Tag Archives: Islamic state

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 23 February 2017

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 23 February 2017 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 usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising 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: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 16 February 2017

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 16 February 2017 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 usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising 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: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 9 February 2017

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 9 February 2017 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 usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising 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: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Psychological Impact of the Islamic State Terrorist Attacks – Geopolitics, Uncertainties and Business (6)

This article is part of a series seeking to identify the impacts of the current and most probably forthcoming Islamic State and jihadist terrorist attacks and focuses on major socio-psychological consequences. It follows a first article, which started outlining a framework for impact assessment out of our current understanding of the economic consequences of terrorism, which notably pointed out the need to use mapping as methodology if the complex and cascading characters of these impacts are to be properly assessed. The larger aim of the series is notably to understand if businesses should or not neglect these aggressions and related geopolitical uncertainties, while finding out ways to foresee these risks so as to best design answers (see Helene Lavoix, “Businesses and Geopolitics: Caught up in the Whirlwinds? (1)”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 17 Oct 2016)

To find out which could be the psychological impacts of the ongoing string of terrorist attacks, we shall use articles related to 9/11 as well as studies following the second Intifada, which took place in Israel from the end of September 2000 until the beginning of 2005 and was waged by “Palestinian terrorism on Israeli society” (Dov Waxman, “Living with terror, not Living in Terror: The Impact of Chronic Terrorism on Israeli Society“, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 5, No 5-6 (2011). Each case will bring insights in what we could expect in terms of current and future socio-psychological impacts, although differences with the contemporary and forthcoming Islamic State’s and jihadist attacks should not be understated. Notably, 9/11 was a huge shock and a very large and spectacular multiple attack, but happened only once and only to one country. The Second Intifada, although targeting too a single country, taking place on a much smaller territory and aiming at a smaller population, compared with the current and probably near-future situation, should give us an insight into the consequences of attacks repeatedly waged over time and carried out in very various ways when, as outlined by Waxman, “once innocuous items (drinks, shoes, backpacks) can become the means of deadly attacks”.

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We shall first explain the disconnection existing between direct exposure to the attack, objective threat and socio-psychological impacts, i.e. how people are impacted psychologically even though they are not in the immediate vicinity of the attack and how this phenomenon takes place. This will allow us better envisioning who can be impacted. We shall then turn to the more individual harmful psychological consequences of terror attacks, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to depression and insomnia and their impacts on businesses through impaired professional life. This will notably allow us pointing out that a crucial stakeholder for the corporate sector in terms of considering the Islamic State’s and Jihadist terrorist attacks and thus related geopolitical uncertainties is the department of human resources, which must thus be primarily involved, besides other more obvious departments such as security, risks, or sales, marketing, operations and finance. Staff in charge of exports and supplies must also become involved as the companies with whom they are dealing could be impacted by terrorist attacks. Finally, we shall turn to socio-psychological consequences with collective impacts, which have various effects on companies and de facto societies and countries, from avoidance (not doing something anymore, e.g. flying, traveling by train, visiting some countries, investing in some sectors and countries, etc.) to the rise of collectively aggressive behaviour.

Disconnection between exposure, objective threat and socio-psychological impacts

The first crucial element to consider if one is to understand and take into account properly the socio-psychological impacts of terrorist attacks is the disconnection existing between personal direct exposure, objective threat and happenstance of effects.

This disconnection has been observed again and again according to research. Silver, Holman, et al. show, in the context of the consequences of 9/11, that “the psychological effects of a major national trauma are not limited to those who experience it directly, and the degree of response is not predicted simply by objective measures of exposure to or loss from the trauma” (“Nationwide Longitudinal Study of Psychological Responses to September 11“. JAMA. 2002;288(10)). This was confirmed by Bleich, Gelkopf and Solomon, in the framework of the second Intifada, as they found “no association between symptom criteria for PTSD,…  number or intensity of TSR symptoms or any of the other indicators of distress”, and level of exposure to terrorist attacks (“Exposure to Terrorism, Stress-Related Mental Health Symptoms, and Coping Behaviors Among a Nationally Representative Sample in Israel“, JAMA. 2003;290(5): 619). Gigerenzer, similarly, in his study on dread risk and avoidance (see below) notably after 9/11, show that more people chose to drive rather than fly after the attack, even though those people had not been directly exposed (“Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire: Behavioral Reactions to Terrorist Attacks“, Risk Analysis,  Vol. 26, No. 2, 2006).

Furthermore, Bleich et al. (Ibid.) found “no significant association … between objective threat (high vs low residency risk, urban vs nonurban, Jewish vs Arab Israeli), exposure and future orientation, or sense of personal safety,” apart from association that could be found only in the case of fear for friends and family. The only demographic indicator that could be identified as having an effect on the happenstance of psychological symptoms was that women were more susceptible (5.5 times more likely for Israeli women) to develop PTSD and TSR symptoms and to experience feelings of depression (Ibid.), which, of course, does not imply that men do not develop these symptoms. This means also that neither the level of education nor age, nor social class etc. have an effect on the development of psycho-social impacts after a terrorist attacks, but, on the contrary that everyone is affected.

The explanation that is most often given for these disconnections is first that people are actually exposed to the attacks through media coverage (e.g. Vaxman; Daniel Antonius, “When fear is a weapon: how terror attacks influence mental health“, The Conversation, 5 Dec 2015, updated March 23, 2016;  Schlenger et al., “Psychological reactions to terrorist attacks: findings from the National Study of Americans’ Reactions to September 11.“, JAMA. 2002 Aug 7;288(5):581-8); for a review up to 2007, Marshall et al. “The psychology of ongoing threat: relative risk appraisal, the September 11 attacks, and terrorism-related fears“, Am Psychol. 2007 May-Jun;62(4). This does not mean that media should not provide coverage of the attacks, on the contrary, or, to anticipate on what is explained below, the factor of “unknowability” which mediates our distorted appraisal of risk would be heightened.

As far as the current Islamic State’s and other jihadist attacks are concerned, the rising spread not only of media access and exposure but also of direct access to witnesses’ videos, pictures and accounts through social networks, from Twitter to Facebook, through Instagram and YouTube may only heighten this characteristics of the socio-psychological effects of terrorist attacks.

Once people are exposed to attacks through media, individuals would interpret the information received through what Marshall et al. (ibid.) suggest to call “relative risk appraisal”,  a “multidimensional process that mediates the relation between environmental events and the individual’s meaningful appraisal of them.” Interestingly, we may note that individuals, when they evaluate the terrorist risk they face (ibid.) are prey to exactly the same biases as analysts trying to foresee future events (see online course, module 2).

As explained by Marshall et al. (Ibid.), this appraisal process is notably influenced by three elements, as identified by Slovic (“Perception of Risk”, Science, 1987 Apr 17;  236(4799), and Slovic P, MacGregor D, Kraus NN, “Perception of risk from automobile safety defects”, Accid Anal Prev. 1987 Oct; 19(5)). First, we have the “catastrophic, uncontrollable, and inequitable” aspect of danger, called “dread risk”. Second we have the unknowable character of the hazard, notably in terms of timing (when waiting for a plane, at a cafe, in a restaurant, when shopping, when commuting, any time and any place actually), and specificities (a suicide bomber, a knife stabbing, a lorry ramming a crowd, etc.). Finally, these characteristics must have “signal potential”, i.e. they must be interpreted as a warning of an existing danger, “which has entered the environment” (Slovic et al., 1987, ibid.).

As far as the Islamic State and other jihadist attacks are concerned, we definitely find the characteristics of uncontrollable as well as inequitable dangers, while the catastrophic element is sometimes present in terms of scope, as with the Bataclan, Stade de France and restaurants attacks in November 2015 in Paris, and often emphasised in repeated signal potentials, such as, for example, references to nuclear risk in Belgium (Debra Decker, “ISIL’s next Belgian target could be a nuclear plant“, USA Today, 24 March 2016), or regular mention of the potential use of Weapons of Massive Destructions (WMD) by the Islamic State (e.g. Associated Press, “Chemical weapons found in Mosul in Isis lab, say Iraqi forces“, The Guardian, 29 Jan 2017;  Rob Merrick, “Isis wants to carry out a chemical weapons attack in Britain, the national security minister warns“, The Independent, 1 Jan 2017).

Similarly the wide variety of modus operandi for the attacks, the inherent element of surprise found in terrorist attacks, added to the stress put by politicians, governments’ and states’ officials on the impossibility of zero risk, show that Slovic second factor is also present in the current string of attacks. Furthermore, the rising suspicion against the ruling establishment (as evidenced by President Trump election in the U.S., or shown by the degrading OECD index of “trust in government, with only 40% citizens continuing to trust their government in 2016), the willingness of governments and media to sometimes hide the terrorist character of attacks by initially favouring explanations in terms of psychiatric unbalance (e.g. Mark Mazzetti and Erik Schmitt, “In the Age of ISIS, Who’s a Terrorist, and Who’s Simply Deranged?“, The New York Times, 17 July 2016) may only heighten the feeling of “unknowability” of the population, while the signal potential has not been lowered. Finally, the signal potential may only remain as long as the Islamic State’s and Jihadist threat exist.

As a result, we may expect the disconnect to take place currently and in the near future, potentially leading to an even more distorted relative risk appraisal compared with previous episodes of attacks, considering current specificities.

The disconnection and the way it is taking place through relative risk appraisal process not only allows for the occurrence of pathological symptoms within individuals, but also favours harmful behaviour at collective or aggregate level (Marshall et al., ibid.). It is first to these different pathological symptoms in individuals  we shall now turn.

Harmful individual socio-psychological impacts: from PTSD to lower work quality and burnout

Acute Stress Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Stress-Related Symptoms

Without entering into the clinical details, best left to Medical Doctors, these disorders are now gathered in a single category, “Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders“, and are the most painful and incapacitating range of symptoms that an individual may experience after a terrorist attack.

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) usually appears immediately after the trauma and may last from 3 days to 1 months, while the others last for more than a month (MSD Manual).

A precise model of estimation would be necessary here, but without it, we can at least obtain a rough estimate of the number of people who are potentially concerned by these disorders out of previous instances. In the case of the second Intifada, Bleich et al. (Ibid.) report that 76.7% people suffered from at least one Traumatic Stress- Related (TSR) symptom, 9.4% suffered of PTSD and 1 person from ASD.

In the case of 9/11, two months after the attack, “the prevalence of probable PTSD was 11.2% in the greater New York area and 4.3% across the United States as a whole” (Marshall et al.). Note the difference of results between the U.S. and Israel in terms of exposure. It could stem from numerous variations, such as size of country and would justify further research. Indeed, understanding the various variables leading to variations would be crucial to better estimates for the case of the attacks at hand: for example we could test the hypothesis that the further away not only in geographical terms and exposure but also feeling of “imagined community”, to borrow from Benedict Anderson, the least likely the relative risk appraisal would operate to favour the happenstance of TSR disorders (TSRD) (Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and. Spread of Nationalism, 1983, 1991, 2006).

The number of people suffering of these disorders drops after 6 months but does not disappear. Studies found that 6 months after 9/11, between 3.4% and 5.8% of people indirectly exposed through media experienced PTSD symptoms (Ibid.). In the New York area, the six-month prevalence of PTSD in the directly affected subgroup of New-Yorkers was 12.0% … and in the indirectly affected group, 3.7% (Ibid.). Always in New York, one year after the attack 4.2 % people had PTSD and the following year this number fell to 3.3%(Joseph A. Boscarino, Richard E. Adams, and Charles R. Figley, “Worker Productivity and Outpatient Service Use After the September 11th Attacks: Results From the New York City Terrorism Outcome Study“, Am J Ind Med. 2006 August ; 49(8).

The repetition of attacks, although potentially allowing for desensitisation (Bleich et al., Ibid.), also obviously multiplies the number of people who can suffer from TSR disorders, thus spreading over time adverse consequences within the very fabric of everyday life of a society.

Operations within businesses may be impacted inasmuch as the staff is psychologically hurt, which can virtually hit almost anyone, with various consequences according to whom develops TSRD and to the size of the company: a small company with, for example 10 employees, which sees one crucial member of its staff suffering of PTSD may see its overall activity more hurt than a very large company employing thousands of people, when someone can more easily be replaced.

The findings from Israel regarding less severe “suffering of one symptom of TSR” let us expect that three quarters of the population may be impacted (Bleich et al.) Thus,  pretty much all companies will have to deal with negative symptoms and, as a result, impacts on operations. The impact of the psychological trauma is not only limited  to the few months following the attacks, but could last much longer, as seen. For example, Boscarino et al. document a loss of productivity (measured through work loss and lower work quality), especially through lower work quality stemming from PTSD, notably during the second year following 9/11.

Human Resources Offices and related services should thus pay a particular attention to the potential for terrorist attacks as stemming from related geopolitical uncertainties. Meanwhile clients and suppliers may also be impacted, and this should be kept in mind by all staff dealing with them.

Depression and impaired productivity

Depression is another symptom that has been observed following terrorist attacks.

For New York residents, a study found that 11% of workers had depression during the first year following 9/11 and 10% during the second year. Depression was found as a major cause of work loss and lower work quality during the first year following 9/11, mitigated by self-esteem (Boscarino et al., Ibid).

In the case of the second Intifada, Bleich et al. (Ibid.) find that “58.6% [of respondents] reported feeling depressed or gloomy and 28% that they felt “very” depressed or gloomy.” Yet, the authors also point out that “the majority of participants (82.2% [421/512]) stated that they felt optimistic about their personal future and 66.2% (337/509) that they felt optimistic about the future of Israel.” We thus are presented with strange results, as one of the characteristics of depression is “pessimistic thoughts” (DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder – MDD). Further research would be needed to investigate this phenomenon, all the more so that it is used to outline the resilience of society (e.g. Vaxman, Ibid.).

Considering the impact on work quality, again, human resources offices, as well as those staff dealing with clients and suppliers which may be likewise, impacted should pay attention to terrorist attacks and to uncertainties leading to them.

From Insomnia to Burn-out

Also working on the Second Intifada, researchers found out that fear of terrorist attacks heightened the probability to develop insomnia two years after the attacks. In turn, the tiredness generated by insomnia led to heightened odds to see the impacted people experiencing job burnout “two years after insomnia increased” (Sharon Toker, Gregory A. Laurence and Yitzhak Fried, “Fear of terror and increased job burnout over time: Examining the mediating role of insomnia and the moderating role of work support“, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Volume 36, Issue 2, pages 272–291, February 2015; George Watson, “Fear of terrorism hastens path to burnout for Israeli workers“,  Texas Tech University, 19 Feb 2015).

Note that insomnia may be part of PTSD and TSRD, as well as of depression (see MSD Manual and DSM-IV Criteria). It may also be experienced without PTSD, TSRD or depression.

As previously, human resources offices, and staff dealing with clients and suppliers, are most concerned here. Interestingly, Toker et al. study also points out that co-workers’ support but not management concern had a mitigating impact and suggests that the creation of a work environment conducive to this adequate support could be key (Ibid.). Assuming the current campaign of terrorist attacks continues, as the December 2016 attack in Berlin or the February 2017 Louvre attack in Paris (e.g. The Telegraph) indicate, we are thus faced here with the possibility to have to fundamentally re-design work spaces and possibilities for employees relations, assuming companies do not want to see their operations impacted because of adverse consequences of terrorism on staff, including management and senior executives.

Socio-psychological symptoms with negative collective impacts:  avoidance and aggressive behaviour

Impaired sense of safety and avoidance

People living in societies victims of terrorist attacks tend to experience an impaired sense of safety, which lasts for a relatively long time. In the 2002 survey in Israel, 60.4% people feared for their own safety and 67.9% for the lives of family and friends (Bleich et al, Ibid).  After 9/11 in the U.S. we find a similar impact: six months after the attack 40 to 50% of Americans “feared for their safety and that of family members” (Marshall et al.). One year after the attack, in New York, up to 73% people feared for their own safety and 75% for the lives of family and friends (Ibid.).

As fear for safety leads, besides notably the fear to relive painful memories, to avoidance behaviour (Marshall et al.), this psychological impact is particularly important.

Avoidance behaviour, which is not always considered as pathological, means that affected people will avoid places and situations where they feel their life can be threatened, considering the previous terrorist attacks. For example, after 9/11 people avoided flying:  airlines’ passenger traffic in the U.S. dropped by 20% for September to December 2001 (Marshall et al.; Gigerenzer). This avoidance led to an increase in driving at least for the next three months and, also, unfortunately to more death out of car crashes (Gigerenzer, Ibid; Ropeik D, “The consequences of fear“, EMBO Reports, 2004 Oct; Spec No 5). After the March 2004 Madrid attacks, for the two following months, people in Spain reduced train travel, however less significantly, and there no increase in driving-related death was observed (Gigerenzer; López-Rousseau, “Avoiding the death risk of avoiding a dread risk: the aftermath of March 11 in Spain“, Psychol Sci. 2005 Jun;16(6) ).

For the current string of attacks, a similar avoidance phenomenon seems to be observable in Paris, although comprehensive and detailed studies focusing on avoidance for these attacks are not (yet) available: following directly the November 2015 attacks, cafés and restaurants saw a drop in attendance of 44% and 58% respectively, while hotels saw their occupancy rate lowered by 51% (Sondage Synhorcat auprès des adhérents, 20 novembre 2015 in “Rapport au Premier Ministre sur la Destination France après les Attentats“,  Rapporteur M. Sharon Elbaz, Prime Minister Office, Sept 2016: 25). Avoidance continued, although less starkly, in the following months (Ibid, p.26-31)*. The attack in Nice and St Etienne de Rouvray in July 2016, again led to touristic avoidance not only in the Cote d’Azur (region of Nice) but attendance and occupancy rate remain bad in Paris, at least until September. At the end of the first semester 2016, the number of tourist in France had fallen by 7% since january 2016 (Ibid.). The sector of tourism for the region Ile de France (region around Paris) lost 1 bn euros for the first semester. We may note here that the recurrence of attacks appears to lead to a much longer avoidance compared with flight avoidance and 9/11.

Considering the very direct impact of this specific psychological consequence on business operations, it seems obvious that the corporate sector should definitely consider terrorist attacks and the geopolitical uncertainties from which they stem. As attacks are varied in their modus operandi, the way forward would be to start wondering where and how the activity of a company could become victim of terrorist attacks, considering understanding and knowledge available on the perpetrators, i.e. in our case the Islamic State and other similar Jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda. Contingency plans to face and mitigate avoidance could then be developed peacefully in advance and only activated if the threat materializes. Planning in advance would be even more important in the case of terrorist attacks that CEOs, managers and staff being human beings, they are as susceptible as others to be hit by the various psychological symptoms following terrorist attacks, which may then not be very conducive to think peacefully and strategically. Furthermore, in such dire circumstances, having a plan ready could contribute to a much-needed safety feeling for staff and management.

Rise of aggressive behaviour

Finally, research on the socio-psychological consequences of terrorist attacks points out a probably less known but as important impact: “the impulse to respond aggressively” (Marshall et al., Ibid.) going hand in hand with a “sense of victimhood” (Vaxman, Ibid.)

As a result, at least three interactive collective consequences may be observed.

First, in the case of Israel, a “brutalization of interpersonal relations” was observed through the proxy of school violence and proliferation of firearms (Simha Landau, “Societal Costs of Political Violence: The Israeli Experience“, Palestine-Israel Journal 10, no. 1 (2003); Vaxman, Ibid.).

Second, and relatedly, “violent crime (homicide and robbery) and property crime” increased in a way that is found related to the stress generated by terrorism, as well as to potentially increased hardship as generated by the impact on the economy: between 2000 and 2001 in Israel, criminal homicides increased by 28% and robberies by 11%(Simha Landau, Ibid.; Vaxman, Ibid.).

Finally, it has been showed that terrorism leads to a “hardening of  attitudes” against the group responsible, or perceived as such,  for the terrorist attacks (Nehemia Friedland and Ariel Merari, “The Psychological Impact of Terrorism: A Double-Edged Sword“, Political Psychology, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Dec., 1985). Indeed, as explained by Vaxman, “terrorist attacks increase negative beliefs about and hostile attitudes toward the opposing group the terrorists claim to represent” (Daniel Bar-Tal and Daniela Labin, “The Effect of a Major Event on Stereotyping: Terrorist Attacks in Israel and Israeli Adolescents’ Perceptions of Palestinians, Jordanians and Arabs,” European Journal of Social Psychology 31, no. 3 (2001); Vaxman, Ibid.). This, added to the rising aggression and thus societal brutalisation, as well as to the feeling of “victimhood”, may only lead to a rise in hate crimes, as was also observed in the case of 9/11 (Marshall et al., ibid.).

As far as 9/11 was concerned, the increase in hate crimes seemed to have mainly occurred within 10 days following the attack (Ibid.), which corresponds to the impulsive aggressive reaction. However, in cases where attacks are repeated, then the impulsive reaction might be transformed into the more pervasive brutalization pointed out by Landau (Ibid.).

As a result, we may wonder if the Islamic State’s and other jihadists’ string of attacks does not participate in the contemporary rising polarization of society, which is observable notably throughout the Western world, as is evidenced by the brutality at work during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and its aftermath, as well as by the extreme reactions of the media and of the losing side after Mr Trump came President, as again shown by the very controversial cover page of the German magazine Der Spiegel on 4 Feb 2017 (BBC News, “Der Spiegel: Trump beheading cover sparks criticism“, 4 Feb 2017). It is most probably not the only cause, as explained in Lessons from and for the Brexit – Geopolitics, Uncertainties, and Business (2) (Helene Lavoix, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, 22 Nov 2016),  but it cannot either be ruled out that it does not play a part. Feelings of victimization and its corollary of sentiments of entitlement and self-righteousness added to brutalization of societies are certainly not conducive to composed and wise democracies.

As far as violent crime is concerned, businesses should foresee them and take adequate preventative measures. As for the more general brutalization, this should also be considered in details, according to the activity of each business, while a better understanding of the processes at work and how they can evolve in the future should be promoted before policies are decided. Indeed, it may well be that decisions taken too rapidly or without proper analysis were themselves taken under conditions of “aggressive response and victimhood feeling”. Adequate related lobbying could also be endeavoured.

To conclude, studies on 9/11 and the Second Intifada also point out the resilience** of both the American and Israeli Society to terrorist attacks (e.g. among others, Marshall et al.). In the case of the Second Intifada, resilience suggests that a phenomenon of de-sensitisation could take place when terrorism occurs repeatedly and on a long period (Vaxman, Ibid.; Bleich et al., Ibid.). However, first, this potential  de-sensitisation does not consider the brutalization pointed out by Landau (Ibid.). Further research would thus be needed.

Second, since 2001 for 9/11 and 2000-2005 for the second Intifada, eleven years have gone by.  The world and the international system, as well as all the countries targeted and threatened by the Islamic State’s and other jihadists’ terrorist attacks are caught in the unsettling times of transition.  To this should be added the variety of targeted countries in the case of the current and potentially near future attacks, with different societies, values and belief-systems, political systems and interests, compared with past attacks on single countries, heterogeneous yet each being unified by values and beliefs. Thus, the very resilience that was displayed then should not be taken for granted now, but on the contrary cautiously checked. Targeted societies may be now and in the near future more or less resilient to the attacks, terrorism becoming then one of the causes that contribute to the transitional changes, besides potentially feeding polarization as pointed out above. The possible absence or lowered resilience of the victim societies, in turn, would heighten the importance of the socio-psychological impacts of terrorism on society as a whole, as well as, de facto, on its actors, making it even more important to foresee them and to feel concerned by the issue.

*Note that the report to the French Prime Minister does not consider the psychological aspect of avoidance and thus does not take into consideration corresponding measures that could have also been designed to face this specific impact.

**We use here the definition of resilience given by B. Walker, C.S. Holling, S. R. Carpenter, A. Kinzig Resilience, 2004, “Adaptability and Transformability in Social–ecological Systems,” Ecology and Society, 9(2): 5: “The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.” Note that the choice of the definition will greatly influence what may be seen or not as a resilient behaviour to terrorism.

Featured image: Battling PTSD, Marines, May 24, 2010, United States government work, Public Domain.

About the author: Dr 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.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 2 February 2017

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 2 February 2017 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 usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising 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: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 19 January 2017

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 19 January 2017 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 usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising 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: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Impact of the Islamic State Terrorist Attacks – Geopolitics, Uncertainties and Business (5)

Since the Islamic State declared a Khilafah on 29 June 2014, it carried out, worldwide, 6 attacks or series of attacks in 2014, which killed 2 and wounded 12 people, 23 in 2015, which killed 1020 and wounded more than 2171, 36 in 2016, which killed more than 1455 and wounded more than 3505 and so far 3 in 2017, which killed more than 109 and wounded more than 169 people, assuming all attacks are known and referenced as such (WikipediaList of terrorist incidents linked to ISIL“). As a whole, we thus faced 68 attacks, during which more than 2586 people lost their lives and more than 5857 were injured.

Prospects for the near future look no less grim as reminded by Europol as far as Europe is concerned in its report Changes in Modus Operandi of IS revisited (2 Dec 2016 – main points here). Indeed, a weakening if the terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Berlin attackIslamic State in Syria and Iraq is most likely to imply a heightening of terror attacks elsewhere (Europol, Ibid.), as we warned here repeatedly considering the global character of the so-called Khilafah of the Islamic State (see Helene Lavoix “At War against the Islamic State – A Global Theatre of War“, 23 Nov 2015 and following articles, The Red (Team) Analysis Society).  Furthermore, Europol also points out that the weakening of the Islamic State may see a strengthening of its competitors such as Al Qaeda, which are also likely to carry out terror attacks (Changes in Modus Operandi…, Ibid.). This forward looking assessment would be reinforced by one of the latest declaration of Al-Qaeda’s leader al-Zawahiri stressing “the call to our nation and the mujahedeen to raise the jihad against the current idol, and its allies as their priority as long as they can make it” (Sheikh Ayman Al-Zawahiri, “Brief messages to a victorious nation; Part 5: Letter to our nation. For Allah we will not kneel”, 5 Jan 2017 – message and translation shared by Expect Consulting, specialist on jihadist groups, notably in Africa, in the Red (Team) Analysis partner network).

Intuitively, we would expect such numerous attacks, notably by a single (if distributed over territory) player trying to achieve a terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Bangladesh, Dhakasingle aim, a Khilafah, to have a deep and wide impact not only on states and societies as a whole, but also on one of their actors, businesses.

This impact would stem from the specific character of terror, which aims at causing not only bodily harm while targeting civilians or non-combatants, as suggested by the 2004 description of terrorism of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change of the Secretary-General of the United Nations (U.N., A more Secure World, par. 164, p.52), but also to disrupt the system perceived as enemy (see, for example, for the plethora of official definitions, “Definition of Terrorism by Country in OECD Countries“).

Yet, terrorist attacks only made it to the top five risks of the “Global Risks Perception Survey” of the Global Risk Report 2017 (World Economic Forum) in Autumn 2016*, and only for large-scale attacks (see also report pdf, p.68). Similarly, the terrorist threat is mentioned neither in the May 2017 survey “Geostrategic risks on the rise (Drew Erdmann; Ezra Greenberg; and Ryan Harper, McKinsey & Company, 2016) nor in the latest “McKinsey global survey” (December 2016) regarding potential risks to businesses, even though we may surmise it is implicitly part of “geopolitical risks”.

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Does that mean that businesses do not care about terrorist attacks, beyond, of course, humanitarian concern? Should the corporate sector, whatever the size of the businesses involved, pay more attention to these geopolitical threats or, on the contrary, neglect them as not likely enough or not impactful enough to deserve consideration? Should only some sectors feel concerned, such as obviously tourism? But in that case, which are these sectors and what could be the depth and scope of impacts? These are the questions that this article and the following ones intend to address.

We shall start with seeking to identify the impacts of terrorist attacks, because being able to estimate the full range of potential impacts for uncertainties is a fundamental necessary condition if we are to do a useful thus actionable strategic foresight and warning. Starting with older studies on the economic impact of 9/11, we shall use them to single out potential types of impacts, while beginning to bring in elements of comparison with the current string of attacks. Indeed, 9/11, considering the very characteristics of the attack and the shock it created, may not easily compare with the current Islamic State’s attacks, which are globally distributed but with some countries being more hit than others (when furthermore each country has its own specificities and conditions in terms of stability), which occur over a relatively long time-span and display wide-ranging types of modus operandi, from the murder by stabbing of policemen to killing people in festive gathering by ploughing the crowd with lorries through mass shootings or more classical bombings.

We shall notably point out that the use of confidence indices may not be adapted to the current attacks and to those which are likely to happen in the near future. We shall also outline that states’ policies and answers, thus feedbacks, must fully be integrated in any such impact assessment, thus demanding  an adapted approach. This initial assessment will give us a general framework that we shall refine and further explore with the next articles.

Immediate, short-term and direct impacts

The OECD in its 2002 study (Patrick Lenain, Marcos Bonturi and Vincent Koen, “The Economic Consequences Of Terrorism“, Economics Department Working Papers No. 334) adopted a time-bound framework, distinguishing between immediate and short-term consequences on the one hand, and medium-term impacts on the other. A similar framework was used by a March 2005 IMF Working Paper (R. Barry Johnston and Oana M. Nedelescu, “The Impact of Terrorism on Financial Markets“), unsurprisingly as it grounded its work in the 2002 OECD study. There, the short-term effects are seen as direct economic impacts and medium-term effects as indirect.

Immediate impacts include the destruction of life and property, responses to the emergency, restoration of the systems and the terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, 9/11infrastructure affected, and the provision of temporary living assistance (OECD: 6; IMF: 3-4). They were evaluated for 9/11 in 2002 to USD 27.2 billion (Ibid.). This figure is lower than what was assessed by the more recent New York Times assessment (Shan Carter and Amanda Cox, “One 9/11 Tally: $3.3 Trillion“, September 8, 2011), which, using a survey of multiple damage estimates,  gives a figure of USD 55 billion for the immediate toll and physical damage (which does not appear to include restoration of systems).

This shows first that impacts evaluation changes over time and may increase. Thus, for the current series of attacks we shall probably need to wait before a full evaluation is available. Furthermore, the fact that we are facing an ongoing series of attacks multiplies the work needed to obtain an estimate.

The OECD study then identifies that short-term general impacts are loss of confidence, potential instability of financial market and “self-fulfilling depression”. It points out that the shock was truly short-term, and emphasises that the major negative impacts were, in a large part, avoided thanks to proper liquidity management integrating “financial support to any sector or industry … [through] short-term loans or guarantees”, while  only some sectors were truly impacted. We see here emerging a crucial point if we are to properly evaluate impacts of terrorist attacks: we must also consider state policy answers to these attacks, as we shall detail further below.

If we take confidence indices as a first element of measure for impacts, and apply them to the current string of attacks, we would expect to see confidence dipping over the period (mid 2014 until today) or right after each attack. However, none of the most commonly used statistics as provided by the OECD (consumer and business confidence indices, see graphs below), shows in an obvious way such a reaction. As far as consumer indices are concerned, Germany, and Turkey appear as displaying the most obvious downward trends, while Belgium, although appearing to have registered the attacks that hit it on 22 March 2016 (see Wikipedia for a summary), shows for the period following the attack a dip which is less strong than what is displayed for the end of 2016.

terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, consumer index

If we look at the Business Confidence Index for the same countries, the attacks appear to have been even less registered.

terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Business Confidence Index, BCI

Surprisingly, France, which has been one of the worst hit countries by the attacks, shows no major dip in confidence.

terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Business Confidence Index, BCI

When shown on the longer term, for all countries, the periods following terrorist attacks appear to register less loss of confidence than other events, notably the financial crisis.

terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Business Confidence Index, BCI

These curves could thus confirm a lack of corporate interest as well as a disinterest by citizens. We may hypothesise, cautiously at this stage, that a mix of absence of awareness of the threat, including as a result of psyops operations by governments of hit countries, added to the low probability to be hit by an attack contributed to this result. It could also be that the very short-term impact on confidence pointed out by the OECD study is sufficient, furthermore considering the small size of each Islamic State terrorist attack compared with 9/11, to imply that the current string of attacks has no effect on confidence.

However, we should also consider that such indices as confidence may not be suited to measure the real impact of the types of terrorist attacks we are currently facing.

Indeed, assuming that the statistics communicated by each country are trustworthy, it is, first, particularly difficult to attribute a terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Turkey, Istanbulsingle cause to an indicator meant to indicate confidence in general. For example, Turkey knows so many upheavals, that imputing a loss of confidence solely to terrorist attacks would be most probably wrong, even though the multiplication of these attacks participates in the evolution of the Turkish situation. A single statistical measure cannot follow such complex dynamics.

Furthermore, on top of the very short-term effect of attacks on confidence pointed out above, as far as 9/11 was concerned, the attack was much larger than each of the attacks we now face, and can be seen as the first in a long series continuing nowadays, hence the shock and thus the fact it registered on confidence index. As far as the current attacks are concerned, the specific character of the distribution of the attacks, may stop any confidence index to register them. We may however wonder why there is not, to the least, a slow degradation of the confidence overtime.

Let us thus compare the confidence measures to a survey investigating relations to the European Union carried out by RedC and Win Gallop International (25 Nov – 7 Dec 2016), which also asked the question: “In general do you think that things in your country are heading in the right direction or the wrong direction?” To this, 78% of Belgium people, 82% of French people and 62% of German people answered that they thought their country heads in the wrong direction.

This does not sit very well with the confidence expected from the confidence index, unless we should also consider some fatalism at work, including a measure of desperation and feeling of terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Paris, Bataclan, Sidney, Opera House, Australiapowerlessness. Thus, in our case, the terrorist attacks would participate in an overall negative outlook, which is not expressed through purchasing plans for consumers and “assessment of production, orders and stocks” for businesses (the confidence indices), but could be expressed during elections, as we showed in the case of the Brexit for the U.K. (Helene Lavoix, “Lessons from and for the Brexit – Geopolitics, Uncertainties, and Business (2)“, 7 Nov 2016, The Red (Team) Analysis Society). This implies that the impact of terrorist attacks should be seen from a dynamic point of view, through complex and cascading effects, and not through a single aggregate index. For the corporate sector in general, it is these nth order cascading impacts that should be taken into account as highly likely to largely upset the whole framework within which they operate.

The OECD report then points out that a direct negative impact hit airlines and aircraft manufacturers, the insurance sector, tourism-related industries, the upscale retail sector and U.S. postal service, whilst businesses in security and information technology were positively impacted. The negative impacts are constituted by business interruption and business reduction, evaluated by The New York Times for 9/11 to USD 123 billion, notably for airlines, to which should be added other costs such as interests to finance all activities related to the impacts of the attacks (estimated for 9/11 at $185 billion), and social costs (between $300 billion and $400 billion, including immediate damage) (NYT, Ibid, “What’s not shown in this tally?“).

This outlines the importance of the target and of modus operandi of the attack(s) to identify those that will see their operations impacted. We may also point out that little foresight is used by those reacting to terrorist attacks and contributing to business reduction (for example avoidance of some places or activities). Indeed, the highly likely possibility that future attacks may take various forms – as terrorists also follow a learning curve – obviously is not considered in the reaction. This is all the more important in the Islamic State attacks’ case, as we have here a series of diverse attacks and not a single large one. We shall look more in detail to these specific impacts for the current Islamic State – or more generally jihadist attacks –  in the next articles.

Medium term and indirect impacts

According to the OECD report, on the medium term, first, insurance premiums were raised while coverage was lowered.

Second, as transportation systems were disrupted and border controls were tightened, the “just-in-time supply chain management system” was threatened (Ibid. pp.23-27). As pointed out by the terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, Belgium, Zaventem, Germany, Brandenburg, BerlinOECD, a trade-off between security on the one hand, costs on international trade on the other thus appears. Interestingly, the authors stress that terrorism through this cost estimated to 1 to 3 percent ad valorem re-introduces tariffs that globalisation and liberalism strove to abolish (Ibid. p. 25). Seen from the point of view of 2017 and not anymore 2002, after the Arab Spring, which is also a child of globalisation, among other causes (for a review, Ella Moore, “Was the Arab Spring a Regional Response to Globalisation?” July 2012, e-IR students), with the U.S. of President Trump and the post-Brexit U.K. now actively looking for new models of socio-economico-political developments beyond pure liberalism, it might be worth reflecting if thinking in terms of a trade-off between security and international trade is still possible or relevant. As a result, supply-chain management might change or need to be reassessed.

Finally, the OECD underlined that public and “private sector spending [was] likely to be on the rise … to improve the security of premises, employees and information”, with still debated economic consequences, as far as military spending is concerned. The New York Times (Ibid, What’s not shown in this tally?) estimates this cost for 9/11 at “$200 billion in increased state, local and private security spending”, which may also constitute a profit for security companies.

At business level, this last impact will depend first upon the sector of activity. Second it will depend upon the answers designed and implemented by the state hit by terrorist attacks, to which we shall now turn.

Integrating state answers and related impacts

We progressively saw emerging that, in the case of terrorist attacks, it was impossible to neglect answers given at state level as they were having a large impact. This is confirmed in the case of 9/11 by the estimates given by the New York Times (Ibid.):  the overall cost of the 9/11 attacks to the United States ̋for all actors did not only include, as we saw, USD 55 billion for toll and physical damage and USD 123 billion for economic impact (business interruption and business reduction, notably airlines), but also USD 589 billion for homeland security, USD 1649 billion for war, and USD 867 billion for future war and veterans’ care, for an overall cost of USD 3,3 trillion. Hence, the cost of answers is far higher than the rest.

The impacts related to answers are numerous and far-ranging. The OECD report (Ibid: 13-16) pointed out the importance of the management of liquidity in facing the most immediate impacts of terrorist attacks. Further, we had the implementation of border controls impacting the supply chain management, as seen.

We must also consider all the anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism legislations (e.g. for a worldwide list Wikipedia “Anti-terrorism legislation” )terrorism, terrorist attack, Islamic State, scenarios, strategic foresight, warning, geopolitics, uncertainties, political risk, anticipation, sanctions, impact, political impact, forward looking information, forward looking statement, G20, and the compliance measures they entail, which deeply impact business activities, notably in the financial sector. Anti-terrorist financing obligations will then impact all companies and citizens through the regulations banks and financial institutions must follow. Each successful attack is highly likely to prompt legislators to review laws and regulations and possibly to change them, with new consequences added to previous obligations.

Furthermore, and in an even more complex way, if we have, as the New York Times did, to look at supplementary public spending generated by the answer to attacks, and from there deduce an overall cost, which is then born by tax-payers, we cannot limit ourselves to this. For example as far as military spending is concerned, the overall impact will also depend upon the capability of the state – where business operations are based and taxes paid – to ripe dividends from the novel insecurity, not only in showcasing thus selling more arms, which may lower the overall cost of security spending (and even allow for surpluses), but also in acquiring or losing international influence. This may be considered as being the case in terms or arms sales for Russia and its Syrian campaign (e.g. Mansur Mirovalev, “How Russia’s military campaign in Syria is helping Moscow market its weapons“, Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov 2016), while a rising Russian influence in the Middle East is debated (e.g. Joshua Landis, interviewed by John Judis, “America’s Failure — and Russia and Iran’s Success — in Syria’s Cataclysmic Civil War“, 12 January 2017, Syria Comment; Anna Borshchevskaya and Philip Gordon, “Putin’s Middle East Policy: Causes and Consequences“, March 23, 2016, The Washington Institute; Nikolay Kozhanov,Arms Exports Add to Russia’s Tools of Influence in Middle East“, 20 July 2016, Chatham House; Walter Russel Mead, “Russia Re-Emerges as a Great Power in the Middle East“, 12 Sept 2016, The American Interest).

As another example, the ability of the host polity to let emerge through its policies a new and adapted model of socio-political organisation able to win against the aggressor carrying out the terrorist attacks  will also have important consequences on impacts. Indeed, societies that will be able to reorganise themselves, from systems of values and beliefs to political authorities through economic interactions and adequate regulations as seen previously, to win against the enemy carrying out the terrorist attacks, will be stronger, more influent and wealthier and those actors inhabiting them will benefit from these favourable conditions.

To be able to identify precisely and then estimate these multiple impacts, we need to adopt a complex framework, which allows us to address feedbacks and cascading effects. We must be able to include the various impacts identified for previous attacks, yet not become dependent upon frameworks that may have been adapted to these attacks but are unsuited to what we face now and are highly likely to face in the future. Considering the needs, the approach to the evaluation of impacts will most probably be best done through mapping the network of impacts, which will allow us to look at first, second, third and nth order effects and at feedbacks in a multi-disciplinary way, as we practice and recommend (e.g. “Assessing Future Security Threats” series;  online course “From Process to Creating your Analytical Model for Strategic Foresight and Warning, Early Warning, Risk Management and Scenario-building“).

Considering the multiple impacts we have started identifying, it seems obvious that businesses indeed should feel concerned by terrorist attacks. Building upon these initial findings and identification of impacts, with forthcoming articles, we shall turn to more specific cases such as the tourist and transportation industries and wonder if and how strategic foresight and warning, anticipation and risk management may practically help actors and notably businesses in addressing current and future terrorist threats.

*conducted between early September and mid-October 2016 (GRR 2017, p.65)

About the author: Dr 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: Before the start of the G20 summit. A minute of silence to honour the memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. 15 November 2015 – Russian Presidential Press and Information Office – Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 5 January 2017

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 5 January 2017 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 usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising 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: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly – 15 December 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 15 December 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 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: Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies to our own Milky Way galaxy, can be seen as bright smudges in the night sky, in the centre of the photograph. This photograph was produced by European Southern Observatory (ESO), ESO/C. Malin [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 4.1 An Al-Qaida Victory

This article focuses on the first of the scenarios depicting a Salafist victory, where Al-Qaida (AQ) becomes the dominant force on the battlefield, defeats the other actors, then works towards establishing the caliphate. In our previous scenario we detailed the scenario of a nationalist victory where the new government guides Libya towards a secular and nationalist state where Sharia is not a source of governance.

Note: Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for those that supported the nationalist-dominated Council of Representatives (COR) and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note those that supported the General National Congress (GNC) and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafist will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

Click to access larger image

Scenario 4 Salafist Conquest

In this scenario, a “Salafist victory” refers to the cessation of major hostilities resulting from a Salafist group’s military domination of the other actors. Once a Salafist group – either Al-Qaida or the Islamic State – defeats the others, it will be in a position to rebuild Libya as an Islamic State governed by Sharia law.

As the war drags on, the Islamist and nationalist coalitions fragment – thus replacing powerful coalitions on the battlefield with weaker, singular players, or, they become too exhausted to achieve a total military victory; meanwhile, Salafist groups’ strength increase in numbers and capabilities, allowing them to make strategic gains. With the rival governments now significantly weakened, the Salafist groups finally become the dominant military force and achieve a total victory. Having gained the military victory and now having the dominant influence in Libya, the Salafist groups begin rebuilding the country as an Islamic state.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 4 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of exhaustion suffered by the Islamists and nationalists. Heightened levels of exhaustion will decrease the ability of the Islamist and nationalist coalitions to achieve a military victory. Having to simultaneously fight each other, as well as the Islamic State and Al-Qaida may increase exhaustion levels, thus increasing the likelihood of a Salafist conquest.
  2. The level of cohesion of the Islamist and nationalist coalitions. If either of the coalitions begins to lose cohesion, their risk of fragmentation begins to increase. Also affecting their cohesion is the coalitions’ ability to maintain ties with the tribes loyal to them. The fragmentation of one or both coalitions increases the likelihood of this scenario, as the Salafist groups could more easily exploit the situation and defeat weaker, singular factions instead of having to face a large coalition. A past indication occurred when some of the Misratan brigades in the Dawn of Libya coalition pledged support for the unity government and others refused – instead, forming the Steadfast Front (STRATFOR, April 2, 2016).
  3. The willingness of the Islamists and nationalists to unite to defeat the Salafist threat. If the Islamist and nationalist coalitions temporarily unite to defeat a growing Salafist threat, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. Although the coalitions may not cease all hostilities against each other, they may agree to divert more of their forces to focus on a mutual Salafist threat. A past indication occurred when militias from Misrata and Zintan agreed to a truce in order to combat the advance of Islamic State forces (El-Ghobashy and Morajea, The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2015).
  4. The number of jihadists joining the ranks of Salafist groups in Libya. An increase in the number of jihadists crossing into Libya will increase this scenario’s likelihood. If Salafist groups are able to significantly increase their ranks as the Islamist and nationalist coalitions grow weaker, they will begin gaining the upper hand in military capabilities. A past indication occurred when hundreds, if not more than 1,000, Boko Haram fighters joined the Islamic State’s ranks in Libya (Paton, International Business Times, March 5, 2016).
  5. The quality of jihadists fighting in Libya. If Al-Qaida and Islamic State groups in Libya are able to recruit large numbers of experienced Libyan fighters or import experienced jihadists from other countries, the likelihood of this scenario increases. With more experienced fighters, the Salafist groups will pose a larger threat and be more difficult to repel. A past indication occurred when Islamic State leadership sent senior members to Libya (The Soufan Group, March 3, 2016).
  6. The ability of either Al-Qaida or the Islamic State to militarily defeat all other armed actors. If Al-Qaida or the Islamic State is unable to defeat the Islamist and nationalist coalitions, as well as each other, this scenario could not occur. An Al-Qaida victory would require the defeat of the rival coalitions as well as the Islamic State, while an Islamic State victory would require the defeat of the coalitions and Al-Qaida. The ability to achieve a total military victory would largely depend on the above indicators, as well as the level of external support and the current situation of regional conflicts.
  7. The level of Al-Qaida expansion in Africa. If Al-Qaida affiliates in Africa grow in strength and are able to carry out increasingly-successful attacks, Al-Qaida in Libya will likely gain better access to fighters, weapons, and other resources, thus increasing the likelihood of this scenario occurring. Al-Qaida expansion throughout Africa would also benefit AQ in Libya by diverting the focus and counter-terrorism assets from international operations in the region. Past indications of diverting external counter-terrorism assets occurred when the United States deployed military assets to Niger, Cameroon, Central Africa, and Somalia with the purpose of conducting or supporting counter-terrorism efforts (RT, December 5, 2016; Savage, Schmitt, and Mazzetti, The New York Times, November 27, 2016).
  8. The severity of conflicts or threats elsewhere that reduce Libya to a secondary interest. If conflicts or more significant threats arise elsewhere that consume the focus and military resources of external actors – particularly the United States – the international focus on Libya will lessen, thus increasing the likelihood of this scenario.
  9. The severity of the European Union’s core problems that push Libya to the background. This year, the European Union saw failed policies, Brexit, and the beginning of a shift towards populist movements. Now facing what the BBC calls a “looming existential threat” (Mardell, BBC News, December 6, 2016), the EU has had to refocus many of its priorities. If the EU’s existential issues remain severe during an Al-Qaida victory in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases.

Sub-scenario 4.1 An Al-Qaida Victory

With the Islamists and nationalists having significantly weakened the Islamic State in Libya, the stronger Al-Qaida affiliates are able to more easily defeat Islamic State forces. In the aftermath, Islamic State jihadists are either killed while defending their last strongholds, or flee the country.

Considering its opposition to democratic institutions, Al-Qaida uses violence to eliminate political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Construction Party, and uses the threat of force to prevent future political movements from arising. However, once political parties are removed, Al-Qaida turns toward a local form of rule – one where local councils are responsible for governing their own people – overseen by a central AQ organizational structure.

Having learned lessons from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Qaida leadership in Libya turn over the responsibility of everyday governance to local civilian councils. Implementing a grassroots approach to influencing and controlling populations, as well as seeing the strategic mistake made by the Islamic State (declaring a caliphate too soon, taking territory, and aggressive action beyond the Levant – thus prompting massive international intervention), Al-Qaida shuns a strong centralized form of government that the Islamists and nationalists would have utilized, and instead covertly integrates itself into the local councils to garner domestic legitimacy and avoid foreign intervention. This model gives the illusion that Libyans are self-governed by their own local councils instead of Al-Qaida, but of course, Al-Qaida members are embedded within local councils to ensure AQ’s long-term strategy in Libya is carried out.

Propaganda photos by Ansar al-Sharia highlighting its “Department for Public Works”, posted by Michael Horowitz, 28 May 2015

Again, applying lessons from AQAP and AQIM, Al-Qaida focuses on the problems of the local populations while gradually applying selected Sharia principles, instead of forcefully implementing full Sharia law. By assisting with public services and providing charitable acts, Al-Qaida gains the trust and support of Libyans, and make them “sympathize with us and feel that their fate is tied to ours,” as emphasized in an AQAP strategy document (Green, The Washington Institute, December 12, 2013). Through a selective implementation process of Sharia, Al-Qaida tactfully avoids the harshest provisions until the Libyan population is more susceptible to its implementation (note: this process has the potential to exceed our 3-5 year analysis timeline). Once Sharia is close to being fully integrated in Libyan society, the Al-Qaida leadership in Libya begins propagating the country as an Islamic emirate.

Al-Qaida’s organizational structure in Libya is somewhat similar to the Islamic State structure. Based on a comparison of the organizational structures of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Qaida’s organization in Libya has a head leader, a Shura council [consultative body], a military wing, a propaganda wing, and a Sharia council [judiciary body] (Counter Extremism Project, AQAP, AQIS, and AQIM). The Islamic State also has the Caliph [leader], the Shura council, the Sharia council, and the Military council in its central hierarchy (see Dr. Helene Lavoix, “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – The Calif and Legitimacy,” and “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Means of Violence” for detailed analysis of the Islamic State structure). However, Al-Qaida’s governance strategy in Libya is profoundly different from that of the Islamic State. Once they secured the city of Sirte, Islamic State fighters called on residents to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the caliph of the Islamic State, cracked down on forbidden vices, and enforced Sharia law on the population, including severe punishments such as ‘flogging, stoning, amputation, and execution” (Zelin, The Washington Institute, August 6, 2015). Wanting to avoid this strategy and gain the support of the Libyan people, Al-Qaida utilizes a localized governance model with a very gradual implementation of Sharia – all while its leadership directs its will and influence on the population from the background.

To gain influence over the tribes, Al-Qaida members begin marrying into the tribes and recruiting their unemployed youth. Furthermore, the localized system of governance allows the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou to become more autonomous and not have to endure systematic discrimination by a centralized state – an appeal that earns some favor, despite tensions that exist between Libyan tribalism and Salafism (Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War III,” May 11, 2015). To lessen these tensions and avoid drawing attention to incompatibility, Al-Qaida does not overtly attempt to draw the tribes into its long-term strategy for the caliphate. With Al-Qaida’s growing presence in Libya comes an influx of fighters and resources from other countries. Such an influx coming through southern Libya boosts the economic gains for the Tuareg and Toubou, who become dependent on the jihadist-dominated trade routes for money and other support.

Ansar al-Sharia snipers in Benghazi train by shooting at picture targets of General Haftar and Egyptian President el-Sisi, posted by Oded Berkowitz, 16 September 2015

After achieving military victory, the Al-Qaida groups initiate a vengeance campaign against hated political and military figures that have not fled the country, as well as outspoken opponents of Al-Qaida. By eliminating prominent leaders that once opposed Salafist groups during the war, Al-Qaida removes any future possibility of opposed Libyans rallying around one of these leaders in a resurgent insurgency; it also provides a useful propaganda piece to rally Al-Qaida affiliates around the region.

Jihadist recruits training near Benghazi

Victory over the Islamists and nationalists by Libya’s Al-Qaida groups earn the recognition of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, who seeks to integrate them with its regional organization and increases the amount of money, fighters, and weapons flowing into the country. With Libya now under the influence of Al-Qaida, it offers a safe haven for jihadist training camps. This allows Al-Qaida in the Sinai Peninsula (AQSP), AQIM, AQAP and smaller Al-Qaida affiliates in the region to send their fighters to Libya for training. Libya’s vital trade routes also allow Al-Qaida a protected route to transnationally move fighters, arms, and resources with greater ease. A victory in Libya thus allows Al-Qaida to expand its operations across the region with the added benefit of defeating what is left of the Islamic State there.

Unless Al-Qaida begins launching widespread attacks out of Libya, the international community is very hesitant to intervene. Considering Al-Qaida’s new support from the population, the lack of friendly armed factions on the ground, and no desire to commit large amounts of troops, the international community – particularly Western powers – do not wish to get involved in a large-scale occupation. Alternatively, some countries – such as Egypt – see a direct threat from an Al-Qaida-controlled Libya and decide to intervene. However, this would require new scenarios to fully understand their depth.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 4.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of the Islamic State’s strength. The level of Islamic State strength or weakness will impact how long it takes Al-Qaida to dominate the battlefield. If the Islamists and nationalists manage to degrade Islamic State strongholds and capabilities before becoming weak themselves, the likelihood of this scenario increases. A past indication occurred when the Islamist and nationalist coalitions cleared the Islamic State stronghold in Sirte (Amara, Reuters, December 6, 2016).
  2. The ability of Al-Qaida affiliates in Libya to defeat the Islamic State. In order to defeat Islamic State forces in Libya, Al-Qaida’s affiliates will need to form a united and coordinated front to destroy remaining IS strongholds and quash leftover IS cells. The likelihood of this scenario increases if Al-Qaida groups launch a united military offensive against the last Islamic State strongholds. A past indication occurred when an Al-Qaida linked jihadist alliance – the Mujahideen Shura Council – drove the Islamic State out of its burgeoning stronghold in Derna (Joscelyn, The Long War Journal, April 20, 2016).
  3. The willingness of Al-Qaida to base its strategy on lessons learned from AQAP and AQIM. Implementing learned lessons from regional Al-Qaida organizations is crucial to the success of the Libyan branch. If Al-Qaida in Libya is willing to adopt the strategy recommendations from AQAP and AQIM, the likelihood of this scenario significantly increases. However, both recommendations would have to be implemented: 1) gaining the support of the population by allowing local institutions to govern (although still very much influenced by AQ, and overseen by the central AQ leadership in Libya) – an example set by the AQAP group that seized Al Mukalla (Hubbard, The New York Times, June 9, 2015) and 2) gradually implementing Sharia law while primarily focusing on the needs of the local population to gain their support and trust – advice from both AQAP and leaders in AQIM (The Associated Press, February 14, 2013; Green, The Washington Institute, December 12, 2013).
  4. The willingness of Al-Qaida affiliates to unite behind a cohesive, long-term strategy for Libya. Alliances between Al-Qaida affiliates in Libya do not mean that they all will immediately unite behind a cohesive strategy for the long-term. Considering the more localized nature of Libya’s Al-Qaida affiliates (e.g. Ansar al-Sharia in Derna, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade [primarily Derna]), they may compete for leadership roles or instead wish to pursue their own strategy in their areas of influence. If these groups are unwilling to participate in a cohesive long-term strategy, the likelihood of this scenario decreases.
  5. The ability of AQ to embed itself in the local councils. If local civilian councils are vehemently opposed to Sharia and Al-Qaida, and are aware of the jihadists’ strategy, they may prevent AQ members from participating in the local councils or even having a presence in their town or city. In this case, the likelihood of this scenario decreases.
  6. AQ’s ability to provide public services and charity to the population. Providing public services and charity to local populations has proven to generate positive support for Al-Qaida groups in Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen (Masi, International Business Times, April 7, 2016; Zelin, Hudson Institute, April 6, 2015), and thus will likely play a role in Al-Qaida’s grassroots strategy for Libya. If Al-Qaida is able to establish effective public service groups throughout the country, this scenario’s likelihood increases. Past indications occurred when Ansar al-Sharia’s “General Services Directorate” provided aid to families in Benghazi, Derna, and other towns (Joscelyn, The Long War Journal, June 30, 2015).
  7. The timing of AQ’s implementation of Sharia law. The timing would likely have a serious impact on the likelihood of Al-Qaida succeeding in Libya. If the group forces too much of the strict principles of Sharia on the population too quickly, it will likely lose support. However, if it adopts AQAP’s advice on incremental implementation (see Green, The Washington Institute, December 12, 2013), the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  8. The willingness of the minority tribes to cooperate with Al-Qaida. If Al-Qaida takes a multi-faceted approach to gaining influence over the minority tribes, it will likely increase the willingness of the tribes to cooperate. By marrying into the tribes, its fighters establish familial ties. Through its recruitment of unemployed tribal youth, as well as the influx of fighters, arms, and illicit goods across the southern trade routes, Al-Qaida increases economic opportunity for the tribes, which help boost their willingness to cooperate with the jihadists. And lastly, Al-Qaida’s reliance on local and tribal councils allows these tribes to be more autonomous and not dependent on a central state for their political rights. The likelihood of this scenario increases if the minority tribes are more willing to cooperate with Al-Qaida.
  9. The level of AQ’s desire to eliminate leaders from the Islamist and nationalist camps. Al-Qaida will likely target leaders that are outspoken in their opposition to Sharia law and or Al-Qaida as a whole. In the event of an Al-Qaida conquest, political and military leaders from the rival coalitions may flee the country; Al-Qaida leadership may put a bounty on the heads of those remaining in the country. However, they may not target the Islamist leaders from the Dawn of Libya and the General National Congress that had connections with Al-Qaida affiliates during the war. A past indication occurred when Ansar al-Sharia (an Al-Qaida affiliate) put a bounty on General Haftar and some of his key commanders (Wehrey, Carnegie Middle East Center, June 19, 2015).
  10. The willingness of external actors to militarily intervene in Libya. In the case of an Al-Qaida victory in Libya, the international community would certainly have cause for extreme concern. However, the global situation and the reality on the ground in Libya will likely determine the willingness of external actors to militarily intervene. If an abundance of conflicts and geopolitical situations outside of Libya are preoccupying the focus and military resources of external actors, they may be less willing to commit to a full military incursion. Furthermore, no friendly Libyan factions would be available to partner with a foreign coalition. If external actors are considerably hesitant to militarily intervene in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases. However, if some countries – like neighboring Egypt – perceive an imminent threat from an Al-Qaida-controlled Libya, they may decide to act unilaterally, thus decreasing the likelihood of this scenario occurring.

Bibliography

Feature Photo: Ansar al-Sharia gun position, posted by The Long War Journal, 30 June 2015

Aaron Y. Zelin, “The Rise and Decline of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya,” Hudson Institute, April 6, 2015

Aaron Y. Zelin, “The Islamic State’s Burgeoning Capital in Sirte, Libya,” The Washington Institute, August 6, 2015

Alessandria Masi, “Al Qaeda Winning Hearts And Minds Over ISIS In Yemen With Social Services,” International Business Times, April 7, 2016

“Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” Counter Extremism Project

“Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS),” Counter Extremism Project

“Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM),” Counter Extremism Project

“AP: Al Qaeda letter found outlining Mali strategy,” The Associated Press, February 14, 2013

Ben Hubbard, “Al Qaeda Tries a New Tactic to Keep Power: Sharing It,” The New York Times, June 9, 2015

Callum Paton, “Isis in Libya: How Boko Haram jihadis are flocking to join Daesh’s holy war in North Africa,” International Business Times, March 5, 2016

Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt, and Mark Mazzetti, “Obama Expands War With Al Qaeda to Include Shabab in Somalia,” The New York Times, November 27, 2016

Daniel Green, “Al-Qaeda’s Shadow Government in Yemen,” The Washington Institute, December 12, 2013

Dr. Helene Lavoix, “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – The Calif and Legitimacy,” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 25, 2015

Dr. Helene Lavoix, “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Means of Violence,” The Red Team Analysis Society, June 15, 2015

Frederic Wehrey, “Splitting the Islamists: The Islamic State’s Creeping Advance in Libya,” Carnegie Middle East Center, June 19, 2015

Hani Amara, “Libyan forces clear last Islamic State holdout in Sirte,” Reuters, December 6, 2016

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (3),” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 11, 2015

Mark Mardell, “Could the European Union fall apart?” BBC News, December 6, 2016

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Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Two Main Libyan Militias are Maintaining a Truce to Battle Islamic State,” The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2015

The Soufan Group, “The Islamic State’s Expansion Strategy in Libya,” TSG IntelBrief, March 3, 2016

“The Sun Sets on Libya Dawn,” STRATFOR, April 2, 2016

Thomas Joscelyn, “Ansar al Sharia Libya fights on under new leader,” The Long War Journal, June 30, 2015

Thomas Joscelyn, “Islamic State fighters retreat from bases outside Derna, Libya,” The Long War Journal, April 20, 2016