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Friday, August 7, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 8/7/2015, Perspectives on Terrorism, Islamic State Edition


In August, Perspectives on Terrorism launched a special all-ISIS issue edited by Thomas Hegghammer. The issue was derived from a research conference in Oslo earlier this year, which I was fortunate enough to attend. It was easily the most interesting conference I've ever been to, and every panel had something important to share. The resulting papers are among the most serious research on the Islamic State to date, and I highly recommend the issue. The individual articles are listed below, and the whole issue can be found here.

-- J.M. 

A Long Way from Success: Assessing the War on the Islamic State
Progress thus far can best be described as a series of loosely linked tactical gains, rather than a significant strategic advance. By Charles Lister.

Assessing the Islamic State’s Commitment to Attacking the West
How much of a terrorist threat does the Islamic State (IS) pose to Western countries? By Thomas Hegghammer and Petter Nesser.

Picture Or It Didn’t Happen: A Snapshot of the Islamic State’s Official Media Output
This article seeks to examine, quantitatively and qualitatively, one week of official media releases of the Islamic State (IS). The analysis shows, among other things, that IS relies very heavily on visual as opposed to text-based propaganda, and that most of its military activities take place in Iraq, not Syria. By Aaron Y. Zelin.

The Metronome of Apocalyptic Time: Social Media as Carrier Wave for Millenarian Contagion
The Islamic State uses social media to activate a sense of “apocalyptic time” among its supporters online. It is the first group to employ these amplifying tactics on social media at an industrial scale, but it will likely not be the last. By J.M. Berger

Let Them Rot: The Challenges and Opportunities of Containing rather than Countering the Islamic State
An assessment of “Let Them Rot” as a strategy against the Islamic State suggests it may offer several advantages over sustained direct force, but also reveals many gaps in the current U.S.-led coalition’s ability to loosen the group’s grasp on Syria and Iraq. By Clint Watts.

Heirs of Zarqawi or Saddam? The relationship between al-Qaida in Iraq and the Islamic State
This paper examines the relationship between al-Qaida in Iraq and Islamic State, asking what remains of AQI within the current incarnation of IS. By Truls H. Tønnessen.

Understanding Jihadi Proto-States
This article offers an overview of previous and current “jihadi proto-states”, discusses their characteristics and common features, and explores ways of understanding their ultra-aggressive behaviour. By Brynjar Lia.

The Concept of Bay‘a in the Islamic State’s Ideology
Given the long roots of bay‘a (pledge of allegiance) in Islamic tradition and the controversial claim by the Islamic State (IS) to be a caliphate, the application of bay‘a to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his project is a contested issue among radical Islamists. By Joas Wagemakers.

Social Media, Recruitment, Allegiance and the Islamic State
We analyze how the process of recruitment of foreigners shapes the adverse selection problem affecting the dissident groups that they join. By Scott Gates, Sukanya Podder.

The Islamic State’s Eastern Frontier: Ramadi and Fallujah as Theaters of Sectarian Conflict
The jihadist organization lacks the military capability to fully incorporate these areas into its Syria-based caliphate, but it can use them as a base for launching attacks on government forces in central Iraq, supplementing its limited core forces with local recruits. By Kirk Sowell.

Understanding the Daesh Economy
We analyze Daesh as an economic entity, demonstrating first that the amount of productive activity in areas it controls is small and second that its institutions are inimical to sustained growth. By Jamie Hansen-Lewis and Jacob N. Shapiro.

The Evolution in Islamic State Administration: The Documentary Evidence
This paper traces the development in Islamic State administration from the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006 until the present day. By Aymenn al-Tamimi.

The Dreams of Islamic State
Previous research has shown that jihadis attach great importance to dreams, to the point of taking them into account in personal and strategic decision-making. By Iain R. Edgar.

Is ISIS a Revolutionary Group and if Yes, What Are the Implications?
This paper argues that thinking of the Islamic State as a revolutionary group opens up new perspectives that take advantage of the recent historical record, while shielding us from overly exceptionalist interpretations. By Stathis N. Kalyvas.


Jihadology Podcast: ‘Boko Haram’ Transitions to The Islamic State in West Africa
Aaron Zelin and Jacob Zenn discuss the group commonly referred to as Boko Haram.


FBI to Seek Counseling, Not Handcuffs, for Some Islamic State Suspects
Faced with a wave of potential homegrown terrorists, the FBI embarks on a new approach to help prevent people from turning violent

German who fought for 'IS' in Syria denounces extremism
Back from Syria and charged with fighting for the "Islamic State," the German Ebrahim B. no longer has illusions of "five-star jihad" and now advocates against extremism.

Think-Tank Releases Anti-Radicalisation Video to Counter ISIS Propaganda
The video, which was crowdfunded by 150 donors across ten different countries, is accompanied by a line which reads, "ISIL are radicalising our brothers to fight in Syria. They are tearing families apart. Enough is enough."


How federal agents foiled a murderous Jade Helm 15 retaliation plot
Federal officials say three North Carolina men spent months compiling their cache, much of it purchased through a military surplus store owner who became so concerned about the plot that the person became the FBI’s informant.

Push for Retribution in Egypt Frays Muslim Brotherhood
A veteran leader of the Muslim Brotherhood was so alarmed by the rising calls for violence from the group’s youth that he risked arrest to urge the movement to stay peaceful.

Reddit bans several of its most racist communities
Reddit has adopted an expanded content policy, proposed in July, and has banned a number of communities — including r/coontown, Reddit's notoriously hateful white supremacist community.

Haqqani network founder endorses new Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor
Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder and head of the Pakistan-based militant Haqqani network, has backed Mullah Omar's successor Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. Haqqani's statement comes days after media reports claimed he had died.

After Omar: The Future of the Taliban and the War in Afghanistan
Mullah Omar’s death will have serious ramifications not just for the future of Afghanistan, but also for regional stability and the global jihad. By Arif Rafiq.

Zawahiri’s Mullah Omar Problem
The news of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s 2013 death has not only seriously shaken the movement he founded, but also threatens to divide al-Qaeda.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam.


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

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Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe


INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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