Tag Archives: ISIS

The new phase of terrorism

Many observers believe that recent developments in security measures have increased the effectiveness with which we can face terrorism, as evidenced by the falling number of attacks by IS or other groups. While we may have developed strategies and tact…

Injustice may turn an outlaw into a ‘hero’

To win over radicalism, it is important not to forget that this battle is much deeper than a social media campaign or the promotion of certain rhetoric and narratives. It is also important to understand the psychology of these groups and how their leaders enjoy such widespread support.

In his book Black Flags “The Rise of Isis” Joby Warrick tackles the life of Al Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who gained international notoriety and laid the foundations for ISIS. It is interesting to consider how these terrorists are viewed amongst different groups. Despite being a violent terrorist and an enemy of the state, many still see him as a hero.

Promoting the narrative that the state is an enemy of its own citizens fuels feelings of hate towards the state, its institutions and representatives. Al Zarqawi was seen as a strong leader amongst his followers, partly because of his strong positions against the states and its representatives, and was seen as a protector of his followers; “Despite his harsh manner, he won admirers because of his fearless defiance of prison authority.”

This arouses further inquiry around the underlying reasons for terrorists being seen as heroes. These groups enjoy impassioned solidarity amongst its members, as the group provides elements to their lives that general society has not. When states fail to uphold social justice and national identity, people can often seek these comforts elsewhere.

Fostering a sense of brotherhood can replace the failures of integration in society. These groups tap into feelings of exclusion, oppression, humiliation and the violation of human dignity. According to the book, Zarqawi appeared to be caring and a defender of his fellows, he presented himself as someone who stood for their rights and to protect their dignity. In one story, he appeared to fight for an ill man named Jahaline not just to receive the proper medication but also respect.

This extract is an illustrative example of the role that Zarqawi played for his followers: “One evening, while Sabha (the doctor) was visiting the cell, Jahaline suffered one of his occasional meltdowns, a screaming fit that usually required treatment with antipsychotic drugs. Sabha grabbed a syringe and was preparing to administer the shot when Zarqawi stepped forward to block him. Without a word, Zarqawi took a blanket from one of the beds and draped it over Jahaline’s lower body. He held the blanket in place with one hand, and with another tugged at the elastic waistband of the disabled man’s trousers, exposing him narrow crescent of skin. Then he motioned to the doctor. “Just make sure it’s in the right spot,” he commanded. When it was done and Jahaline was resting quietly, Sabha looked up to find Zarqawi watching him with a look of satisfaction.”

The point is that in our de-radicalization and anti terrorism strategies, we must consider how these groups work, on the psychology of the people involved. Being an outlaw has always had an attraction for certain people, and outlaw groups have for centuries leveraged the sense of protecting members from social injustice and failures of the state. Robin Hood, the hero that we all admire was in reality an outlaw. But in the story he is only an outlaw because of injustice in the system, so the people saw him as a hero fighting for their rights.

To be effective in de-radicalization, there should be also process of imposing justice, protecting human dignity, giving people the chance to live a better life and participate in building their future.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh


Preparing for after Raqqa: Jordanian anti-terrorism strategy

As the battle to liberate Raqqa inches closer, the growing instability in the south of Syria underlines the need for Jordan to prepare for the consequences. One of those consequences is likely to be Daesh falling back to the border regions to regroup and rebase. Jordan must avoid this outcome as any Daesh presence on the border represents a clear threat to Jordan.

There is no apparent strategy for protecting the south amongst allies. The US presence is currently focused on Raqqa and the surrounding areas with the objective of stabilization in the first stage. However, the unintended consequences of this renewed presence could be a new wave of escalation. Any such result will have a direct impact on the security of Jordan’s borders.

Jordan currently faces multidimensional risks. The conflict in Syria and Iraq are a real threat the border regions. Jordan is in the middle of the global red zone of terrorism. However, Jordan’s security establishment must also keep in mind that the threats are also internal.

There are, undoubtedly, multiple dormant terrorist cells in Jordan. The threat of these cells greatly increases as Daesh is routed. Dormant cells will activate to prove that the terrorist organization is still operating, capable of successful attacks and expanding its territory. We will see a transformation in Daesh to a more decentralized model as its assets and people are isolated and separated.

It is important to understand the recent US strike in Syria as political rather than operational. The target, location, style of attack and the fact they informed the Russians of the attack demonstrate the US was sending a message regarding its new position in Syria. Direct military action from the US represents a significant change in their role in and the nature of the conflict itself. US allies, including Jordan must be mindful of this development and respond accordingly.

Jordan’s focus should be to prevent border attacks and maintain stability in the border regions. We need greater cooperation between our intelligence and military and a strategy that uses local proxies to fight ISIS on Syrian soil avoiding unilateral troops on the ground.

While we may not be seeing sophisticated attacks in Jordan, traditional and disjointed insurgency still presents a threat. We must enhance the capacity of our security forces and dedicate greater effort to secure sensitive areas and inhibit the growth of local terrorists.

Dr.Amer Al Sabaileh

Advanced ISIS Strategy Looming New Threats

The remarkable shift in the method of the terrorist operation carried-out by ISIS in Istanbul, especially from the technical and tactical perspective, indicates ISIS’s shift in adopting a more complicated advanced approach, which could be classified as one of the intelligence operation in the form and the implementation process; particularly, in the assailant’s ability to carry – out the attack during vital timing: “New Year’s Eve celebrations” in spite of the warnings that had been released and the security measures that had been assumed in order to confront such danger. The most dangerous aspect, which marks an unprecedented occurrence, is that the attacker did not pursue a previous approach in his attack like blasting himself, or remaining on sight fighting until killed. On the contrary, he was able to flee the scene and go into hiding to this day.     
This data presented opens the door wide open for questions, specifically regarding the security challenges facing and will face Turkey, as well as other countries in the future. Particularly since the hypothesis of implementing an operation of this magnitude, in a well-known tourist attraction despite taking all security measures, indicates a highly penetrative ability of both security and community system. The ability of a person to carry-out such an operation is a sign that significantly indicates the presence of catalysts and internal incubators working to facilitate all phases of the operation: access, mission accomplished by shooting down the target, withdrawal and disappearance.      

The strike facing Turkey today occurs at a time when Turkey is reformulating its political positions; embarking on an era of transformations that initially started to appear by ending the battle of Aleppo and moving into the truce phase in Syria, and Turkey’s role in bringing many parties to the negotiation table.   

The successive security strikes also occur at a time when Turkey’s security system is going through a restructuring phase, after the futile military coup attempt, intensifying the complexity of Turkey’s mission and its ability to counter terrorism; apart from the political challenges and negative climates formed by the Turkish policy in recent years, which resulted in increased number of enemies and fewer friends and allies.

Turkey has been trying very hard to recover from the dearth of tourism that started with the Russian fighter Jet crash and the absence of Russian tourist presence, as well as the destructive fallouts due to a number of terrorist attacks targeting European tourists, and then the bombing of Istanbul’s airport. All these were situations reinforcing a hiatus in tourism, and then came the latest attacks on Istanbul as a real blow to the Turkish economy and tourism, which have been drained dramatically lately. These developments should affect large Turkish strategic projects as well, especially in the transportation sector and airports’ projects that have been seeking to turn Turkey into the largest hub in Europe. The issue of lack of security that is being rooted now will create a new reality of isolation difficult to overcome in the future; the security that has been being built for many long years could be lost in a matter of few months, especially when civilians are the main targets of terrorist attacks; not just the security forces.

The security reading regarding the attack on Istanbul indicates a remarkable shift in the nature of the operations implemented by the organization of ISIS, which still rotates around similar traditional operations, but that incorporates far more complicated planning and technical dimension. Accordingly, the world might be facing more intricate and sophisticated operations in the imminent future.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh


Jordan open confrontation with terrorism

The degenerating presence of ISIS on the Syrian and Iraqi soil forces the group to adopt a new strategy that aims to compensate its losses, offers the impression that it still retains its strength, and that it is still able to hit everywhere. Moreover, it is vital for the group to seek creating new climates that form attraction points for its members departing Syria and Iraq.  

The logical interpretation of the incidents in the city of Karak indicates the possibility of these operations being linked to a central decision, which means that the cell might not be an individual one. It might be a cell that works according to group’s methodology and strategy.

This is what the shape of the operation obviously shows, as well as the data and logistics that have been revealed. The location of the operation could also confirm this hypothesis. For instance, if we agreed that the security forces are the primary targets of this operation this explains the group’s desire to strike more than one bird with one stone by attacking the security forces as well as striking the tourist attraction. This is usually what happens in order to achieve many objectives such as:

1-   A moral blow to the state security system by displaying its inability to protect its tourist attractions.

2-   Taking advantage of the rapid speed in which news spreads through media in case of an assault on a historical landmark and tourist attraction.

3-   The possibility of foreign tourists being present in these areas, which gives the assault a global dimension.  

4-   These assaults also aim at inflicting economic blow on the country that is dependent on tourism as its means of income. It also creates atmosphere of angry citizens of the area, who are harmed by the dearth of tourism, or the poor economic situation that accompanies such circumstances so that they can exploit it later on in the future.

     Henceforth, the strategy that entails striking tourist areas is found to be the most effective and successful policy for many groups today.
The regression of ISIS’s organization in Syria and Iraq, along with the recent shifts following the battle of Aleppo causes Jordan to face series of challenges and dangers:

First, the relocation of fighters from one front to other fronts intensifies the possibilities of individual operations and increases the organization’s desire to create new hot spots.

Second, Jordan’s most critical challenge is the path of the battles in Syria after Aleppo, in which its compass might point towards the Syrian Southern border, placing increasing pressure on the Jordanian border and raising the danger ratio of repeated attacks. In this case, repeated attempts that aim at striking the national security and creating an atmosphere of internal disputes will take place; the 
organization’s subjects seek to exploit and employ it to the best of their interests.

Third, one of the prominent dangers of the next phase is characterized by the continuous regeneration of fighter cells and the activation of dormant cells that have been operating silently during the past years, and have been able to build networks of allies in the areas in which they are located.

Fourth, the arrival of these cells to the “individual working” phase; they will be isolated since the fall of the central order of the organization. These cells might be seeking to apply individual actions that depend on the surprise element, and usually aim at causing the most damage with minimal costs. This means uncomplicated operations such as; shooting at a security officer, or striking a crowded area of civilians using primitive techniques.

The increasing pressure on the fighters in Syria, and the Turkish borders being closed might push the fighters into targeting new areas and finding exit routes from which they can use in order to escape this state of pressure.

Thus, the challenges Jordan is facing are enormous. The alteration from having to deal with direct threats means that Jordan has moved into the open and direct confrontation stage with these organizations. That is why Jordan has to change the framework and the system in which it deals with these organizations. The graphic organizer of recent assaults that targeted Jordan indicates obvious increase in the configuration of the operations, their method and objectives. This means that they should be dealt with in a strictly firm way and in a way that foresees the coming confrontations in order to avoid any further dangerous and aggressive future threats. 

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh


New trends in terrorism

Over the last few decades we have seen the evolution of terrorist doctrines from Al Qaeda through to ISIS. The key change we have seen is an increased level of violence and brutality in their doctrine and attacks.There are many questions regarding the …

Mosul Battle: What next

According to various security reports, the last few weeks have seen a mass systematic withdrawal of IS fighters from Mosul, anticipating the US operation of liberating Mosul from ISIS.

Politically, the US insists on separating the efforts of fighting ISIS in its main cities of Mosul and Raqqa. This kind of tactic highlights the lack of pragmatism in the way the US is fighting terrorism in the Middle East.

Since the declaration of the Caliphate by IS, the US has wanted to appear as the savior and liberator of Mosul and Raqqa.  There was a similar Hollywood-style in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and a similar political investment.

The announcement of the US military plan to liberate Mosul based on avoiding a humanitarian disaster demonstrates the American interest is the political story in Washington and the impact on the presidential election. The message being sent is the role of the current administration in the liberation of Mosul to demonstrate the success of Obama’s second term, much like the elimination of Bin Laden was used to demonstrate the success of his first term.

In publicly announcing their plans, ISIS has responded by withdrawing from Mosul, making American success much more likely as the ISIS presence in Mosul has decreased significantly, making liberation a much simpler task. While IS fights have moved to Raqqa, those remaining in Mosul have taken to guerilla tactics with an increase in suicide bombings and surprise ambushes.

So while entering Mosul will not be so difficult, the next step will be the real challenge as they attempt to reestablish political stability, without challenging Iraqi authority. Furthermore, the real battle with ISIS is just being shifted to Raqqa, where most of the IS forces are preparing for a confrontation. A battle for Raqqa is likely to be far more complicated, not just because ISIS will remain and fight after having months to prepare, but also because of the lack of coordination between the Russian and international allies, which will only create more complexity and make success more difficult to achieve.

Meanwhile, Turkish supported troops have taken the village of Dabeq will crush the IS ideology on which the terrorist group justifies itself as the successor of the medieval caliphate and the prophecy that they will prevail in the final battle of Armageddon between the forces of good and evil.

The impending fall of Mosul will also trigger the search for the next successor to the caliphate.  We are likely to see the birth of new groups claiming to be the legitimate successor of the caliphate heritage. Moreover, the direct attack on Mosul could also scatter IS fighters, which will result on individual and uncoordinated terrorist attacks across the region and the world as followers of the IS doctrine have shown a capacity to operate globally.

Despite all of this, the symbolism of the fall of Mosul is very important, as it is the place from which La Baghdadi announced the birth of the caliphate. As such, it will be considered a big blow to the organization and its narrative. While there may be negative implications for IS, it will also have negative impacts for the rest of the world with a greater risk of terrorist attacks, while also setting up a difficult battle for Raqqa. Especially so if the US insists on not coordinating with other forces in the region to liberate the last remaining major city that IS holds.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh