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 and Terrorist Attacks: License to Kill

As the Islamic State loses ground in Mesopotamia, in the west in Syria with the defeat in Palmyra (e.g. Adam Withnall The Independent, 27 March 2016), in the north with an increasingly large territory recaptured by the Kurds (e.g. Avi Asher-Schapiro, Vice News, 22 Dec 2015) and in the east in Iraq, first with the battle of Ramadi (“Battle of Ramadi (2015–16)“, Wikipedia) and now with the start of Iraqi “Operation Conquest” to free Mosul (Paul D. Shinkman, US News, 24 March 2016), it could be tempting to discard the Islamic State and its Khilafah as a bygone threat and a now inconsequential enemy  .

If this string of victories against the Islamic State is definitely important and crucial in the war against the Khilafah, uncertainties nonetheless remain. First, even in Mesopotamia, the Islamic State has not given up, but may be, for example, trying to open a southern front, as well shown by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (“The Fitna in Deraa and the Islamic State Angle“, Jihadology, 26 March 2016). Then, the Islamic State will most probably attempt to consolidate, develop as well as open new fronts, as underlined previously in “At War against the Islamic State – A Global Theatre of War“. The increasing use of terrorist attacks on various “ribat“* is likely to be part of their defensive strategy, as expected (see An Updated Guide to the Islamic State Psyops, 14 March 2016) and as indeed unfortunately shown by the latest attacks in Istanbul and Brussels (“March 2016 Istanbul bombing” and “2016 Brussels bombings“, Wikipedia).

In the light of this potentially rising number of terrorist attacks, it is thus crucial to understand the perspective and position of the Islamic State as far as these attacks are concerned. That will contribute to define the framework for the Islamic State’s – and its members’ – intentions, as well as to identify sensitive points in terms of legitimacy. From there, we may notably deduce a number of elements and factors that could be useful, in particular to intelligence services and political authorities, to screen and prioritize entities that could be, or not, possible targets, and to identify potential new threats. Conjointly, sensitive points, and discrepancies in messages, may also be used, as we shall point out at the end of the second part and in the third part below, to craft counter-psyops, counter-radicalisation and even psyops messages.

We shall here analyse the long article, “Attentats sur la voie prophétique” (“Attack on the prophetic path” – 32 pages, pp.7-38) devoted to the Islamic State’s justification for the 13 November attacks in Paris, published in Dar al Islam #8 (Al-Hayat Media Center, 6 Feb 2016), the magazine of the Islamic State in French. The very length of the article – one of the longest published in both Dabiq and Dar-al-Islam since their creation – is in itself an indication of the importance of this document for the Islamic State, and thus warrants our attention. This is all the truer that this article is only the first part of two. A second part, meant to be a “case study of the 13 November attacks” (p.38), should be published in the next Dar-al-Islam, assuming the military pressure in Mesopotamia does not disrupt or cancel publication.

We shall use this article as indicating points that are particularly important to the Islamic State. We shall focus first on the Islamic State’s defence of their Islamic status. We shall then turn to they way they seek to establish it is lawful to kill civilians, with a particular attention given to women and children, meanwhile understanding better how the Khilafah categorizes the world, identifying a possible new threat as well as important themes in terms of (counter-)psyops. Finally, we shall look at the Islamic State’s position regarding self-defence and defensive or attacking jihad, and outline possible disagreements thus weakness to exploit in the Islamic State’s discourse.

We shall not, of course, take position on Islamic doctrine and argument, best left to Muslim religious scholars and their authoritative assembly (ulema). Continue reading The Islamic State and Terrorist Attacks: License to Kill

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 31 March 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a 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 31 March 2016 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 – 24 March 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a 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 24 March 2016 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 – 17 March 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a 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 17 March 2016 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.

An Updated Guide to the Islamic State Psyops

 last updated: 9 May 2016  (selected 10 videos… updated dates for all the latest issue of magazines, Amaq in Bengali, al-Bayan in Bengali)

The defeated attack by the Islamic State on Ben Guerdane in Tunisia on 7 March 2016 probably indicated a worrying shift in tactics and strategy, which must be considered (e.g. Vanessa Szakal, “Mainstream Media on Ben Guerdane: victory and foreboding in Tunisia“, Nawaa, 11 March 2016). This attack may be seen as having been heralded by a significant call made by the Islamic State to the Islamic Maghreb through five psyops videos published over two days (19-20 January 2016).

In parallel, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb started  to copycat the Islamic State’s type of videos (Andrea Spada, “Al-Qaeda tries to imitate Daesh in new threatening video“, Islam Media Analysis, 8 January 2016), as well as earlier attacks, as occurred tragically on 13 March 2016 in the Ivory Coast (e.g. BBC News, “Ivory Coast: 16 dead in Grand Bassam beach resort attack“, 13 March 2016).

Meanwhile, warning signals sent by Western officials of impending major attacks by the Islamic State, notably on European territory, have never been so strong. On 7 March 2016, during a media briefing, Mark Rowley, U.K. national head of counter-terrorism (Scotland Yard), warned that the Islamic State “has big ambitions for enormous and spectacular attacks, not just the types that we’ve seen foiled to date.” (Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, 7 March 2016).

Previously, on 19 February 2015, Europol head Rob Wainwright, reiterated that Europe faced “its largest terrorist threat for the last ten years” by “the Islamic State or other terrorist group” (NeueOsnabrücker Zeitung), as he had previously stressed on 13 January 2015, when answering questions in a committee of the British House of Commons (House of Commons, Committee Room 8, Parliamentary TV, 15:48 to 15:56:40). According to him thousands of those january 2015 estimated 3000 to 5000 Jihadist EU nationals Jihadist fighters (video 15:55 to 15:56:40) were now returning or had already come back (NeueOsnabrücker Zeitung).

On 1st March 2016, U.S. General Breedlove, Commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe at a news conference after testifying to the Senate armed services committee (transcript) mentioned “news reports saying as many as 1,500 fighters have returned to Europe”, as he could not use intelligence reports  (Alan Yuhas, The Guardian, 1 March 2016), even though, initially, all may not have the intention to carry out terrorist attacks (transcript p.54).

Rowley notably stresses the importance of the effect the Islamic State’s propaganda has in terms of radicalization, and thus in increasing the terrorist threat. Meanwhile, Dodd (Ibid.) pointed out that “privately, counter-terrorism officials see no sign of Isis’s internet propaganda campaign being thwarted”.

It is thus time to update our knowledge and understanding of the psyops products used by the Islamic State, beyond the infamous videos and Dabiq magazine. Building upon and completing what was gathered previously, in December 2014, we shall revisit the concept used for the Islamic State psyops, notably in the light of the Islamic State’s very perceptions thanks to new as well as recently published Islamic State’s documents. Then, we shall present the now wide array of products and channels found to date, from infographics to cell phone app, with concrete examples. Finally we shall turn to the sources, i.e. major “official media” centers, including the way the “media administration” stands in the overall state structure of the Islamic State.
Continue reading An Updated Guide to the Islamic State Psyops

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 10 March 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a 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 10 March 2016 scan in newspaper format  

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 – 3 March 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a 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 3 March 2016 scan in newspaper format  

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 – 25 February 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a 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 25 February 2016 scan in newspaper format  

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 – Wilayat and Wali in Yemen

When we started our series to better understand the Islamic State system, we identified the wilayat (“what is taken charge of”, “what is ruled”) as unit of analysis and as a system, which can then be monitored to foresee and warn about the overall developments of the Islamic State (see Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Structure and Wilayat, 4 May 2015). Since then, evolution has taken place on the ground, while the body of knowledge gathered by students of the Islamic State has grown. This is notably the case for Yemen. Back in May 2015, our understanding, grounded in the evidence available then, was that there was one wilayat in Yemen, wilayat Sanaa, loosely categorised as part of those wilayat where fighting was preeminent and only extremely sparse administrative/Sharia’h activity took place (in light grey on our map). We now have seven wilayat in Yemen and, since 20 March 2015, the Islamic State has carried out there at least 29 attacks, which killed at least 389 people (see references in bibliography – the detailed spreadsheet of the attacks is available here for members only).

We thus focus here on the Islamic State in Yemen, to enhance our understanding of what is happening on the ground, start evaluating what could happen in the future, while using developments to test and update our understanding. We shall first look at what appears to be a “country-level” organisation for the Islamic State in Yemen. We shall then turn to the seven wilayat existing in Yemen, and analyse the situation there in a forward-looking way. We shall conclude with an assessment regarding the Islamic State in Yemen – an incomplete one as a full assessment would demand considering all actors on the ground – while reviewing main findings from the Yemeni case regarding our understanding of Islamic State’s wilayat for strategic foresight and warning.  Continue reading Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Wilayat and Wali in Yemen

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 18 February 2016

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… Each section focuses on signals related to a 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 18 February 2016 scan in newspaper format  

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.