Monthly Archives: January 2016

ISIS: PRANKS, RUSES AND THE COST OF TERRORISM

 

ISIS Cover Final 2,pdf-page-001

By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 40
The Glamorous Life of an Author

During this past weekend when much network attention focused on the record snowfalls in the United States, at least one incident illustrated both the severity of the terrorist threats and the severity of hoaxes and ruses. Even when something looks like a prank or ruse, authorities know that they have to treat it seriously.

Not surprisingly, Turkish Airlines has suffered several hoaxes in recent months. Most recently, a flight from Houston, Texas, diverted to Shannon, Ireland, on Sunday when a piece of paper with just the word ‘bomb’ written on it was found in the toilet, according to a Reuters report.

Airline staff and investigators found no explosive devices on board and the airplane flew on to Istanbul. At time of writing the Irish police have started an investigation.

According to Reuters, Turkish Airlines has been targeted with a series of hoax bomb warnings over the last year. Last November one of its airplanes diverted to Halifax while en route to Istanbul after a phony bomb threat.

The weekend hoax renews two questions, both of them serious.

How many such incidents are the work of pranksters of limited conscience and mental acuity who delight in seeing their work cause problems, costs and anguish and splashed across the headlines? I am reminded of the report in January 2015 in the Orange County Register. A hacker group identifying itself as Team System DZ hacked the site of a local non-profit group called Giving Children Hope whose mandate involved shipping food and medicines to children in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. At the time of the hacking it erected its own screen proclaiming ‘i Love ISIS’, including the faulty typography.

It appears doubtful that ISIS would bother hacking the web site of a non-threatening charitable organization in a small town in California.

One has to wonder about the mental balance of individuals who would invoke the name of ISIS as part of a prank.

Alternatively, is this another ruse, to check vigilance and reaction of authorities?

We may never know the answers to these two questions but we do know that these incidents increase both the emotional and financial cost of terrorism and when they involve airlines cause many to reconsider travel plans.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in Spring goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.

ISIS: THE BIG PICTURE TO DATE THIS YEAR

By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 39
The Glamorous Life of an Author

Those who have sat — with greater or lesser degrees of attention — in university lectures on history –and confirmed history buffs — know that a historical event can have several perspectives. The simplest of these focuses on the facts: What happened? When did it happen? 

However, an examination of the bigger picture will often bring conclusions that go a long way to explaining why the event happened and what may come next.

The ISIS crisis has no shortage of examples. Last October, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to begin airstrikes in Syria appeared rooted in the current situation but the path to that decision actually started several decades earlier. Syrian President Bashir al Assad styled the move as a kind of international gesture of friendship but in fact intelligence specialists to whom I spoke argue that Putin had several big picture goals including Russia’s markets, its access to the Syrian port and staking a claim to getting back onto the world stage from which Russia had been largely excluded as a result of sanctions due to the Ukraine crisis.

The same principle applies to the tragedies that have already taken place in the Middle East in recent weeks and we have only seen two weeks of the New Year.

Last Friday night, gunmen stormed the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, an African country which until then had certainly had coups and counter-coups but little outright jihadist terrorist activity.

At time of writing, reports say that the attack left 28 dead, including six Canadians and an American as well as 56 or more injured. The Al Qaeda affiliate in the region – sometimes known as Al Qaeda in the Maghreb — claimed responsibility for the attack. The group posted a statement designating the attack at revenge on France and the ‘disbelieving West’. As is often the case with the targets of the terrorist attackers, the hotel and café are popular with Western visitors.

The Burkina Faso attack followed several other assaults.

On January 07, a suicide bomber in Libya drove a truck into a police college in Zliten killing at least 46 and wounding at last 200 people.

Last Tuesday, a suicide bomber linked to ISIS killed 10 people and injured at least 15 others in a blast in Istanbul seen as targeting German tourists.

On Thursday, a deadly attack in Jakarta Indonesia left at least seven dead (including five attackers) and at least 24 wounded. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack as well – marking its first known assault in Southeast Asia. Indonesia has a history of homegrown terrorist incidents often aimed at police authorities.

Last Monday the suicide bombings in Baghdad resumed when an attack on a shopping mall left at least 17 dead and 40 people injured.

And as I write this article on Sunday, reports have come in saying that three American contractors working in Iraq have been declared missing by their company. At time of writing, authorities have not suggested whether ISIS, a Shiite militia or other non-state actor carried out the kidnapping, likely aimed at garnering a large ransom. The fact that it occurred in Baghdad at least points to ISIS.

Several conclusions seem reasonable in the big picture.

Notwithstanding some of its recent losses, ISIS remains as aggressive as it has ever been and has now added Indonesia to its list of war theaters. Moreover, the Indonesia attack represents its first known operation in that country.

Meanwhile in Africa, Al Qaeda’s assault in Burkina Faso suggests a re-start of the ongoing competition between ISIS and Al Qaeda, its former parent with whom it split a little less than two years ago. As well as its many Middle East war theaters ISIS had already exerted influence in Africa, much of it through the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, which has very publicly and very strongly pledged allegiance and uses ISIS’s methods as a template for its own strategies.

Al Qaeda in the Maghreb had regrouped with some of its allies in December. Put simply, Al Qaeda and its allies and ISIS and its allies are choosing up sides in Africa.

The stakes in the competition are huge: the favor of patrons, the right to claim supremacy in the jihadist movement, domination of the world stage and attraction of recruits.

At least two of the attacks – in Zliten and Jakarta — could be viewed as attempts to intimidate police forces. And most of the attacks occurred in tourist areas, with irreparable harm to the local and national economies. Moreover, the Libya attack has the hallmark ISIS strategy of attacking countries with weak governments. Libya in fact has two competing governments, each one claiming national legitimacy.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in Spring goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.

ISIS: ONE OF THE MAJOR MENA GEOPOLITICAL RISKS FOR 2016

ISIS Cover Final 2,pdf-page-001

By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 37
The Glamourous Life of an Author

The outlook for terrorism in the Middle East and more specifically the outlook for the ISIS crisis will not bring much New Year’s optimism to those who hopefully predict the end of ISIS and the Islamic State. The jihadist group has suffered some losses but it has also stretched its influence into several countries and reportedly has allies even in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A report released yesterday by London England-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft says that 2016 will bring ‘…. little respite from the political instability, civil unrest, economic volatility, security crises and geopolitical rivalries that defined the last 12 months, and that the global turbulence of 2015 looks set to continue.’

The report surveys risks and crises around the world but in the region often termed the MENA – the Middle East and North Africa — it highlights the rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the international threat posed by ISIS as the foremost geopolitical risks for 2016.

At time of writing, Saudi Arabia and Iran have become locked in a battle of words, protests and diplomatic gun slinging, ostensibly resulting from Saudi Arabia s execution on January 02 of a Shi’ite cleric who had called for the overthrow of the ruling Saudi family. It can be reasonably suggested that Saudi Arabia authorities did not contemplate the full implications of the execution or might have reconsidered the decision.

In Tehran, demonstrators torched the Saudi embassy and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, invoked the wrath of Allah by declaring ‘God’s hand of retaliation will grip the neck of Saudi leaders.”

The day after the execution, Saudi Arabia had cut off diplomatic relations with Iran and several of the kingdom’s allies followed suit.

In the larger historic picture, the two countries have long fought a geopolitical war of rival religious beliefs, proxies and political alliances. It heated up in July when the United States and five other nations agreed to lift international sanctions in return for Iran’s agreement to limit its nuclear program. The deal also provides that Iran will have access to the global financial system, can retrieve an estimated US$ 100 billion in frozen assets and can ramp up its oil exports.

The stakes in this Islamic Cold War are many: regional supremacy and the right to claim leadership of Islam. Moreover, achieving peace in Syria and Yemen appears unlikely without some rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia and that apperas unlkely in the short-to-medum term.

That Cold War is certainly serious but not surprisingly, the Verisk Maplecroft report points to the Islamic State as the chief security risk in the MENA. Excluding Iraq and Syria ISIS killed 1269 people in 2015.

Though it has lost territory recently the Islamic State’s reach will continue to extend across the region, according to the report. ISIS has established allegiances with groups in northern Sinai and Libya, the latter reflecting its modus operandi of tackling countries with weak central governments. The MO had certainly worked in Syria and Iraq and at least partially accounted for their early sweep of victories. Libya’s government is not just weak but split:  it has actually had two competing ‘governments’ since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Although various nations have committed in various ways to military actions against ISIS, a strategy that would lead to the defeat of ISIS appears elusive in the assessment of the report’s authors.

And notwithstanding efforts to staunch ISIS’s income sources the report estimates that the Islamic State grossed up to US$ 600 million from taxation, extortion and confiscations in 2015, a total that it says underscores the limitations of the coalition’s heavy reliance on airstrikes.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in Spring goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.