So far Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate has been very successful in using the techniques of psychological warfare.
From professional footage and commercials of its ferocious executions, all the more brutal precisely because fear had to be instilled among the Western countries’ public, to the sequence of repeated threats about the future invasion of Europe by the “sword jihad”, to the Russian aircraft shot down in the Sinai, to the very publicized “allegiance” of Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the many jihadist groups in North Africa and Yemen, up to the threats regarding the “dormant terrorist cells” in the West.
An escalation which is both strategic and informative, because it aims at blocking the enemy’s defences and making it blind to possible new areas and moments of attack.
As the Qur’an maintains, the art of deception, carried out by the Prophet himself, applies to three cases: reconciliation between two or more Muslim litigants, reconciliation with one’s own wife and during war.
In the holy book of the Islam Allah is described as “the best of deceivers” (3:54, 8:30, 10:21).
“And fight them until persecution is no more and religion is all for Allah” (8:39).
Hence, whatever the truth of the operational and strategic threat, nothing has been forgotten by the Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate.
And it is exactly the specific cultural and political structure of the current jihad to make effective this mix of ancient Koranic doctrine and very modern psywar doctrines, of postmodern and information warfare with the most innovative technologies and the ancient tradition of the Prophet’s Hadith.
Obviously, the fact of having – from the outset – the contribution of the Stay Behind structures of the Sunni Iraqi Baathist forces for Isis – after the mad US choice, following the second Gulf War, to “put an end” to the entire apparatus of Saddam’s regime – was not irrelevant to define the complexity and sophistication of the Caliphate’s psychological warfare.
During an operation of Saddam’s forces in the Second Gulf War, carried out with simultaneous bomb blasts at a very large distance between them, the former Italian President, Francesco Cossiga, made me open my eyes to the fact that it was very likely for the Stay Behind Iraqi and Baathist network to be still fully operational.
In fact, Saddam Hussein’s covert structures had been prepared by France during the Cold War, and had remained hidden also for most Soviet “advisers” during the long Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Probably they re-emerged later with the destabilization following the so-called Iraqi “democratization”, thus finally creating their own autonomy with the “Caliphate”.
It is also worth mentioning here the very ferocious actions perpetrated in Paris and in Belgium.
Operations which can certainly be defined as symbolic, but not only so.
They aim at a showdown of strength not affected and conditioned by the enemy which primarily means: 1) we members of the jihad are already fully operational within your countries and we do not fear you; 2) hence we can hit when and where we want, without you ever knowing it. You, the “infidel”, have no way to hit us – hence do not do so because the fault and the effects would only fall upon you.
Suffice to recall here the burst of rhetoric and exceptional ignorance of historical and political facts against Israel: the official and hidden jihad propagandists maintain that if there were no Jewish State, there would be no Islam resentment against us – hence we should annihilate it by ourselves.
I.e.: accept our conditioning, so as to become our agents and, hence, allies untouchable by our jihad.
Therefore Propaganda + Action managed by ISIS and its operational-information system at the same time, with a view to frightening and taming the great silent front of permanent jihad.
Furthermore, the Caliphate’s operational psyops emphasize the cultural autonomy of European Islam vis-à-vis the multiethnic and multicultural societies- a breeding ground which will be fully completed and easy to manipulate, when there are Islamist parties within the EU and Koranic union organizations.
As was the case with the Autonomia Operaia movement during Italy’s so-called “Years of Lead”, a period of political turmoil characterized by terrorist attacks, which was the revolving door, cover and training area for the Red Brigades.
By means of violent actions, the Caliphate threatens the Western information and cultural world, which has to be convinced a) that it is never possible to fight the jihad on its own territory, and b) that the European Union and the United States must give up supporting Israel.
And, most importantly, they have to surrender unconditionally to the jihad. Only after absolute surrender there will be peace.
Once again the Koranic criteria for war apply: .if they (the unbelievers) propose peace, accept it and trust in God. God is All-Hearing and All-Knowing (8:61).
The communication variable, vis-à-vis Osama Bin Laden’s jihad, is that – for Isis – the West must no longer withdraw its support for the “takfiri”, the “apostates” of the Gulf monarchies that, however, support almost officially the new Caliphate’s territorial and statist jihad.
Their operating logic is the one against the Iran of the Shi’ites “infidel”, of their supporters. Previously, with Bin Laden’s “solid base” (Al Qaeda al Sulbah), this variable was fully secondary.
Another aspect of propaganda for the second-generation Islamic young proletarians born in Europe is that the “new State” of the Syrian-Iraqi Islam is also a myth, a source of livelihood in the EU and US crisis, and especially a source of glory in fighting – in short a flag, a banner for which to live and die.
It is the myth that has always mobilized peoples.
Therefore it is a multi-layer propaganda, as is always the case in every old and modern psywar operation.
Nevertheless, as all psyops, it must never be repetitive.
Quite the reverse. It must always be very innovative and incorporate that clever and unexpected move which distorts the enemy’s communication, intoxicates it and leads the enemy to self-made defeat.
Here the lessons to be learnt from the Russian Federation and China are crucial: the former has materially and completely eliminated its jihad in Chechnya, without any restrictions – and this is the reason why, after breaking the operational arm of the proxy warriors on its territory or along its vital borders, it can afford a regional war in Syria against the jihadist allies of the petromonarchies.
Without obstacles whatsoever, except for Turkey, reduced to a proxy of Saudi Arabia despite the fact that President Erdogan’s AKP was born as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and that them, among the Saudis, are put to death.
It was a university professor of the Brotherhood, in Riyadh, to radicalize the young Osama Bin Laden.
It is also worth recalling that Russia’s power on oil and gas enables it to strike a geoeconomic blow against OPEC, maybe short but very hard, in terms of management of the oil and gas market – an option we obviously lack completely.
Everything happens just when Saudi Arabia, for the first time since 2015, has recorded a budget deficit and its entry onto the global market of public debt.
Therefore the Russian one is not a hidden challenge to be disregarded and set aside with conceit.
Hence elimination of the ways, means, intermediaries and areas of a future destabilizing proxy war for Moscow.
The aim is to subsequently negotiate, without limits, also with the countries supporting the jihad against the European Union, by having good cards to play and not just paying lip service to humanitarian principles.
Conversely, China’s following actions can be regarded as anti-jihadist: the geoeconomic equalization of all the forces on the field; the use of buffer areas for specific initiatives – just think of China’s aid to Pakistan, one of its long-standing friend in the region, for the Gwadar port; the opening to India with its recent entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
China does not even neglect sending as many as 5,000 units of its elite forces, such as the Siberian Tiger and assault troops that, after the “green light” to the specific law given by the People’s Congress on December 28, 2015, can operate abroad.
If Turkey wants to open its front after the clash in Syria, it will know what it will be heading for.
In particular, China wants to avoid the contagion between the Uighur Xinjiang and the Syrian jihad, considering that the region of Turkmen Muslims borders with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
It is not to be ruled out that some Chinese units are already positioned for a “hybrid war” and an operational psywar in the hottest areas of the Syrian-Iraqi region.
Hence Russia and China already have the strength to wage and fight an asymmetric warfare against another asymmetric warfare, without limits of territorial borders, “humanitarian” rules to be followed, agreements between countries with inattentive and fearful publics, numbed by self-destructive slogans such as Charlie c’est moi or insanely pacifist appeals just after the Paris attacks.
Each hybrid war is fought only with another hybrid war.
And it is worth recalling that it had been the Atlantic Alliance to invent, in 2014, the concept of hybrid war, by thinking of the Russian operations in Ukraine, thus defining the so-called “ambiguous warfare”.
Hence if a definition is sought, the ISIS jihad is precisely waging a hybrid war against us.
A conflict with no time and space limits, using legal forces and illegal structures, organized crime and official elite structures, information warfare and the official news networks.
The purpose of these specific psyops is to include an unpredictable mechanism in the enemy’s decision-making process, which makes it either unable to provide an adequate response or suitable for an equally dangerous oversized response going in the wrong direction.
Furthermore, the enemy has to be indirectly trained – thanks to the “hybrid” jihadist psyops, because also military actions are communication – not to be able to foresee or accuse anyone, or rather, to have to always accuse the wrong perpetrator of the jihad striking it.
And this is done in order to expand the front of its enemies and to make the area of its sensitive targets further unpredictable.
But, of course, the hitting subject is always the true “centre of operations”, the vertical core of the jihadist command structure, through any operational arm, always occasional or even unaware of who is really engaging it.
This mechanism holds true also for the Egyptian airplane flying from Paris to Cairo.
On the basis of the information available to us, the US intelligence services had already discovered an ISIS specialized team operating in Raqqa for weeks, which probably planned the attack against the EgyptAir airplane, hit 288 kilometres north of Alexandria.
Considering that these operations are never programmed alone and are planned long in advance, for obvious reasons of secrecy and compartmentalization, it is very likely that from now a swarm of terrorist or, more exactly jihadist, attacks will take place in the European Union and probably also in the United States.
This is exactly the reason why Paris and the other European capitals – as well as the Egyptian intelligence services that are still suffering from the ambiguous defamation of the Regeni affair – tend not confirm the terrorist nature of the attack against the Egyptian airplane.
Obviously if they confirm so, they will prove to be weak, while if they do not confirm so, they will be in a position to temporarily play down and defuse the ISIS jihad, not to mention the fact that, traditionally, each air strike entails a future ground operation.
This also implies that – as already happened – the Head of the US forces in the Middle East, General Votel, has recently travelled secretly to Syria to visit the YPG Kurdish base and the US special forces in their base of Ramelan, about 288 kilometres from Raqqa.
The AH-64 Apache combat helicopters can easily attack the Caliphate’s capital, while the Kurdish forces of the YPG unified command, which have not been invited to the negotiations in Geneva and Vienna, will operate on the ground, also with new weapons.
The relations between the United States and Egypt are still weak, but there is news of joint actions by the US Special Forces and the Egyptian operational Services against the ISIS areas in the region around the Tobruk port.
Therefore, the rules of asymmetric warfare are as follows: 1) hit secretly; 2) when the strike is successful, decide whether to spread the precise news or create “information intoxication”. The decision depends on whether you still want to cover the action base or whether, since already quickly shifted, you can make it public and then 3) create information ambiguity not only in the enemy’s data, but above all in its decision-making process.
This is the hybrid war of the ISIS territorial jihad and of its covert bases abroad. Hence this is the ground for implementing and testing the Western equal and opposite strategies (Opposing Force, OPFOR), without fear, without false moralism and, above all, without the old-fashioned idea – which was buried with the Cold War – that we should only “contain” the enemy.
The enemy must be eliminated, and above all be destabilized internally by demoralizing it, by spreading news intoxicating its decision-making process, by destroying the morale of its soldiers, by defaming it and thus undermining its relations with friendly States or its hidden covers.
It is the phase – new for the West – that in 1996 two Chinese Colonels, Quiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, defined “the unrestricted warfare” in a book published in the West two years later.
Giancarlo Elia Valori * (@GEliaValori)
* Presidente della merchant bank “La centrale Finanziaria Generale S.p.A.”
– Presidente della “Cattedra sugli studi della pace, la sicurezza e lo sviluppo internazionale presso la Facoltà di relazioni internazionali della Peking University, nonché “professore straordinario” di economia e politica internazionale nello stesso Ateneo
– Honorable dell’Académie des Sciences dell’Institut de France