All posts by Dr Helene Lavoix

Dr Helene Lavoix (MFin Paris, MSc PhD Lond), Director and Senior Analyst, is the founder of The Red (team) Analysis Society and a political scientist (International Relations) specialised in Strategic Foresight and Warning (SF&W) for conventional and unconventional security issues. She is the author of “What makes foresight actionable: the cases of Singapore and Finland” (confidential commissioned report, US government, November 2010), “Enabling Security for the 21st Century: Intelligence & Strategic Foresight and Warning” RSIS Working Paper August 2010, “Constructing an Early Warning System,” in From Early Warning to Early Action, European Commission, ed. DG Relex, 2008, “Detailed chronology of mass violence – Cambodia (1945 – 1979),” Online Encyclopaedia of mass violence, 2008 and the editor of Strategic Foresight and Warning: Navigating the Unknown, ed. RSIS-CENS, February 2011; etc. More on academia.edu. Listed on the public list curated by LSEImpactBlog: @LSEImpactBlog/soc-sci-academic-tweeters.

The Islamic State Recruitment Psyops – From the Balkans to France

Since we published our sub-series on the Islamic State psyops products and foreign fighters (The Foreign Fighters’ ThreatAttracting Foreign Fighters (1), 23 March 2015, and Foreign Fighters’ Complexes (2) 30 March 2015), new psyops products related to this theme have been released. Below is an update considering the new products, with implications in terms of geographical expansion and deepening of message for selected targeted audience. The list of the videos is given at the bottom of the post.

It is all the more important to consider these new products and impacts that some complacency of a sort appears to be developing in North America – and potentially Europe? – regarding the Islamic State: one could, somehow, accommodate a potentially winning Islamic State (e.g. Ronald Tiersky, “ISIS Could Win. Here’s What that Means“, 9 June 2015, RealClearWorld; Stephen Walt, “What Should We Do if the Islamic State Wins? Live with it“, 10 June 2015, Foreign Policy), probably because it is seen as not being a threat to America (e.g. Scott Beauchamp, “Red flags over green berets in Anbar province“, 11 June 2015, Al Jazeera Americas). This imagined victorious Islamic State would be contained within part of Mesopotamia (Tiersky, Ibid; Walt, Ibid.). Considering the aims of the Islamic State and its Khilafah and its constant efforts at expansion, of which these psyops products are a part, should such a complacency last too long and impact more than North America, it would have the potential to translate in a strategic mistake on a par with the one made with Hitler, Nazi Germany and the Sudetes.

Geographical expansion of target audience

What is most noticeable in the new products is the continuing emphasis on France as a recruitment ground. Meanwhile, the videos aimed at Muslim audiences and countries (a specific sub category we previously identified), have expanded to reach out to three to four new populations: Muslims in the Balkans (the video would deserve a specific analysis notably considering the incorporation of historical material as understood from a Khilafah point of view), Cambodian migrants – and Buddhists as the person featured is a convert – in Australia and Somali.

balkans scThe reaching out to the Balkans is notably worrying considering the instability and fragility in the region (witness the last troubles in Macedonia, for a summary, Wikipedia “2015 Macedonian protests“), its geographical location on the European continent, and the porosity of Europe’s borders (see for Kosovo, Shpend Kursani, Report inquiring into the causes and consequences of Kosovo citizens’ involvement as foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, Kosovar Center for Security Studies, April 2015).

The expansion of the geographical targets of the Islamic State psyops recruiting products, may also be seen with the online magazines published by Al-Hayat Media Center. Konstantinyyie, in Turkish, was launched on 1 June 2015 (for an analysis, see, for example, North Caucasus Caucus “The Conquest of Constantinople: The Islamic State Targets a Turkish Audience“, Jihadology.net), and Istok, in Russian, published first on 26 May 2015. They must now be added to Dar al Islam, in French, which now counts four issues (#4 published on 1 June 2015, see Jihadology.net).

Deepening according to geographical target audience

The framework we initially established to understand the motivations of the foreign fighters to join the Islamic State and its Khilafah has not fundamentally changed. We should, however, note the appearance of new arguments to promote recruitment, most probably developed in responses to brakes identified among specific audiences. This goes also hand in hand with the publishing of the country specific magazines mentioned above.

phto abu salman FrenchTaking the example of the efforts of the Islamic State to recruit and mobilise in France (video “The Story of Abu Salman French”), we find notably a new reference to a (questionable) compatibility of Salafi teaching and science, as well as an emphasis on the practical side and benefit of moving to live in the Islamic State. A very rosy picture of a quiet, comfortable and easy life is depicted, always beside the recognition of the qualities of the person who is meant to join. Death and martyrdom are there, of course, not stressed.

These latter points are a departure from the previously noted theme explaining that a meaningful spiritual life is more important than an easy material life. Meaningfulness remains emphasised, but with messages crafted to answer specific everyday life situations, here French problems of unemployment and impossibility to build a home considering real estate prices.

Considering the issue of persistent and rising inequalities in Europe (OECD, “Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising“, 2015), the Islamic State may well be increasingly successful in using such specifically crafted messages. It could also use this theme for recruitment in other countries hit by inequalities. The counter mobilisation answer, here, will most likely have to go much beyond counter-psyops, surveillance, blocking of internet media and de-radicalisation centers (e.g. RFI, “France to strengthen spies’ powers in new anti-terror law“, 12 April 2015) .

allegiance from dabiq 9 scWe should also underline creativity in the form of psyops products, with the creation of a song and its video clip (“Tend ta main pour l’allégeance/Extend Your Hand To Pledge Allegiance”), the music being then reused in the following video (“The Story of Abu Salman French”). The lyrics emphasise the usual Islamic State messages. The appeal of this video clip to a young – and less young – audience should not be ignored, as now, most of the population has lived most of its life with pop music and video clips.

The use of music and songs in war and in nation-building is obviously not new, as national anthems and military music show. The Islamic State is there adapting it to its needs. However, the Islamic State’s use of classical devices should not lead to the conclusion that the Islamic State is not dangerous. On the contrary, by being able to identify and implement important symbolic tools, besides knowing how to combine smart military tactics e.g Laurent Touchard “Organisation Tactique et Méthodes de Combat De l’Etat Islamique” (Conops, 20 May 2015), or building a polity (see our current series “Understanding the Islamic State system”), the Islamic State shows its capabilities in war as in state-building. What matters is not to do something new or fancy or high-tech, what matters is to do what is right to achieve one’s ends. Failing to see it may imply an inability to devise a proper and timely answer.

Islamic State recruitment psyops products – 1 April to 11 June 2015

  • The Story of Abu Salman French, 7 June 2015 – Raqqa media Center
  • Honor is in Jihād: A Message to the People of the Balkans, 4 June 2015 – Al Hayat media Center
  • “A message to Muslims in Somalia”, 21 May 2015 – Al-Fourat Media center (Affiliated? – Somalia)
  • “Extend Your Hand To Pledge Allegiance” (Tend ta main pour l’allégeance), 18 May 2015 – Al Hayat media Center
  • “Stories From the Land of the Living: Abū Khālid al-Kambūdī from Australia”, 21 April 2015 – Al Hayat media Center

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 207 – 11 June 2015

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to one specific theme: world (international politics and geopolitics); economy; science; analysis, strategy and futures; technology and weapons; energy and environment. However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

Read the 11 June 2015 scan  

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

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The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 206 – 4 June 2015

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to one specific theme: world (international politics and geopolitics); economy; science; analysis, strategy and futures; technology and weapons; energy and environment. However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

Read the 4 June 2015 scan → 

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Scenarios for the Future of Libya within the Next Three to Five Years

Now that we have identified and understood the actors in Libya’s civil war (see State of Play), we may outline the various scenarios regarding Libya’s future within the next three to five years. A civil war with two rival governments, armed coalitions, jihadists, and various tribes creates a complex climate, and we have constructed initially four primary scenarios, which, with their sub-scenarios, could plausibly play out, and thus set the course for Libya’s future, while also, to the least, impacting the fate of the region.

Here we shall briefly present each main scenario and the first level of sub-scenarios and explain why they are plausible. Throughout the following posts, we shall develop scenarios and sub-scenarios through their narratives. The initial ordering of the scenario may change and/or be presented differently as our foresight analysis progresses. We shall assess the likelihood for each scenario as well as develop indicators to monitor the possibility of their occurrence, or more exactly, of the happenstance of a similar scenario, as a scenario is an ideal-type for a defined range of real-life situations. At the end of the process we shall present the whole definitive set of scenarios.

The initial scenarios for the future of Libya within the next five years are summarized in the following graph.

This chart shows the scenarios for Libya within the next three to five years. Click for larger chart. – (c) Jon Mitchell for The Red (Team) Analysis Society

By utilizing our methodology to identify scenarios in case of war (a specific instance of the overall way to build scenarios for international and national security issues – Lavoix, “Scenarios and War“, Red (Team) Analysis, December 30, 2013), we determine the main plausible scenarios that might come about, based on Libya’s current civil war status.

As explained there, this logical approach observes that war may only evolve in two possible ways: continued war and the end of war. If war continues, it can either continue with the same terms or with different terms, depending on dynamics. If war is to end, there are several ways to reach a conclusion, including a successful peace. In that case, the state can be conquered by an external player, the warring parties can exhaust their will to fight and peace ensue, one of the involved actors may achieve victory over the others – and thus takes control – or a peace agreement can be brokered by external forces, which can either result in failure, a fragile success, or a complete success and subsequent peace (for the possible evolution of war, see notably Luttwak, “Give War a Chance“, Foreign Affairs, 1999).

Our mutually exclusive scenarios build on these logical outcomes, adapted to the Libyan case.

Scenario 1: Towards Peace (All but the Salafi groups)

Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon, talks to the press at a round of Libyan peace talks.

Libyas actors (excluding the Salafi groups) take the road towards peace. In a first case, they achieve an external brokered peace, as could happen with the current United Nations-led negotiations (Scenario 1.1).

Indeed, on the ground, although the armed coalitions of both governments still maintain military positions and launch attacks, the political leaders are pursuing the road towards peace by participating in UN-facilitated peace talks (UN News Centre, April 29, 2015).

In a second case, main actors reach a point of internal exhaustion from conflict (Scenario 1.2) – thus creating the opportunity for a more organic peace, which would most probably then be finally brokered through an international conference.

This latter scenario is all the more plausible – but we shall come back more in detail to the evaluation of likelihood in forthcoming posts – that an increasing number of Libyan leaders and politicians are calling for an end to the conflict and the creation of a unity government (Kirkpatrick, April 13, 2015), as a result of internal exhaustion from war.

The dynamics of the two sub-scenarios should be noted, as the second makes the first increasingly possible.

Scenario 2: Continuation of Civil War

Libyas civil war continues, either on the same terms or different terms – depending on actors and factors. We shall mainly focus on the evolution involving different terms for our scenarios (as continuation of the civil war with the same terms will evolve into peace – see above – victory, or conquest – see below)

Following the logic of our methodological “Scenarios and War” post, to see one actor achieve “objectives and interests” thus influencing the end of the war, the terms of Libya’s civil war must be changed. As we have analysed the various objectives of the actors throughout our previous series on the actors, we shall use this analysis to imagine how the terms of war could be changed to the advantage or disadvantage of this or that actor. The presentation and titles of the sub-scenarios below are only tentative and may change as we shall revise their organization in the course of the analysis, for example to consider various cases of interventions and spill over.

Scenario 2.1: Intervention

External forces intervene in Libya, and their aim is not conquest. In a first case, we have an international intervention accepted by the UN and thus representative of the current International Community. The crucial variable, here, is the degree of acceptance of the intervention by as many states as possible, i.e. not opening the way to retaliation or counter-intervention. In the second case, an ad-hoc coalition of states, according to interests, intervenes to support one side in the ongoing conflict.

The various types of interventions, with which alliance, will be detailed in the various sub-scenarios.

An Egyptian fighter jet leaves its hangar to launch air strikes against Islamic State militants in Libya.

There are indeed a host of plausible interventions considering the current actors and interests. For example, the existence of the new Joint Arab Force, although some analysts doubt its ability to actually be effective (see Wehrey comment in Yahoo News article, March 31, 2015), has enhanced the plausibility of an intervention in Libya, as suggested by Aaron Reese of the Institute for the Study of War. However, according to former deputy foreign minister and ambassador in Egypt Abdullah al-Ashaal, there are too many divisions between the nations involved in the Joint Arab Force to be able to form a united military force (Murdock, March 31, 2015). Even if the military force is united, “conflicting alliances could escalate the fighting,” – a possibility that could certainly play out in Libya, considering the divided backing of the General National Congress (GNC) and Council of Representatives (CoR) (Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia support CoR, while Qatar supports the GNC) (Ibid; Mitchell, “Nationalist Forces II,” December 1, 2014; Mitchell, “Potential International Intervention in Context,” February 16, 2015).

Meanwhile, NATO has taken note of the security risk on its southern flank in Libya, although it is not preparing for a military role in any future interventions, thus far, which would make such an intervention currently improbable (but not implausible; furthermore, over the next five years, the likelihood to see such an intervention happen will change). The organization is waiting on an improved “security situation in Libya” before it can approve any requests to “help train Libyan security forces” (Croft and Karadeniz, May 12, 2015). However, countries may also choose to act outside NATO, as, for example, France and Italy have expressed serious concern over security issues stemming from Libya’s instability – specifically the possibility of Islamic State militants posing as migrants and crossing the Mediterranean into Italy (Ross, February 18, 2015; AFP, February 21, 2015). The EU may then be or not be involved in a future intervention.

Meetings in Cairo are taking place to discuss intervention plans for Libya, with France and Italy possibly partnering with an Arab force (Mustafa, May 10, 2015; SputnikNews, May 11, 2015; Eurasia Security Watch, March 4, 2015).

Scenario 2.2 Spill over

Here, we shall see the Libyan conflict extending and the theater of war reaching other countries, either currently peaceful, such as Tunisia, Niger, or further afield Italy, for example, or joining – as is already the case – with other ongoing wars, such as the war in Mesopotamia (Syria and Iraq). A best way to organize these scenarios will be sought.

Scenario 2.3: Partition

We broadly have two cases. First, Libya embraces federalism, with a possible division along provincial lines (Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Fezzan). In the second case, the country breaks up, most probably along tribal lines.

The two regional governments in Cyrenaica – the Transitional Council of Cyrenaica and the Political Bureau of Cyrenaica – have already initiated federalism in Libya by announcing Cyrenaica as a semi-autonomous region (see Mitchell, “Nationalist Forces I,” November 3, 2014). Federalism in Libya could gain support and possibly turn into an option, provided that Libya’s federalist leaders present a more cohesive political agenda (see Eljarh, September 4, 2014).

As far as the second case is concerned, tribal declarations threatening secession on the one hand (see Tribes II and III), the strong regional component observed throughout the conflict which might be seen as nothing else than division along various Arab tribes lines, make this scenario plausible.

Scenario 2.4 Spill over and partition

This scenario will be a mix of the two previous scenarios.

Scenario 3: A Real Victory in Libya by a Local Group of Actors?

Any of the main group of actors is considered as able, plausibly, to achieve victory. The narratives will examine the impacts, while the indicators compared with the situation in the ground will help determine the likelihood for each case.

Either the General National Congress (GNC), including its armed coalition – Dawn of Libya (Scenario 3.1) – or the Council of Representatives (CoR), including the Libyan military and Nationalist forces (Scenario 3.2), achieves victory. Then, in each case, either the victor succeeds in stabilizing the situation and peace follows, or finally fails and we are back to civil war.

The plausibility for these scenarios is created by the fact that some leaders have expressed their preference for military victory rather than negotiated peace. Both Abdulrahman Swehli, a Misratan politician, and General Haftar, the leader of Libya’s military and Operation Dignity, have stated their preference for a military solution that would permanently decide the victor (Kirkpatrick, April 13, 2015; Al Jazeera, April 15, 2015).

Scenario 4: Salafi Conquest

Although we previously noted that, currently, conquest was outlawed, the Islamic State is currently obeying different sets of norms (see H. Lavoix, “Worlds War,” “Ultimate War,” and “Monitoring the War against the Islamic State or against a Terrorist Group?“). Furthermore, its competition for preeminence with notably Al Qaeda also impacts what the latter could do (see “Worlds War“). As a result, conquest of a sort is back on the international agenda, even if it is engineered through local groups. Note that, in terms of timeline, this scenario and its sub-scenarios will follow from the continuation of war with different terms, and, possibly also lead to war, also with different terms.

We thus have two plausible scenarios here. First, Libya succumbs to conquest by Al Qaeda (Scenario 4.1), whilst, second, we witness an Islamic State conquest (Scenario 4.2).

Indeed, Al-Qaeda has an established presence in regions of Southern Libya, and also has affiliates in Northern Libya such as Ansar al-Sharia (see Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015). If Al-Qaeda is to offset the expanding Islamic State influence in Libya, it will likely need to draw increased support from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, notably Al-Qaeda in Tunisia, while also defeating the other actors. It may need to assert its influence on the Libyan battlefield in its battle against the Islamic State and other actors.

The Islamic State is already present in Libya, as seen in our previous posts “The Islamic State Advance and its Impacts” (Mitchell) and “Towards Understanding the Islamic State – Structure and Wilayat” (Lavoix). Its presence is growing everyday, as recently seen with the conquest of Sirte airport (BBC News, 29 May 2015) and several suicide bombers attacks in Misrata (Reuters, 31 May 2015), t the point that the GNC in Tripoli called for a general mobilisation against the Islamic State (AFP, YahooNews, 1 June 2015).  Conquering Libya, or at least vital parts of it, would also provide the Islamic State as a “gateway” to Southern Europe (Sherlock and Freeman, February 17, 2015). Such a conquest will require a sizeable force, but if the Islamic State recruitment throughout Libya increases, in addition to the arrival of foreign fighters (Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi claims 5,000 jihadists have arrived to join Islamic State and Ansar al-Sharia – Moore, March 3, 2015), the possibility to see this scenario take place may increase. Meanwhile, the Islamic State’s forces in Libya will most probably continue expanding by allying with other extremist groups, as noted by Squires and Loveluck (February 18, 2015).

The next post will start detailing the scenarios.

Bibliography

Featured Image: “Rebels Heading for Tripoli” by Surian Soosay [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Adrian Croft and Tulay Karadeniz, “Focus on Islamic State and Libya as NATO foreign ministers meet,” Reuters, May 12, 2015

AFP, “French PM: Jihadists in Libya ‘direct threat’ to Europe,” The Times of Israel, February 21, 2015

Awad Mustafa, “Arab Chiefs To Meet on Libya Intervention,” Defense News, May 10, 2015

David D. Kirkpatrick, “As Libya Crumbles, Calls Grow for Feuding Factions to Meet Halfway,” The New York Times, April 13, 2015

Edward N. Luttwak, “Give War a Chance,” Foreign Affairs, July 1, 1999

Eurasia Security Watch – No. 333, March 4, 2015

“Experts caution reality check on joint Arab force,” Yahoo News, March 31, 2015

Heather Murdock, “Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge,” Voice of America, March 31, 2015

Helene Lavoix, “How to Analyze Future Security Threats (4): Scenarios and War,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, December 30, 2013

Helene Lavoix, “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Structure and Wilayat,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, May 4, 2015

Helene Lavoix, “The Islamic State PSYOPS – Ultimate War,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, February 9, 2015

Helene Lavoix, “The Islamic State PSYOPS – Worlds War,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, January 16, 2015

Helene Lavoix, “Monitoring the War Against the Islamic State or Against a Terrorist Group?” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, September 29, 2014

Jack Moore, “5,000 Foreign Fighters Flock to Libya as ISIS Call for Jihadists,” Newsweek, March 3, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “State of Play – Islamist Forces I,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, January 26, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “The Islamic State Advance and Impacts,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, March 9, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “State of Play – Nationalist Forces I,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, November 3, 2014

Jon Mitchell, “State of Play – Nationalist Forces II,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, December 1, 2014

Jon Mitchell, “Potential International Intervention in Context,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, February 16, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War II,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, April 20, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War III,” The Red (Team) Analysis Society, May 11, 2015

“Libya’s Haftar ‘betting on military solution’,” Al Jazeera, April 15, 2015

Mohamed Eljarh, “The Federalist Movement in a Deeply Divided Libya,” Atlantic Council, September 4, 2014

Nick Squires and Louisa Loveluck, “Italy warns Islamic State is allying with Libyan Islamist groups,” The Telegraph, February 18, 2015

Philip Ross, “ISIS Threat To Italy: Islamic State In Italy Sparks Fears In Europe, But Experts Caution Restraint,” International Business Times, February 18, 2015

Ruth Sherlock and Colin Freeman, “Islamic State ‘planning to use Libya as gateway to Europe’,” The Telegraph, February 17, 2015

“Top Arab Generals Plan Libyan Intervention; Will France & Italy Join?” Sputnik News, May 11, 2015

UN News Centre, “Draft political deal for Libyan parties is ‘work in progress,’ UN envoy tells Security Council,” April 29, 2015

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 205

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals…This issue is unedited (direct access to raw, unsorted, crowdsourced information).

Read the 28 May scan → 

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Understanding the Islamic State’s System – The Calif and Legitimacy

In this section of our series on the Islamic State, we seek to assess the Islamic State’s ability to create a real and sustainable polity. The capture of Ramadi (Iraq, Anbar, e.g. Mitchell Prothero, McClatchy DC, 17 May 2015) on 17 May and Palmyra (Tadmur, Syria, Homs) three days later on 20 May 2015 (e.g. Oryx blog, 21 May 2015) by the Islamic State – showing among others the ability to win against two different governmental armies, one supported by the US-led coalition of 60 plus states (U.S. Gov) plus Shi’a militia and probably Iran, the other by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, two strategic cities on two fronts separated by 620km – the sudden acknowledgement by U.S. officials, that no, the war against the Islamic State is not so successful (Hannah Allam, McClatchy DC, 21 May 2015), only reinforces the vital importance to answer in-depth questions such as: Is the Islamic State about to collapse (obviously no, but the next battle(s) won will most probably generate again this type of gratuitous assertions)? Is it strengthening? Will it last one, two, or ten years? How far will it expand?

Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafah, Palmyra, Ramadi
Dabiq 9 (published 21 May 2015) already hypes the ability to succeeds on both Front with “Advancing East and West”, pp.31-32

Meanwhile we shall develop a better understanding of the type of polity created, which is indispensable to create a proper strategy to oppose an enemy. Previously, we focused focus on the overall structure of the Islamic State and its Khilafah, which can meaningfully be understood through the wilayat system, each wilayat being characterized by the degree of Islamic State-like administrative and military control over the population and the territory.

Here we shall focus on the top of the hierarchical structure – or rather part of it  – through which the Islamic State, declared as Khilafah, is ruled, namely the Calif, the Shura Council and the Sharia Council (the military and security Councils will be addressed in forthcoming post). We shall notably synthesise research made at different points in time and from different perspective, top down and bottom up. What shall concerns us most here is the extent of legitimacy, which may be separated in two components: the legitimacy of this specific type of Calif as office and the legitimacy of the specific individual who became the Calif, i.e. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. It is necessary to focus on legitimacy in the Islamic State’s own terms because it is a novel type of polity that is engineered, which does not recognise any other system (see previous articles).

The second part will be seen from the point of view of the possibility and impact of a change of Calif. It is indeed crucial to understand this aspect because it will have direct bearings on the efficiency of the policy offering bounties for al-Baghdadi and others within the Islamic State, as done by the U.S. State department (e.g. Meg Wagner, “U.S. State Department sets $20 million bounty for 4 wanted ISIS terrorists“, New York Daily News, 7 May 2015). It would also relativise repeated rumours regarding al-Baghdadi’s death, now temporarily stopped since its latest radio message (see “A New Audio Message by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ~ March Forth Whether Light or Heavy“, al-Furqan Media, May 14, 2015, Pietervanostayen).

The Calif, the Shura Council and the Sharia Council

As seen (H.Lavoix, “Structure and Wilayat”), according to a July 2014 source, then used in multiple reports (The Telegraph, 9 July 2015; Barrett, The Soufan Group; possibly Al Akhbar?; CNN), the Islamic State and its Khilafah are ruled by a highly organised and hierarchical structure, topped by the Calif (Khalif, Khalifa), the Shura Council and the Sharia Council. The BBC (3 September 2014), relying on documents provided by “international investigators funded by the British government” working in secrecy, suggests that right below the Calif are four councils: the Sharia Council,  the Shura council, the Military Council and the Security Council, the structure then being reproduced at wilayat then quitahaat (local) level. The sources used by the investigators are unknown. However, considering the dates and reference to “a Sharia Triad” (see BBC, diagram), as mentioned first by Suhaib Anjarini (Alakhbar English, July 10, 2014  – see below Sharia Council), we may wonder if the source used by the investigation team is not here again the same. The Military and Security Councils, as well as the lower levels structure will be analysed in forthcoming posts.

Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafah
Video by Al Hayat Media Center “Tends ta main pour l’Allégeance” – 18 May 2015

The Calif, currently Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al Badri al Samarrai), leads the Islamic State and its Khilafah. According to Barrett (2014: 24, 29-31), he was chosen by the Sharia Council, and approved by the Shura Council, while Haji Bakr (the man behind the documents on security and military organisation unveiled by Der Spiegel) had been instrumental in engineering this choice .

The Shura and Sharia councils are two essential bodies of the Islamic State for the legitimacy of both the Khilafah and the Calif, legitimacy which is closely entwined with the practical operation of the polity, as we shall see.

Although it is difficult if not impossible to find a single, unified model of what a Khilafah should be, and although each scholar and related political group will have its own interpretation, it would seem that we may nevertheless find enough similarities among some of them to at least draw a general broad framework.

allegiance, bay'a, Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafah
Video by Al Hayat Media Center “Tends ta main pour l’Allégeance” – 18 May 2015

According to Reza Pankhurst, an “Islamist ideologue”, member of radical party Hizb-ut-Tharir, which promotes the implementation of a “pure Khilafah” where the Calif has sole authority (), a Calif’s legitimacy derives from a contract (pledge of allegiance, bay’a), which includes three elements: the leader, the consultation and consent of the people who will be led, and who can be represented by “ahlul halli wal aqd – in the literature the people who bind and tie matters, meaning people of influence and power in a particular society – who collectively represent the will of that society and whose decisions are meaningful and widely accepted as authority”, and the pledge itself.

If we turn to South Asian Islamist scholar Maududi, as explained by El-Affendi of the University of Westminster (2007: 238), focusing on an Islamic state (which El-Affendi differentiates from a Khilafah), “an Islamic state should consist mainly of the leader (imam, khalifah, or amir) and a Shura council. Both the leader and the members of the Shura council should be individuals of high integrity, learning and commitment to shari’a.” (Note “Islamic state” (s with a lower case) will be used as generic for the political form, Islamic State (S with upper case) will be used for the specific political entity also known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh etc.)

Assuming both statements hold true for this Islamic State, as it seems they do, then, we find the raison d’être of the two Shura and Sharia Councils. The Shura Council represents the consultation and consent of the people. Meanwhile, the Sharia Council represents ruling according and in obedience to Islamic law.

The Shura Council

The Shura Council thus represents the ruled and, as a result, should, ideally, for Maududi, “also be broadly representative” (El-Affendi quoting Adams, 1983: 123-124).

It should thus first be consulted for the selection of the ruler. Then, it should accept (consent) whoever has been selected as Calif. This corresponds to Barrett’s explanation (p.29). This is a crucial role in matters of succession, should the Calif come to die.

Outside those exceptional circumstances, the Shura Council has mainly a consultative role, assuming the Islamic State follows Pankhurst’s focus on the Calif, Mauduri’s approach, or current Saudi Arabia’s Majlis-ash-Shura consultative system: “It is the leader however who is the final arbitrer on what the shari’a says. He should consult with members of the Shura Council and others, but is not bound by their opinion (El-Affendi: 238 using Adams: 126).” However, according to El-Affendi (p.238), still using Maududi’s understanding, “the Council may dismiss the Khalifa if it is determined that he was no longer competent to do his job.” This possibility to dismiss the Calif is also found in Suhaib Anjarini analysis of the Islamic State (Alakhbar English, July 10, 2014), although underlined as theoretical.

The Shura Council of the Islamic State would have counted between 9 and 11 members by July 2014 (Anjarini, Ibid). Barrett (p. 24) had possibly identified seven of them. However, a reference to the early system of shura during Muhammad’s era, by Khilafah.com (most probably the website of party Hizb-ut-Tharir), points out that the Shura Council was then constituted of fourteen members, seven among the first followers and seven among those who helped at the arrival in Medina. It is thus not impossible, considering the Islamic State’s emphasis on original texts that, similarly, the current Islamic State’s Shura Council could count also 14 members, or could aim at reaching this number, maybe integrating new leaders having pledged allegiance.

The Shura Council would also be tasked, according to Barrett (p.29), with being “responsible for conveying directives from Abu Bakr (the Calif) down the chain of command and for ensuring that they are carried out”. However, this does not fit with the “consultative and consent” role of the Shura Council we saw, and the absence of source does not help us assessing the analysis. What we may have here, is that members of the Shura Council may also hold other positions of responsibility in terms of governance (see Khilafah.com), and it might be through these roles that directives are carried out.

The Sharia Council

Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, KhilafahThe Sharia council, headed by the Calif, is the supreme judiciary body of the Islamic State (Barrett: 30; March & Revkin, “Caliphate of Law”, Foreign Affairs, 15 April 2015; Anjarini, Ibid).  It would count six members (Anjarini, Ibid), and would be responsible to choose a new Calif should the actual one die (Ibid).

According to March and Revkin, “Under the authority of the Sharia Council, each wali (the governor of a regional administrative division called a wilaya) oversees a sharia deputy who in turn supervises the wilaya-level sharia commission. The sharia commissions (hayʾat al-shari‘a) are responsible for overseeing courts and the work of judges.” If we follow Barrett (p.30), the Sharia Council would also, through the sharia commissions, oversee the Islamic police, as well as Islamic outreach (da’wa).

However, even though March and Revkin’s work was published in April 2015, for the part above it relies on Anjarini analysis, which dates July 2014. Thus, if we Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafahcompare with Al-Tamimi “Aspects of Islamic State (IS) Administration in Ninawa Province” January 2015 analysis (part 1, 2, 3) using more recent documents – thus also a more evolved type of administration, it would appear that the sharia commissions (called committees by Al-Tamimi, part 3) are, in fact, the predecessor to the newer and more administratively evolved Diwan al-Hisba (responsible for the enforcement of public morality, includes the Islamic police) and Diwan (al-Awqaf wa) al-Masajid (responsible for dealing with waqf property endowments, management of mosques and religious institutions; in charge of sharia institutes and probably of da’wa).

We can thus make as hypothesis that the Sharia Council, through each wali and its sharia deputy (the process for the sharia deputy’s selection and appointment still being unknown) oversees both the Diwan al-Hisba and Diwan (al-Awqaf wa) al-Masajid. It is, however, not immediately clear if it also oversees the Islamic courts mentioned by March and Revkin but not by Al-Tamimi, as well as the Diwan al-Qaḍa wa al-Maẓālim (‘Judgements and Injustices Administration’) identified by both Al-Tamimi and March and Revkin.

The Sharia Council thus, somehow, represents both the judiciary as well as a kind of legislative body, however not completely as far as legislation is concerned. Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, KhilafahIndeed, interestingly, March and Revkin (Ibid.) show that the Islamic State would be following the “classical Islamic theory of statecraft known as siyasa sharʿiyya“, where it is recognized that “rules do not exist for every conceivable matter” and rather than trying to create them all, “legitimate authorities—from market inspectors to military commanders and governors up to the caliph himself—[that] have the right to make lawlike decisions as long as those decisions are issued solely with the welfare (maslaha) of the Muslim community in mind and do not violate known laws.” All “legitimate authorities” would thus constitute the Islamic State legislative body. The criteria for legitimacy of these authorities is left unexplained. We may however assume they are appointed hierarchically (note, that all officials can also be tried and convicted of crime, as shown by the various campaigns of purge, e.g. Ali Mamouri, “IS uses intelligence to purge opponents“, Al Monitor, 28 October 2014).

Finally three Sharia learned scholars would also assist the Calif, according to Anjarini (Ibid), but we do not know if they are part or not of the Sharia Council (the way the article is written let assume they are not, but there is no further evidence).

What does this structure implies in terms of legitimacy?

Legitimacy of the office: The Calif of the Khilafah of the current Islamic State

Consent and dynamic legitimacy

The question regarding the legitimacy of the office of Calif can be split in two. The first series of argument will revolve around the idea of consent: is there the consent which is necessary to see a legitimate Calif?  The legitimacy of the Calif of the Khilafah of the current Islamic State is indeed questioned, or there would be no war, currently, within the Sunni world. Being questioned, then it means there is no total consent, thus that the legitimacy is questionable.

Skikda, Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafah
Visual for the Audio of Algerian Skikda Pledge of Allegiance – 9 May 2015

Yet, as we saw previously (see Structure and Wilayat), the Islamic State, the Khilafah and its Calif have also gained in terms of legitimacy since July 2014, notably each time a new group pledges allegiance. The latest pledges of allegiance were done on 9 May 2015 by Algeria’s Battalion Skikda and by the Tunisian Mujahideen of Kairouan on 18 May 2015, (Williams, Breibart, 19 May 2015). Meanwhile, allegedly but not confirmed by the Islamic State, one part of al-Mourabitoun, Saharan Islamist group would have pledged allegiance, although Mokhtar Belmokhtar – co-founder of the group – declared the pledge invalid because not authorised by their own Shura Council (Reuters, 17 May 2015).

Pledges of allegiance made within existing wilayat in Mesopotamia are also recorded and used as psyops products. Here, however, the sad, crushed and desperate look of the Tribes Sheiks can be neither missed nor understated. Similar in-depth agency, Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafah, وكالة أعماقemotions can be read on the faces of many in those Islamic State psyops photo reports (another new type of psyops products started on 11 June 2014) involving Tribes. The same fear and despair may be read in the eyes of some people in those cities recently captured, in raw footage, possibly now published as new psyops product by “In-Depth Agency” (وكالة أعماق) since 18 May 2015. We chose neither to specify which video or report, nor to display pictures to ensure as much as possible this could not be used against those people.

Consent is thus obviously also obtained under duress. This type of consent seems to be also allowed by Khilafah texts, which, meanwhile, explain how Salafi legitimacy can be gained, and how it is related to the rule of consent

“The actual viewpoint is that if after an aspiring ruler takes power by force and is subsequently accepted by the people, at the point of being accepted and taking a pledge of allegiance from the people he can be considered the legitimate ruler, despite his actions in coming to power remaining sinful. In other words, his legitimacy is not a result of power projection, but rather is derived from the resulting consent of the people.” Pankhurst (Interview)

We are thus faced – as for all systems – with a dynamic legitimacy, which may increase and decrease according to actions and interactions with other actors, across space. Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, KhilafahFrom the point of view of those opposing the rule of the Islamic State, this is a crucial point to consider. Indeed, the more groups – wherever they are located – pledge allegiance, the stronger a legitimacy that may have been initially fledgling, and this, again, across territories. And the more consent is gained, the more likely consent may also be obtained, including because people, groups and tribes have no other choice. The feeling of an absence of choice, implied by control and coercion, but also enhanced by an apparent failure of other actors to bring meaningful change, would most probably rule out any possibility of rebellion.

Hence, once more, this implies that a war strategy against the Islamic State needs to be designed globally and systematically and not be solely compartmentalized according to specific territories, the focus being on Iraq and Syria. This is not to deny the specificity of each situation, for example the diplomatic quagmire in Syria, but to emphasise nonetheless that the whole of the Islamic State must be understood and considered. Libya, the Sinai or Afghanistan, may be as important to win the war against the Islamic State as Syria or Iraq. Similarly, for the coalition, thinking only in terms of air strikes (or special operations as we shall see below) does not make sense and a comprehensive strategy must be created, involving and considering all actors, as well as all political tensions and grievances as soon as possible.

Depending upon a Khilafah, sustainable and truly Islamic

The second series of argument according to Pankhurst – true enough supporting a Khilafah that would be implemented by his own political party – questions the legitimacy of the Khilafah itself, either because it would not be viable as a state or because it would fail to properly apply Sharia – knowing that this is open to interpretation according to where those making the evaluation stand. Indeed an illegitimate Khilafah would de facto rule out the legitimacy of the Calif.

We have already seen the importance of establishing a sustainable state prior to declaration of a Khilafah, as argued byharvest, Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafah the Islamic State itself (see H Lavoix, The Islamic State psyops – Words War, part “The Islamic State and the Khilafah”) . This makes our efforts in this series at understanding the Islamic State system, notably in view to evaluate its strength and sustainability even more important because it will also contribute to answer, albeit partially, to the legitimacy of the Khilafah. However, we must differ our answer and wait for the end of the assessment.

As far as obedience to the sharia is concerned, the existence of the Sharia Council and the way the Islamic State is organised administratively around the Sharia, as seen above, would tend to answer positively to this part of the legitimacy of the Khilafah and its Calif.

The Calif and the man

Let us now turn to second element of legitimacy, the legitimacy of a specific individual to hold the position of Khalif. Considering the current emphasis in believing that it is foremost in winning a war to target and killing specific leaders, as again exemplified in the U.S. special forces operation that succeeded in killing Abu Sayyaf (Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan, The Washington Post, 16 May 2015) and the related constant rumours according to which al-Baghdadi has been killed, or is so severely injured that he cannot be the Calif anymore, understanding these elements is absolutely crucial.

The legitimacy of the Calif as man would depend upon “classical conditions of eligibility”, which, according to March and Revkin (ibid., using the Islamic State document “Madd al-ayadi li-bayʿat al-Baghdadi,”) were explained as fulfilled by Al-Baghdadi, as soon as 22 July 2013. Enrico Galoppini (“Considerations over the institution of the Caliphate and the “Justice” in Islam“, Il Discrimine, 16 Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, KhilafahDecember 2014: fn 15) lists those conditions as:”1) Justice; 2) Science of the governmental and administrative matters; 3) senses in good condition: hearing, sight and speech; 4) Healthy parts of body: able to move and stand up; 5) Know how to administer the subjects and take measures of general interest (maslaha); 6) Courage and bravery in protecting the watan (the “Homeland”, the “Fatherland”, but also the place where you reside) and lead the jihad against the enemy; 7) descent from Banû Quraysh (the clan to which Muhammad also belonged): for some theorists it became an exceeded condition, although rarely some spoke of a‘jâm (“non-Arab”).” Further, El-Affendi (2007: 238) explains “The ruler is to be selected on the basis of his qualifications and it is not important how this selection takes place as long as it commands the assent of the community as a whole.”

If the current Calif is considered as legitimate, then what will happen if it were to die? Would that mean that the Islamic State would immediately crumble or, to the least, start unraveling? Al-Tamimi argues that “IS’s basis for claiming to be a state and caliphate is closely tied to Baghdadi’s persona”, and that no one else has been properly “groomed” as a successor (“Can Islamic State survive without Baghdadi?, BBC, 10 November 2014).

Yet, as evidenced by March and Revkin (Ibid.), rules for allegiance exist in case of succession, as planned when the Islamic State was still the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS – see text). We may assume that similar rules have been stipulated for the Khilafah, considering the importance of having a legitimate Calif for the whole endeavour. Furthermore, all senior leadership and Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafahsympathisers risk their lives in the survival of the Khilafah: should the Khilafah collapse, it would be very surprising that various tribes, factions, armed groups and governments in Mesopotamia and elsewhere, grant Islamic State’s officials fair trial and a peaceful life in a prison, while no one would probably accept them for golden retirement. It is thus highly probable that this senior leadership has prepared for this eventuality. This might even entail a pre-designation by Al-Baghdadi of a potential successor, that could be known solely to the Shura and Sharia Councils.

As a result, the death of the current Calif would most probably be turned into an event where mourning but also martyrdom and revenge would be emphasised. A new man would then be presented then approved by the Shura Council. The conditions of eligibility of this man would then be revealed, from his impeccable faith, his justice, valour, courage, and strength, his history within the context of the current struggle to his lineage from the Prophet’s family.

Calif, IS, islamic State, legitimacy, Shura Council, Sharia Council, Khilafah
Visual for the Audio Message by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ~ March Forth Whether Light or Heavy released by al-Furqan Media on May 14, 2015

As al-Tamimi underlines, Al-Baghdadi initial grooming was made through radio statements. Thus, the current Calif could be, for many or most, mainly a voice and a representation, whatever each wants to project upon this ever-present yet actually so remote Calif, of course within the bound of what an ideal Calif ought to be. In this context, changing individual may not be that difficult.

As far as the practical operations of state are concerned, the structures that are currently created would be tested but would help absorbing the change of leadership.

The possibility to see a change of Calif without it implying automatically the end of the Khilafah would be supported by history throughout space and systems. Everything being equal, the Ottoman empire did not disappear each time a Sultan died, nor the European Kingdoms each time a King died, nor the Chinese Middle Kingdom when emperors passed away, nor the South East Asian polities each time a ruler disappeared, etc.

It is the “rulership” that imbues the man with the qualities needed, including in terms of sacredness, whatever its form according to the system, not the other way round. True enough, some rulers are better than others, and, ideally, the ruler must also avoid being obviously too untrue to its mandate, but legitimacy systems have been designed and constructed over time for this very reason: allowing systems to continue beyond mere human mortality.

Historical and recent facts, furthermore, also support the continuation of the Islamic State beyond the death of its leader: the death of Bin Laden (e.g. BBC, 10 Sept 2012) did not imply the end of Al Qaeda. Nazi Germany did not collapse because Hitler died, but Hitler committed suicide because Nazi Germany was collapsing (e.g. Wikipedia). In the world of private corporations, the death of de Marjorie did not mean the bankruptcy and disappearance of Total (21 October 2014, Total).

Similarly, at lower levels in the hierarchy of the Islamic State, it is not because Abu Sayyaf was killed that the Islamic State will be stopped selling its oil. As underlined by Steven Bucci (“Don’t Be Fooled: America’s ISIS Crisis Is Just Beginning“, National Interest, 20 May 2015), precious intelligence will be gathered, but “unfortunately, Special Mission units seldom win wars.” The system may also be temporarily disrupted, but, most probably, nothing more. An interesting question would be to know if the temporary disruption added to intelligence are sufficient to carry out other successful operations and are part of a larger strategy, designed across the three levels of analysis (individual, state (or more largely polity) – adapted to the specific polity which is the Islamic State – and system, see Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, 1954). The need for secrecy related to war makes it impossible to answer this question. It is, nonetheless, considering the current narcissistic heavy trend at work in Western societies, imperative to underline the need not to think solely in terms of operations against individuals.

Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues.

Featured image: From Dabiq 8, p.49 “Go and read the Quran” Ayyun As-Sikhtyyani.

———

References

Abedin, Mahan, “Interview with Reza Pankhurst”, Religioscope, 29 Jul 2014.

Adams, CharlesJ. 1983. “Mawdudi and the Islamic State.” In Voices of Resurgent Islam, ed. John L. Esposito, 99–133.

Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad, “Aspects of Islamic State (IS) Administration in Ninawa Province” 1, 2, 3, January 2015.

Al-Tamimi, Aymenn Jawad, “Can Islamic State survive without Baghdadi?, BBC, 10 November 2014.

Anjarini, Suhaib, “The Islamic State: from Baghdadi the founder to Baghdadi the “caliph”, Alakhbar English, July 10, 2014.

Barrett, Richard, The Islamic State, The Soufan Group, November 2014.

Bucci, Steven, “Don’t Be Fooled: America’s ISIS Crisis Is Just Beginning”, National Interest, 20 May 2015.

El-Affendi, Abdelwahab, “Democracy and its (Muslim) critics: an Islamic Alternative to Democracy?”, in Islamic Democratic Discourse: Theory, Debates, and Philosophical Perspectives, ed. M. A. Muqtedar Khan, 2006.

Galoppini, Enrico, “Considerations over the institution of the Caliphate and the “Justice” in Islam”, Il Discrimine, 16 December 2014

Lavoix, Helene, “The Islamic State psyops – Words War”, Red (Team) Analysis, 16 January 2015.

March, Andrew, & Mara Revkin, “Caliphate of Law”, Foreign Affairs, 15 April 2015.

Reuter, Christoph, “The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State”, Der Spiegel, 18 April 2015.

Sherlock, Ruth, “Inside the leadership of Islamic State: how the new ‘caliphate’ is run”, The Telegraph, 9 Jul 2014.

Waltz, Kenneth, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, Columbia University Press, 1954.

 

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 204

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to one specific theme: world (international politics and geopolitics); economy; science; analysis, strategy and futures; technology and weapons; energy and environment. However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

Read the 21 May scan  

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 203

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals…This issue is unedited (direct access to raw, unsorted, crowdsourced information).

Read the 14 May scan  

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 202

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to one specific theme: world (international politics and geopolitics); economy; science; analysis, strategy and futures; technology and weapons; energy and environment. However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

Read the 7 May scan  

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Structure and Wilayat

Conflicting information regarding the Islamic State and the evolution of the war emerge everyday from the media, while analysts, commentators and official statements are no less swaying. For example, on 13 April 2015, “Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman” stressed that the Islamic State had “ceded 5,000 to 6,000 square miles of territory”, painting a “rosier portrait” as reported by Mitchell Prothero and James Rosen for McClatchy DC (15 April 2015). A mere two days later, the same spokesman was describing battles in Ramadi and Baiji in a sobering way, even though Prothero and Rosen also underline that “U.S. officials have been cautious about overstating Iraqi successes against the Islamic State” (Ibid.) – since then Baiji is again under Iraqi government control, while fighting continues in Ramadi and more generally Anbar, see Rudaw, 22 April 2015; 29 April 2015; 26 April 2015.

As another example, if the Islamic State has lost ground and the city of Tikrit and if the situation in Anbar remain contested (e.g. Bill Roggio & Caleb Weiss, The Long War Journal, 26 April 2015), on the other hand, a first psyops video from Yemen “Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Land of Yemen – Wilāyat Ṣana’ā’” was also “Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Land of Yemen – Wilāyat Ṣana’ā'”, Yemen, Islamic State, ISIS, ISpublished on 24 April 2015 (see Jihadology.net*), after the 20 March 2015 first statement “Adopting the Martyrdom Operations Against the Dens of the Ḥūthīs – Wilāyat Ṣana’ā’” (Jihadology.net). This could signal the start of real activities there. Indeed, Yemen was declared a Wilayat in November 2014 (Aaron Zelin, “The Islamic State’s model“, The Washington Post, 28 January 2015, Ludovico Carlino, IHS Jane’s, 25 March 2015), but, according Zelin (Ibid.), hardly activity had been seen by end of January. We would thus have both attrition and expansion.

Psyops and propaganda, the fog of war, as well as the difficulty to obtain reliable information on the Islamic State, all interacting, contribute to this  complicated situation.

The scope, intensity and evolution of the threat constituted by the Islamic State, its Khilafah and the worldview and system they seek to establish (see the Psyops series), as well as the length of the war and the prospects for its fate, fundamentally depend upon the Islamic State’s ability to be successful in meeting aims located along three interacting dimensions: Wilayat Sanaa, Yemen, Islamic State, IS, ISISconsolidating and developing the Islamic State and its Khilafah as a polity in all its facets, asserting supremacy over actual or potential competing groups and fighting victoriously against attacking foes (see H. Lavoix, “The Islamic State Psyops – Worlds War”, The Red Team Analysis Society, 16 January 2015). As a result, defeating the Islamic State implies attacking along these three dimensions, permanently hindering each aim.

Previously, we focused on the Islamic State’s psyops as a way to understand better its belief-system, way of thinking, worldview and objectives. We notably underlined that its current and potential influence, as well as the related power of its approach, are grounded in its ability to promote a specific coherent ideology anchored in a real material territorial state-like power, thus synthesising idealism and materialism (see for the detail H. Lavoix, “Worlds War“, Ibid.). Now, we shall address the material or concrete side of the Islamic State, although not forgetting the socio-ideological model which is at its foundation, focusing on the Islamic State’s ability to indeed create a real polity. We shall seek to improve our understanding of the type of polity, with its specificities, that is being formed. Our ultimate aim is to be able to contribute to a foresight assessment of the sustainability of the Islamic State, in other words to answer to questions such as: Is the Islamic State about to collapse? Is it reinforcing? Will it last one, two, or ten years? Continue reading Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Structure and Wilayat