Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.
World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – This week was overwhelmingly dominated by three main issues, the horrendous burning alive of the Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State, its use as psyops products, and more largely the war against the Islamic State, the never abating tension between North America and Europe on the one hand, Russia on the other, along the Ukrainian conflict (with an unusual number of videos on the situation within Ukraine) and the showdown between the new Greek government and the EU (see more details in the economy section, although the potential impacts go much beyond the economy).
Before to review in detail the interpretations of the murderous execution of the Jordanian pilot to try to make sense of it, we shall point out three articles that are of particular interest. First, Khalil al-Anani underlines crucial dynamics taking place notably within the Muslim Brotherhood, “The ISIS-ification of Islamist politics” (Washington Post). The similarity of the aims of the Muslim Brotherhood and of the Islamic State for a focus on timeline and methods, should however not be forgotten (see Scenario, a Muslim Brotherhood Syria). This “ISIS-ification” would be first indications of a phenomenon we suggested would take place across, at least, Jihadis actors (see “The Islamic State Psyops – Worlds War”). Second, for those interested in the inner workings of the Islamic State, Aki Peritz in “How Iraq Subsidizes Islamic State” for The New York Times explains how the payment of civil servants finally funds the Islamic State. Finally, when most focus is on Sunni Islam, Philip Smith for The Washington Institute publishes a needed study on “The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects”, with a wealth of proper references and sources.
We shall now turn to the murder of the Jordanian pilot, conceived as a terrific psyops product by the Islamic State.
First, we must emphasize, as most commentators and analysts pointed out, that the full recording of the burning alive of the pilot climbed one or many notches in the horror of what the Islamic State was ready to inflict upon its enemies and use for the need of its psyops (for articles that were not crowd-sourced but are worth reading ISIS study group – warning: detailed description of the video, The Counter-Jihad Report). Analysts agree to point out that we should expect more extreme violence.
The second point upon which analysts in general agree is that the Islamic State sought to elicit a strong emotional answer, and succeeded. However, as previously (see “The Making of the Crusaders“), the type of emotion created is outrage and anger, as now rather widely accepted, and as shown notably by primary source interview of the tribe of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, now a hero (see interview France info). Yet, some reports still conclude that the Islamic State tries to sow fear (e.g. the idea of “deploying an asymmetry of fear”, BBC News).
It is also clear that at least one of the reasons for the use of such a psyops product is to regain a kind of strategic advantage when confronted to a military defeat, here the loss of Kobane (previously, for example the loss of the Mosul dam). With the emotional shock created, all media and all attention focus on the latest horror and “forget” the defeat. Meanwhile, as far as potential and existing sympathisers and fighters, strength, control, and domination is reasserted.
There may be here another point that may be worth investigating further and that is less often considered, the aim the Islamic State could have in terms of molding the emotional and thought processes of its own “citizens”. The latest Counter-Jihad report on the reactions within the Islamic State would tend to point in this direction. As these reactions themselves become in turn another psyops product, the Islamic State may seek a double effect, as it also shows the world how strong and different the Islamic State’s inhabitants are. In psychological terms, the impact on the youngest population within the Islamic State – and we should refer here to all the work done on child soldiers – will certainly be disastrous and would plead for a swift stop (assuming this were possible) to such propaganda, not only for humanitarian reasons but also because the longer it lasts the more the worldview of the Islamic State will be ingrained in more individuals.
Remain now some still unclear elements in terms at least of pattern and motivation. The whole dynamic of the Japanese then Jordanian hostages still displays strange elements. The Islamic State asked for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, ex Al-Qaeda in Iraq member, in exchange for the life of at least Kenji Goto, with a threat to also kill the Jordanian pilot if she was not released (see Jihadology.net for message 1, 24 January, not public; message 2, 27 January, public, and the last message, 28 January 2015). The two unclear elements are first the starting of negotiations when it was certain they would lead nowhere, all the more so that the pilot had been killed weeks before, and second the near certain condemnation to death of the person named for the (most probably) sham exchange.
The Islamic State could have probed the resolve of the Japanese and Jordanian governments, hoping for their naivety. Had they succeeded then they would have had both one of their elements released and second would still have broadcast the death of the hostages, which would have generated even more outrage, while, from the point of view of the Islamic State showing the other governments as very weak. The failure of the negotiations was dooming the already condemned prisoner to death, which once more shows that life has no value for the Islamic State.
The Islamic State could also have wished to show its control over other governments, forcing them to negotiate, discuss with them and discuss among themselves. They may also have hoped to sow discord within the coalition.
Maybe the mistake is to try to find a complete rational logic, as one of the major aims of the Islamic State may actually be no other than creating confusion and shock, which are conducive conditions for errors and mistakes. As underlined by Khalil al-Anani (Ibid.), the real way forward to understand the Islamic State’s appeal, aims and thus actions would be by thinking about and putting emotions first.
Economy – As underlined above, the part showdown part jaw boning exchanges between the new Greek government, the EU and their financial authorities and the EU member states dominated this section. Journalists and analysts seem to tend to want to downplay the risks to the euro and the EU, anyway “betting” on the fact that Syriza will finally give up on its announced objectives.
However the new Greek government, if it does not want to get out of Europe, also wants to promote another vision of finance, economy and Europe. We are faced, here too, with a kind of “fog of war” where it is difficult to foresee the issue of something that very much looks like a poker game. The factors that might tip the balance in favour of Syriza is that Greece has much less to lose than the rests of the players, having already suffered so much. Furthermore, Greek pride was more than wounded, which may more than steel the Greek government’s resolve. Finally, at the first (individual) level of analysis, neither Prime Minister Tsipras nor Finance Minister Varoufakis are part of the usual “European political establishment”, nor of Walter Russell Mead’s “Davoisie” (see “Why an anti-Russian “Western” Foreign Policy?).
Energy and environment security – Dr Daum underlines that “in the Arctic, oil exploration and development companies are having a mixed response to the falling price of oil and other economic uncertainties. Chevron announced it was withdrawing plans for offshore oil exploration in the Beaufort, citing economic uncertainty in the industry. Royal Dutch Shell, on the other hand, is reviving its plans to drill in the Arctic while taking a prudent approach and being careful not to over-react to the recent fall in oil prices. How will climate change impact the future of oil exploration and development in the Arctic? Discover magazine had an article about The Arctic Futures Conference, in which they concluded that there was a large gulf between the scientific discussion and the priorities of even relatively enlightened politicians and industry executives.
Meanwhile, researchers have found alarming numbers of tiny strands of plastic in Lake Michigan in the US, raising concerns about a previously unknown form of pollution that scientists fear poses risks to people and wildlife by spreading toxic chemicals and disease-causing bacteria. Finally, another study reported that more than a third of all of the food that is produced on our planet never reaches a table and how reducing food waste could ease climate change.”
Ebola – According to the WHO latest situation report, we now have a total of 22460 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of EVD and 8966 deaths … reported up to the end of 1 February 2014.”
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