic Forum, June 26, 2017 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/china-new-silk-road-explainer/

[3] Djibouti Selected Subjects. International Monetary Fund. November 18, 2015 https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2016/cr16249.pdf

[4] Downs Erica, and Jeffrey Becker, and Patrick deGategno. China’s Military Support Facility in Djibouti: The Economic and Security Dimensions of Chinas First Overseas Base. The CNA Corporation, July 2017. https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/DIM-2017-U-015308-Final2.pdf

[5] Chan, Minnie. (2017, September 27). China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2112926/china-plans-build-djibouti-facility-allow-naval

[6] Mead, W. R. (2018, February 5). A word from Henry Kissinger. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-word-from-henry-kissinger-1517876551

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) David Mattingly Djibouti United States

Assessing How Article 51 of the United Nations Charter Prevents Conflict Escalation

Jared Zimmerman is an M.A. candidate at American University’s School of International Service where he is studying United States Foreign Policy and National Security with a concentration in terrorism and political violence.  He can be found on Twitter @jaredezimmerman.  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 How Article 51 of the United Nations Charter Prevents Conflict Escalation

Date Originally Written:  March 8, 2018

Date Originally Published:  June 4, 2018.

Summary:  Article 51 of the United Nations Charter is sufficiently vague to allow states to assert their right to self-defense without escalating a conflict. While either side in a conflict may see the other as the aggressor acting beyond mere self-defense, Article 51 is vague enough that neither side can prove the other has acted offensively. This vagueness can aid in, if not the de-escalation of conflicts, preventing the rapid escalation of conflicts.

Text:  The first sentence of Article 51 of Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter reads as follows:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security[1].

This sentence is particularly vague on the following points:

  1. It does not define what constitutes an attack. Is the seizure of ships or aircraft an attack? Is the accidental or intentional violation of another country’s airspace an attack? Is industrial espionage an attack? Is a spy satellite taking photographs of military installations an attack?
  2. It does not define what constitutes an armed attack. For example, is a cyber attack an armed attack?
  3. It does not define “collective self-defence.” Does the attacked nation need to request assistance or can other nations preemptively intervene and claim their intervention constitutes collective self-defense? Requiring the attacked nation to request assistance might seem like the most responsible position, but this requires that the United Nations Security Council determine who the original aggressor and defender are. This determination may not be possible or delivered in a timely manner.
  4. The phrase “…until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security” begs several questions. What if the Security Council does nothing? What if the Security Council does act, but these actions are not sufficient to resolve the conflict? What constitutes a resolution and who decides whether a resolution is satisfactory?
  5. The phrase: “international peace and security” also begs several questions. What is international peace and security? Was the world at peace during the Cold War? Is the world not at peace when great powers are not in conflict but relatively small regional or civil wars are ongoing? Is the world at peace when there is no open conflict between states but despots murder and oppress their own people?

It is apparent from the questions in the preceding paragraphs that the first sentence of Article 51 is exceedingly vague. Opposed parties in a real-world conflict are certain to interpret portions of the sentence in their own best interest, and these interpretations could be wildly different yet equally valid[2]. But this begs the question, does this vagueness expand and escalate conflicts or limit and de-escalate them?

On the surface it might appear that a more explicit Article 51 is to be desired. If it was clear to states what actions constitute an armed attack and what circumstances allow for collective self-defense, perhaps states would judiciously aim to abide by these rules lest they risk United Nations’ intervention. There are several problems with this approach:

  1. It would be impossible to explicitly account for all types of armed attacks, not simply because of the variety that exists today, but because new types are continually being invented. For example, the authors of the United Nations Charter could hardly have conceived of cyber warfare in 1945.
  2. States are ingenious and will always find new ways to circumvent—or even outright ignore—any explicit rules that are laid out.
  3. If a state realizes it must break one explicit rule to advance its agenda, why not break more? If the United Nations Security Council does not intervene when one rule is broken, will it if two are broken? Three? Four? States will test how far they can push the boundaries because it is advantageous to do so.

Is it possible, however, that having a vague Article 51 is advantageous? The world is not rigid, so would it be beneficial to have a rigid Article 51? Given the reasons above, a rigid Article 51 is certainly not practical. Let us take the Iranian drone shot down by the Israeli Defense Force in February 2018 as an example of the advantages of a vague Article 51.

On February 10th, 2018 an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace and was shot down by an Israeli helicopter. The Israeli Defense Force followed up by attacking what they believed to be the “drone launch components in Syrian territory[3].” Later, Israeli Air Force (IAF) aircraft attacked 12 targets in Syria, including a mix of Syrian and Iranian military targets. “During the attack, multiple anti-aircraft missiles were fired at IAF aircraft. The two pilots of an F-16 jet ejected from the aircraft as per procedure, one of whom was seriously injured and taken to the hospital for medical treatment[4].”

To summarize, Iranians in Syria used a drone to violate Israeli airspace. The Israelis responded by destroying the drone and the drone’s launch structures in Syria. The Israelis then violated Syrian airspace to attack Syrian and Iranian infrastructure. While doing so, one of their F-16’s was shot down and one of its crew was wounded. All of this has occurred, yet Iran and Israel have not declared war in response.

Incidents like this are so common that it is easy to overlook the miraculous fact that while such incidents are not “peaceful,” the world does not face open war in response to each of them. There are certainly a variety of reasons for this lack of open war that can be unique to each situation such as level-headed leaders on either side, mutually assured destruction, war-weary populations, etc. One compelling reason that many share, however, is that each side can claim it was acting in self-defense while not being able to convince the international community and United Nations Security Council that this is true. In this above example, Israel could claim that it was attacked when the Iranian drone entered its airspace so its response was in self-defense. Iran and Syria could claim that their drone was unarmed and entered Israeli airspace accidentally. Israel then attacked them and they downed an Israeli aircraft in self-defense. This familiar dance occurs in other comparable situations: opposing sides take limited aggressive actions towards each other but generally stop short of open war. Article 51 doesn’t eliminate conflict, but prevents it from escalating or at least escalating quickly.


Endnotes:

[1] United Nations. (n.d.). Charter of the United Nations: Chapter VII. Retrieved February 27, 2018, from http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/

[2] Glennon, M. (2018, February 13). ILO L201: Public International Law [Class discussion]. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.

[3] IDF intercepts Iranian UAV. (2018, February 10). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/press-releases/idf-intercepts-iranian-uav/

[4] IDF intercepts Iranian UAV. (2018, February 10). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/press-releases/idf-intercepts-iranian-uav/

Assessment Papers Governing Documents Jared Zimmerman United Nations

The Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Linn Pitts spent a decade in law enforcement prior to transitioning into teaching on a university level.  He presently teaches as an Assistant Professor in the Social Science Department at Shorter University.  He can be found on Twitter @Professor_Pitts and is writing a dissertation on gatekeepers in Countering Violent Extremism programs in the United States.  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 Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Date Originally Written:  February 13, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 28, 2018.

Summary:  Whether migrant has voluntarily relocated to the US from a country in turmoil or a refugee being resettled to the US, the individual may still face factors that pull them towards the conflict of their homeland and may push them from full acculturation in their new society.

Text:  While it is important for the U.S. to have good foreign policies that are able to help address turmoil in African countries, equally important is the posture taken by entities in the U.S. towards migrants that may have moved or been displaced. According to Boyle and Ali [1] the general theories of migration include three broad categories concerning acculturation (the process of social, psychological, and cultural change that stems from blending between cultures) at the end of the migrant’s journey. The categories include group dynamics, reception of the new society, and the nature of the exit from their home country. All of these categories serve as excellent assessment points for developing an understanding of the issues faced by migrants. For the purposes of this assessment, the primary focus is group dynamics and the reception of a new society. If policy makers understand the nuances of group dynamics and the reception possibilities of a new society, they will be better prepared to provide good governance.

Group dynamics include cultural aspects and family dynamics illustrated by interactions within extended families and communities. These group dynamics can be problematic as Boyle and Ali explain as family structures are impacted by what U.S. law has deemed a family such as the exclusion of polygamy, the allowance of only nuclear family members to migrate as a group, and the lack of elder support in their transplanted home. Boyle and Ali further indicate that conflicts from their home countries have already broken some families apart. Each migratory situation will vary depending on the state of being a migrant or a refugee as noted by Bigelow [2]. Boyle and Ali further specified that the loss of extended family members severely impact the migrant families such as limiting child care and a lack of traditional family roles. In seeking to properly conceptualize these aspects, a purposeful interview was conducted with a migrant. In personal communications with Mia (pseudonym), she noted her family moved to the U.S. when she was approximately eight years of age and she is now 21 years of age. The relocation to the U.S. was prompted by tribal conflicts that limited opportunities in her home country in Central Africa. She confirmed that since arriving in the U.S., the lack of extended family was problematic, especially regarding the roles her parents once held in their home country. In general, these issues would categorically further migrant reliance on state resources such as outside parties to resolve disputes and the social service programs.

The reception of the new society as noted by Boyle and Ali entails a period of adaptation and sometimes it is a struggle due to the removal of family support. Whereas dependence on social service programs may provide time for adaptation and development of social capital, it may not completely replace the extended family. Mia stated she found it difficult to acculturate due to bullying, issues with racial identity, and struggles adapting academically primarily based on differences in English, a point supported by Bigelow. Mia was bullied by African-American children in part due to misperceptions, “African-Americans view (sic) Africans as savages, uneducated, and poor,” Mia remarked. Continuing, she said “often time I do not see myself as black but as African.” It is an interesting concept supported by the work of Bigelow revealing migrant parents of Somali youth were concerned about the perceptions of the interactions with African-American children, especially if their children are viewed as unruly. Mia noted the parental views had merit concerning an understanding of the difficult transitions to life in the United States. While Central African and Horn of African nations are distinct entities in different regions of the Africa, Mia described the cultural contexts as “that’s just African,” She found friendship with children who had relocated from Kenya and Nigeria. Bigelow noted that the migrant children are living in two worlds, their world at home and their world at school. This two-world construct was also supported by Zhou [3] in a discussion of cultural identity and the impact on children of migrants.

Another point of reception in a new society deals with the aspects of understanding local laws during a period of acculturation. The transition can be aided by groups and religious organizations seeking to aid in the transition to the U.S. While recent arrests and later convictions of Minnesota-based Somalis seeking to join the Islamic State captured headlines, consider efforts of municipal agencies in Minnesota [4] and Clarkston, Georgia located on the outskirts metro-Atlanta. According to David (personal communications), a missionary in Clarkston, the city was chosen to be a refugee resettlement area in the 1990s. He noted the area was a prime location for refugee resettlement due to the high degree of apartment complexes (near 80%), featured a low-cost of living, it was close proximity to a major airport, and it had a public transit available to Atlanta. Moreover, he detailed that Time Magazine deemed this portion of Clarkston as the most diverse square mile in the U.S. As an example, approximately 100 languages were spoken at Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston. When asked about the Somali population, David stated it was previously the largest migrant population in Clarkston but population dynamics recently shifted due to the Myanmar Crisis. Clarkston is a success because people who come to the U.S. as a result of U.S. asylum and refugee resettlement programs not only have a place to settle, but that place has many features which, according to Salehyan and Gleditsch [5], can help minimize tensions during acculturation. Clarkston, through its ability to make acculturation smoother, allows grievances to be addressed early so they do not lead migrants down extremist pathways.

Regarding grievances and tensions, Somalis, like most inhabitants of developing countries, have a legacy of distrust with the police [6] an aspect intensified by recent efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials [7]. Boyle and Ali found Somali men feel persecuted in the United States by law enforcement mainly due to enforcement of laws such as domestic violence. Whereas in Somalia, the family elder may intervene to address problems, due to aforementioned issues the elders are not present. Law enforcement officers have a great deal of discretion in their daily activities, unless arrest is mandated by statute such as domestic violence. Even if law enforcement acts in good faith with the intent of upholding the law, issues could still arise. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik [8] identified that law enforcement may create resentment and ultimately diminish cooperation from communities if these communities are policed in a way seen as culturally incompatible. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik suggested a community health approach. This approach was indirectly supported by Boyle and Ali in their examination and later assessed by Cummings, Kamaboakai, Kapil, and Stone. In closing, while generous U.S. policies enable migrants to come to the U.S., unless the location where they finally arrive is prepared to receive them, and local capabilities are ready to provide close and continuing support during acculturation, the migrant will likely continue to face a friction-filled existence. This existence may make the migrant feel pulled back home and simultaneously pushed into a new society which they do not understand.


Endnotes:

[1] Boyle, E.H., & Ali, A. (2010). Culture, structure, and the refugee experience in Somali immigrant family transformation. International Migration, 48(1), 47-79.

[2] Bigelow, M. (2010). Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, racialized identity, and education in a new land. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

[3] Zhou, M. (2003). Growing Up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology. 23. 63-95. 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.63.

[4] Cumings, P., Kamaboakai, E. T., Kapil, A., & Stone, C. (2016). A Growing Community: Helping Grand Forks increase inclusion of new Americans.

[5] Salehyan, I., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2006). Refugees and the spread of civil war. International Organization, 60, 335-366.

[6] Haugen, G. A., & Boutros, V. (2015). The locust effect: Why the end of poverty requires the end of violence. Oxford University Press.

[7] Redmond, J. (2017, April 13). Immigration arrests target Somalis in Atlanta area. Atlanta Journal Constitutional. Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/news/immigration-arrests-target-somalis-atlanta-area/uYatzrGTOkEGWuwocYmReJ/

[8] Weine, S., Eisenman, D. P., Kinsler, J., Glik, D. C., & Polutnik, C. (2017). Addressing violent extremism as public health policy and practice. Behavioral sciences of terrorism and political aggression, 9(3), 208-221.

Africa Assessment Papers Linn Pitts Migrants United States

Assessment of Opération Turquoise: The Paradoxical French-led Humanitarian Military Intervention During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Ross Conroy is a researcher and program designer for Komaza Kenya, a social enterprise focused on poverty reduction through sustainable timber production.  Ross also serves as Public Relations advisor for Sudan Facts, a start-up which intends to build investigative journalistic capacity in Sudan.  Ross studied Political Science at the University of New Hampshire, and wrote his capstone on the French military intervention during the Rwandan Genocide.  He spent most of his senior year in Rwanda doing field and archival research to supplement this study.  Ross later attained his Master’s degree in African Studies from Stanford University, where he focused on politics in Central Africa and continued his research on French involvement during the 1994 Genocide.  Ross can be found on Twitter @rossconroy or at rconroy7@outlook.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:  Assessment of Opération Turquoise: The Paradoxical French-led Humanitarian Military Intervention During the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Date Originally Written:  February 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 14, 2018.

Summary:   In response to escalating genocidal violence in Rwanda in April 1994, France launched Opération Turquoise for ostensibly humanitarian purposes.  However, much evidence has implicated this mission, and France, in the genocide and subsequent violence.  By examining archives, interviewing genocide survivors, and compiling testimonies of French soldiers, a more clear, and far more sinister, picture of Opération Turquoise emerges.

Text:  The French-led Opération Turquoise, mobilized by the United Nations (UN) Security Council through Resolution 929, was controversial from its genesis.  The debate leading up to the final vote on the resolution was riddled with arguments about France’s true intentions.  Having been the main sponsors of the Hutu regime that was now organizing and perpetrating genocide against the Tutsi minority, an abrupt change in France’s policy was viewed with suspicion.  Publicly, France argued that violence in Rwanda had escalated to the point that it necessitated international intervention on humanitarian grounds.  The wording of the resolution seemed to confirm this, stating that the mission was “aimed at contributing, in an impartial way, to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians at risk in Rwanda[1].”  However, due to concerns over France’s intentions, and the proposed departure from the Chapter VI mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) and UNAMIR II, five countries abstained from the final vote[2].  Rather than supplying and funding the existing UNAMIR mission, France wanted a Chapter VII mandate over which they had near complete jurisdiction.  When the mission was eventually condoned by the Security Council, France mobilized their force and, as some countries had feared, used it to promote their interests.  Rather than protecting Tutsis from the genocidal regime, Opération Turquoise was co-opted to allow the perpetrators to continue their campaign of violence and eventually escape the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) advance by fleeing into neighboring Zaire[3].  The results of this would prove disastrous.

The origins of Opération Turquoise were rooted in the close ties between then French President François Mitterrand and his Rwandan counterpart Juvénal Habyarimana.  The Technical Military Assistance Agreement signed between the two countries after Habyarimana came to power in the 1970s solidified this relationship by formally incorporating Rwanda into the linguistic and cultural sphere of la francophonie and promising economic aid and military protection[4].  Following this agreement, military aid was passed for decades to the Rwandan army and its militias directly through the Quai D’Orsay, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  These same weapons were later put to use exterminating the Tutsi minority.

In October 1990, Rwanda was invaded by Rwandese rebels from Uganda who wanted a return to their country of origin.  Due to xenophobic policies of the Rwandan regime, these Rwandese rebels had long been denied this opportunity.  The French, fearing an incursion from what they saw as ‘the anglophone bloc,’ rushed to the aid of their francophone ally.  The rhetoric of French politicians at the time indicated that the Fashoda Syndrome, the inherent French fear of francophone influence being supplanted by anglophone influence, motivated France to support the Rwandan regime, and solidified ties between the two countries further[5].

After the assassination of President Habyarimana in April 1994, it quickly became clear that the violence engulfing Rwanda was of an unspeakable magnitude; a genocide was unfolding.  Despite this, France declined to act, not wishing to aid the RPF in the fight against their erstwhile ally, the Rwandan regime.  As it became clear that the Rwandan government was failing in its fight against the RPF, France chose to intervene under the guise of a much-needed humanitarian mission.  The UN had little choice, given the dearth of alternatives, and accepted the French offer of assistance.

The French originally conceived the mission as a means to halt the advance of the RPF militarily and assist the government of Rwanda in retaking the capital, Kigali[6].  However, it soon became evident that this position was untenable as the evidence of genocide mounted.  The goal of Opération Turquoise was thus altered to aid the Rwandan government forces in fleeing the country to Zaire, with the intention to preserve the government and its hierarchy intact to pursue future power-sharing agreements[7].  It was a final, frantic attempt to avoid losing influence in the region, and one that would have devastating consequences.

In the process of assisting the genocidal regime, France often neglected to protect the Tutsi whom they were charged with safeguarding.  There is irrefutable evidence that the French demonstrated gross negligence of their mandate by abandoning thousands to die in various locations around the country, most notably at Bisesero[8][9].  Indeed, numerous reports cite French soldiers trading sexual favors for food and medical supplies, raping, and even killing Rwandan citizens[10].  The French further neglected to disarm Rwandan troops and militias whom they escorted to Zaire, and in some cases supplied them with food, weapons, and vehicles[11].  These same Rwandan forces would later profiteer in the Zairean refugee camps, syphoning humanitarian aid intended for victims of genocide.  As the refugee camps were often not the internationally required 50 miles from the border of Rwanda, the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces and militias were able to use the camps as bases and launch a devastating and deadly insurgency back into Rwanda, killing thousands[12].  In response to the insurgency, and renewed killings of Tutsi in Zaire, the new RPF-led Rwandan government invaded Zaire, setting in motion the Congo Wars, the most deadly series of conflicts worldwide since the two World Wars.  Years of suffering, disease, and death can be traced back to the decision made by the French to escort the génocidaires to Zaire and continue to supply and support them in a vain attempt to cling to their influence in the region.

Ultimately, Opération Turquoise failed on two fronts: It failed to maintain the integrity and legitimacy of the former Rwandan regime and also failed to uphold its mandate to protect victims of genocide.  Although it is impossible to establish a direct causal relationship between violence in the Great Lakes Region following Opération Turquoise and the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, there is ample evidence that Opération Turquoise exacerbated the humanitarian situation.  Opération Turquoise, conceived as a humanitarian mission, thus paradoxically contributed to one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern history in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Endnotes:

Note: Some names have been changed to protect the identities of interview subjects. 

[1] United Nations Security Council (SC), Resolution 929. (1994, June 22). Opération Turquoise. Retrieved April 22, 2016 from https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N94/260/27/PDF/N9426027.pdf?OpenElement

[2] Schweigman, D. (2001). The Authority of the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter: Legal Limits and the Role of the International Court of Justice. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.

[3] Twenty Years after Genocide France and Rwanda Give Different Versions of History. (2014, April 11) Retrieved February 28, 2016 from http://www.english.rfi.fr/africa/20140410-twenty-years-after-genocide-france-and-rwanda-give-different-versions-history

[4] Totten, S, and Sherman, M. (2005). Genocide at the Millennium. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

[5] Simon, M. (1998) Operation Assurance: The Greatest Intervention That Never Happened. The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance. Retrieved April 12, 2016 from http://sites.tufts.edu/jha/archives/123.

[6] Melvern, L. (2009). A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. London: Zed.

[7] Mukasarasi, J. (2016, April 17). Personal Interview.

[8] Assemblée Nationale. (1998, December 15). Rapport d’information de MM. Pierre Brana et Bernard Cazeneuve, déposé en application de l’article 145 du Règlement par la mission d’information de la commission de la Défense, sur les opérations militaires menées par la France, d’autres pays et l’ONU au Rwanda entre 1990 et 1994. Paris: French National Assembly.

[9] De Vulpian, L & Prungnaud, T. Silence Turquoise. Paris: France. Don Quichotte.

[10] Mvuyekure, A. (2016, April 16). Personal Interview.

[11] Des Forges, A. (1999). Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda. New York: Human Rights Watch.

[12] Gribbin, R. (2005). In the Aftermath of Genocide: The U.S. Role in Rwanda. Lincoln, NE: IUniverse.

Assessment Papers France Mass Killings Ross Conroy Rwanda United Nations

Assessment of the Security Implications of Environmental Crime in Africa

Zachary Lubelfeld is pursuing a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations at Syracuse University.  He is currently in Maputo, Mozambique on a Boren Fellowship studying Portuguese and the extractive sector in Mozambique.  All opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official positions of Syracuse University or the National Security Education Program.  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 Security Implications of Environmental Crime in Africa

Date Originally Written:  January 22, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 30, 2018.

Summary:  Environmental crime is a growing component of transnational crime, as well as an increasingly lucrative one. Organized crime, militia groups, and terrorist organizations all profit off the illicit sale of everything from minerals to animals. This criminal activity poses a significant threat, not just to the communities in which it occurs or where these entities commit violence, but to the health and safety of people around the world.

Text:  As globalization continues apace, and the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the benefits, like greater access to goods and information, are matched by the costs, such as the increased space for transnational criminal activity. One of the least discussed aspects of this is environmental crime. Global environmental crime is a burgeoning market, worth an estimated $213 billion annually[1]. This environmental crime includes a wide range of illicit activities, such as illegal logging in rainforests, illegal mining of mineral resources, and poaching elephants and rhinoceroses for their ivory.  The lack of focus on environmental crime allows criminal organizations to wreak havoc with relative impunity, and nowhere is this truer than in Africa. The pernicious effects of wildlife exploitation are felt across all of Africa, the security implications of which are myriad. Regional stability, armed conflict and terrorism, and global health are all impacted by wildlife exploitation in Africa, with potentially dangerous results not just for Africans, but for people worldwide.

Environmental crime is an important driver of violence and conflict across Africa, as it provides integral revenue streams for many violent militia groups and terrorist organizations. Perhaps the most well-known example of this are conflict minerals, which refers to minerals that are sold to fund violence. Diamonds have long been a driver of conflict in Africa, a recent example of which is the ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic[2]. Violent militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) profit from the sales of minerals like cassiterite, a tin ore worth about $500/kg that is used in products such as phones, laptops, and cars[3]. The value of the illicit mineral trade in East, Central, and West Africa is valued at $2.4 billion to $9 billion per year, which rivals the value of the global heroin and cocaine markets combined[4].

Another key component of environmental crime is poaching, both for bush meat and for ivory. Armed militia groups as well as military units in Africa rely on poaching for food – for example, one adult elephant can feed an average army regiment. Ivory is the more lucrative reason for poaching, however. Elephant tusks sell for an estimated $680/kg[5], while rhinoceros horn is worth upwards of $65,000/kg. Ivory can be sold, or traded for supplies and weapons, and is a major funding source across Africa, from the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern Africa to transnational criminal networks operating in Mozambique; there is even evidence that the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab profits from ivory smuggling. The illicit sale of ivory is also an important revenue source for armed militias in the DRC[6] and groups like the Janjaweed, the notorious Sudanese militias responsible for the genocide in Darfur[7].

Lesser known examples of environmental crime are essential to funding the operations of terrorist organizations across Africa, such as illegal logging. One of the primary uses of illegal logging is the production and taxation of charcoal, which is a fuel source for Africans who don’t have access to electricity. Al-Shabab had earned an estimated $56 billion from illicit charcoal by 2014, making it the primary source of funding for their operations.  Additionally, there are reports that the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram derives funding from the trade[8]. Furthermore, profits from the illegal timber trade are used to facilitate arms smuggling in Africa, arming terrorists, as well as rebel groups such as in Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire[9].

As concerning as it is that terrorist organizations and militia groups derive significant benefit from environmental crime, a potentially even greater danger is the consequences it could have on global health. A variety of animals are trafficked internationally, from rare birds and reptiles to gorillas, as well animal parts like pelts and tusks. This contact between animals and humans increases the risk of transmission of dangerous zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are transmitted from animals to humans. One example is the Ebola virus, which is thought to come from bats and primates, the latter of which may have spread the disease while being trafficked through cities is western Africa[10].

Increased transport of wildlife internationally increased the chances of the spread of dangerous pathogens, especially in the case of illicit trafficking. Pathogens that may otherwise have been contained in one location are sent around the world, increasing the risk of pandemic. While customs procedures designed to screen for these pathogens exist, wildlife traffickers bypass these to avoid detection, so infected animals are not discovered and put in quarantine. Therefore, wildlife trafficking could lead to the international transmission of a disease like Ebola, anthrax, or Yersinia pestis, otherwise known as the bubonic plague.

It is clear that environmental crime is as lucrative for criminals as it is dangerous to everyone else, and therefore shows no signs of slowing down. Given the potential harm that it could cause, by funding groups who seek to bring violence and chaos wherever they go, as well as by increasing the probability of devastating pandemic, environmental crime will certainly continue if it is not addressed by law enforcement and policy makers.


Endnotes:

[1] Vira, V., Ewing, T., & Miller, J. (2014, August). Out of Africa: Mapping the Global Trade in Illicit Elephant Ivory. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from C4ADS: https://c4ads.org/reports/

[2] A Game of Stones: smuggling diamonds in the Central African Republic. (2017, June 22). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/central-african-republic-car/game-of-stones/#chapter-1/section-3

[3] Morrison, S. (2015, May 16). ‘Conflict minerals’ funding deadly violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo as EU plans laws to clean up trade. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/conflict-minerals-bringing-death-to-the-democratic-republic-of-congo-as-eu-plans-laws-to-clean-up-10255483.html

[4] Environmental Crime. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.stimson.org/enviro-crime/

[5] Chen, A. (2016, November 07). Poaching is on the rise – most illegal ivory comes from recently killed elephants. Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/7/13527858/illegal-ivory-elephant-radiocarbon-dating-poaching-stockpile

[6] Toeka Kakala, Taylor. “Soldiers Trade in Illegal Ivory” InterPress Service News Agency. 25 July 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/soldiers-trade-in-illegal-ivory

[7] Christina M. Russo, “What Happened to the Elephants of Bouba Ndjida?” MongaBay, March 7, 2013. Available at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0307-russo-elephants-bouba-njida.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] ILLEGAL LOGGING & THE EU: AN ANALYSIS OF THE EU EXPORT & IMPORT MARKET OF ILLEGAL WOOD AND RELATED PRODUCTS(Rep.). (2008, April). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from World Wildlife Foundation website: http://assets.wnf.nl/downloads/eu_illegal_logging_april_2008.pdf

[10] Bouley, T. (2014, October 06). Trafficking wildlife and transmitting disease: Bold threats in an era of Ebola. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from http://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/trafficking-wildlife-and-transmitting-disease-bold-threats-era-ebola

Africa Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Environmental Factors Illicit Trafficking Activities Zachary Lubelfeld

Assessment of the How the Media Overstates the Threat Posed by the Erroneously Called ‘Lone-Wolves’

Cristina Ariza holds a master’s degree from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, where she focused on radicalisation and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE.)  She is a freelance analyst, currently researching on Spanish jihadist networks and the role of families in CVE.  She can be found on Twitter @CrisAriza_C.  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 How the Media Overstates the Threat Posed by the Erroneously Called ‘Lone-Wolves’

Date Originally Written:  January 23, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 16, 2018.

Summary:  Media outlets, commentators, and prosecutors continue to use the ‘lone wolf’ typology to refer to any kind of individual attacker, which overlooks how the majority of these perpetrators have radicalised in contact with other like-minded individuals. As a result, the threat arising from supposedly ‘undetectable terrorists’ has been markedly overstated, to the point of sowing unnecessary fear.

Text:  A quick Google search of the term ‘lone wolf terrorism’ throws about 459,000 results, which is a striking number given how misleading this concept actually is. Initially, the concept of ‘lone wolf’ was supposed to represent the threat coming from individuals who radicalised in isolation and went on to commit an attack alone. Since they were not receiving instructions from a terrorist command nor they were in contact with other extremists, lone wolves were undetectable threats that could strike at any given time. However, as shown by the media frenzy that arises every time there is an attack, this category has lost all meaning. Now, every attack committed by one individual is automatically labelled as a ‘lone wolf’ attack, regardless of whether said individual actually fits the criteria. Thus, the discourse shifts onto a meaningless debate that contributes nothing to explaining how individuals are actually driven to commit attacks.

The first stumbling block we come across when examining ‘lone wolves’ is conceptual. There seems to be a certain consensus in the literature that in order to be designated as such, ‘lone wolves’ need to be detached operationally and institutionally from larger networks. In his study on Islamist lone attackers, Raffaello Pantucci differentiated between loners, lone wolves, lone wolf packs, and lone attackers. However, only the ‘loners’ had radicalised in total isolation and proceeded to attack alone. The rest of the categories included individuals who did not formally belong to a hierarchical command but had some online or offline contact with extremists, and individuals who committed an attack in small groups[1]. Strictly speaking, only the ‘loners’ could fit the criteria of self-radicalised ‘lone wolves,’ which is why compiling all these categories under the same typology ends up being problematic. For starters, this compiling overlooks the significant differences that exist between self-radicalisation and group radicalisation. As Bart Schuurman et al correctly point out, ‘peer pressure, leader-follower interactions, group polarization and other social-psychological processes by definition rule out including even the smallest „packs‟ under the heading of lone-actor terrorism[2].’

While, in spite of disagreements, literature discussions on ‘lone wolf’ terrorism tend to be very nuanced, this meticulousness appears to be absent in other contexts. In media and public usage, every attack that is committed by an individual perpetrator is at first designated as a ‘lone wolf’ attack, which risks overestimating the threat coming from self-radicalised and independently operating individuals. In 2016, the Nice and Berlin attackers were first wrongly identified as ‘lone-wolves’, even though it later emerged that both perpetrators had radicalised in contact with like-minded individuals. Jason Burke, in his piece entitled ‘The Myth of the Lone-Wolf Terrorist’ compellingly argues that ‘this lazy term [lone wolf] obscures the real nature of the threat against us[3].’

Furthermore, there seems to be a correlation between the modus operandi of an attack and the decision to designate an individual (or even individuals) as ‘lone-wolves.’ A perfect example of this correlation is a Daily Mail headline that claimed: ‘ISIS has abandoned large-scale terror atrocities to focus on ‘lone wolf’ attacks like Nice and Berlin, government report says[4].’ The government report quoted in this article, whose authenticity could not be independently verified, referred more generally to ‘lone actors’ and ‘small groups’, which in sensational media jargon translates as ‘lone wolves.’ Despite the fact that neither the Berlin nor the Nice attacker could actually be categorised as lone-wolves, the article audaciously equated low-cost attacks with lone-wolves, as if tactics had any bearing on radicalisation. While the Daily Mail is not particularly known for its credibility, a journalist from the much more reliable British newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ also suggested that the Westminster 2017 attack and the murder of Lee Rigsby were examples of how lone-wolf attacks did not require sophisticated weapons[5].’ Whereas one could forgive a premature—and ultimately mistaken— analysis on whether Khalid Masood was a lone wolf, both perpetrators in the Lee Rigsby case were linked to Al Muhajiroun, one of the United Kingdom’s largest jihadist recruitment networks. Therefore, the apparent correlation between low-cost weapons and lone wolves—or even ‘pack of wolves’— is not immediately clear. While it stands to reason that individuals who formally belong to terrorist organisations and have planned to commit large-scale attacks might resort to more sophisticated weapons —the Paris and Brussels attackers chose to use suicide vests and bombs—, the decision to strike with a low-cost weapon does not say much about how one individual might become radicalised. Granted, true lone wolves would likely resort to low-cost weapons, but so did the London Bridge attackers or the Magnaville perpetrator. Referring to low-cost attacks as ‘lone wolf attacks’ only contributes to adding another layer of confusion to an already problematic concept.

A more recent trial case in the United Kingdom showed how prosecution has also adopted this terminology. According to The Guardian, Munir Mohammed had ‘resolved upon a lone wolf attack[6].’ Yet he had enlisted the help of his girlfriend to buy the ingredients for a chemical attack. Both had met online and frequently shared extremist content with each other. If this was not reason enough to determine that Munir Mohammed did not radicalise in total isolation, as a so-called ‘lone-wolf’ is supposed to do, the article also showed that Munir Mohammed was in contact with an Islamic State commander and that he was waiting for instructions to attack. The evidence clearly shows that the dynamics of radicalization that led Munir Mohammed to try to commit an attack were diametrically different to the mechanisms of self-radicalisation. Unfortunately, the persistent use of the ‘lone wolf typology’ prevents us from noticing these nuances and communicating them to the general public.

The inaccurate understanding of the lone wolf concept is consistently being applied to terrorism cases that fail to meet the necessary criteria, which only contributes to creating preventable fear amongst the population. It is precisely in a climate of exaggerated fear where terrorists thrive, which is why the ‘lone wolf’ categorisation is no longer adequate to analyse and understand the current terrorist threat.


Endnotes:

[1] Pantucci, R. (2011, March). A Typology of Lone Wolves: Preliminary Analysis of Lone Islamist Terrorists. ICSR. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1302002992ICSRPaper_ATypologyofLoneWolves_Pantucci.pdf

[2] Schuurman, B., Lindekilde, L., Malthaner, S., O’Connor, F., Gill, P., & Bouhana, N. (2017). End of the Lone Wolf: The Typology that Should Not Have Been. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1057610X.2017.1419554

[3] Burke, J. (2017, March 30). The Myth of the Lone Wolf Terrorist. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/western-europe/2016-07-26/myth-lone-wolf-terrorism

[4] Boyle, D. (2017, January 5). ISIS has abandoned large-scale terror atrocities to focus on ‘lone wolf’ attacks like Nice and Berlin, government report says. Daily Mail. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4091844/ISIS-abandoned-large-scale-terror-atrocities-focus-lone-wolf-attacks-like-Nice-Berlin-government-report-says.html#ixzz5518Phdcs 

[5] Coughlin, C (2017, March 22). London attack was simply a question of time: This was the lone wolf Britain has long been fearing. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/simply-question-time-lone-wolf-attack-britain-has-long-fearing/

[6] Grierson, J. (2018, January 8). UK couple found guilty of plotting Christmas terror attack. The Guardian. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/08/uk-couple-found-guilty-of-plotting-christmas-terror-attack

Assessment Papers Cristina Ariza Violent Extremism

Assessment of the Threat Posed by the Turkish Cyber Army

Marita La Palm is a graduate student at American University where she focuses on terrorism, countering violent extremism, homeland security policy, and cyber domain activities.  She can be found on Twitter at maritalp.  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 Threat Posed by the Turkish Cyber Army

Date Originally Written:  March 25, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 9, 2018.

Summary:  Turkish-sympathetic hacker group, the Turkish Cyber Army, has changed tactics from seizing and defacing websites to a Twitter phishing campaign that has come remarkably close to the President of the United States.

Text:  The Turkish Cyber Army (Ay Yildiz Tim) attempted to compromise U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account in January of 2018 as part of a systematic cyber attack accompanying the Turkish invasion of Syria.  They were not successful, but they did seize control of various well-known accounts and the operation is still in progress two months later.

Although the Turkish Cyber Army claims to date back to a 2002 foundation in New Zealand, it first appears in hacking annals on October 2, 2006.  Since then, the group has taken over vulnerable websites in Kenya, the European Union, and the United States[1].  As of the summer of 2017, the Turikish Cyber Army changed tactics to focus on Twitter phishing, where they used the compromised Twitter account of a trustworthy source to bait a target to surrender log-in credentials[2].  They do this by sending a direct message from a familiar account they control telling the desired victim to click on a link and enter their log-in information to a page that looks like Twitter but actually records their username and password.  Upon accessing the victim’s account, the hackers rapidly make pro-Turkish posts, download the message history, and send new phishing attacks through the new account, all within a few hours.  The Turkish Cyber Army claim to have downloaded the targets’ messages, apparently both for intelligence purposes and to embarrass the target by publicly releasing the messages[3].  Oddly enough, the group has yet to release the private messages they acquired in spite of their threats to do so.  The group is notable both for their beginner-level sophistication when compared to state hackers such as Fancy Bear and the way they broadcast every hack they make.

The first documented victim of the 2018 operation was Syed Akbaruddin, Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations.  Before the attack on Akbaruddin, the hackers likely targeted Kurdish accounts in a similar manner[4].  Since these initial attacks, the Turkish Cyber Army moved steadily closer to accounts followed by President Trump and even managed to direct message him on Twitter[5].  In January 2018, they phished multiple well-known Western public figures such as television personality Greta van Susteren and the head of the World Economic Forum, Børge Brende.  It so happened that Greta and Eric Bolling, another victim, are two of the only 45 accounts followed by President Trump.  From Eric and Greta’s accounts, the hackers were able to send messages to Trump.  Two months later, the Turkish Cyber Army continued on Twitter, but now primarily with a focus on Indian accounts.  The group took over Air India’s Twitter account on March 15, 2018.  However, the aftereffects of their Western efforts can still be seen: on March 23, 2018 the Chief Content Officer of Time, Inc. and the President of Fortune, Alan Murray tweeted, “I was locked out of Twitter for a month after being hacked by the Turkish cyber army…” Meanwhile, the Turkish Cyber Army has a large and loud Twitter presence with very little regulation considering they operate as an openly criminal organization on the platform.

President Trump’s personal Twitter account was also a target for the Turkish Cyber Army.  This is not a secret account known only to a few.  President Trump’s account name is public, and his password is all that is needed to post unless he has set up two-factor authentication.  Trump uses his account to express his personal opinions, and since some of his tweets have had high shock value, a fake message intended to disrupt might go unquestioned.  It is fair to assume that multiple groups have gone at President Trump’s account with a password cracker without stopping since inauguration.  It is only a matter of time before a foreign intelligence service or other interested party manages to access President Trump’s direct messages, make provocative statements from his account that could threaten the financial sector or national security, and from there go on to access more sensitive information.  While the Turkish Cyber Army blasts their intrusion from the compromised accounts, more sophisticated hacking teams would be in and out without a word and might have already done so.  The most dangerous hackers would maintain that access for the day it is useful and unexpected.

While nothing immediately indicates that this group is a Turkish government organization, they are either supporters of the current government or work for it.  Both reporter Joseph Cox and the McAfee report claimed the group used Turkish code[6].  Almost a hundred actual or bot accounts have some identifier of the Turkish Cyber Army, none of which appear to be censored by Twitter.  Of particular interest in the group’s history are the attacks on Turkish political party Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi’s (CHP) deputy Eren Erdem’ın, alleging his connections with Fethullah Gulen and the 2006 and possible 2017 attempts to phish Kurdish activists[7].  The Turkish Cyber Army’s current operations occurred on the eve of massive Turkish political risk, as the events in Syria could have ended Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s career had they gone poorly. Not only did Turkey invade Syria in order to attack trained troops of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally, the United States, but Turkish representatives had been banned from campaigning in parts of the European Union, and Turkish banks might face a multi-billion dollar fine thanks to the Reza Zarrab case[8].  Meanwhile, both Islamist and Kurdish insurgents appeared emboldened within the country[9].  Turkey had everything to lose, and a cyberattack, albeit not that sophisticated but conducted against high value targets, was a possibility while the United States appeared undecided as to whom to back — its proxy force or its NATO ally.  In the end, the United States has made efforts to reconcile diplomatically with Turkey since January, and Turkey has saved face.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ayyildiz Tim. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://ayyildiz.org/; Turks ‘cyber-leger’ kaapt Nederlandse websites . (2006, October 2). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2006/10/02/turks-cyber-leger-kaapt-nederlandse-websites-11203640-a1180482; Terry, N. (2013, August 12). Asbury park’s website taken over by hackers. McClatchy – Tribune Business News; Ministry of transport website hacked. (2014, March 5). AllAfrica.Com. 

[2] Turkish hackers target Sevan Nishanyan’s Twitter account. (2017, July 28). Armenpress News Agency.

[3] Beek, C., & Samani, R. (2018, January 24). Twitter Accounts of US Media Under Attack by Large Campaign. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/mcafee-labs/twitter-accounts-of-us-media-under-attack-by-large-campaign/.

[4] #EfrinNotAlone. (2018, January 17). “News that people  @realDonaldTrump followers have been hacked by Turkish cyber army. TCA made an appearance a few days ago sending virus/clickey links to foreigners and my Kurdish/friends. The journalist who have had their accounts hacked in US have clicked the link.”  [Tweet]. https://twitter.com/la_Caki__/status/953572575602462720.

[5] Herreria, C. (2018, January 17). Hackers DM’d Donald Trump With Former Fox News Hosts’ Twitter Accounts. Retrieved March 25, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eric-bolling-greta-van-susteren-twitter-hacked_us_5a5eb17de4b096ecfca88729

[6] Beek, C., & Samani, R. (2018, January 24). Twitter Accounts of US Media Under Attack by Large Campaign. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/mcafee-labs/twitter-accounts-of-us-media-under-attack-by-large-campaign/; Joseph Cox. (2018, January 23). “Interestingly, the code of the phishing page is in… Turkish. “Hesabın var mı?”, or “Do you have an account?”.”  [Tweet]. https://twitter.com/josephfcox/status/955861462190383104.

[7] Ayyıldız Tim FETÖnün CHP bağlantısını deşifre etti. (2016, August 27). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from http://www.ensonhaber.com/ayyildiz-tim-fetonun-chp-baglantisini-desifre-etti-2016-08-28.html; Turks ‘cyber-leger’ kaapt Nederlandse websites . (2006, October 2). Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2006/10/02/turks-cyber-leger-kaapt-nederlandse-websites-11203640-a1180482.

[8] Turkey-backed FSA entered Afrin, Turkey shelling targets. (2018, January 21). BBC Monitoring Newsfile; Turkey blasts Germany, Netherlands for campaign bans. (2017, March 5). BBC Monitoring European; Zaman, A. (2017, December 07). Turkey probes US prosecutor in Zarrab trial twist. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/11/turkey-probes-reza-zarrab-investigators.html.

[9] Moore, J. (2017, December 28). Hundreds of ISIS fighters are hiding in Turkey, increasing fears of attacks in Europe. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from http://www.newsweek.com/hundreds-isis-fighters-are-hiding-turkey-increasing-fears-europe-attacks-759877; Mandıracı, B. (2017, July 20). Turkey’s PKK Conflict Kills almost 3,000 in Two Years. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/western-europemediterranean/turkey/turkeys-pkk-conflict-kills-almost-3000-two-years.

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Marita La Palm Trump (U.S. President) Turkey

Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Tyler Bonin is a history and economics instructor.  He is also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he developed and participated in host nation infrastructure projects as a construction wireman.  He can be found on Twitter @TylerMBonin.  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:  Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  January 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 2, 2018.

Summary:   The People’s Republic of China’s continued infrastructure investment in Africa through its One Belt, One Road initiative has led to incremental change in its foreign policy. Security challenges arising in Africa due to continued PRC investment might lead to an increased PRC military presence on the continent, as well as a complete revision of its non-interference policy.

Text:  In 2013, People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping proposed a $5 trillion international infrastructure plan entitled One Belt, One Road (OBOR), intended to advance land and maritime trade routes between Asia, Europe, and Africa[1]. Initial expansion has included approximately 1,700 road, railway, pipeline, and port projects undertaken by PRC state-owned and private enterprises. The state-developed Silk Road Fund and several multilateral development banks have financed these infrastructure projects, in addition to PRC commercial bank loans to OBOR partner countries[2].

A combination of private and state-owned PRC construction firms have built several railways between major African cities, including the Addis Ababa – Djibouti line, which is Africa’s first transnational electric railway. PRC-built railways have opened landlocked countries’ access to seaports, eased the burden of travel for workers, and ultimately facilitated the development of industrial economic corridors. Additionally, PRC companies have continued their investment in roadways and ports. Construction of a port at Bagamoyo in Tanzania will have the two-fold effect of easing congestion at neighboring ports and attracting foreign direct investment; it is slated to be Africa’s largest port[3]. Overall, views toward PRC development activities have been enthusiastic. Survey data from Afrobarometer demonstrates that 63% of Africans (averaged across all countries) view PRC influence as “somewhat” or “very” positive[4]. The PRC’s increasing global investment in infrastructure improves the country’s access to natural resources and also opens access to markets for PRC goods and services. It also serves as a powerful element of the PRC’s increasing soft power.

The PRC’s ever-expanding investment in Africa has also meant its increased role in security on the African continent. As the PRC has invested heavily in the Sudanese oil industry, civil conflict in South Sudan in 2013 led Beijing to take a proactive mediation position. In addition to promising to continue PRC participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, President Jinping has also promised to support the development of counter-terrorism measures within African countries[5]. All of these activities have been a departure from the PRC’s traditional “non-interference” foreign policy stance. Security concerns in the past have arisen as the direct result of terrorist activity in Africa, including the kidnapping of PRC workers by the jihadist group Boko Haram. Furthermore, the PRC is now focusing on security as a manner in which to protect its infrastructure investments. Civil unrest and terrorist activity stalls PRC projects and hinders economic activity; the large upfront capital investment required of these infrastructure projects requires continuity in development, which is interrupted by civil strife.

However, security concerns in Africa may also surface as a direct result of PRC infrastructure development. While PRC activity in Africa has been viewed positively on average, PRC labor practices have received negative attention in particular regions. While PRC construction firms have used local workers for projects in regions where the pool of skilled labor is steady, PRC nationals have been brought into regions where skilled laborers do not exist in large enough numbers. Thus, a narrative of foreign workers taking jobs in which local workers could be employed has given rise to periodic populist movements in Africa. One example of populist movement activity is in Kenya, where a group demanding that a PRC project provide jobs to local citizens attacked PRC railway construction workers[6].

Furthermore, young and unemployed populations provide the foundation for rebel movements; As rebel groups may seize access to a country’s resources—and use the sales of such for continuing to fund the movement—participation in rebellion essentially provides young individuals with their only means to income[7]. Many fragile states are the product of extended civil war. Subsequently, these states have seen low levels of education and loss of skills among their working age populations. These fragile states, such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, represent the situation in which PRC workers are used[8]. Thus, PRC activities are a possible catalyst for violence in fragile states where infrastructure projects continue.  In these fragile states, local resentment and populist fervor may build due to the perception that political elites only profit from the governmental arrangement with Beijing, while persistent unemployment exists during an ever-increasing influx of PRC workers. These factors combined may provide the impetus for rebellion that would harm the long-term goals of the PRC’s OBOR.

Due to the preceding, PRC roles in security in Africa may continue well beyond the current financing of counterterrorism measures and the provision of troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Specifically, the PRC’s non-intervention foreign policy may give way to a policy that seeks to actively finance state police forces and provide a stronger military advisory role.  While Djibouti currently maintains a permanent PRC naval station, an active PRC military presence seems likely to grow as investment in Africa increases, especially in fragile states. The dynamics of increased PRC economic and military influence in Africa are just now coming into existence and will pose interesting questions for future security considerations.


Endnotes:

[1] van der Leer, Y., Yau, J. (2016, February). China’s New Silk Route: The Long and Winding Road. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/growth-markets-center/assets/pdf/china-new-silk-route.pdf

[2] Gang, W. (2017, May 9). SOEs Lead Infrastructure Push in 1,700 ‘Belt and Road’ Projects. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.caixinglobal.com/2017-05-10/101088332.html

[3] Tairo, A. (2017, October 3). Tanzania Surrenders Bagamoyo Port Project to Chinese Firm. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Tanzania-Bagamoyo-port-project-to-Chinese/2560-4122244-rxa9wtz/index.html

[4] Lekorwe, M., Chingwete, A., Okuru M., and Samson R. (2016, October 24). China’s Growing Presence in Africa Wins Largely Positive Popular Reviews. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Dispatches/ab_r6_dispatchno122_perceptions_of_china_in_africa1.pdf

[5] Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. (2012, July 19). Fifth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC Opens Further China-Africa Cooperation. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://www.focac.org/eng/dwjbzjjhys/t954274.htm

[6] White, E. Analysis: Unpacking Attacks On Chinese Workers in Africa. (2016, August 5). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://international.thenewslens.com/article/45988

[7] World Bank’s World Development Report (2011). Retrieved January 12, 2018, from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/WDR2011_Chapter2.pdf

[8] Coroado, H. and Brock, J. (2015, July 9). Angolans Resentful As China Tightens Its Grip. Retrieved January 12, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-angola-china-insight/angolans-resentful-as-china-tightens-its-grip-idUSKCN0PJ1LT20150709

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Tyler Bonin

Assessment of the Role of Authoritarianism in Fomenting Extremism in the Arab World

Hari Prasad is an independent researcher on Middle East/South Asian Politics and Security. He holds a MA in International Affairs from George Washington University.  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:  Assessment of the Role of Authoritarianism in Fomenting Extremism in the Arab World

Date Originally Written:  December 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 19, 2018.

Summary:  Many Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) works have focused on the role of individual and enabling factors in the rise of extremism, yet it is important to not overlook larger structural factors.  In particular, authoritarianism in the Arab world has proven to help foment conditions that can help encourage the rise of extremism, or discredit counter extremism efforts.

Text:  In recent years with the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, the concept of CVE has gained traction in policy and academic circles.  A lot of emphasis has been put on the individual and community level with ideas such as examining the effects of discrimination, mental illness, and extremist ideology on influencing individuals to join violent extremist organizations.  However, it is also important to have an understanding of how larger structural issues, such as regime type, might allow for an environment that fosters extremism.  Using examples from throughout the Arab World, this assessment paper will show how authoritarianism contributes to extremism by encouraging divisions in society, undermining religious messaging, normalizing extremist rhetoric, denying outlets for political expression, and even facilitating the rise of extremist groups.

First and foremost, many Arab regimes fail to counteract sectarianism in the region. Instead of resolving ethnic, sectarian, or other tensions, the regimes exploit them.  As Syrian opposition intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh has observed, sectarianism played an important role in consolidating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime’s power[1].  Encouraging divisions in society causes the various sects to suspect one another, and ‘otherise’ them.  This ‘otherising’ continues sectarian tension and demonization, something that becomes operationalized to deadly effect during times of upheaval.  Authoritarian regimes also try to position themselves, especially to minority groups, as the sole protectors from radical groups.  This protector role provides some blackmailing towards minorities to support the regime or else, while also playing into the narratives of extremist groups that majority groups like Arabs and Sunnis are discriminated against by the regime[2].

Especially in combatting religious extremism, authoritarian Arab regimes can easily undermine religious messaging.  Often Arab regimes attempt to hold influence or control their respective official religious establishments to monitor the content as well as prevent criticism of the regime itself[3].  Although this has been used to also try to counteract extremist messaging, the fact that many religious establishments rarely stray from the regime narrative undermines counter-extremist messaging.  As official religious establishments primarily propagate a pro-regime narrative, they will be accurately perceived as simply another mouthpiece for the authoritarian regime.  Rather than serving as an important pulpit for counteracting extremist messages, the delegitimization of these religious institutions instead inadvertently encourage followers to seek out alternative narratives.

Along with this regime undermining of religious messaging, religion also is a valuable tool for regimes to turn to in times of crisis.  Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein enacted his ‘faith campaign’ while dealing with the harsh sanctions regime.  This campaign led to the rise of new Islamic institutions and organizations, including institutions that the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, attended[4].  In Egypt, despite overthrowing the democratically elected Islamist Mohammad Morsi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has also turned to Islam to help prop up his rule[5].  Regime manipulation of religion only further delegitimizes traditional religious leaders, while also normalizing religious language in denigrating their opponents.  Indeed, one of Egypt’s former Muftis went as far as to engage in similar takfirist (to declare a Muslim an apostate) justifications against Sisi’s opponents that the Islamic State and other extremist groups have engaged in[6].  Although it can be debated whether these initiatives are carried out to co-opt leaders or out of the personal faith of the leaders, these initiatives instead help normalize extremist rhetoric rather than counteracting it.

Many authoritarian regimes in the Arab World also limit political freedoms and outlets for political expression and change.  Indeed, scholars like Mohammad Hafez have demonstrated the role that repression and political exclusion has played in the rise of Islamic extremist movements around the world[7], especially in the Arab World.  Rather than serving as islands of stability, authoritarian regimes remain fragile and encourage resentment.  As there are few outlets to express one’s political opinions, and many ‘opposition’ parties are co-opted by the regimes, this encourages the rise of groups that lay outside of the realm of formal politics.

Finally, authoritarian regimes can directly facilitate the rise of extremist groups.  It is no secret that since the 9/11 attacks, many Westerners have preferred the ‘secular’ dictators instead of an ‘Islamist.’  These secular dictators have used the specter of Islamism to justify crackdowns and repression against all opposition.  While playing into the other factors that encourage victims to seek alternative ways of confronting the state, this has also proven useful for states that lack international legitimacy.  It is well-known that to support its narrative that it was simply fighting terrorists, the Assad regime released extremists and other unsavory characters from its prisons during the initial uprising in Syria[8].  As the initial protests turned to an uprising, these former prisoners formed organizations that helped paint the groups opposing Assad as extremist.  Groups like the Islamic State even temporarily received support from the Assad regime in its fight against the Free Syrian Army and other Syrian opposition groups.  Of course these are temporary alliances, but it demonstrates how authoritarian regimes will tactically allow extremist groups to form for the sake of their own survival.

Without reforming or changing these authoritarian structures in the Arab World, CVE efforts will only have a limited effect.  Of course, the demise of authoritarianism will not necessarily lead to an extremist free region.  After all, it is the newly democratic Tunisia that has become a large contributor for fighters for the Islamic State.  Nor will authoritarian reform lead to the erasure of extremist ideologies.  Yet, changing these authoritarian structures will provide a political opening that will allow better combatting of extremist ideology, while also providing a less repressive life for those that live in the region.  Authoritarian reform should not be mistaken as purely a humanitarian effort.  It is no secret that Western support for authoritarian regimes has been a common grievance for many extremist groups in the Middle East.  Mohammad Hafez in his keynote remarks to the RESOLVE Network in 2016 noted that the choice between repressive states or extremists, or rather “between barrel bombs and beheadings” is a false one, and one that the regimes themselves try to create[9].  Extremism in the region will never be fully addressed until policymakers understand the structural factors within authoritarian regimes that drive this behavior.


Endnotes:

[1] Saleh, Y. A. (2017). The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

[2] Shabi, R. (2014, April 10). Battling Perceptions: Minorities in the Arab World. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/04/battling-perceptions-minorities–20144965348535478.html

[3] Brown, N. (2017, May 11). Official Islam in the Arab World: The Contest for Religious Authority. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/05/11/official-islam-in-arab-world-contest-for-religious-authority-pub-69929

[4] McCants, W. (2015, September 1). The Believer: How Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Became Leader of the Islamic State. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://csweb.brookings.edu/content/research/essays/2015/thebeliever.html

[5] Springborg, R. (2014, May 24). Sisi’s Secret Islamism. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2014-05-26/sisis-secret-islamism

[6] Elmasry, M. (2015, June 27). Ali Gumah: Sisi’s Most Loyal Islamic Scholar. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/ali-gumah-sisi-s-most-loyal-islamic-scholar-1205811558

[7] Hafez, M. M. (2005). Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World. Boulder: Lynne Rienner .

[8] Gutman, R. (2016, December 01). Assad Henchman: Here’s How We Built ISIS. Retrieved December 29, 2017, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/assad-henchman-heres-how-we-built-isis

[9] 2016 RESOLVE Forum Flashback: Keynote Speaker Dr. Mohammed Hafez. (2017, September 15). Retrieved December 29, 2017, from http://www.resolvenet.org/news/2016-resolve-forum-flashback-keynote-speaker-dr-mohammed-hafez

Assessment Papers Government Hari Prasad Violent Extremism

Assessment of Violent Extremism: The Push of Identity Crisis and the Pull of Ideologies

Linn Pitts holds a B.S. in Marketing/Organization Management and a M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of South Carolina.  He also has studied Public Policy on a graduate level and holds an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Liberty University.  Linn spent a decade in law enforcement prior to transitioning into teaching on a university level.  He presently teaches as an Assistant Professor in the Social Science Department at Shorter University.  He can be found on Twitter @Professor_Pitts and is writing a dissertation on gatekeepers in Countering Violent Extremism programs in the United States.  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 Violent Extremism: The Push of Identity Crisis and the Pull of Ideologies

Date Originally Written:  November, 7, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  February 26, 2018.

Summary:  Successful recruitment of individuals into violent extremist organizations involves a recruiter leveraging the lack of social capital and identity capital to convince the radical-to-be that the organization will meet their needs.  Unless potential recruits have an established identity, resilience to deal with the overtures of recruiters, or have trusted individuals in their life that they can turn for help, the individual will be at risk for recruitment into violent extremist organizations.

Text:  Social Capital involves the problem and the potential solution to violent extremism due to the social identity that is sought by individuals at risk of recruitment for extremist groups.  Robert Putnam[1] identified that social capital aids society via collective action and empowerment.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Lester, Maheswari, and McLain[2] noted that negative influences within family connections can create negative social capital.  In particular, groups that may exhibit extremist tendencies may seem like viable avenues for individuals struggling with identity.  James Côté[3] has further established that a branch of social capital is that of identity capital.  Identity capital is the manifestation of discovering one’s own distinctiveness and plotting their life course.   Therefore, individuals will seek purpose in their life and may turn to extremist movements if they perceive an injustice[4].  Berbrier[5] had previously found that white supremacists will take on a victim identity to exacerbate the sense of injustice of their group’s persona in order to become more attractive to individuals struggling with this aspect in their life.

Ilardi found that recruitment of potential jihadist may not be a top-down recruitment process but it may be more of an individual attraction once introduced to the material such as the messages of radical clerics or videos depicting violence in the defense of religion.  Moreover, Futrell and Simi[6] identified similar activities among white supremacist as occurring at free spaces such as home-based Bible studies, small local bars not frequented by outsiders, or private concerts.  One can easily understand that charismatic leaders may be knowledgeable of these places via organizational ties as noted by Wood[7].  Extremist groups recruit at-risk but willing volunteers, who are seeking purpose in their life.  Though Wood primarily looked at the recruiting methods of the Islamic State, researchers[8] found similar recruiting efforts of white supremacy terror groups.

The key to successful violent extremism recruitment is at-risk individuals and their vulnerabilities such as the following factors discussed by Mitchell[9] while citing Bartlett and Miller, “four often overlooked elements that can move some people toward violent extremism: an emotional impulse to correct an injustice; the thrill of doing something ‘cool’; peer pressure; and attaining a certain status in a hierarchy.”  Three of these, (thrill/cool factor, peer pressure, and status seeking,) directly relate to identity capital as defined by Côté, especially in his discussion of adolescents struggling with the transition to adulthood and identity formation.

Though no apparent correlation to the work of Côté, the emotional impulse concerning an injustice is a view parlayed by Nawaz[10] as he recounted the story of his own radicalization and described the moment of empowerment.  Nawaz’ radicalization occurred while he accompanied his brother and a group of friends when they were accosted by several white nationalists.  He noted his brother mentioned to the white nationalist’s leader that he was carrying a bomb in his backpack [see author’s note].  The incident quickly ended, the white nationalists fled, and Nawaz’s feelings of legitimate identity associated with Islamist ideology.  In this case, it is easy to see Nawaz’s lack of understanding of the radical Islamist ideology, but his nascent view of the identity traits found an appealing association and it related to Côté from the aspect of an altered life-course.  Nawaz and his immigrant family had relocated Essex, England did not feel readily accepted in his transplanted home.  It is not uncommon to find cultural identity struggles faced by second-generation immigrants[11].  In comparison, it may not be limited to strictly struggles faced only by immigrants.  According to Al Raffie[12], “[s]tudies on radicalization find identity to stand at the fore of the radicalization process.  Success partially lies in the radical’s ability to provide the radical-to-be with a distinctive identity[p. 67].”  This identity may be based on an extremist religious ideology or a distinctive worldview such as white nationalism, but the radical-to-be does not fully comprehend the lifestyle they are pursuing and may become indoctrinated because they are seeking the identity.  Consider the life-course of Frank Meeink[13], as he struggled with identity growing up as the product of a broken home, eventually moving in with his father in his preteen years.  Meeink noted that he was constantly harassed/assaulted on the way to school by African-American youth in his South Philadelphia neighborhood.  The turning point for Meeink was a summer with his cousin in a rural area of Pennsylvania that introduced him to white supremacy.  Meeink noted that it made sense to him through the lens of a child that despised African-Americans in his home neighborhood.  It should be further noted this fits Ilardi’s view and that of Lester et al. as identity struggles led to an ideology fit via causal interactions.  Therefore, factors in Nawaz’s radicalization was the result of mistreatment due to his immigrant status akin to Meeink being of a different race in his South Philadelphia neighborhood.  Meeink’s and Nawaz’s story of deradicalization also share similar themes.

In examining societal structures, Cole, Alison, Cole, and Alison[14] cited Munchie’s 1999 work as they discussed that poorly applied preventions may further embolden anti-social identities which was discussed by Mitchell.  The significance of this discussion is that individuals struggling with aspects of self-concept will experiment with different identities and will seek reactions when they sample these new identities such as forms of different dress and customs.  Ultimately, this search leads to a cognitive opening as identified by Carpenter, Levitt, and Jacobson[15] that an extremist recruiter can exploit.  It is further supported by Horgan[16] that individuals joining radical groups do not understand the ideology, but become entrenched in the ideology when isolated from their typical peers.  Therefore, Mitchell’s findings in British Columbia Schools concerning moments where youth were on the fringe of radicalization became teachable moments.  It’s worth noting Mitchell’s respondents felt training concerning bullying and safe school communities offered them the ability to diffuse situations though they had not had formal training on radicalization.

Author’s note:  Some news sources have discredited this personal account by Nawaz, though it is symbolic of his apparent beliefs.


Endnotes: 

[1] Putnam, R. D. [1995]. Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of democracy6[1], 65-78.

[2] Lester, M., Maheshwari, S. K., & McLain, P. M. [2013]. Family Firms and Negative Social Capital: A Property Rights Theory Approach. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management15[1], 11.

[3] Côté, J. E. [2005]. Identity capital, social capital and the wider benefits of learning: generating resources facilitative of social cohesion. London review of education3[3], 221-237.

[4] Ilardi, G. J. [2013]. Interviews with Canadian radicals. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism36[9], 713-738.

[5] Berbrier, M. (2000). The victim ideology of white supremacists and white separatists in the United States. Sociological Focus, 33(2), 175-191.

[6] Futrell, R., & Simi, P. (2004). Free spaces, collective identity, and the persistence of US white power activism. Social Problems, 51(1), 16-42.

[7] Wood, G. (2016). The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State. Random House.

[8] Simi, P., Windisch, S., & Sporer, K. (2016). Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far Right Terrorists Recruitment and Radicalization among US Far-Right Terrorists.

[9] Mitchell, M. R. [2016]. Radicalization in British Columbia Secondary Schools: The Principals’ Perspective. Journal for Deradicalization, [6], 132-179.

[10] Nawaz, M. [2012]. Radical: My journey from Islamist extremism to a democratic awakening. Random House.

[11] Zhou, M. [2003]. Growing Up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology. 23. 63-95. 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.63.

[12] Al Raffie, D. [2013]. Social identity theory for investigating Islamic extremism in the diaspora. Journal of Strategic Security6[4], 67.

[13] Meeink, F. and Roy, J.M. [2010]. An Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story. Hawthorne Books.

[14] Cole, J., Alison, E., Cole, B., & Alison, L. [2010]. Guidance for identifying people vulnerable to recruitment into violent extremism. Liverpool, UK: University of Liverpool, School of Psychology

[15] Carpenter, J. S., Levitt, M., & Jacobson, M. [2009]. Confronting the ideology of radical extremism. J. Nat’l Sec. L. & Pol’y3, 301.

[16] Horgan, J. [2008]. From profiles to pathways and roots to routes: Perspectives from psychology on radicalization into terrorism. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science618[1], 80-94.

Assessment Papers Linn Pitts Psychological Factors Violent Extremism

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

Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Ian Wilkie is an American lawyer and terrorism expert living outside of New York City.  Wilkie has lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa and speaks multiple foreign languages.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Army (Infantry), completed French Foreign Legion commando training, and graduated from Vassar College and Tulane Law School.  Wilkie lived in South Asia post-9/11 where he conducted research and has been a consultant and advisor to two U.S. government agencies.  He has also worked for two of the three largest law firms in the world and has served as general counsel to hedge funds.  Wilkie possesses a deep knowledge of terrorist strategy and is currently working on a book called “Checkmate: Jihad’s Endgame.”  Follow Wilkie on Twitter @Wilkmaster.  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:  Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 1, 2018.

Summary:  U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter[1] and Ronald Reagan[2] aligned the U.S. with jihadists in Afghanistan against Russia and later gave weapons to Salafi-jihadis allied with Osama Bin Laden[3].  Less than 20 years later, Al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon.  Presently the U.S. is bogged down in Syria and continues to make the foreign policy mistake of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi.”

Text:  The United States has been fitfully fighting Muslim-majority countries since shortly after the founding of the nation.  President Thomas Jefferson saw enough of a piracy and kidnap threat to mobilize the Navy and newly formed Marine Corps and deploy them to Africa[4].  Centuries later, the use of violence against civilians is a hallmark of Islamist extremists.  Informed by Islamist interpretations of ample examples in scripture (Qu’ran[5] and Hadith[6]), religious “holy warriors” find it easy to commit atrocities and justify them on perceived religious grounds.  Some clerics support this violence, and some have even gone so far as to condone the use of nuclear[7] and biological[8] weapons against “infidels” based their interpretation of sacred texts.  The violence of these Islamist actors, whether on 9/11 or in Europe, Africa, or the various countries of the Middle East today, is not in doubt.  The history of violence associated with the Islamist jihad (“struggle”) to convert the world to Islam is rife with examples of massacres and forced conversions[9].  Put bluntly, the blood lust of these violent Islamists is not even an open question, yet the U.S. still works with some of the extremists, while trying to kill others.

Afghanistan in the decade from 1979-1989 saw the U.S. advance a strategy of opposing Russia without fighting Russia directly.  The U.S., primarily the Congress and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), believed that Russia could be bloodied and beaten if the “right” people were given the right weapons, clandestinely.  To this end, close ties were forged between the CIA and jihadists and Salafi-jihadis who believed in pedophilia, polygamy, and the liberal application of violence against civilians, including religious minorities.  America knew what Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar stood for, yet we still worked with them according to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory of geopolitics[10].  On September 11, 2001, America and the world learned the true dangers of allying with Islamist religious zealots: they may kill U.S. enemies, but they will never be U.S. allies.  Islamist religious zealots answer to their God and no one else, regardless of which faith they profess.

The cold, realpolitik calculus that the CIA made in Afghanistan to work with jihadists and Salafi-Jihadis may have hastened the break-up of the Soviet Union, but it also hastened the end of America’s moral leadership in the eyes of the world.  When these “good” jihadis the U.S. once armed and trained utilized tactics from World War 2[11] against American buildings, the American response was telling: the Saudi allies and sponsors of violent jihad were permitted to leave the U.S., no questions asked[12].  The softball investigation of official Saudi ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 reflected yet another Machiavellian choice by Washington; the oil money and strategic advantage of remaining allied to the bandit Kingdom[13] outweighed any practical considerations of justice for the victims.  The Saudi departures and lackluster investigation were a clear case of vested interests and money overwhelming U.S. morality and yet, almost two decades later, the survivors and the almost 3,000 dead still demand justice.

America’s reaction to 9/11 consisted of removing the Afghan Taliban from power, but not eliminating their base of support in Pakistan, their illicit drug networks, or their financial backing across the Sunni Muslim world.  The American response largely ignored the fundamentalist horrors of the Afghan Taliban’s behavior towards women, children, and minorities and focused only on which “externally focused” terrorists they were giving refuge to.  Rather like its 180° shift on Osama Bin Laden, the U.S. went from bombing the Afghan Taliban to inviting them to peace talks, in effect treating them like normal people and not the barbarians that they are.  In 2017, the U.S. is still open to sitting across the table from “men” who rape little boys[14] as a matter of honor and shoot schoolgirls in the face[15] as a point of pride, which is moral capitulation of the very worst kind.

Shifting to Syria, we encounter the most egregious examples of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi” that the U.S. has ever engaged in.  The fact that the CIA was willing to advance the fiction that foreign fighters from Sunni theocracies were anything but jihadis shows you how gullible and uninformed they believe Americans are[16].  From an ethical point of view, there is no such thing as a “moderate” Sunni foreign insurgent in Syria and there never will be.  Syria is another example of the U.S. trying to advance a larger goal (oppose Shia Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) by making a moral compromise and allying with malign forces.  In Syria, the U.S. has sent entire warehouses full of weapons to some of the most suspect killers on the planet[17].  For example, U.S. antitank missiles have been used by “friendly, moderate rebels” to attack medevac missions and even journalists[18].  Jihadis that the U.S. knows, and possibly trained[19], have used chemical weapons dozens of times in that conflict[20].  That the insurrection in Syria failed is largely due to the fact that Islamist jihadis don’t fight in lanes; they fight everyone and especially each other.  The U.S. continues to arm “bad” jihadis, as there is no such thing as a “good” jihadi, and the results speak for themselves.


Endnotes:

[1] Brzezinski, Zbigniew (Interview). “How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen” https://www.counterpunch.org/1998/01/15/how-jimmy-carter-and-i-started-the-mujahideen/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2107).

[2] Kaplan, Fred. “Reagan’s Osama Connection” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2004/06/reagans_osama_connection.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[3] Harnden, Toby. “Taliban still have Reagan’s Stingers” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/1357632/Taliban-still-have-Reagans-Stingers.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[4] Hitchens, Christopher. “Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates” https://www.city-journal.org/html/jefferson-versus-muslim-pirates-13013.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[5] Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. “Islam Is a Religion of Violence” http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/09/islam-is-a-religion-of-violence-ayaan-hirsi-ali-debate-islamic-state/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[6] Anonymous. “1.B Violence in Hadith Books” https://islamreligionofwar.wordpress.com/1b-violence-in-hadith-books/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[7] Tobey, William & Zolotarev, Pavel. “The Nuclear Terrorism Threat” https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/nuclearterrorismthreatthailand2014.pdf (p.10, Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[8] Gunaratna, Rohan & Pita, René. “Revisiting Al-Qa`ida’s Anthrax Program” https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/revisiting-al-qaida’s-anthrax-program (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[9] Konrad, Mike. “The Greatest Murder Machine in History” http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/05/the_greatest_murder_machine_in_history.html (Accessed 5 December 2017).

[10] Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin, pp. 125-128.

[11] Editor, Military History Now. “One Way Ticket – Japan’s Kamikazes Weren’t the Only Suicide Pilots of WW2” http://militaryhistorynow.com/2014/03/17/one-way-ticket-japans-kamikazes-werent-the-only-suicide-pilots-of-ww2/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[12] Sperry, Paul. “Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup” https://nypost.com/2013/12/15/inside-the-saudi-911-coverup/ (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

[13] Zakaria, Fareed. “Saudi Arabia: The devil we know” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/saudi-arabia-the-devil-we-know/2016/04/21/2109ecf6-07fd-11e6-b283-e79d81c63c1b_story.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[14] Agence France-Presse. “Male rape and paedophilia: How Taliban uses ‘honey trap’ boys to kill Afghan police” http://www.firstpost.com/world/male-rape-and-paedophilia-how-taliban-uses-honey-trap-boys-to-kill-afghan-police-2837546.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[15] Johnston, Ian. “Malala Yousafzai: Being shot by Taliban made me stronger” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/malala-yousafzai-being-shot-taliban-made-me-stronger-f6C10612024 (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[16] Mazzetti, Mark, Goldman, Adam & Schmidt, Michael S. “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html (Accessed 4 Dec 2017).

[17] Sanger, David E. “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[18] Russia Today. “US anti-tank TOW missile used in attack on RT journalists in Syria” https://www.rt.com/news/323810-us-missile-journalists-attack-syria/ (Accessed 5 Dec 2017).

[19] Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. “State Dept: US-Backed Forces Executed Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria” http://yournewswire.com/state-dept-us-forces-chemical-weapons-syria/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[20] “State Dep. Admits Opposition in Syria Has Chemical Weapons”
https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/State-Dep.-Admits-Opposition-in-Syria-Has-Chemical-Weapons-20171020-0006.html (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers Ian Wilkie Islamic State Variants Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States Violent Extremism

Assessment on the Revised Use of Afghan Militias

Suzanne Schroeder is an independent analyst.  She can be found on Twitter @SuzanneSueS57, and on Tumblr.  She is currently working on a long-term project on school poisonings in Afghanistan and has previously written for War on the Rocks.  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. 


Date Originally Written:  November 27, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 25, 2017.

Summary:  A new plan is under consideration by the Afghan Government to transform the Afghan Local Police into an Afghan Territorial Army.  While this transformation contributes to the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, without proper oversight, the Afghan Territorial Army could be co-opted by regional strong men.

Text:  The number of U.S. and North American Treaty Organization troops currently in Afghanistan is insufficient to carry out U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy.  This strategy has multiple parts involving an increased use of air power, employing Special Operations Forces in more ambitious ways, and a constant fight to reverse Taliban gains and prevent the Taliban from securing additional territory.  Additionally, there is a counter-terrorism part of the U.S. mission, which unilaterally focuses on containing/defeating the Islamic State-Khorasan Province[1].

On November 19, 2017, The Guardian newspaper reported that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is currently considering a U.S. proposal to restructure the Afghan Local Police into the Afghan Territorial Army, modeled after the Indian Territorial Army[2].  The Guardian also reported that the proposal would start with 1,000 men, and possibly reach 20,000, over two years[3].  This proposal has raised numerous concerns with human rights groups, including the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, that fear any new iteration of the militia system will revive the serious abuses that the militias have been accused of in the past ranging  from child sexual abuse to extra judicial killings.  As global attention shifts away from Afghanistan, increased misuses of power are a concern.

If one types the word “arbakis,“ the Pashto world that generally means militias, into the search field on the Taliban’s alemarah website the result is 81 pages where the term is used.  Despite the deceptions and exaggerations that often appear in Taliban propaganda, the negative opinions regarding militias allow the Taliban to gain political capital by exploiting the distrust of these groups based on their records of abusive practices towards civilians.  If this anti-militia narrative did not produce some benefit for the Taliban, it is doubtful they would continue to adhere to it so closely.

The plans to form an Afghan Territorial Army are an attempt to provide a second-line defense against Taliban gains.  The Taliban understand that repeated attacks on military and police targets accomplish the goal of psychological intimidation.  For anyone who may be considering joining the Afghan National Security Forces, the awareness of how often security forces are targeted is a strong deterrent.  Taliban attacks on police and military targets have become increasingly ambitious, complex, and deadly.

The war in Afghanistan is both regionally strategic, and a micro-level conflict driven by local concerns.  All regional players have their own motives for involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan, whether related to security concerns (containing the Islamic State for both Russia and Iran, as an example), or economic opportunities, as in the case with India and the People’s Republic of China.  Also involved are the ever-complex machinations of Pakistan and its security services.  Concurrently, there are numerous local competitions for resources, favors, development projects, drugs, and all other commodities.  These conditions have allowed local powerbrokers, most of whom have connections to the Afghan National Unity Government, to consolidate their power and establish local fealties, policed by militias.  The idea that an Afghan Territorial Army would not be co-opted in some fashion by regional strong men seems dangerously naïve.  Afghan Territorial Army units might also be used as conduits for influence from other regional actors.  There is no reason why Russia, who already assists the Taliban with small arms and a fuel supply scheme[4], wouldn’t seek to co-opt the Afghan Territorial Army.  Any establishment of an Afghan Territorial Army must also take into account the shifting of alliances, which have been so characteristic of this conflict.

A critical part of the counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan includes the avoidance of another civil war, such as the devastating one that followed the Soviet departure in 1989.  While the continuation of Western aid would seem to prevent this outcome, it’s still a danger that existing conditions can be worsened by sectarianism, social inequality, and the ever-present corruption, that is too entrenched to be effectively combated.  The establishment of an Afghan Territorial Army that is unregulated and operates outside of an accountability structure, would further fuel declining social and political cohesion.  Combined with abuses, and little or no means of redress, Afghan hostilities may be directed at the Afghan National Unity Government, which ironically is greatly lacking in “unity.”  The inability of Afghans to redress the actions of an unregulated Afghan Territorial Army would ensure the Taliban gains support.  One way to preempt this inability of redress is to truly model the Afghan Territorial Army after the Indian Territorial Army, which is subordinated to the Indian Army to ensure proper oversight.

An Afghan Territorial Army with sufficient oversight, including maintaining an accurate inventory of its weapons and equipment, could contribute towards the U.S. strategic goal of recapturing territory from the Taliban (80% back in Afghan government control, after two years), and sufficiently degrading Taliban capabilities to make negotiations seem a reasonable option[5]. While this strategic goal is lofty, a narrower tactical goal could be an Afghan Territorial Army that succeeds in addressing the localized nature of the conflict and offsets the high level of desertions, among other problems that plague the Afghan National Army.

Any future development of the Afghan Territorial Army will require a functioning, sustainable system of oversight, and an awareness of consequences that could potentially damage U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, thus strengthening support for the Taliban.  If the U.S. is invested the creation of an Afghan Territorial Army, then Afghan partners must be willing to adhere to mutually agreed upon guidelines for its employment and oversight, and due care must be taken to evaluate both the potential successes and failures of this type of program throughout its life.


Endnotes:

[1] Author interview, with The Guardian’s Kabul correspondent, Sune Engel Rasmussen, September 11, 2017.

[2] Rasmussen, S. E. (2017, November 19). UN concerned by controversial US plan to revive Afghan militias. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/19/afghanistan-militias-us-un-diplomats

[3] Ibid.

[4] Loyd, A. (2017, November 11). Afghanistan: the war that never ends. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/afghanistan-the-war-that-never-ends-mchjpgphh

[5] Stewart, P., Ali, I. (2017, November 20).  U.S. General Sets Two-Year Goal for Driving Back Afghan Taliban.  Retrieved November 27, 2017, from www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-11-20/us-general-sets-two-year-goal-for-driving-back-afghan-taliban

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Irregular Forces Suzanne Schroeder Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States

Assessment of the Trump Administration’s Communications with the “Muslim World”

Jason Criss Howk conducted defense, intelligence, diplomatic, and education missions for the U.S. Government focusing on Afghanistan and Muslim cultures for 23 years.  He now teaches, writes, and speaks nationally to decrease anti-religious bigotry.  He shares a variety of information on Twitter @jason_c_howk and at dispatchesFromPinehurst.com. His award-winning book is The Qur’an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation.  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 Trump Administration’s Communications with the “Muslim World”

Date Originally Written:  December 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 18, 2017.

Summary:  Fear of Muslims is irrational. Prohibiting a discussion of Islam’s relationship to modern terrorist groups is too. The continuing success of terror recruiting reveals their ideology is a center of gravity, but you cannot shoot an ideology. You have to expose its flaws and turn people against it. One must use the correct terminology when you speak or it empowers terrorists. This is where the Trump Administration has taken 3-steps forward but 1-step back.

Text:  Fear of Muslims is irrational.  Prohibiting a discussion of Islam’s relationship to modern terrorism is too.  President George W. Bush took America into a War on Terrorism[1], President Barack Obama shifted to countering violent extremism[2].  Both stated correctly that America was not at war with Islam.  While acknowledging the importance of countering a terrorist’s ideology[3], neither slowed the spread of violent radical Islamist or khawarij ideologies used to recruit.  Not talking about Islam and its relationship to terrorism has likely contributed to increasing bigotry against Muslims and damaged America’s ability to decrease recruiting.

The number of nations plagued by terrorists has increased, despite America’s excellence at hunting terrorists.  The continuing success of recruiting hints that their ideology is the likely center of gravity.  You cannot shoot or “drone”[4] an ideology.  You have to understand it, expose its flaws, argue about it, and turn people against it thus ensuring the world understands that violent radical Islamism (separate from the religion of Islam) is a failed political ideology causing death and destruction is critical.

Incorrect terminology further empowers mankind’s enemy.  Here the Trump Administration has improved since the campaign yet occasionally stumbles.   President Trump should listen to his advisors that have operated in the “Muslim World,” listen to solid Muslim allies, and only use precise language that helps Muslims to separate violent radicals from society.  President Trump loses ground when he echoes false experts or bigots that push him to use “alpha-male” language that sounds tough, but makes it more difficult for Muslims to stanch the bloodshed.

Not all terrorists are Muslim and not all Muslims are terrorists; only ignorant people believe otherwise.  So, put the straw-man argument aside that says explaining the role of Islam in modern terrorist propaganda will cause anti-Muslim hatred.  The majority of the deadliest terrorists think they are the most pious Muslims in the world.  Their first murder victims were likely Muslims that they deemed “not Muslim enough for them;” (an old khawarij concept).  Most terrorism victims since 2001 were Muslim. It’s illogical not talk about Islam in relation to modern terrorism.

I have spent almost three years leading talks about the religion of Islam, the political ideology of Islamism, and the khawarij or “violent radical Islamist” ideology used by terrorists.  A few things were made clear to me–often angrily.  First, the American people never felt Bush or Obama understood the enemy.  Second, they felt that neither was able to explain a logical strategy for victory.  Finally, audiences felt the Presidents failed them by not talking about how Islam, Islamism, and terrorist ideologies are connected and disconnected.  Americans felt the Presidents believed their citizens were too stupid to have a discussion about Islam.

Instead of civilly talking about Islam and how terrorists can use some parts of the Qur’an to attract fighters to their cause, previous presidents presented straw-man arguments about why they should or would not discuss Islam.  At my discussions, it takes 45 minutes for people who have never studied Islam to grasp this entire concept.  After Bush and Obama, a third president cannot underestimate the intelligence and curiosity of the American people.

If the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia can talk about extreme interpretations of Islam[5] and its relationship to many terrorist groups, and the King of Jordan can succinctly label our enemy as Khawarij[6] using terminology from Islam’s history, the American President can have a straightforward conversation about the topic.

America’s terminology should not drive a wedge between the U.S. and our Muslim allies.  Our language should help Muslims drive a wedge between the khawarij butchers and possible recruits and supporters of this deadly cause.

America can’t use words that help our enemy by complementing murderers or lumping them in with hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims.

Violent radical Islamists want to be called mujahedeen, jihadis, and Muslims.  The word jihad in the Qur’an means to struggle or strive nobly with all your person and wealth in the way of God.  A parallel in Catholicism is the system of sainthood.  Only the most selfless Catholics following God’s path to help others are sainted.  Similarly, in a religious sense, only the best among Muslims should be called mujahedeen (jihadis) which means someone who has performed true jihad.  The word is only used about 14 times in the Qur’an and should be returned to its religious context and taken away from butchers and human rights abusers.  You can’t make jihad into a negative term in a religious sense; so, don’t use it at all.

Instead, insult and brand these violent radical Islamists.  Use the term butcher, murderer, terrorist, khawarij, violent Islamist, loser, Islamist ideologue, distorter or corruptor of Islam, people ignorant of the Qur’an, disgraces, or betrayers of God.

Don’t call violent radical Islamists Muslims or use any negative modifiers in front of the word Islam or Muslim.  These corruptors have left Islam and should be a disgrace to their families.  “Islam” and “Muslims” are both positive words in the Islamic world.  Attaching “Radical” to it is often viewed to mean the entire religion or all Muslims are radical and therefore evil.

Every generation of violent radical Islamist butchers seems to form faster, become more radicalized, kill more gruesomely, and think they are more pious.  The world must stop this trend.

President Trump (obviously not an Islamic scholar) has asked his team and America’s allies to talk clearly about extreme interpretations of the Qur’an and the ideology used by our enemies.  His Riyadh speech[7] was pointed, and by mostly using correct terminology, supported a change[8] that is already underway[9] in the Muslim world.  Start this same discussion in America and ensure that violent radical Islamists and the people who sponsor and provide top-cover for the modern-day Khawarij are exposed and shut down.  Help decrease bigotry towards Muslims.

The world should applaud organizations like this Kuwaiti business[10] that honestly confronted those who purposely misinterpret the Qur’an to justify murder.  All governments should be this brave and clear.

Education won’t end terrorism, but it will impact the long-term fight against Islamist inspired terrorists.  No problem ever improved by refusing to fully examine it and honestly talk about it.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Government (2003, February) National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017,  https://www.cia.gov/news-information/cia-the-war-on-terrorism/Counter_Terrorism_Strategy.pdf

[2] U.S. Government (2011, June) National Strategy for Counterterrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/counterterrorism_strategy.pdf

[3] U.S. Government (2006, September) National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017, https://fas.org/irp/threat/nsct2006.pdf

[4] Friedersdorf, Conor (2016, December 23) Obama’s Weak Defense of His Record on Drone Killings, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/president-obamas-weak-defense-of-his-record-on-drone-strikes/511454/

[5] Chulov, Martin (2017, October 24) I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/i-will-return-saudi-arabia-moderate-islam-crown-prince

[6] Jordan Times (2015, June 11) Nothing treats Islam with more contempt than Khawarij actions — King, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/nothing-treats-islam-more-contempt-khawarij-actions-—-king

[7] U.S. Government (2017, May) President Trump’s Speech in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://dispatchesfrompinehurst.com/2017/05/22/howks-notes-of-president-trumps-speech-in-saudi-arabia/

[8] Bergen, Peter (2017 September 27) Saudi women driving a sign bigger change is coming, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/27/opinions/symbolism-of-saudi-women-driving/index.html

[9] IRNA, (2017 October 29) Iranian woman appointed first ever no. 2 at Oil Ministry, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.irna.ir/en/News/82712122

[10] Zain Mobile (2017 May 26) Anti-Terrorism Video for Ramadan 2017, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49nOBFv508

Assessment Papers Jason Criss Howk Trump (U.S. President) United States Violent Extremism

Assessment of the Lone Wolf Terrorist Concept

Linda Schlegel holds a BA in Liberal Arts from the University College Maastricht (NL) and an MA in Terrorism, Security and Society from King’s College London (UK).  Her main topics of interest are radicalization, the role of identity in extremism, and societal resilience.  She can be found on Twitter at @LiSchlegel.  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 Lone Wolf Terrorist Concept

Date Originally Written:  November 12, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 11, 2017.

Summary:  The label “lone wolf” is attached easily to an individual attacker by politicians and the media, but must be used with care.  These actors do not perceive themselves as acting alone, but as part of a group.  This group is increasingly found in the virtual realm, begging the question of whether traditional notions of membership in terrorist groups is still a valid indication of whether an attack was perpetrated by a lone wolf or not.

Text:  In recent years, the phenomenon of so-called lone wolf terrorism has increased with more and more attacks perpetrated by single actors.  Lone wolf attacks occur in the context of multiple ideological frameworks and are not confined to a single group or system of belief.  The Islamist attack in Nice, France, in 2016 was just as much the work of a lone actor as the atrocities perpetrated by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011.  While governments and the media are quick to attach the label lone wolf to a single perpetrator, one needs to ask what this concept actually entails.  Individuals do not exist in a vacuum and one should not make the mistake of equating the reference to lone action to objective isolation or disengagement from society at large.  It needs to be discussed what the label actually says about the perpetrator, how the perpetrator views himself, and whether there can be lone wolves in the age of global connectivity through social media.

Politically, the concept lone wolf is used to reassure the public and communicate that the danger is no longer immanent.  Academically as well as practically, the concept entails more than this reassurance[1].  Following ideas put forward by Ramon Spaaje in 2010, a lone wolf terrorist can be defined as a person who “operates individually, does not belong to an organized terrorist group or network and whose modi operandi are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or hierarchy[2].”  Therefore, there are two conditions which need to be fulfilled in order to classify someone as a lone wolf.  Firstly, the individual perpetrating an attack cannot have formal membership in a terrorist organization or be part of a network of terrorists.  This does not mean that the lone actor needs to be completely innovative in his ideology or actions.  In fact, radicalization is often driven by organizations disseminating propaganda and terrorists learn from each other even if they belong to very different ideological backgrounds.  Breivik, for instance, took inspiration from Al-Qaeda for his attacks[3].  But lone wolves cannot be recognized members of organizations and take action on behalf of this group.  Secondly, the individual must have planned, prepared and executed the attack without operational support from others and without direct orders to do so.  While seemingly straightforward, these criteria are increasingly difficult to apply in today’s circumstances.

Sociologist Max Weber postulated in his writings that in order to understand a social phenomenon, it is not enough to judge it from the outside, one must put oneself in the shoes of the social actor.  Do lone wolves view themselves as lone wolves?  Most of the time, the answer is no.  Terrorists are rarely motivated by nihilism, they are motivated by altruism[4] and take action on behalf of a group.  Islamist terrorists often claim to act in defense of the ummah, the global community of Muslims, and right-wing extremists on behalf of the white race, the nation or, as Breivik, on a self-composed category such as “Nordic Europeans.”  Lone wolves do not view themselves as lone wolves; precisely the contrary holds true.  Lone wolves often perceive themselves as part of a heroic avant-garde seeking to protect a larger group of people.  It is important to understand that lone wolf is a label attached to an individual by external forces not the actor himself.  One could argue that this by itself does not render the above-mentioned criteria invalid, as objectively the individual was acting alone, regardless of whether he or she believes to belong to an organization or take action on behalf of a group or not.  Membership in groups and “acting alone,” however, are concepts increasingly difficult to apply in a world where terrorist organizations increasingly organize virtually through social media.

What does it mean to “belong to an organized terrorist group or network[5]” when groups of all ideological backgrounds are increasingly organizing in the virtual sphere[6]?  Online, thousands of people access, view, read, comment on and engage with extremist content disseminated by terrorist groups.  Individuals can feel strongly about the virtual community and construct their individual identity in relation to the collective online movement[7].  A network can now refer to a virtual social network spanning the globe with various degrees of real-life and virtual involvement with the organization.  In the age of clicktivism, the notion of membership in a terrorist organization is increasingly less straightforward.  Is it feasible to consider somebody to be a lone wolf if this person was an active member of an online network run by an organized group even if he or she perpetrated the attack alone?  Facilitating lone actor attacks has become part of deliberate strategies of extremist organizations[8] and attacks sometimes represent hybrids between lone actor and “normal” terrorist action.  For example, during the recent attacks in Germany, the attacker was continuously in contact with members of the so-called Islamic State through instant messaging applications[9], including receiving encouragement and practical hints.  Can a case like this still be considered lone wolf terrorism?

Terrorism is constantly evolving and the concept of lone wolf terrorism is not as unambiguous as it might have seemed previously.  Social media has changed the way membership in violent organizations can be conceptualized and calls into question how alone lone wolves really are in the age of instant virtual communication. The lone wolf concept needs to be reevaluated and adapted to changed circumstances.  Should these actors be regarded as peripheral members of terrorist organizations?  How can we conceptualize those that followed general calls for action, but executed attacks individually?  Can we understand some individuals as “remote-controlled” by official members of terrorist organizations?  Currently, there are more questions than answers on the content and validity of the lone wolf concept, but we should be alert and aware that the external conditions have changed, and old responses may not be appropriate anymore to present-day lone actor terrorism.


Endnotes:

[1] For an overview see Ellis, C., Pantucci, R., de Roy van Zuijdewijn, J., Bakker, E., Gomis, B., Palombi, S. and Smith, M. (2016). Lone-Actor Terrorism: Final Report. Royal United Service Institute: London
https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/201604_clat_final_report.pdf

[2] Appleton, C. (2014). Lone wolf terrorism in Norway. The International Journal of Human Rights. Vol. 18 (2), pp.127-142
See also Spaaij, R. (2010). The Enigma of Lone Wolf Terrorism: An Assessment. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Vol. 33 (9), pp. 854-870

[3] Borchgrevink, A. (2012). A Norwegian Tragedy: Anders Behring Breivik and the Massacre on Utoya. Cambridge: Polity Press

[4] Atran, S. (2010). Talking to the enemy: Violent Extremism, sacred values, and what it means to be human. Penguin Books: London

[5] Appleton, C. (2014). Lone wolf terrorism in Norway. The International Journal of Human Rights. Vol. 18 (2), pp.127-142

[6] Garcia, F. (9/3/16). White nationalist movement growing much faster than ISIS on Twitter, study finds. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/white-nationalist-movement-twitter-faster-growth-isis-islamic-state-study-a7223671.html

[7] Berntzen, L.E. and Sandberg, S. (2014). The Collective Nature of Lone Wolf Terrorism: Anders Behring Breivik and the Anti-Islamic Social Movement. Terrorism and Political Violence. Vol 26 (5)., pp.759-779

[8] Burke, J. (6/15/16). Islamist terror has evolved toward lone actors- and it’s brutally effective. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/15/islam-jihad-terrorism-orlando-shooting-paris-attack

[9] Joscelyn, T. (2016). Terror Plots in Germany, France Were ‘remote-Controlled’ by Islamic State Operatives. FDD’s Long War Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/terror-plots-in-germany-france-were-remote-controlled-by-islamic-state-operatives.php

Assessment Papers Linda Schlegel Violent Extremism

Assessment of the Threat to Southeast Asia Posed by Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing

Blake Herzinger is a private-sector maritime security advisor assisting the U.S. Pacific Fleet in implementation and execution of the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative and Pacific Command-wide maritime security efforts.  He served in the United States Navy as an intelligence officer in Singapore, Japan, Italy, and exotic Jacksonville, Florida.  His writing has appeared in Proceedings, CIMSEC and The Diplomat.  He can be found on Twitter @BDHerzinger.  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:  Assessment of the Threat to Southeast Asia Posed by Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing

Date Originally Written:  September 24, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 27, 2017.

Summary:  Regional conflict brews in Southeast Asia as states vie for access to fish stocks and, increasingly, rely on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) to meet national requirements.  IUUF risks the collapse of targeted fish stocks, destroys the maritime environment, degrades internal security, and brings national security forces into increasingly-escalatory encounters.

Text:  Over one billion residents of the Asia-Pacific rely upon fish as their primary source of protein, and the fish stocks of the region are under a relentless assault[1].  Current estimates place IUUF at between 11 and 26 million metric tons (MMT) yearly (total legal capture is approximately 16.6 MMT yearly), with an estimated value loss to regional economies of $10-23.5 billion[2][3].  Over a 25 year period, fish stocks in the South China Sea have declined anywhere from 6 to 33 percent, with some falling as much as 40 percent over the last 5 years.  In 2015, at least 490 million people in Southeast Asia lived in chronic hunger, with millions of children throughout the region stunted due to malnutrition[4].

Illegal fishing’s pernicious by-product is the critical damage done to the maritime environment by those flouting fishery regulations.  As large fish become more scarce as a result of industrial-scale overfishing, smaller-scale fishermen turn to dangerous and illegal practices to catch enough fish to survive.  Blast fishing obliterates coral reefs and kills indiscriminately, but despite prohibitions continues at a rate of nearly 10,000 incidents a day in Philippines alone[5].  Cyanide fishing is also still widespread, despite being banned in several Southeast Asian countries.  Used to stun fish for live capture (for aquariums or regionally popular live fish restaurants), cyanide contributes to the devastation of coral reefs across the SCS.  Giant clam poaching also has deleterious effects on reefs across the region as poachers race to feed Chinese demand for these shellfish.  Reefs throughout the Coral Triangle are interdependent, relying on one another for pollination, and as the reefs are destroyed by poachers seeking short-term gains, or even by small fishermen eking out a subsistence lifestyle, the effects of collapse ripple outward across the region.  The region is approaching an inflection point at which the damage will be irreparable.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), which accounts for one-third of global fish consumption and is the world’s largest seafood exporter, fittingly leads the way in aggressively protecting its fishing fleets with an overwhelmingly powerful coast guard that dwarfs any other maritime law enforcement body in Asia[6][7].  As IUUF and environmental destruction cut into maritime resources and competition for those increasingly scarce resources escalates, national maritime law enforcement and naval forces are being rapidly expanded and widely deployed to protect natural resources and domestic fishing fleets.  If unmanaged, the friction generated by these fleets’ increasing interaction could easily explode into violent conflict.

For many countries in the region, the state’s legitimacy rests largely upon its ability to provide access to basic necessities and protect its citizens’ livelihoods.  Tens of millions across East Asia and Southeast Asia depend on fisheries for employment and, in many cases, their survival.  Should fish stocks begin to fail, regional states’ foundations will be threatened.  The combination of inadequate food supply and loss of livelihood could reasonably be expected to spur civil unrest.  In a state such as Indonesia, where 54 percent of the population relies on fish as its primary animal protein, historically weak institutions and propensity for military intervention only amplify the potential consequences of food insecurity.  In the PRC, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) actively encourages illegal fishing to provide its 1.379 billion people with the fish, seafood and marine products that its lower-and-middle-class, as well as elites, expect.  Legitimacy of the CCP, at least in part, is dependent on the continued production of regional fisheries and desire to buttress its legitimacy will continue to drive this vicious cycle.

The above mentioned calamities can occur in isolation, but they are most often interlinked.  For instance, in the infamous 2012 Scarborough Shoal incident, Philippines maritime law enforcement boarded a PRC fishing boat that had been engaged in giant clam and shark poaching, as well as coral reef destruction.  Armed PRC maritime law enforcement vessels intervened and sparked an external dispute that continues in 2017[8].  Ensuing flame wars between Filipino and Chinese hackers and economic measures enacted by the PRC against the Philippines threatened stability in both the domestic and international spheres of both countries.  The threat posed by IUUF is not just about fish, its direct and follow-on effects have the potential to drag Southeast Asia into disastrous conflict.


Endnotes:

[1] Till, G. (2013). Seapower: a guide for the 21st century. London: Routledge Ltd.

[2] Caputo, J. (2017). A Global Fish War is Coming. Proceedings, 143(8), 1,374. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2017-08/global-fish-war-coming

[3] One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on The Verge of Collapse. (2017, August 02). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

[4] Asia-Pacific region achieves Millennium Development Goal to reduce hunger by half by 2015. (2015, May 28). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://www.fao.org/asiapacific/news/detail-events/en/c/288506/

[5] Guy, A. (n.d.). Local Efforts Put a Dent in Illegal Dynamite Fishing in the Philippines. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://oceana.org/blog/local-efforts-put-dent-illegal-dynamite-fishing-philippines

[6] Jacobs, A. (2017, April 30). China’s Appetite Pushes Fisheries to the Brink. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/30/world/asia/chinas-appetite-pushes-fisheries-to-the-brink.html

[7] Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy (Rep.). (2015, August 14). Retrieved https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/NDAA%20A-P_Maritime_SecuritY_Strategy-08142015-1300-FINALFORMAT.PDF

[8] Are Maritime Law Enforcement Forces Destabilizing Asia? (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://csis-ilab.github.io/cpower-viz/csis-china-sea/

Assessment Papers Blake Herzinger Environmental Factors Resource Scarcity South China Sea Southeast Asia

Assessment of U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Ali Crawford is a current M.A. Candidate at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.  She studies diplomacy and intelligence with a focus on cyber policy and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  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 U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Date Originally Written:  September 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 13, 2017.

Summary:  U.S. President Donald Trump instructed the Department of Defense to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to the status of Unified Combatant Command (UCC).  Cyber Command as a UCC could determine the operational standards for missions and possibly streamline decision-making.  Pending Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ nomination, the Commander of Cyber Command will have the opportunity to alter U.S. posturing in cyberspace.

Text:  In August 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin initiating Cyber Command’s elevation to a UCC[1].  With the elevation of U.S. Cyber Command there will be ten combatant commands within the U.S. military infrastructure[2].  Combatant commands have geographical[3] or functional areas[4] of responsibility and are granted authorities by law, the President, and the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to conduct military operations.  This elevation of Cyber Command to become a UCC is a huge progressive step forward.  The character of warfare is changing. Cyberspace has quickly become a new operational domain for war, with battles being waged each day.  The threat landscape in the cyberspace domain is always evolving, and so the U.S. will evolve to meet these new challenges.  Cyber Command’s elevation is timely and demonstrates the Department of Defense’s commitment to defend U.S. national interests across all operational domains.

Cyber Command was established in 2009 to ensure the U.S. would maintain superiority in the cyberspace operational domain.  Reaching full operational capacity in 2010, Cyber Command mainly provides assistance and other augmentative services to the military’s various cyberspace missions, such as planning; coordinating; synchronizing; and preparing, when directed, military operations in cyberspace[5].  Currently, Cyber Command is subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command, but housed within the National Security Agency (NSA).  Cyber Command’s subordinate components include Army Cyber Command, Fleet Cyber Command, Air Force Cyber Command, Marine Forces Cyber Command, and it also maintains an operational relationship with the Coast Guard Cyber Command[6].  By 2018, Cyber Command expects to ready 133 cyber mission force teams which will consist of 25 support teams, 27 combat mission teams, 68 cyber protection teams, and 13 national mission teams[7].

Admiral Michael Rogers of the United States Navy currently heads Cyber Command.  He is also head of the NSA.  This “dual-hatting” of Admiral Rogers is of interest.  President Trump has directed SecDef James Mattis to recommend a nominee to head Cyber Command once it becomes a UCC.  Commanders of Combatant Commands must be uniformed military officers, whereas the NSA may be headed by a civilian.  It is very likely that Mattis will nominate Rogers to lead Cyber Command[8].  Beyond Cyber Command’s current missions, as a UCC its new commander would have the power to alter U.S. tactical and strategic cyberspace behaviors.  The elevation will also streamline the time-sensitive process of conducting cyber operations by possibly enabling a single authority with the capacity to make independent decisions who also has direct access to SecDef Mattis.  The elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC led by a four-star military officer may also point to the Department of Defense re-prioritizing U.S. posturing in cyberspace to become more offensive rather than defensive.

As one can imagine, Admiral Rogers is not thrilled with the idea of splitting his agencies apart.  Fortunately, it is very likely that he will maintain dual-authority for at least another year[9].  The Cyber Command separation from the NSA will also take some time, pending the successful confirmation of a new commander.  Cyber Command would also need to demonstrate its ability to function independently from its NSA intelligence counterpart[10].  Former SecDef Ash Carter and Director of Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper were not fans of Rogers’ dual-hat arrangement.  It remains to be seen what current SecDef Mattis’ or DNI Coats’ think of the “dual hat” arrangement.

Regardless, as this elevation process develops, it is worthwhile to follow.  Whoever becomes commander of Cyber Command, whether it be a novel nominee or Admiral Rogers, will have an incredible opportunity to spearhead a new era of U.S. cyberspace operations, doctrine, and influence policy.  A self-actualized Cyber Command may be able to launch Stuxnet-style attacks aimed at North Korea or speak more nuanced rhetoric aimed at creating impenetrable networks.  Regardless, the elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC signals the growing importance of cyber-related missions and will likely encourage U.S. policymakers to adopt specific cyber policies, all the while ensuring the freedom of action in cyberspace.


Endnotes:

[1] The White House, “Statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Elevation of Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/08/18/statement-donald-j-trump-elevation-cyber-command

[2] Unified Command Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.defense.gov/About/Military-Departments/Unified-Combatant-Commands/

[3] 10 U.S. Code § 164 – Commanders of combatant commands: assignment; powers and duties. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/164

[4] 10 U.S. Code § 167 – Unified combatant command for special operations forces. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/167

[5] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[6] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[7] Richard Sisk, Military, “Cyber Command to Become Unified Combatant Command,” 18 August 2017, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/08/18/cyber-command-become-unified-combatant-command.html

[8] Department of Defense, “The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy,” 2015, https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0415_Cyber-Strategy/

[9] Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post, “President Trump announces move to elevate Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/08/18/president-trump-announces-move-to-elevate-cyber-command/

[10] Ibid.

Ali Crawford Assessment Papers Cyberspace United States

Assessment of Canada’s Fighter Replacement Process

Jeremiah Cushman is a senior analyst at Military Periscope, where he writes about weapons.  He holds an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University.  He can be found on Twitter @jdcushman.  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 Canada’s Fighter Replacement Process

Date Originally Written:  September 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 6, 2017.

Summary:  Canada’s aging CF-18 fighters need replaced.  While the U.S. F-35 was expected to be the choice, domestic politics, rising costs, and development problems caused controversy.  As such, both the Harper and Trudeau governments have hesitated to launch an open competition for a replacement.  The current plan is to upgrade existing jets and acquire interim platforms while carefully preparing a competition.

Text:  After more than three decades of service, Canada’s CF-18 Hornet fighter jets are due for replacement. This has proven easier said than done.

Delays and ballooning costs in the U.S.-led F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter program have made it a controversial option, despite Ottawa’s participation as a Tier 2 partner.  Domestic politics and a trade dispute have become another obstacle.  The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) says with additional upgrades it can keep the Hornets in the air until at least 2025.

The Hornet replacement was not expected to be so difficult.  Canada was an early contributor to the F-35 program and anticipated fielding the advanced fighter along with its closest allies.  Participating in the program was seen as a way to obtain the latest technology, while minimizing costs.  Interoperability with the allies Ottawa would most likely operate with was another bonus.  For these reasons, the RCAF has continued to favor the jet.

As development problems arose, defense officials began to emphasize that Canada’s contributions to the program did not guarantee a purchase.

In 2008, the Canadian Department of National Defense decided to reduce its planned procurement from 80 to 65 jets to compensate for growing costs.  The Conservative government of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper continued to back the F-35 until in 2012 a government auditor reported problems with Ottawa’s procurement process and said that the purchase would cost more than publicized.

An independent review of the program reported in December 2012 that the full cost to buy 65 F-35s was around Can$44.8 billion (U.S. $36 billion), well above the Can$9 billion (U.S. $7.2 billion) indicated by the government in 2010.  Harper decided to conduct a review of other options.  The results were received in 2014, but no decision was made[1].  Instead, Ottawa announced that it would modernize the CF-18s to keep them flying until 2025[2].

The election of the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau in October 2015 began a new stage in the fighter replacement saga.  During the election campaign, Trudeau pledged to end participation in the F-35 program and buy a cheaper aircraft.  This move appeared to be driven by the growing costs outlined by the review in 2012 and ongoing development issues with the aircraft.  Nevertheless, Ottawa has continued to make the payments necessary to remain a program participant.

Such a hard-line seems to be out of step with the progress of the F-35 program.  The U.S. Marine Corps declared initial operational capability with its F-35s in July 2015, and the U.S. Air Force followed in August 2016.  The manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has reported annual reductions in unit costs for the jet.  More North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have signed on to the program, as well as countries such as Japan and South Korea.  Such progress does not seem to have affected the Trudeau administration’s position.

The Trudeau government released its defense policy review in June 2017.  The document made no promises on how a Hornet replacement might be procured or what platform might be best.  The review included a new requirement for 88 fighters, instead of the 65 jets proposed by the Harper government.  While the additional aircraft are a positive development given Canada’s myriad air requirements, the lack of clarity on the next step revealed the administration’s lack of seriousness.  Ottawa has information on several options on hand from the Harper government’s review.  There appears no good reason why a new process for selecting a Hornet replacement could not already be underway.

The government appears to be driven by a desire to keep its campaign commitment and not to purchase the F-35.  Instead of setting up a competition to select a replacement, Ottawa proposed an interim purchase of 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets from the U.S. to fill an alleged capability gap.  The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the U.S. Department of State had approved such a sale on September 12, 2017[3].  This has been seen as a way to create a fait accompli, since it would make little financial sense to buy and maintain one jet only to switch to another later.

The slow pace of the procurement process so far might result in fewer options.  The Super Hornet line is nearing its end and there are questions about how much longer the Eurofighter Typhoon will be in production.

In any event, the Super Hornet proposal has fallen victim to a trade dispute.  Boeing, which builds the fighter, complained that Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier received government subsidies, allowing it to sell its C-series airliners at a significant discount.  The U.S. Department of Commerce agreed with the complaint, determining in late September 2017 that the aircraft should be hit with a 219 percent tariff[4].  This dispute has for the moment paused any Super Hornet purchase and led Ottawa to explore the acquisition of used Hornet aircraft.  On September 29, 2017, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced that it had submitted an expression of interest to Australia as part of the process to acquire used Hornets.  The release also said that preparatory work for a competition was underway, raising further questions about why interim fighters are needed[5].

Meanwhile, the RCAF is preparing to spend between Can$250 million (U.S.$201 million) and Can$499 million (U.S.$401 million) on further upgrades for its CF-18s to keep them in service until at least 2025.  Project definition is anticipated to begin in early 2018, with contracts being let in 2019[6].

As it stands, Ottawa appears to be trying to avoid selecting a new fighter.  It makes little sense to invest significant sums of money in interim measures when those funds would be better channeled into a new platform.  For reasons that remain unclear, it seems any decision will be postponed until after the next election, likely in 2020.  In the meantime, the RCAF will have to continue to invest scarce resources in its aging Hornets and hope for the best.


Endnotes:

[1] Pugliese, D. (2015, September 22). Canada and the F-35 – the ups and downs of a controversial fighter jet purchase. Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/canada-and-the-f-35-the-ups-and-downs-of-a-controversial-fighter-jet-purchase-2

[2] Canadian Press (2014, September 30). CF-18 upgrades will keep jets flying until 2025, Ottawa says. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/cf-18-upgrades-will-keep-jets-flying-until-2025-ottawa-says-1.2031683

[3] U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. (2017, September 12). Government of Canada — F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Aircraft with Support. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://www.dsca.mil/major-arms-sales/government-canada-fa-18ef-super-hornet-aircraft-support

[4] LeBeau, P. (2017, September 26). US slaps high duties on Bombardier jets after Boeing complains they were unfairly subsidized by Canada. CNBC. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/26/us-slaps-duties-on-bombardier-jets-after-boeing-subsidy-complaint.html

[5] Public Services and Procurement Canada. (2017, October 9). Exploring options to supplement Canada’s CF-18 fleet. Retrieved Oct. 9, 2017, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-services-procurement/news/2017/10/exploring_optionstosupplementcanadascf-18fleet.html

[6] Pugliese, D. (2017, September 26). CF-18 upgrade plan more critical as Bombardier-Boeing spat puts Super Hornet purchase in doubt. Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2017, from http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/cf-18-upgrade-plan-more-critical-as-bombardier-boeing-spat-puts-super-hornet-purchase-in-doubt/wcm/7828c1ea-ef72-4dc5-a774-92630297bb07

Assessment Papers Canada Capacity / Capability Enhancement Jeremiah Cushman

Assessment of North Korea’s Illicit Trafficking Activities

Paul Rexton Kan is professor of National Security Studies and former Henry L. Stimson Chair of Military Studies at the U.S. Army War College.  His most recent book is “Drug Trafficking and International Security” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016).  In February 2011, he served as the Senior Visiting Counternarcotics Adviser at NATO Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.  He can be found on Twitter at @DPRKan.  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 North Korea’s Illicit Trafficking Activities

Date Originally Written:  October 12, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 30, 2017.

Summary:  As the United Nations and member states have increased the number and variety of sanctions on North Korea for its missile launches and nuclear tests, the regime of Kim Jong Un will likely increase its reliance on illicit international activities to earn hard currency.  The international community must be prepared to respond in kind.

Text:  In an effort to pressure the regime of Kim Jong Un to end its ballistic and nuclear programs, the international community is pursuing a wide-range of sanctions against North Korea.  The newest round of United Nations (UN) sanctions contained in Security Council Resolutions 2371 and 2375 passed in August and September of this year are aimed at the heart of North Korea’s ability to trade with the larger world and earn hard currency for its economy.  In keeping with the UN sanctions, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has reduced its oil trade with North Korea and has ordered all North Korean businesses operating in the PRC to close by the spring of 2018.  Meanwhile, in addition to the UN sanctions, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in September that allows the U.S. Department of Treasury to sanction specific individuals and entities that engage in assisting North Korean textiles, fishing, information technology and manufacturing industries.

All of the recent sanctions seek to inflict sufficient economic pain on the Kim regime so that it will relent in its pursuit of improved missile and nuclear capabilities.  However, past economic sanctions have proven to be largely ineffective in changing North Korean behavior due to the regime’s ability to rely on illicit trade to finance itself.

The Kim dynasty has a long-running history of undertaking illicit trafficking activities to earn hard currency for the regime.  In fact, the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, created an entire government bureaucracy dedicated to pursuing criminal schemes for illicit profit.  Central Committee Bureau 39 of the Korean Workers’ Party was established in 1974 to reduce the country’s dependence on massive Soviet subsidies [1]. Also known as Office #39, this shadowy bureaucracy has proven essential for the North Korean government’s ability to weather economic hardships.  Office #39 has allowed North Korea to survive exceptionally perilous moments of potential state instability such as the collapse of its Soviet benefactor in 1991, the famines in the early 2000s and the dozens of international sanctions programs all the while giving the regime enough economic vitality to pursue nuclear weapons and ballistic programs.

The activities of Office #39 include narcotics manufacturing and distribution, currency and cigarette counterfeiting, arms trafficking, automobile smuggling and money laundering.  These illicit activities have earned billions of dollars for the Kim regime [2]. North Korean government personnel from the military and diplomatic corps carry out these criminal schemes abroad while using dummy companies to deposit launder proceeds through banks in China, Italy, Russia, and Africa[3].  Demonstrating the wide-ranging criminal network of Office #39, they have reportedly made arrangements with the Russian mafia to help the Kim regime launder its funds through the Russian embassy in Pyongyang [4]

Office #39 is also referred to as “Kim’s Cashbox”[5] and has been used to pay for the inducements that keep the North Korean elites mollified with the hereditary communist regime.  Consistent with any totalitarian dictatorship is the ability to control the economy, especially for national leaders who rule by force.  Central to the Kim dynasty’s ability to control its totalitarian regime is a “court economy,” akin to that practiced by an absolute monarch.  To prevent coups over the three generations of Kims, Office #39 has provided the funds to reward the regime’s military, government and party elites; as well as the regime’s security agents.  Such a court economy, resting on the illegal operations of Office #39, thereby promotes internal regime stability.

In addition to undergirding internal regime stability, Office #39 acts to promote North Korea’s external security by financing the weapons’ programs of the regime.  This nexus between illicit finances and sophisticated weapons programs appears to have become tighter under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.  In September 2016, the North Korean military’s organization for owning and running overseas companies, Office #38, was merged with Office #39, now operating only as Office Number 39 [6]. An expert on North Korea believes this merger indicates a growing desire to create a more efficient illicit funding stream to achieve two goals: 1) accelerate the regime’s ballistic missile and nuclear considerable advances; 2) feed even more money into Kim’s court economy as a way to strengthen his possible shaky grasp on leadership [7].

If the United States along with other members of the international community seek to bring maximum economic pressure against North Korea, it will also have to tackle the illicit overseas activities of Office #39.  The U.S. and others have previously coordinated their responses to North Korea’s criminal operations with some success [8].  The Proliferation Security Initiative initiated by the George W. Bush Administration demonstrated that regional cooperation can work to put pressure on Pyongyang’s arms trafficking.  Better coordination of these pressuring activities, through the use of fusion centers and ensuring the inclusion of law enforcement organizations, could enhance their impact.

The time appears right to tackle North Korea’s illicit activities.  North Korea’s recent provocative actions have increased the level of alarm among key regional players, providing a greater impetus for cooperation.  In addition, several North Korean officials posted overseas and who colluded with Office #39 have defected in recent months, taking with them not only vast sums of money, but information about the regime’s illicit financial activities [9] that regional players could use to stymie the regime.  North Korea is not a nation-state that is simply misbehaving. North Korea engages in criminality not as a matter of choice, but of necessity.  Finding new ways combat its illicit international activities will be challenging, but policy-makers must adapt their approaches to bring maximum pressure upon an increasingly bellicose regime.


Endnotes:

[1] Eberstadt, N. (2004).  The persistence of North Korea. Policy Review, Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.hoover.org/research/persistence-north-korea

[2] Kan, P. R., Bechtol, B. E., Jr., & Collins, R. M. (2010). Criminal Sovereignty: Understanding North Korea’s Illicit International Activities. Carlisle Barracks, PA: US Army War College.

[3] A. G. (2013, September 16). Q&A: High Level Defector on North Korean Trade. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 6, 2017, from http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/2014/09/16/qa-high-level-defector-on-north-korean-trade/

[4] Kim Jong Un’s Secret Billions. (2013, March 12). Chosun Ilbo. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/03/12/2013031201144.html

[5] Kim, K. (2007). The Dollarization of the North Korean Economcy. Tongit Yongu (Unification Research), 11(9), 11-34. (In Korean)

[6] N. Korea Combines 2 Units Managing Leader’s Coffers in One: Seoul. (2016, September 29). Yonhap . Retrieved October 3, 2017, from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/09/485_215017.html

[7] Author interview with Bruce E. Bechtol, Jr. on 4 October 2017.

[8] Asher, D. L. (2011). Pressuring Kim Jong-Il: The North Korean Illicit Activities Initiative, 2001-2006 (pp. 25-52, Publication). Washington, DC: Center for New American Security.

[9] Yi, W. (2016, August 21). N. Korea’s Leader Secret Funds Coming to Light. Korea Times. Retrieved October 2, 2017, from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/08/485_212381.html

Assessment Papers Illicit Trafficking Activities North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Paul Rexton Kan

Assessment of the Potential Security Challenges Posed by Water Security Between Afghanistan and Iran

Max Taylor is currently an Intern Intelligence and Security Analyst at Intelligence Fusion where he focuses on the Afghan security landscape.  Max also has a Master’s degree in International Security and Terrorism from the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.  Max contributes to the @AfghanOSINT Twitter account.  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 Potential Security Challenges Posed by Water Security Between Afghanistan and Iran

Date Originally Written:  September 8, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 23, 2017.

Summary:  Whilst the relationship between Afghanistan and Iran is characterised by generations of shared history and culture, concerns over water security provide a more contemporary security challenge.  Iran’s reliance on Afghanistan’s water supply and Afghanistan’s refusal to cede control over its waterways to Iran will ensure that this issue, if left undressed, will fester.

Text:  Water security between Afghanistan and Iran is not necessarily a new concern, as disputes can be traced back to the 19th century when Afghanistan was under British control[1].  However, as time has progressed, water security as a challenge facing Afghanistan and Iran has continued to grow.  In an attempt to respond to the looming challenges posed by water security, both countries have engaged in various treaties and agreements which intended to ensure Iran received a sufficient amount of water.  The question as to how to allocate sufficient water supply to Iran has not been simple, as the treaties designed to manage the Afghan water supply have largely failed to provide effective oversight and control.  Therefore, with much of Iran’s water supply originating in Afghan sovereign territory, Iran has very little control over their own water supply.  This relative lack of reliable control over their own water supply is a particularly pressing concern for Iran, and is likely to continue to dominate the Afghan-Iran relationship.  This article will aim to expand upon this assumption by first examining the position from which both parties approach their water security, and will then analyse what Iran has done to address the problems it faces.

From Iran’s perspective, the forecast is somewhat bleak.  A study by Dr M. Molanejad and Dr A. Ranjbar[2] suggested that Iran has seen more extremes of weather as a result of climate change, such as draught, and can continue to expect additional extremes of weather.  Precipitation levels recorded in Molanejad and Ranjbar’s study show that in 1998, Iran saw its lowest total precipitation since 1969, but show that such extremes are only going to occur more often.  As within 10 years of the 1998 draught, a similar extreme low in rainfall was recorded which exceeded that of 1998.  Furthermore, agreements such as the 1973 agreement between Afghanistan and Iran which guarantees that Iran can expect to receive 22 cubic meters per second of water from Afghanistan provide little comfort.  The water allowance extract of this agreement is a static figure (albeit with the option to buy increased water allowance) and therefore does not correlate with predicted Iranian population increase.  With Iran’s population expected to be over 90 million in 2021[3], the figures of the 1973 agreement will not be sufficient in years to come.  As climate change is expected to increase the occurrence of extremes of weather, it is wise to assume that Iran’s fragile reliance on their Afghan water supply will become increasingly important.

Within this context the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) is unlikely to commit to  agreements which may limit their control over their own water ways.  Development of water management projects such as the Baksh-Abad Hydroelectric Station is both an effective way to win over the hearts of the Afghan population in the NUG’s ongoing conflict against the Taliban and a highly symbolic move.  In Afghan provinces such as Nimroz, where agriculture characterises the majority of the province, a damming project instigated by the NUG is an effective way for the NUG to connect with a population traditionally isolated from Kabul’s central control.  Construction of water management projects also acts as a symbolic gesture to the people of Afghanistan and the international community.  The NUG’s leading role in organising the projects suggests to observers that the NUG is capable of rebuilding itself in the wake of decades of conflict.

With climate change promising to increase the frequency of extreme weather and the creation of additional water management projects continuing in Afghanistan, time is not on the side of Iran.  Iran is not ignorant of this fact, and has attempted to assert an element of control over Afghan’s water supply.  Iranian President Rouhani has attempted to voice his concerns regarding water security through traditional diplomatic means, but Iran has also been accused of pursing more covert avenues of approach.  Afghan and U.S. officials have frequently accused Iran of supporting the Taliban by funding[4] and supplying the group.  As part of this support, Iran is accused of using the Taliban to sabotage key Afghan water management projects such as the Kamal Khan Dam which Iran claims will negatively affect the Iranian Sistan-Baluchestan Province.  In 2011, a Taliban commander was allegedly offered $50,000 by Iran to sabotage the Kamal Khan Dam[5].  Predictably, Iran explicitly denies that it supports the Taliban, and justifies its dialogue with the group by highlighting their common interest in combating the Islamic State.

Iran’s alleged support for the Taliban as a foreign policy tool has led to obvious implications for the Afghan-Iranian relationship.  With Iranian support for the Taliban being denied by Iran, and largely conducted under the guise of plausible deniability, the Afghan NUG is struggling to bring Iran to justice for their accused support.  Regardless, the sheer volume of accusations of Iranian support for the Taliban emanating from analysts, policy makers and Afghans alike adds an element of credibility to the claims.  The exact nature of Iran’s support for the Taliban is unclear, as the Taliban is a largely decentralised force with local commanders having substantial autonomy.  Furthermore, the Taliban’s traditional opposition to Iranian backed Shia groups in Afghanistan also holds back an ideologically supported relationship forming freely.

In order to comprehend the complexity of the issues posed by Afghan-Iranian water security, it is important to observe the subject from the perspective of both countries.  Iran finds itself stuck between a metaphorical rock and a hard place, with climate change and a rising population acting as the rock, and the continued creation of water management projects acting as the hard place.  On the other hand, the Afghan government is faced with a powerful Taliban insurgency and a distinct lack of public support from within more remote areas of the rural south.  Therefore, improved irrigation would act as an effective bridge between the NUG and the rural Afghan population of provinces such as Nimroz.  With both Afghanistan and Iran’s disposition in mind, it is difficult to comprehend how such an issue will be resolved.


Endnotes:

[1]  Fatemeh Aman, Retrieved 10th September 2017, from: http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/resources/docs/Atlantic%20Council-Water%20Dispute.pdf

[2]  Dr M. Molanejad & Dr A. Ranjbar, Retrieved September 8th 2017, from: http://www.comsats.org/Latest/3rd_ITRGs_ClimateChange/Dr_Molanejad.pdf

[3]  Parviz Garshasbi, Retrieved September 8th 2017, from: http://www.droughtmanagement.info/literature/UNW-DPC_NDMP_Country_Report_Iran_2014.pdf

[4]  Ahmad Majidyar, Retrieved September 8th 2017, from: https://www.mei.edu/content/io/iran-and-russia-team-taliban-undermine-us-led-mission-afghanistan

[5]  Radio Free Europe, Retrieved September 10th 2017. from: https://www.rferl.org/a/captured_taliban_commander_claims_trained_in_iran/24305674.html

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Environmental Factors Iran Max Taylor

Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Jeremy J. Grunert is an officer in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, currently stationed in the United Kingdom.  He has served in Afghanistan, Qatar, and Turkey.  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.

Editors Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Able to be Implemented.


Title:  Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Date Originally Written:  September 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 16, 2017.

Summary:  The National Security Act of 1947 played a significant role in establishing the U.S. as the global superpower it is today.  Despite the broad range of challenges facing the U.S. today, a large-scale update to the Act is likely as dangerous as it is politically infeasible.  Instead, Congress may adopt incremental changes to address threats facing our nation, beginning with the system of classification and security clearance review.

Text:  The National Security Act of 1947 (hereafter “NSA”), signed into law by President Harry Truman on July 26, 1947, is the progenitor of the U.S. intelligence and military establishment as we know it today.  The NSA created the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency; established the United States Air Force as an independent military service; and merged the United States’ military services into what would become the Department of Defense, overseen by one Secretary of Defense.  The NSA’s reorganization of the defense and intelligence agencies set the stage for the United States’ post-World War II rise as, first, a military superpower, and, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, a global hegemon.

Seventy years after the passage of the NSA, the U.S. finds itself in an increasingly challenging security environment.  The lingering war in Afghanistan; the continued threat of terrorism; Russian military adventurism and cyber-meddling; a rising People’s Republic of China; and an increasingly bellicose North Korea all present significant security challenges for the U.S.  Given the solid foundation the NSA provided for the United States’ rise to global hegemony in the difficult period after World War II, is it time to update or amend the NSA to meet the challenges of the 21st Century?

Drastically altering the U.S. security framework as the original NSA did is likely as unwise as it is politically infeasible.  The wholesale creation of new intelligence and military services, or far-reaching changes to the structure of the Department of Defense, would result in confusion and bureaucratic gridlock that the U.S. can ill afford.  Instead, any updates to the NSA would be better done in an incremental fashion—focusing on areas in which changes can be made without resulting in upheaval within the existing security structure.  Two particular areas in which Congressional action can address serious security deficiencies are the realms of intelligence classification and security clearance review.

Proper intelligence classification and proper intelligence sharing—both among organizations within the U.S. national security establishment and between the U.S. and its foreign allies—is imperative to accomplish the U.S.’s strategic aims and protect its citizens.  Improper classification and over-classification, however, pose a continuing threat to the U.S.’s ability to act upon and share intelligence.  At the same time, a mind-bogglingly backlogged system for granting (and renewing) security clearances makes ensuring the proper people are accessing classified information a continuing challenge[1].

Congress has previously amended the NSA to address over-classification[2], and, in conjunction with other Congressional actions, may do so again.  First, whether within the NSA or in a new piece of legislation, Congress may examine amending portions of President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order (EO) 13526.  Specifically, Congress could mandate a reduction of the automatic declassification time for classified intelligence from 10 years to 5 years, absent an agency showing that a longer period of classification is necessary.  Additionally, Congress could amend § 102A of the NSA (codifying the responsibilities of the Director of National Intelligence, including for such things as “Intelligence Information Sharing” under § 102A(g)) by adding a paragraph giving the Director of National Intelligence the authority to create a rapid-reaction board for the speedy declassification or “step-down” of certain classified intelligence.  Chaired, perhaps, by the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (who can be delegated declassification authority per EO 13526), this board would be used to quickly reach “step-down” decisions with respect to intelligence submitted to the board for release at a certain specified level of classification.  A particularly good example of this sort of request would be a petition to “step-down” certain SECRET//NOFORN (i.e. only releasable to U.S. persons) intelligence for release to U.S. allies or coalition partners.  The goal would be to have a clear method, with a fixed timeframe measured in weeks rather than months, for the review and possible “step-down” of classified information.

Congress may also attempt to address the ever-growing backlog of security clearance applications and renewals.  One way to confront this problem is to amend 50 U.S. Code § 3341(b) and update Title VIII of the NSA (“Access to Classified Information”) to decentralize the process of investigating security clearance applicants.  Section 3341(b) currently requires the President to select a single agency to “direct[] day-to-day oversight of investigations and adjudications for personnel security clearances” and to “serv[e] as the final authority to designate an authorized investigative agency or authorized adjudicative agency” for security clearances[3].  Currently, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts the vast majority of security clearance investigations for U.S. government employees.  The massive backlog of clearance investigations, however, belies the idea that a single government agency can or should be responsible for this undertaking.  Congress could also amend § 3341(b) to allow an agency chosen by the President to establish minimum standards for security clearance investigation, but permit the decentralization of investigative responsibility into the military and intelligence agencies themselves.

An update to Title VIII of the NSA would work in conjunction with an amendment to § 3341(b).  Specifically, Congress could add a paragraph to § 801(a) of the NSA requesting the President require each executive agency, at least within the Defense and Intelligence communities, to establish an investigative section responsible for conducting that agency’s security clearance investigations.  Under the aegis of the minimum standards set forth in § 3341(b), this would allow the various Defense and Intelligence agencies to develop additional standards to meet their own particular requirements, and subject potential clearance candidates to more rigorous review when necessary.  Allowing greater agency flexibility in awarding clearances may reduce the likelihood that a high-risk individual could obtain a clearance via the standard OPM vetting process.

The changes to the National Security Act of 1947 and other laws described above are small steps toward addressing significant security challenges.  Addressing the security challenges facing the United States requires incremental changes—changes which will address concrete problems without an upheaval in our Defense and Intelligence agencies.  Focusing on fixing deficiencies in the United States’ classification and security clearance review systems is an excellent place to start.


Endnotes:

[1] Riechmann, D. (2017, September 11). Security clearance backlog leads to risky interim passes. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/security-clearance-backlog-leads-to-risky-interim-passes/2017/09/11/b9fb21dc-972b-11e7-af6a-6555caaeb8dc_story.html?utm_term=.e487926aac60

[2] Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-258, 124 Stat. 2648 (2010). Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/laws/reducing-over-classification-act-2010

[3] 50 U.S.C. § 3341(b).  Retrieved September 22, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/3341

Assessment Papers Contest Governing Documents Jeremy J. Grunert Security Classification United States

Assessment of North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Sam Bocetta is a retired engineer who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems.  Past projects include development of EWTR systems, Antifragile EW project and development of Chaff countermeasures.  Sam now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part-time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for Gun News Daily.  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 North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Date Originally Written:  August 25, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 2, 2017.

Summary:  Syria has repeatedly used chemical weapons for large-scale assaults on its own citizens.  North Korea has been instrumental in helping develop those weapons, despite numerous sanctions.  Without being put in check, North Korea’s current regime, led by Kim Jong Un, will likely continue this behavior.

Text:  A confidential report released by the United Nations (U.N.) in August of 2017 indicates that North Korea had sent two shipments, which were intercepted, to front companies for the Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC)[1].  The SSRC is known to handle Syria’s chemical weapons program.  These shipments violate sanctions placed on North Korea, and U.N. experts note that they are looking into reports about Syria and North Korea working together on chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and conventional arms.

One U.N. member state believes the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) has a contract with Syria and both intercepted shipments were part of that contract.  In 2009, the U.N. Security Council blacklisted KOMID under concerns that it was North Korea’s key arms dealer and exported supplies for conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.

This is just the latest example of North Korea’s ties to chemical weapons.  In February of this year, Kim Jong Nam, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, died in Malaysia[2].  Malaysian police called the death an assassination done using the nerve agent VX, which is part of the same chemical weapons family as sarin but considerably more deadly.  North Korea has denied any involvement in Kim Jong Nam’s death and attributes the death to a medical condition.  Many didn’t believe this denial, and the incident led to people calling for North Korea to be put back on the list for state sponsors of terrorism[3].  In April, the United States’ House of Representatives voted 394-1 in favor of putting Korea back on that list[4].

North Korea has continually crossed the line and ignored sanctions regarding its weapons programs and supplying weapons to other nations.  This puts the United States and its allies in a difficult position, as they can’t let North Korea operate unchecked, but they can’t trust the country’s current regime to comply with sanctions and agreements.

North Korea’s ties to Syria are particularly concerning.  Syria has used chemical weapons for years, and even though it made a deal with the United States and Russia in 2013 to destroy these weapons, it didn’t follow through.  There have been multiple uses of weaponized chlorine and sarin, a nerve agent, although the Syrian government has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

North Korea has made its support for Syria clear both publicly and privately.  In April 2017 Kim Jong Un sent a message of congratulations to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, for the anniversary of the country’s ruling party[5].  This was the same time that Assad was using chemical weapons on his own people, killing 86, which prompted worldwide outrage and a missile strike by the United States on the Syrian airbase of Shayrat[6].

In addition to this public message, there have been several shipments from North Korea to Syria intercepted in recent years.  Contents have included ampoules, chemical suits, masks, and other supplies vital in developing chemical weapons.  North Korea has increased its assistance of Syria during the latter nation’s civil war by sending more chemical weapons, providing advice to the Syrian military and helping with the development of SCUD missiles, which can deliver chemical weapons[7].

Although Syria’s use of chemical weapons is appalling[8], it’s North Korea which is proliferating those weapons and others.  In 2007 North Korea was building a nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert.  The Israeli Air Force destroyed the reactor.  The desert where the reactor once was, as of this writing, is territory of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Without the attack by Israel, ISIS might have possessed a nuclear reactor that was near completion.  And with the right help and ability to operate unchecked, it is easy to imagine ISIS trying to weaponize the reactor in some manner.

Yet even when the United States catches a North Korean weapons shipment, diplomatic issues can make it difficult to take any action.  That’s what happened in December 2002, when a North Korean ship, the So San, was stopped by anti-terrorist Spanish commandos after weeks of surveillance by the United States[9].  The ship had 15 SCUD missiles on it, which were hidden beneath sacks of cement, and it was on its way to Yemen[10].  In 2001, Yemen, known for harboring terrorists, agreed to stop getting weapons from North Korea.  When the So San was first stopped, the Yemeni government said it wasn’t involved in any transaction related to the ship.

Once the United States commandeered the vessel, Yemen changed its story, filing a diplomatic protest stating that it did purchase the missiles from North Korea as part of an old defense contract and that the United States needed to release the missiles.  It took hours of negotiating between Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was president of Yemen at the time, and both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Saleh guaranteed that the missiles would only be used for Yemen’s defense and that the nation wouldn’t make any more deals with North Korea, and the United States released the ship.  The United States was developing a counterterrorism partnership with Yemen at that time, and there were few other options to keep the relationship on good terms, but this incident shows that catching North Korea’s weapons shipments is far from the only challenge.

Efforts to halt the spread of chemical and nuclear weapons by North Korea may lead to destabilizing the current regime.  Although there are worries that this destabilization will lead to loose Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the evidence suggests that the spread of WMD is even more likely under Kim Jong Un’s rule.  Sanctions and more thorough inspections of North Korea’s shipments may help here, but it will require that the United States takes a hard-line on any weapons shipments originating from North Korea, and doesn’t allow them simply for diplomatic reasons.

Other approaches may involve penalizing ports that aren’t inspecting shipments thoroughly and flagging those states that reflag ships from North Korea to conceal their country of origin.  Although this could work, it will take time.  It’s all a matter of determining whether the risk is greater with a more aggressive stance towards North Korea or allowing them to continue proliferating weapons.


Endnotes:

[1] Nichols, M. (2017, August 21). North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted: U.N. report. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-syria-un-idUSKCN1B12G2

[2] Heifetz, J. and Perry, J. (2017, February 28). What is VX nerve agent, and what could North Korea do with it? Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/world/vx-nerve-agent/index.html

[3] Stanton, J. (2017, February 24). N. Korea just killed a guy with one of the WMDs that caused us to invade Iraq … in a crowded airport terminal, in a friendly nation. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/02/24/n-korea-just-killed-a-guy-with-one-of-the-wmds-that-caused-us-to-invade-iraq-in-a-crowded-airport-terminal-in-a-friendly-nation/

[4] Marcos, C. (2017, April 3). House votes to move toward designating North Korea as state sponsor of terror. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/327106-house-votes-to-move-toward-designating-north-korea-as-state-sponsor

[5] Stanton, J. (2017, April 7). If Assad is the murderer of Idlib, Kim Jong-un was an accessory. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/04/07/if-assad-is-the-murderer-or-idlib-kim-jong-un-was-an-accessory/

[6] Brook, T.V. and Korte, G. (2017, April 6). U.S. launches cruise missile strike on Syria after chemical weapons attack. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/06/us-launches-cruise-missile-strike-syria-after-chemical-weapons-attack/100142330/

[7] Tribune, W. (2013, August 26). Reports: Cash-strapped N. Korea ‘stepped up’ chemical weapons shipments to Syria. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.worldtribune.com/archives/reports-cash-strapped-n-korea-stepped-up-chemical-weapons-shipments-to-syria/

[8] Stanton, J. (2017, August 22). Latest cases of chemical proliferation remind us why Kim Jong-Un must go. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/08/22/latest-cases-of-chemical-proliferation-remind-us-why-kim-jong-un-must-go

[9] Lathem, N. (2002, December 12). Korean SCUDs Can Skedaddle; Yemen Gets to Keep Missiles by Promising ‘Defense Only’. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://nypost.com/2002/12/12/korean-scuds-can-skedaddle-yemen-gets-to-keep-missiles-by-promising-defense-only/

[10] Goodman, A. (2002, December 12). U.S. lets Scud ship sail to Yemen. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/12/11/us.missile.ship/

Arms Control Assessment Papers North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Sam Bocetta United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Ray Leonardo previously worked in the defense industry.  He presently works as a graduate researcher in international relations with interests that include power transition, alliance structure, great power politics, and conflict.  He can be found on Twitter @rayrleonardo and writes for rayrleonardo.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:  Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Date Originally Written:  July 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 11, 2017.

Summary:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) overtaking of the United States as the largest global economy will bring difficult and potentially dangerous consequences.  Continued peace will depend upon the PRC’s satisfaction with the current international system created by the United States, among others.  History and PRC foreign policy indicate the odds of a peaceful power transition may be lower than expected.

Text:  “…[T]he United States welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in global affairs[1],” was often stated by United States’ President Barack Obama during his multiple summits with PRC President Xi Jinping.  The United States has little influence in slowing the rapid economic growth of the PRC.  Most forecasters predict the PRC will overtake the United States as the largest economy sometime during the first quarter of this century.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PRC is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2021[2].  Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations are concerned that the rise of the PRC will not be so peaceful and their concerns are backed up by theory.

History has shown that rising powers who challenge the status quo, and, or hegemonic nations often create a fertile environment for conflict.  Historical cases indicate that it is power parity (balance of power), rather than a dominated or disproportional relationship (hegemony), that increases the likelihood of war.  This research falls under the theory of Power Transition[3].  Power Transition theory is directly at odds with the often accepted Balance of Power theory, the latter of which states that a balance of power among nations leads to peace[4].  Various theories including nuclear deterrence have formed under the Balance of Power pretext, but the historical data does not back this theory.  Conflict is more apt to break out under conditions where states are about equal in relative power.

Research on power transitions shows that the potential for conflict is dependent on several variables, two of which include relative power and the satisfaction of the rising power[5].  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measurement for state power but measuring a state’s satisfaction within the international system is a more challenging task.  Regardless of statistical models, one can see through previous cases of great power transitions that conflict is most likely once the rising power has overtaken (regarding relative power) the previously dominant state.  Conflict is even more plausible when the rising power is highly dissatisfied with the current international system.  This is assuming, as is the case today, that the dominant state (The United States), has created an international regime that of which mirrors its own political and economic systems (Bretton Woods), but also mirrors the dominant nation’s socio-political philosophy and values.

Many factors play into a country’s satisfaction.  One can look at the PRC’s rapid economic rise as proof that they have found a way to be successful in an international system created by the West, particularly by the United States.  However, even as the PRC’s economics can be closely aligned with most of the world under the guise of “capitalism,” it must not be ignored that the PRC has very differing views on political systems, individual rights, and traditional western socio-political values.  The PRC government adopts a foreign policy that is textbook realism in so much that its use of force will never be used to promote “Chinese” or “eastern” values abroad.  The PRC has little concern for human rights domestically, never mind protecting human rights on the international stage.

Twenty-first century conflict in East Asia will be fought on water.  The PRC’s recent build up of artificial islands and claims to various islands in the South China Sea are constant and increasing[6].  This is due to many factors, most of which impact their economy and security.  The PRC’s actions show a consistent effort to leverage regional neighbors, particularly those who lay claim to various land masses throughout the South China and East China seas.  The PRC’s regional foreign policy is not surprising; however, the United States and its allies should be questioning how the future global policy of the PRC will look.  Will the PRC’s aggressive regional policy in the early parts of this century be thought of as a microcosm for their mid-century global policy?  The PRC’s aggressive policy toward countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia shows a strong dissatisfaction with the regional status quo.  The PRC understands the leverage that it has over many of its smaller neighbors and seeks to capitalize on it sooner rather than later.

There is no reason why U.S. officials should assume the PRC will peacefully rise through the international system without leveraging the power and control that comes with being the hegemonic nation.  The PRC will seek to advance their interests even as it may be on the backs of other smaller or even major powers.  With the PRC calling more of the shots regarding our international institutions, capitalist economies will still flourish, the bilateral and multilateral trade will continue to grow, but the principles and values that of which upon these institutions were built will continue to erode.  Human rights will take a back seat on the world stage, and over time few nations will care about the well-being of their trade partner’s people.


Endnotes: 

[1]  Office of Press Secretary, The White House (2015, September 25). Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

[2]  OECD Data (Edition 2014). GDP Long-term Forecast Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart

[3]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[4]  Schweller, R. L. (2016, May). The Balance of Power in World Politics Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-119

[5]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[6]  Ives, M. (2017, August 4). Vietnam, Yielding to Beijing, Backs Off South China Sea Drilling Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/asia/vietnam-south-china-sea-repsol.html

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Power Transition Ray Leonardo United States

Assessment of Cryptocurrencies and Their Potential for Criminal Use 

The Viking Cop has served in a law enforcement capacity with multiple organizations within the U.S. Executive Branch.  He can be found on Twitter @TheVikingCop.  The views reflected are his own and do not represent the opinion of any government entities.  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 Cryptocurrencies and Their Potential for Criminal Use

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 28, 2017.

Summary:  Cryptocurrencies are a new technology-driven virtual currency that has existed since late 2009.  Due to the anonymous or near-anonymous nature of their design they are useful to criminal organizations.  It is vital for law enforcement organizations and regulators to know the basics about how cryptocurrencies work as their use by criminal organizations is likely to continue.

Text:  Cryptocurrencies are a group of virtual currencies that relay on a peer-to-peer system disconnected from a central issuing authority that allows users an anonymous or near-anonymous method to conduct transactions[1][2].

Bitcoin, Ethereum, LiteCoin, and DogeCoin are among 820 currently existing cryptocurrencies that have a combined market capitalization of over ninety billion U.S. Dollars at the time of this assessment[3][4].

The majority of cryptocurrencies run off a system design created by an unknown individual or group of individuals published under the name Satoshi Nakamoto[2].  This system relies on a decentralized public ledger system, conceptualized by Nakamoto in a whitepaper published in October of 2008, which would later become widely known as “Blockchain.”

Simplistically, blockchain works as a system of electronic signature keys and cryptographic hash codes printed onto a publicly accessible ledger.  Once a coin in any cryptocurrency is created through a “mining” process that consists of a computer or node solving a complex mathematical calculation known as a “proof-of-work,” the original signature and hash of that coin is added to the public ledger on the initial node and then also transmitted to every other node in the network in a block.  These proof-of-work calculations are based on confirming the hash code of previous transactions and printing it to a local copy of the public ledger.  Once the block is transmitted to all other nodes they confirm that the transaction is valid and print it to their copy of the public ledger.  This distribution and cross-verification of the public ledger by multiple computers ensures the accuracy and security of each transaction in the blockchain as the only way to falsely print to public ledger would be to control fifty percent plus one of the nodes in the network[1][2].

While the electronic signatures for each user are contained within the coin, the signature itself contains no personally identifiable information.  From a big data perspective this system allows one to see all the transactions that a user has conducted through the used electronic signature but it will not allow one to know from who or where the transaction originated or terminated.

A further level of security has been developed by private groups that provide a method of virtually laundering the money called “Mixing.”  A third-party source acts as an intermediary receiving and disturbing payments removing any direct connection between two parties in the coin signature[5].

This process of separating the coins and signatures within from the actual user gives cryptocurrencies an anonymous or near-anonymous method for conducting criminal transactions online.  A level of the internet, known as Darknet, which is only accessible through the use of special software and work off non-standard communication protocols has seen a rise in online marketplaces.  Illicit Darknet marketplaces such as Silk Road and the more recently AlphaBay have levied cryptocurrencies as a go-to for concealing various online black market transactions such as stolen credit card information, controlled substances, and firearms[6].

The few large criminal cases that have involved the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, such as U.S. Citizen Ross Ulbricht involved with Silk Road and Czech national Tomáš Jiříkovský for stealing ninety thousand Bitcoins ($225 million USD in current market value), have been solved by investigators through traditional methods of discovering an IP address left through careless online posts and not through a vulnerability in the public ledger[7].

Even in smaller scale cases of narcotics transactions taking place on Darknet marketplaces local investigators have only been able to trace cryptocurrency purchases backwards after intercepting shipments through normal detection methods and finding cryptocurrency artifacts during the course of a regular investigation.  There has been little to no success on linking cryptocurrencies back to distributors that hasn’t involved regular investigative methods[8].

Looking at future scenarios involving cryptocurrencies the Global Public Policy Institute sees a possible future whereby terrorism devolves back to populist movements and employs decentralized hierarchy heavily influenced by online interactions.  In this possible future, cryptocurrencies could allow groups to covertly move money between supporters and single or small group operatives along with being a means to buy and sell software to be used in cyberterrorism attacks or to support physical terrorism attacks[9].

Cryptocurrency is currently positioned to exploit a massive vulnerability in the global financial and legal systems and law enforcement organizations are only beginning to acquire the knowledge and tools to combat illicit use.  In defense of law enforcement organizations and regulators, cryptocurrencies are in their infancy, with massive changes in their operation, trading, and even foundational technology changing rapidly.  This rapid change makes it so that until cryptocurrencies reach a stable or mature state, they will be an unpredictable moving target to track and hit[10].


Endnotes:

[1]  Arvind Narayanan, J. B. (2016). Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction. Pinceton University Press.

[2]  Nakamoto, S. (n.d.). Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from Bitcoin: https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

[3]  Cryptocurrency market cap analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Cryptolization: https://cryptolization.com/

[4]  CryptoCurrency Market Capitalizations. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2017, from CoinMarketCap: https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/views/all/

[5]  Jacquez, T. (2016). Cryptocurrency the new money laundering problem for banking, law enforcement, and the legal system. Utica College: ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

[6]  Over 57% Of Darknet Sites Offer Unlawful Items, Study Shows. (n.d.). Retrieved July 21, 2017, from AlphaBay Market: https://alphabaymarket.com/over-57-of-darknet-sites-offer-unlawful-items-study-shows/

[7]  Bohannon, J. (2016, March 9). Why criminals can’t hide behind Bitcoin. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/why-criminals-cant-hide-behind-bitcoin

[8]  Jens Anton Bjørnage, M. W. (2017, Feburary 21). Dom: Word-dokument og bitcoins fælder narkohandler. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Berlingske: https://www.b.dk/nationalt/dom-word-dokument-og-bitcoins-faelder-narkohandler

[9]  Bhatnagar, A., Ma, Y., Manome, M., Markiewicz, S., Sun, F., Wahedi, L. A., et al. (@017, June). Volatile Years: Transnational Terrorism in 2027. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Robert Bosch Foundation: http://www.bosch-stiftung.de/content/language1/downloads/GGF_2027_Volatile_Years_Transnational_Terrorism_in_2027.pdf

[10]  Engle, E. (2016). Is Bitcoin Rat Poison: Cryptocurrency, Crime, and Counterfeiting (CCC). Journal of High Technology Law 16.2, 340-393.

Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Cyberspace Economic Factors The Viking Cop

Assessment of Alexander Zakharchenko’s “Malorossiya” Proposition

Michael Sheldon is a recent graduate of the Peace and Conflict Studies BA at Malmo University.  Through his academic pursuits and private initiatives, Michael has conducted analysis on the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014, specializing in rebel forces.  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 Alexander Zakharchenko’s “Malorossiya” Proposition

Date Originally Written:  August 16, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 21, 2017.

Summary:  The Malorossiya proposition, as presented on July 18, 2017 by head of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Alexander Zakharchenko, was intended to absorb Ukraine in its entirety under rebel control, relocating the capital to Donetsk.  While success seemed unlikely, there were local political objectives to be gained.  After less than a month, the project was cancelled, likely to be succeeded by similar proposals.

Text:  On July 18, ‘Head of the Republic’ of ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ Alexander Zakharchenko announced the Malorossiya project at a press briefing[1].  The news came as a surprise to virtually everyone in-and-outside of rebel territory.  Along with the press briefing, two papers were released to the public through a local “DNR” news organization “DNR-Pravda”, one being a political statement in relation to the project, and the other being a “constitutional act”[2].

Recalling the “DNR” constitution as presented in 2014[3] during the early days of separatism, the constitutional act as it was presented in written form differed in several respects.  Firstly, this act is technically not a legal document and only serves as a guideline for an actual constitution to be adopted by referendum.  The primary goal of the Malorossiya proposal was Ukrainian unification under the federal umbrella of ‘Malorossiya’, literally meaning ‘little Russia.’  The proposed capital for this new federation would be the city of Donetsk, the current capital of ‘DNR,’ granting Kyiv the status of cultural capital.  Other political provisions were also made, reflecting the Soviet nostalgia that has been salient in the separatist states.  This was made apparent especially in the clauses stipulating a union of states between Russia, Belarus and ‘Malorossiya,’ and “Rehabilitation of the Soviet legacy.”

Zakharchenko’s move came long after the apparent failure of a previous ‘Novorossiya’ (New Russia) project, which aimed to create a confederation between the two rebel entities ‘DNR’ and ‘Lugansk People’s’ Republic’ (LNR/LPR)[4].  While the Novorossiya project by and large turned out fruitless, it had come to hold great cultural value ever since the beginning of the conflict early 2014.  The very concept of Novorossiya stipulates a regional type of brotherhood in the region of Ukraine spanning from Odessa to Kharkov, regions with larger Russian ethnic populations.  This concept has come to have not only great cultural significance for inhabitants in regions controlled by rebel authorities, but has also come to dictate cooperation between the two rebel entities LNR and DNR.  This cooperation primarily comes in military support from DNR, which has lended its 7th Separate Mechanized Brigade[5] to LNR, and assisted in providing security and rapid reaction forces to internal instability in LNR[6].

In part, at least on a broader grassroots level, these factors have contributed to the chilled reception that the notion of an analogous Malorossiya project experienced.  The concept of Novorossiya and its flag had come to symbolize separatism in the east, for which many had given their lives, but would now be scrapped in favor of a unification project.  This combined with the lack of progress made with the Novorossiya project over the past three years left Zakharchenko with a skeptical population.  Denis Pushilin, chairman of the People’s Soviet (Council) of the ‘DNR’ also came out reserved on the topic of Malorossiya, stressing the need for parliamentary process, but also that there was no legal or normative basis for what Zakharchenko planned to carry out [7].  Igor Plotnitsky, head of ‘LNR’, was not enamored with the idea of ‘Malorossiya’ either, claiming that ‘LNR’ had not been notified of Zakharchenko’s plans prior to the press conference.  The Kremlin also denied involvement in the project [8], and while it is hardly a reliable source for this conflict, it is difficult to imagine that they would have any stake in a power struggle between the two rebel ‘republics.’

At first it seemed that the project could yield some positive results for Zakharchenko and solidify his personal power within ‘DNR.’  As it was planned, the project would have thrown the participating states into what was referred to as a “transitional period” for three years[9].  Possibly a motivating factor for announcing the proposition, this transitional period clause could have helped Zakharchenko put off elections even further, enabling a perpetual state of deferral.  Neither ‘DNR’ nor ‘LNR’ are strangers to putting off elections, something which each have done twice the past three years[10].  The constitutional act also speculates denying political parties to act as ‘political subjects’, and proposes transitioning to personal representations.  Other positives for Zakharchenko in this proposal are the political points he likely hopes to win with it.  For one, pushing for a ‘Malorossiya’ encompassing all of Ukraine (Crimea included) sends a signal of reconciliation, albeit on his terms, enabling him to further the narrative of an uncooperative and unreasonable Kyiv, these notions are echoed by Vladislav Surkov, advisor to president Vladimir Putin[11].  Secondly, Zakharchenko effectively brought up the notion of Donetsk having sovereignty over ‘LNR’, which had seen its fair share of instability and coup attempts in the past.

Zakharchenko soon became aware of the criticism that the proposition had received, and clarified that he was never establishing a new state, but merely proposing one shortly after the announcement[12].  Not even a month had passed before, on August 9, 2017, Zakharchenko officially abandoned the proposal as a result of the early resistance he had faced with regards to the name “Malorossiya” especially[13].  Nonetheless, Zakharchenko maintained that the proposal had not been in vain, as it had given way to a range of new interesting proposals.  Moving forward, it will be pertinent to keep an eye on similar proposals relating to a federal Ukraine under rebel control, undoubtedly other a different name.  Whether this would mean a revival of the Novorossiya project or a similar project under a new name is uncertain, but it is likely that Zakharchenko will continue to push for the underlying notions of the Malorossiya proposition.  This would entail a confederation of Ukrainian states under a pro-Russian leadership in Donetsk.  While such an undertaking is virtually impossible outside of rebel territory, it is possible that a Donetsk-led DNR-LNR confederation could gain enough local support to be feasible.  If one can ignore the overarching theme of Ukrainian unification, the proposal of a Malorossiya project serves as an important glance into the intentions of ‘DNR’ head Zakharchenko.


Endnotes:

[1] DAN-news. (2017, July 18). Представители ДНР, ЛНР и регионов Украины объявили в Донецке о создании государства Малороссия (Representatives of the DNR, LNR and regions of Ukraine announced in Donetsk the creation of the Malorossiya state). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://dan-news.info/politics/predstaviteli-dnr-lnr-i-regionov-ukrainy-obyavili-v-donecke-o-sozdanii-gosudarstva-malorossiya.html

[2] DNR-Pravda News Editor (2017, July 18). Декларация и Конституционный акт государственного образования Малороссия (Declaration and Constitutional act of the state formation Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://dnr-pravda.ru/2017/07/18/deklaratsiya-i-konstitutsionnyiy-akt-gosudarstvennogo-obrazovaniya-malorossiya/

[3] DNR Official Website. (2014, May 14). Конституция ДНР (DNR Constitution). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://dnr-online.ru/konstituciya-dnr/

[4] Lenta. (2014, June 24). ДНР и ЛНР объединятся в конфедерацию с единой конституцией (DNR and LNR will join the confederation with a single constitution). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://lenta.ru/news/2014/06/24/novorossia/

[5] DNR People’s Militia, 1st Army Corps. (2015, October 20). VK post. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://vk.com/dnrarmy?w=wall-51146063_5569

[6] Andrey, G. (2016, September 22). Захарченко: Для предотвращения переворота в ЛНР был переброшен батальон “Спарта” (Zakharchenko: To prevent the coup in the LNR, “Sparta” battalion was sent). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://life.ru/t/новости/907002/zakharchienko_dlia_priedotvrashchieniia_pierievorota_v_lnr_byl_pieriebroshien_batalon_sparta

[7] DAN-News. (2017, July 18). Вопрос создания Малороссии целесообразно вынести на обсуждение парламента и общественности – Пушилин (The issue of creating Little Russia is expedient for discussion of the parliament and the public – Pushilin). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://dan-news.info/politics/vopros-sozdaniya-malorossii-celesoobrazno-vynesti-na-obsuzhdenie-parlamenta-i-obshhestvennosti-pushilin.html

[8] TASS. (2017, July 18). Malorossiya project is personal initiative of self-proclaimed republic’s leader. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://tass.com/politics/956825

[9] DNR-Pravda News Editor (2017, July 18). Декларация и Конституционный акт государственного образования Малороссия (Declaration and Constitutional act of the state formation Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from  http://dnr-pravda.ru/2017/07/18/deklaratsiya-i-konstitutsionnyiy-akt-gosudarstvennogo-obrazovaniya-malorossiya/

[10] 112.ua. (2016, July 24). “DNR” again postponed “elections” in the occupied Donbas. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://112.international/conflict-in-eastern-ukraine/dnr-again-postponed-elections-in-the-occupied-donbas-7515.html

[11] Denis, A. (2017, July 20). Реакция на Малороссию (Reactions to Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://cont.ws/@artemevsepar/668685

[12] Korrespondent.net. (2017, July 26). Захарченко рассказал о проблемах с “Малороссией” (Zakharchenko spoke about problems with Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/3872258-zakharchenko-rasskazal-o-problemakh-s-malorossyei

[13] av-zakharchenko.su. (2017, August 9). Переформатирование Украины. Дискуссия продолжается… (Reform of Ukraine. The discussion continues…). Retreived August 16, 2017, from http://av-zakharchenko.su/inner-article/Zayavleniya/Pereformatirovanie-Ukrainy-Diskussiya-prodolzhaetsya2/

Assessment Papers Irregular Forces Michael Sheldon Russia Ukraine

Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Jeremiah Cushman is a senior analyst at Military Periscope, where he writes about weapons.  He holds an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University.  He can be found on Twitter @jdcushman.  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 Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2017.

Summary:  For much of the last 800 years, the natives of the Baltic States and Finland were ruled by others, whether Baltic Germans, Swedes, Russians or Hitler’s Germany.  History shows these countries that, to retain independence, they must be willing and able to fight for it, and possibly join collective security organizations.

Text:  Lithuania existed as an independent nation prior to 1918, in contrast to Estonia, Latvia and Finland.  In 1385, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined with the Kingdom of Poland via a dynastic marriage.  Although not specifically made for security purposes, the result was a great Central European power that eventually spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  This was, however, an unstable union, with divergent interests between the Lithuanian and Polish halves.  (Poland ultimately became the dominant power.)  Efforts were made to strengthen the union, culminating with the establishment of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.  The commonwealth eventually succumbed to its own weaknesses and the machinations of neighboring powers, Austria, Prussia and Russia, which divided it among themselves in the partitions of 1772, 1790 and 1795.  If ultimately unsuccessful, the commonwealth nevertheless provided security for the Lithuanians for centuries.

Upon gaining independence in 1918, the Baltic States struggled to navigate their security environment.  For the most part, they sought refuge in the collective security arrangements of the League of Nations.  Different threat perceptions, a territorial dispute over Vilnius between Lithuania and Poland, and the maneuvers of the Germans and Soviets hindered trilateral defense efforts.  A proposed four-way alliance among Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland foundered on Finnish reservations.  Helsinki elected to focus on a Scandinavian orientation.  Estonia and Latvia managed to conclude a defense alliance in 1923.

The Soviet Union saw Baltic cooperation as a threat and worked to undermine it.  The Baltic States concluded their own treaty of cooperation and friendship in 1934, although little came from it.  Non-aggression pacts signed with Moscow and Berlin came to nought and the three nations were occupied by Soviet forces in 1940 and annexed.  While Finland fought for its independence and survived World War II, Baltic failures to prepare, and the overwhelming strength of the Soviet and German states that opposed them, ended their initial experiment with independence.

Finland was able to maintain its independence during and after World War II, fighting the Soviet Union twice in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944.  The Finnish state was saved, though it lost the Karelia region to the Soviets.  Viewing Moscow as a direct threat, Helsinki allied with the Nazi regime as Berlin prepared its own attack on the Soviet Union.  The Finnish government took pains to portray its own war as separate from that of Germany’s, without much success.

At the end of the war, Finland was left with an 830-mile border with Russia and a difficult position between its preferred partners in the democratic West and the Soviet Union.  Moscow was able to dictate terms as the Finnish war effort collapsed in 1944 along with the fortunes of its German allies.  In 1948, the Finnish government concluded a mutual assistance treaty with Moscow, including military obligations to come to the Soviet Union’s assistance in the event of an attack by Germany or its allies, or an attack from Finnish territory.  The goal was to maintain independence and reduce the chance of conflict in Northern Europe.

By resolving Moscow’s security concerns, Finland was able to pursue trade with Western countries and play an active role in détente during the 1970s.  The Nordic country benefited from trade with its eastern neighbor, while holding off Soviet efforts to tighten military relations.  While this “Finlandization” policy ensured the nation’s sovereignty during the Cold War, it came at a cost to Finland’s freedom of action.  Habits formed over those decades continue to influence national policy, including hindering those who might prefer new security arrangements in light of Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture.

The Baltic States declared their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.  Remembering the lessons of 1940, they immediately focused on trilateral cooperation and integration with European security organizations to secure their freedom.  Their security bodies focused on developing modern, capable forces on the Western model with the object of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).  These goals were achieved in 2004.  NATO’s Article 5 pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all is seen as the cornerstone of Baltic security.  Accordingly, all three countries recognize the United States as their most important security partner.  The Baltic States also pursue regional cooperation with their Nordic neighbors.  These multilateral cooperation efforts have, in some cases, detracted from trilateral endeavors. Small countries have limited resources.

Accession to NATO and the EU, which has its own security mechanisms, seemed to resolve the security concerns of the Baltic States.  However, the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. has led to uncertainty about the wisdom of relying on Washington.  Trump has threatened to assist only those NATO members who meet the alliance’s defense spending goals and his commitment to Article 5 appears uncertain, despite efforts from other administration officials to reinforce American support for the Baltic allies.  Trump’s apparent ties to Russia cause additional discomfort in the region.

Officially, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania emphasize the continued importance of security ties with the U.S. and a belief that Trump will live up to Washington’s NATO commitments should it become necessary.  So far, U.S. and NATO activities in the Baltic region have been unchanged from the previous administration, with multinational battalion task groups active in all three countries.

As for Finland, it has eschewed its former relationship with Moscow in favor of closer security relations with NATO and the U.S., and strengthened ties with neighboring Sweden.  Helsinki still sees a strong national defense capability as vital for its security.  NATO membership remains politically challenging, although Finland potentially benefits from E.U. mutual assistance mechanisms.

The lessons of history for this region are simple.  To retain independence, one must first be willing and able to fight for it.  States as small as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania must additionally find allies to bolster their own defense efforts.  If one cannot be a great power, joining a great power organization, such as NATO, is the next best thing.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kirby, David. (1998). Northern Europe In The Early Modern Period: The Baltic World 1492-1772. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[2]  Kirby, David. (1998). The Baltic World 1772-1993: Europe’s Northern Periphery in an Age of Change. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[3]  Kasekamp, Andres. (2010). A History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

[4]  Plakans, Andrejs. (2011). A Concise History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Aggression Assessment Papers Baltics Estonia European Union Finland Jeremiah Cushman Latvia Lithuania North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia Trump (U.S. President) United States

Assessment of Libya-Trained Terrorists’ External Attack Capability

S. M. Carlson served as a terrorism expert with the U.S. government for more than twelve years, including with the Central Intelligence Agency and in Libya.  She can be found on Twitter @smcarls1.  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 Libya-Trained Terrorists’ External Attack Capability

Date Originally Written:  June 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 3, 2017.

Summary:  Libyan terrorism is not new, nor are attacks conducted outside the country by terrorists that trained in Libya. The external attack capability is evolving, however. The most recent attacks in the United Kingdom highlight the changing threat posed by Libyan terrorists, trained fighters, and their capability and intent to reach into Europe. That threat extends beyond a single group.

Text:  Libya-trained terrorists have conducted multiple deadly attacks in North Africa in recent years, but the May 2017 attack against a Manchester concert by a Briton of Libyan descent, who reportedly fought and possibly trained in Libya, was among the first major attacks with direct ties to Libya outside the region, since the 2011 intervention and death of Muammar al-Ghadafi.

Although a myriad of terrorist groups, extreme militias, and umbrella organizations operate in Libya due to the permissive environment there, the most well-known remains the Islamic State. Its fighters are capable of carrying out external attacks outside the region. The capability probably resides more with the trained fighters, rather than a single group, and likely does not require a top down structure.

Since 2011, other major external attacks specifically targeting Westerners include those in In Amenas, Algeria; Sousse, Tunisia; and Tunis, Tunisia. Terrorists reportedly staged or trained in Libya prior to all three attacks[1].

In January 2013, terrorists linked to al-Qa’ida conducted a multi-day siege, held hostages, and killed dozens in an attack against a gas plant in In Amenas, Algeria, close to the border with Libya[2]. In June 2015, gunmen opened fire on tourists at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia, killing and injuring dozens, which the Islamic State claimed[3]. In March 2015, gunmen opened fire at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia, killing and injuring dozens, mostly tourists, which the Islamic State claimed[4].

The Islamic State, however, had gained a foothold in Libya prior to the attacks in Tunisia, announcing its presence there in late 2014. It quickly expanded and thrived in the lawlessness of Libya. Fighters flocked to the group. It created a stronghold in the city of Sirte.

The United Nations (UN)-backed Libyan government in late 2016 requested U.S. assistance in its fight against the group and it agreed, conducting hundreds of airstrikes against Islamic State targets in the city. The terrorists fled the city and set up training camps nearby, where the group’s external plotters were reportedly planning operations against Europe. Two U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers then dropped more than 100 munitions on those camps, killing more than 80 Islamic State members in January[5].

The UN-backed government declared defeat over the Islamic State in Libya, but while the group had lost its stronghold, the remaining fighters dispersed. In the intervening months, Islamic State fighters began efforts to regroup and many warned the Islamic State in Libya was attempting to consolidate once again.

It is no longer attempting. The Islamic State branch in Libya is active once more, proving yet again that airstrikes alone cannot defeat terrorism. Strikes may be a useful tool, but they are not a long-term solution. The strikes did not entirely disrupt the group or experienced fighters that already left the country.

In May 2017, the remaining Islamic State in Libya fighters made their continued presence known and then the branch’s reach became apparent later that month on a global scale.

The Islamic State’s branch in Libya claimed an attack in Southern Libya in early May that killed two[6][7]. Islamic State fighters also executed a man and clashed with a militia in the Bani Walid area in late May[8]. These were some of the first attacks claimed by the group’s Libya branch since the airstrikes in December.

The Islamic State then claimed attacks in the United Kingdom in late May and early June 2017, both of which had Libya connections. Salman Abedi and Rachid Redouane were of Libyan descent and fought in Libya. Redouane, who helped kill and injure dozens in London in early June, reportedly fought with a militia in Tripoli that later sent jihadist fighters to Syria[9]. Abedi, who killed and injured dozens at a concert in Manchester in May, reportedly met in Libya with Islamic State members also tied to the November 2015 Paris attack[10].

Abedi also reportedly fought in Ajdabiya in 2014, was injured, and taken to Turkey for treatment using a false passport[11]. Italian investigators in April believed that an unspecified number of Islamic State fighters from Libya had entered Europe, in a similar manner to Abedi, as wounded Libyan fighters seeking medical treatment[12].

Therefore, even if the Islamic State were truly defeated in Libya today, the fatal ripple effect of its experienced fighters will likely be felt for years to come. In addition, the Islamic State reportedly has 500 fighters remaining, and possibly training, in Libya, but there are an estimated 3,000 more jihadists in the country[13].

The Islamic State is not the only terrorism problem in Libya. Only in the last three years have fighters in the country begun using the title of “Islamic State.” There were many terrorists groups in Libya before that, and many will likely come after it. The fighters flow between them.

The fighters frequently change groups and alliances based on a variety of factors at play in Libya. The groups themselves also change names, often to conceal extremist affiliation, ideology, or intent. That makes terrorist groups and fighting networks difficult to untangle.

From al-Qa’ida to Ansar al-Sharia (the group responsible for the 2012 Benghazi attacks) to the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (an umbrella group) to the Benghazi Defense Brigades (a rebranding), extremist groups in Libya adapt to the ever-changing environment there[14].

Defeating the Islamic State in Libya does not solve the country’s terrorism problem, as its experienced fighters retain the intent and capability of carrying out terrorist attacks.


Endnotes:

[1] Brahimi, A. (2017, May 25). Why Libya is still a global terror threat. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/25/libya-global-terror-threat-manchester-attack-gaddafi

[2] (2013, January 21). Algeria hostage crisis: What we know. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-21087732

[3] Smith-Spark, L.; Paton Walsh, N.; & Black, P. (2015, June 27). Tourists flee Tunisia after resort attack. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/27/africa/tunisia-terror-attack/index.html

[4] Botelho, G. & Mullen, J. (2015, March 19). ISIS apparently claims responsibility for Tunisia museum attack; 9 arrested. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/19/africa/tunisia-museum-attack/index.html

[5] Dickstein, C. & Copp, T. (2017, 19 January). US bombers flew from Missouri and killed 80 Islamic State fighters in Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.stripes.com/news/us-bombers-flew-from-missouri-and-killed-80-islamic-state-fighters-in-libya-1.449647#.WU2F5caZNsM

[6] Assad, A. (2017, May 7). IS militants attack Third Force fighters, kill two. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/militants-attack-third-force-fighters-kill-two

[7] (2017, May 8). Libya: ISIS makes comeback by claiming attack south of Sirte. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://menastream.com/libya-isis-comeback-south-sirte/

[8] Assad, A. (2017, May 31). IS terrorists execute young man in Libya’s Bani Walid. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/terrorists-execute-young-man-libyas-bani-walid

[9] Farmer, B.; Nathan, A.; & Yorke, H. (2017, June 6). London attacker Rashid Redouane refused UK asylum in 2009. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/06/london-attacker-rachid-redouane-refused-uk-asylum-2009/

[10] Callimachi, R. & Schmitt, E. (2017, June 3). Manchester Bomber Met With ISIS Unit in Libya, Officials Say. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/world/middleeast/manchester-bombing-salman-abedi-islamic-state-libya.html

[11] Greenhill, S.; Malone, A.; Brown, L.; & Sears, N. (2017, May 25). How the Manchester bomber was ‘injured on the front lines in Libya while fighting with jihadis in his gap year’. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4543372/Manchester-bomber-injured-Libya-fighting-jihadis.html

[12] Tondo, L.; Messina, P.; & Wintour, P. (2017, April 28) Italy fears ISIS fighters slip into Europe posing as injured Libyans. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/28/islamic-state-fighters-infiltrate-europe-posing-injured-libyan-soldiers

[13] (2017, May 27). How Islamic State clings on in Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21722630-jihadists-have-retreated-desert-where-they-are-potent-threat-how

[14] Thurston, A. (2017 May 7). Who Counts as al-Qaeda: Lessons from Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.lawfareblog.com/who-counts-al-qaeda-lessons-libya

Assessment Papers Libya S. M. Carlson Violent Extremism

Announcing the Assessment Paper!

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When we started Divergent Options our main effort was our Options Paper.  Our Options Paper used a specific template and focused on assessing a national security situation, providing multiple options to address the situation, and articulating the risk and gain of each option, all in 1,000 words or less.

While we will continue our Option Paper line we are pleased to announce our Assessment Paper.  Our Assessment Paper will still have a 1,000 word limit but will focus on assessing a national security situation only.

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Jane Doe has served in Organization A in Country X and Country Y.  She presently works at Organization B where she does Z.  She can be found on Twitter @address and writes for website dot 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:  Assessment of the Threat Posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Note:  Titles will always begin with “Assessment of”

Date Originally Written:  September 25, 2014.

Date Originally Published:  September 29, 2014.

Summary:  If left unchecked, ISIL will establish a safe haven in Iraq and Syria where violent extremists and emerging violent extremists from around the world can congregate, assimilate, receive training, and be dispatched globally to conduct operations targeting civilians.  Beyond the conduct of operations, ISIL operatives dispatched worldwide will also be able to establish local cells to expand their influence.  Note:  “Summary” will be five lines of text maximum.  We strongly suggest you write your entire article first and then write the summary.

Text:  United States President Barack H. Obama withdrew United States forces from Iraq in December 2011[1].  The December 2011 withdraw date was set by President George W. Bush in 2008 when he signed a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq.  Following the departure of United States forces from Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pursued a number of policies that made the Sunni population of Iraq, formerly empowered by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, feel marginalized, excluded, and neglected by the Maliki government[2].  The lack of a stabilizing United States presence and Sunni marginalization laid the groundwork for the rise of ISIL.  Note:  This part of the article, called “Text,” is what will be counted against the 1,000 word limit.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ryan, M. (2016, September 26). Who made the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq? Retrieved June 23, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-first-presidential-debate/who-made-the-decision-to-withdraw-u-s-troops-from-iraq/?utm_term=.7694d4af3b1b  Note:  We prefer APA format for citations, which can be easily done via Citation Machine.

[2]  Something else in APA format.

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Announcements Assessment Papers