The Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS): Religion, Recruiting, and Resistance

Video from VOX: "Syria's War: Who is Fighting and Why"

The recent attacks in Paris, France have thrust the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS/IS) back into the spotlight. The topics of terrorism, the Syrian conflict, and the Islamic State are something I have both covered in great depth in recent years and have been focused on for a while. I have yet to coalesce all of my various works into a single readily accessible format, so here is my attempt. I have included relevant portions from each work, but I encourage you to read the full works in their entirety. I hope this will strengthen your understanding on the subject matter.

Lone Wolf Terrorism in a 'New Kind of War':

"The solitary nature of a lone-wolf terrorist attack is strategically problematic for law enforcement entities. When a group or cell conspires to plan a hostile terrorist act, the way to infiltrate and disrupt the plot is by finding the weakest link in the chain. Accomplishing this process becomes increasingly difficult as the network becomes smaller in size. Less people involved means less communication – if there is only a single person, possibly compromising communications are virtually eliminated. Lone wolf terrorism has emerged as the new face of violent terrorist attacks. The solitary nature of the attackers helps to isolate their plans from incursion by law enforcement or intelligence analysts. These attacks can be sudden, grievous, and often times happen without warning. Thus, finally figuring out how to preemptively combat this issue is of great importance."

[Excerpt from "U.S. Counterintelligence & Lone Wolf Terrorism: The Evolving Approach to Combat an Emerging Threat" written in 2012. Read more Here (PDF)]

Theological Justifications in Extremist Ideologies:

"The justifications used by extremist organizations will be exposed for what they are: nationalistic and not theological. The basis for their ideologies is an appeal to Islamic scripture. In order to illuminate the specific arguments or underlying themes, a survey of relevant scripture will  be included and scrutinized. [and ]As demonstrated, when examined in realist terms a la Pape’s CPOST Study, the explanation for martyrdom and resistance become separated from Islamic theology. If the West becomes educated on the multifaceted issue of suicide terrorism, they would see Islam is not some inherent threat. Yes, this – or any – religion can be co-opted,  but nothing makes Islamic theology inherently more deadly than Christianity or Judaism."

[Excerpt from "Martyrdom and the Afterlife in Islam: Analyzing Theological Justifications in Extremist Ideologies" written in 2013. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]

Inside the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM):

"The U.S.’s tier one fighting force is known as United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The purpose of USSOCOM is to “Provide fully capable SpecialOperations Forces to defend the United States and its interests [and to] Synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks." After 9/11, U.S. Special Forces had to switch gears and operate within a radical new framework. What resulted from this shift was an overhaul of how military and intelligence agencies were structured. Interagency cooperation between civilian and military agencies was increased, while redundancies were reduced. With no allegiances to a flag or a state, the new enemy aligned with ideas and personalities. The global playing field switched from state actors to insurgencies, transnational revolutionaries, and civilian combatants."

[Excerpt from "USSOCOM: Firefights & Finances" written in 2012. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]

The Responsibility to Protect and the Syrian Uprising:

"The Syrian regime has been unapologetic in every endeavor of the uprising. The man in power, Bashar al-Assad, is a strong-armed authoritarian dictator. His political ideology is rooted in the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Over 40 years of brutal repression in Syria helped to shape the fervent anti-Assad sentiments in the conflict zones. Just as the tyranny increased, the denizens’ willingness to tolerate it decreased. With Russia continuing to threaten to veto any Security Council resolutions condemning the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, the realization that diplomacy is often a stall tactic is not hard to grasp. Any delay in the UN deliberations that Russia could help to facilitate via veto power prolonged the conflict in Syria. Russia’s long term interests in Syria were established prior to the uprising, but an analysis of the current scenario yields a chilling understanding. Since the Syrian government was utilizing regular military troops to conduct operations on civilian targets, the resources being used to execute these missions – small arms, tanks, and artillery -  were also Russian supplied. As it currently stands, the bloody struggle in Syria is ongoing despite multilateral ceasefire talks. Even though Syria has used and implemented the prototypical style of a mass atrocity military campaign, no external force has yet to intervene militarily or humanitarianly."

[Excerpt from "The Syrian Uprising: The Responsibility to Protect & The Failure of Conflict Cessation" written in 2012. Read more Here (PDF)]

Analyzing the History, Recruiting Techniques, and Social Media of the Islamic State:

"The Levant continues to be rife with conflict and destabilizing violence. The largest draw to the region is the enticement of Islamic State via their recruiting efforts through social media and video productions. Islamic State started with the migration of regional al-Qaeda affiliated foreign fighters arriving to fight in the Syrian Civil War. Islamic State has quite a sophisticated media production division and their social media efforts are just as relentless. Each video released by the Islamic State has its own unique message and substance while still adhering to a coherent message. The commonalities in recruiting efforts between the U.S. Armed Forces and the Islamic State are numerous. Coincidentally, the intent of recruiting in both organizations are also similar in nature on a main point: Islamic State’s campaign to recruit fighters to volunteer to leave their homes to fight on foreign soil mirrors the U.S. Armed Forces recruiting campaign to likewise find volunteers to leave their homes to fight on foreign soil. Just as there is a large emphasis on counterterrorism in America and the Global North, so too should there be a more active counter- propaganda agency to combat the spread of Islamic State ideology via soft power methods."

[Excerpt from "What Are We Fighting For? How Islamic State Uses United States Armed Forces Recruiting Methods to Mobilize Foreign Fighters in a Struggle for the New Caliphate" written in 2015. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]

How Soft Power Policy Failed to 'Destroy or Degrade' the Islamic State:

"Although the military advance of IS across the Levant region have been nearly unimpeded, efforts have been launched to resolve the regional conflict outside the context of a military intervention. The UN has attempted to bring about conflict cessation through conflict mediators, regional forces such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have used a mix of military and non-lethal support, and grassroots efforts have been deployed on a local level. Nonviolent peacebuilding efforts implicitly rely on good faith measures from all  parties involved. Prior to IS seizing control, the Syrian regime was the sole coercive force in the Syrian regions. he use of soft power to combat the influence and advance of IS in Syria and Iraq has been met with increased barbarity and continued bloodshed. Relief efforts and non-lethal assistance has been delivered to the denizens of IS controlled territories in Syria and Iraq. However, the use of diplomacy, nonviolent peacebuilding, and humanitarian aid is a currency which IS refuses to trade in. While conflict cessation or the reduction of IS control cannot be achieved by soft power or nonviolent methods of peacebuilding, the key to a lasting calm beyond the reign of IS certainly lies in these approaches."

[Excerpt from "An Analysis of Promoting Peace in a Realist Conflict: Non-Violent Attempts to Destroy & Degrade the Islamic State (IS)" written in 2015. Read more Here (html) or Here (PDF)]

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