Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Is ISIS the richest & most powerful terrorist organisation of all time?

Unknown but likely on both counts.

Hamas have received billions of dollars in aid for civic projects and reconstruction and used same to purchase weapons and construct defensive and offensive structures to wage war on Israel.

ISIS make millions (made millions before the drop in oil prices) per day illegally refining and selling contraband oil and oil by-products to Turkey. The illegal trade in tobacco and heroin has also been a source of large amounts of income, while nearly one billion dollars was looted from the Central Bank in Mosul when that city fell to them in 2014.


Add to that the billions from Saudi Wahhabi supporters and if they are not the richest of all time then they are in the top 5 IMHO.

Regarding their "power" - their influence and actions are global. Their campaigns international. Their recruits - cell based and lone wolf - are pervasive. And their ideology still gains traction.

The declaration of the caliphate made a universal call for Jihad beyond national and regional politics and as such created a global movement and an organisation and ideology with a reach not previously matched by any legacy terrorist organisation.

Regardless of the attitude to the declaration of the caliphate - it acts as a new departure in how radical Islam organizes and dispels with national and regional politics in favour of an over-arching unifying call to all Muslims in the context of the Mahdi and "end of days" concept.

As such its power is fundamental and has traction across all shades of Muslim opinion.

However, there are conflicting views.

Brian K. Price a twenty year and two war military veteran wrote on QUORA in response to the question that many sources do agree that ISIS is the richest terrorist organization of all time.

Here's How The World's Richest Terrorist Group Makes Millions Every Day

ISIS Is the World's Richest Terror Group, But Spending Money Fast

ISIS - Annual Turnover $2 Billion - In Photos: The World’s 10 Richest Terrorist Organizations

There are many, many other sources which compare the dollar values of every terrorist organization. ISIS's control of oil fields in eastern Syria and norther Iraq gives it unprecedented wealth.

Is it the most powerful? That's a tougher question to answer. As far as deadliest, most sources claim that Boko Haram is deadlier:

The World’s Deadliest Terrorist Group

Boko Haram overtakes ISIS as deadliest terrorists: Study 

Though the title switches back and forth (and Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISIS, so there's that...)

The 5 Deadliest Terrorist Groups on the Planet

But does highest kill count actually mean "most powerful"? Is the point of terrorism to kill people or to achieve one's goals?

Both groups control large swaths of territory. So that could be considered a form of power and success. Al Qaeda successfully dragged the world into Afghanistan and led to the US invasion of Iraq.

These wars have cost trillions of dollars, beyond the economic down turn that occurred in the aftermath of 9/11, the Madrid bombings, and the London Underground bombings.

Financially, I think you could argue, AQ has still done the greatest amount of damage to the world. However, AQ achieved none of its goals (Brian K. Price's answer to Did Osama bin Laden succeed in his mission?)

Achieving political goals and gaining enduring successes should be the measure of power. And in that case, it would appear that nationalist terrorist groups have been far and away far more successful than AQ or ISIS or Boko Haram are likely to be.

Their approach has left no room for compromise which means they either win everything or they lose everything. Nationalist groups were able to force their opponents to the negotiating table and to earn concessions that continue to exist well after their violent efforts. See How Successful Is Terrorism?

Terrorist groups associated with Algeria, Cyprus, and Palestine achieved their goals of mobilized populations and varying levels of independence. Other groups such as the ETA and the IRA have attained major objectives in the form of concessions from the governing powers.

So I would argue that ISIS is not the most powerful terrorist group. It has temporarily seized a considerable amount of territory but I do not expect this will last. It will be pushed back and eventually dispersed.

END.

Is the US drone program overseas, state sponsored terrorism?

Yes it is. By the rules of international law an intervention on foreign soil is an act of war. If there is not a declared war between the two countries then it is a unilateral decision to attack another without the "correct" mandate.

Former CIA and NSA Director, Michael Hayden

In any other case that is referred to as "terrorism" when carried out by a proscribed organization or a nation.

Over 3000 Pakistanis have been killed in US drone strikes targeting a few dozen or so "known" terrorists. Obama has been under heavy scrutiny for authorizing drone campaigns that result in gross mistakes, killing a great number of innocent people while targeting “confirmed terrorists.”

Since 2004, there have been 401 US drone strikes in Afghanistan, alone, killing 3,058 people total. In Pakistan, hundreds, including children, have died in pursuit of a mere two dozen declared terrorists.

In 2014, the former director of both the CIA and NSA, Michael Hayden, proudly claimed they “kill people based on metadata", using drones - but not the right people in most cases and the source of the information used to determine the "terrorist" classification has been shown to be hopelessly flawed via an NSA program named SKYNET.

The war on extremists is acceptable - the "collateral" casualties as they are called - which demonstrates the lack of value placed on innocent lives - is terrorism - pure and simple.

About SKYNET

SKYNET is a program by the U.S. National Security Agency that performs machine learning analysis on communications data to extract information about possible terror suspects. The tool is used to identify targets, such as al-Qaeda couriers, who move between GSM cellular networks. These couriers often swap SIM cards within phones that have the same ESN, MEID or IMEI number.

The tool uses classification techniques like random forest analysis. Because the data set includes a very large proportion of true negatives and a small training set, there is a risk of overfitting. Bruce Schneier argues that a false positive rate of 0.008% would be low for commercial applications where "if Google makes a mistake, people see an ad for a car they don't want to buy" but "if the government makes a mistake, they kill innocents."

The SKYNET project was linked with drone systems, thus creating the potential for false-positives to lead to deaths. Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Islamabad, Ahmad Zaidan, was wrongly identified as the most probable member of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood on their records.

Despite the fact it is improbable to be a member of both groups, he is also widely and publicly known for traveling to meet with radical groups, but was instead identified due to mobile phone surveillance placing him in rural locations.

This has been seen to show the failing of the system, as it has misidentified a journalist conducting legitimate, public business as a potential terrorist, whilst also harming freedom of the press and breaking US law on surveillance of journalists.

Source: SKYNET - Wiki

END.

Friday, 1 April 2016

ISIS: Jihadi European Operatives' Structure & "Endgame"

No one can claim to have a unique insight into the "endgame" of ISIS as far as Europe is concerned. I am not sure that ISIS "leadership" could give a well-rounded response to that query either. The stated aim of ISIS and its self-declared "caliphate" is the dissemination of their brand of radical Islam across the globe, to obviously include the "Islamification" of Europe.

The ISIS apparatus organises itself in a fashion that does not concern itself with national and regional politics but rather is in favour of an over-arching unifying call to all Muslims in the context of the Mahdi and the "end of days" concept. It is an apocalyptic creed.

The ISIS plan in Europe, if one can call it that, is characterised by opportunistic and ad-hoc activities which can therefore not necessarily be considered strategic or centrally planned and therefore are incredibly difficult to effectively predict and prevent.

Despite the ISIS cell structures exposed after the Hebdo, Bataclan, Zaventem and Maelbeek atrocities - the previous MO and likely future continued approach of the group will be to appeal to "lone wolf" (LW) type operatives for the majority of their "ops".

The el Bakraoui Brothers & Abdeslam 

The Zaventem and Maelbeek attacks were allegedly fast-tracked in response to the arrest of Salah Abdeslam and his apparent co-operation with the authorities. The decision to accelerate the schedule was made unilaterally by the cell, not ISIS leadership, if correspondence later found on a laptop apparently belonging to Ibrahim el Bakraoui can be believed.

Sven Mary, Abdeslam's lawyer, will try to have his eventual sentence reduced on the grounds that he is/was (before the Brussels attacks) acting as an informant - although obviously nothing he told interrogators prevented the Brussels atrocities.

While ISIS cells will carry out "spectaculars" like Brussels and Paris again, the intervening periods are more likely to consist of types similar to Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein in Copenhagen (Feb 2015), Rafik Mohamad Yousef in Berlin (Sep 2015) , Tarek Belgacem in Paris (Jan 2016) and several other LWs who have carried out attacks in France, Serbia, Hungary, Denmark and Poland in the last twelve months which were later explicitly claimed by ISIS or which individuals were later found to have been affiliated or sworn allegiance to the group or carried out the attacks in support of ISIS objectives.

Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein

 Rafik Mohamad Yousef

Tarek Belgacem

Despite the LW nature of these attacks they can be just as devastating. And act as a constant reminder of the ever-present threat that now exists from radical Islamists across the continent.

ISIS of course has its origins in the Sunni insurgency following the invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush administration. This initially gave rise to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which eventually split from core Al Qaeda, in part because of its shocking violence towards other Muslims.

In "The Management of Savagery" a book published over a decade ago by AQI leaders a strategy was laid out that suggested the use of spectacular acts of brutality and displaying them across media platforms in order to goad Western powers into ground wars in the Middle East.

ISIS, like AQI before it, includes in its highest ranks former Baathist members of Saddam Hussein’s military apparatus, who joined the militant group after the Bush administration’s de-Baathification policies and after the U.S.-backed sectarian regime in Baghdad proved unwilling to include Sunnis in government.

This took notice of the jihadi lessons learned in the guerrilla war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. By employing the tactic of high impact terrorism in Europe some observers suggest that ISIS is seeking to galvanize opinion that will ultimately result in European powers taking a hardline interventionist approach in the Middle East.

ISIS believe that the resulting intensified air war or ground invasions to battle ISIS in their heartlands, as reaction to attacks in Europe, would be incredibly costly for any coalition and has a high likelihood of yielding counterproductive blowback and unintended consequences for Europe.

Furthermore it plays to the ISIS narrative of the Anti-Islam Crusader mentality that they claim is prevalent in Europe and as such increase recruitment to their cause locally and internationally.

At present the ISIS aim in Europe is to intimidate, disrupt and demoralize and in the process recruit more operatives - cells or LWs. Increasingly spectacular attacks followed by reprisal will attract further disenfranchised recruits.

Whatever way you choose to describe ISIS actions in Europe - opportunistic, tactical, strategic - the intended result is the same - polarize opinion in Europe resulting in the further marginalization of Muslims and Muslim communities. This can only be good for their "cause".

Didier Leroy, is a leading terrorism researcher at the Royal Military Academy of Belgium and an adjunct at the Free University of Brussels. When asked what did the Brussels attacks reveal about the aims of ISIS in Europe he said:

"The Brussels attacks have been, without much surprise, claimed and celebrated by ISIS supporters. Ideologically, the symbolic dimension of the targets—the Brussels international airport, less than 5 kilometers away from NATO headquarters, and the Maelbeek subway station, near the main institutions of the European Union—reflects ISIS’s dual view of the world: the struggle of a Muslim oppressed world against a Western oppressing world.

At the level of the modus operandi, we find several common features shared by the French and Belgian commandos: relatively small cells of determined individuals hitting as many “soft” (civilian) targets as possible. Historically there are almost no links between Belgium and Syria or Iraq. I am still rather skeptical about the depth of structural connections between these young jihadi candidates and ISIS, which is a Middle Eastern phenomenon in the first place (and the so-called Caliphate has regional priorities before global ones).

I see ISIS as a “heterarchical” organization, characterized by an undisputed leader—the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim—but also by a shared decisional process. The ISIS central command in Rakka could be regarded as a vertical entity, which becomes more “horizontal” when it reaches the external layer of foreign recruits. There certainly is a central, top-down policy calling on fighters to hit enemies of the “Islamic State project” wherever possible, but the when, the how, etcetera, are left to the initiative of individuals or small groups—it’s up to them to decide the best way to proceed. Most of these recruits obviously know their countries of origin well, have grown up with the Internet and the images of 9/11 in their minds, and are determined to “do better” than old-fashioned al-Qaeda."

Marc Trevidic: "ISIS using lone wolf attackers in Europe as smoke screen for larger plots"

In another take on ISIS plans for Europe the following article appeared in The Telegraph on 29 MARCH 2016 • 1:39PM.


ISIS is flooding Europe with low-level, unsophisticated attack plans to swamp intelligence agencies while larger atrocities are secretly plotted, a senior counter-terrorism judge has warned. The terror group has had Europe in its sights for up to four years, it is feared, and sent dozens of jihadists back to carry out lone-wolf attacks. “It served to put all of our agencies on edge. Just like a smoke screen, it allowed them to calmly prepare,” said Marc Trevidic, who retired as France’s chief counter-terrorism judge last year. The offensive was orchestrated by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian mastermind behind the Paris atrocity in November, which left 130 dead.


Abaaoud, who was killed in the weeks after the attacks, is feared to have been at the head of a 90-strong cell of jihadists spread across Europe. It has also emerged he has persuaded some fanatics to return to attack Europe by convincing them it is better that facing the horrors of the war in Syria, according to files seen by the New York Times. Prior to his death, he was a senior figure in a unit within Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, tasked with directing attacks on European soil. Fighters are sent back and told to decide their own targets so limit the chances of plots being traced back to the unit.

END.