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At War against the Islamic State – From Syria to the Region

Between 29 September and 21 October 2015, the U.S. led coalition conducted 95 airstrikes on Syrian territory against the Islamic State (U.S. Central Command, Operation Inherent Resolve, briefing 22 Oct 2015). On 27 October, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. would step up its campaign against the Islamic State with the “‘three R’s’ – Raqqa, Ramadi, and Raids”, involving notably ramping up U.S. and coalition air strikes as well as “direct action on the ground” – the “Raids”  (“Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opening statement on counter-ISIL Senate Armed Services Committee”, October 27, 2015), anticipating the announcement of  the deployment of a very small special force on the ground in Northern Syria (Reuters, 31 Oct 2015).  As a […]

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Tempobs – Saudi Arabia and Iran, towards War or Cooperation?

Considering the beginning of Russian airstrikes in Syria, and, notably, the increased risk to see it perceived as fanning an already difficult situation in terms of sectarian, Shi’a versus Sunni, tension (Helene Lavoix, “Russia at War with the Islamic State in Syria – Perceptions of Strikes“, RTAS,  12 Oct 2015), understanding and foreseeing the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia has become crucially important. Indeed, it could very well be that, fundamentally, without appeasing completely this sectarian tension it will be impossible to end the war spreading in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. It is within this framework that is now located our new project to enhance strategic foresight and warning, risk, or more broadly anticipatory analysis’ handling of time-related issues. As explained previously, we […]

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Russia at War with the Islamic State in Syria – Perceptions of Strikes

On 30 September 2015, the Russian Federation overtly entered militarily the Syrian war by starting an air campaign. It supports the government of Bashar al-Assad, from the Russian point of view the legitimate ruler of Syria, while attacking extremist jihadis threats and notably the Islamic State (see below for references). The entry of this new powerful actor is a game changer, not only in Syria, but, more broadly, regionally and globally, as noted by most observers. Although it is very early to assess fully the consequences of Russia’s involvement, we shall identify and outline hypotheses regarding the impact it may have, notably as far as the Islamic State is concerned. To be able to evaluate this impact, we would need first to have a clear vision of what […]

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Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Money, Wealth and Taxes

As we evaluate the Islamic State’s ability to create a real and sustainable polity, we examined previously the overall structure of the Khilafah with its wilayat system (“Structure and Wilayat“), the top ruling authorities and related legitimacy (“The Calif and Legitimacy“), and the monopoly of the legitimate means of violence, i.e. military, security and police (“Means of Violence“). Continuing using Weber’s classical principles of what a state is (1919), we shall now turn to the capacity of the Khilafah to extract resources. Indeed, as the recurrent problem of public budget deficits and currently of the Greek crisis, permanently reminds us, no state may survive long without an ability to get resources or income that are necessary to carry out its mission, notably in terms of security. In other […]

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Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Means of Violence

As we seek to assess the Islamic State’s ability to create a real and sustainable polity, meanwhile understanding it better, we first focused on the overall structure of the Islamic State and its Khilafah, which can usefully be seen as a wilayat system. Then, we started analysing the top leadership constituted by the Calif (Khalif, Khalifa), the Shura Council and the Sharia Council, what these institutions mean and entail in terms of legitimacy. Here, after having rapidly explained our methodology, using Max Weber’s (1919) classical distinction, we shall focus on the monopoly of the legitimate means of violence, i.e. military, security and police. With the next post, we shall deal with the extraction of resources as well as with all the other administrative agencies. Of course, legitimacy […]

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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’ Threat; Attracting 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 […]

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China, Israel, and the New Silk Road

In April 2014, the Israeli President and historic figure Shimon Peres led a three days state visit in China, in order to bolster the growing relationship between the two countries (Shannon Tiezzi, “As China Turns Toward Middle East, China and Israel Seek Closer Ties“, The Diplomat, April 09, 2014). It is interesting to note that the discussions were mainly focused on agriculture, natural resources, environmental protection, education and healthcare. Since then, other talks have been held about defense cooperation (Mercy A. Kuo and Angelica O. Tang, “The U.S.-China-Israel Defense Dynamic: Strategic Common Ground”, The Diplomat, May 11, 2015). Beijing has even proposed its mediation in the Israel-Palestine conflict (Shannon Tiezzi, “China appoints new special envoy to the Middle east”, The Diplomat, September […]

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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 […]

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 […]

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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 […]

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