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  • Author: Julie Meier
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Worldwide, millions of people survive severely distressing experiences caused by war and conflict, humanitarian disasters, and displacement. While such events affect the mental health of any population, the psychosocial well-being of persons in humanitarian contexts are rarely addressed in research. In Iraq, sustained and accelerated trauma is a reality, as the local population has endured years of prolonged violence and persecution. Iraq has undergone almost forty years of conflict, including authoritarianism, an eight-year Iran-Iraq war, two Gulf Wars, decades of economic sanctions, a civil war, and the recent occupation by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
  • Topic: Islamic State, Conflict, Mental Health, Peace
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Turkey has to deal with thousands of citizens who travelled to join ISIS and have now returned. Of the few convicted, many will soon be released from jail. Others are under surveillance. The fate of the rest is murky. Why does it matter? ISIS’s diminished stature and measures adopted by the Turkish authorities have spared Turkey from ISIS attacks for more than three years. But while the threat should not be overplayed, it has not necessarily disappeared. That Turkish returnees turn their back on militancy is important for national and regional security. What should be done? Ankara’s approach toward returnees or others suspected of ties to jihadism relies mostly on surveillance and detention. The government could consider also offering support for returnees’ families, alternatives for youngsters at risk of being drawn into militancy and support for returnees released after serving ISIS-related jail time.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Law Enforcement, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Telli Betül Karacan
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Studies of IS propaganda show that it uses both new and old, proven methods to recruit members and conquer new territories following the loss of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Fragile States, Islamic State, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, India, Asia, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Sahel-based Salafi-jihadi groups including al Qaeda and the Islamic State coordinate and cooperate across organizational divides united by common objectives, shared histories, and ethnic ties, creating a unique ecosystem of ideology and terror. The Salafi-jihadi ecosystem in the Sahel is strengthening rapidly. The number of attacks will continue to rise and will become deadlier as groups’ capabilities improve. The groups’ coordinated effort to transform Sahelian society and governance into their vision under Islam has helped destabilize the region and has created additional opportunities for Salafi-jihadi growth.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Non State Actors, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Salafism, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Sahel
  • Author: C. Anthony Pfaff
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Security cooperation with Iraq remains a critical component of the US-Iraq relationship. Despite neighboring Iran’s ability to limit US political and economic engagement, Iraq still seeks US assistance to develop its military and to combat resurgent terrorist organizations. This monograph provides a historical and cultural basis from which to understand the limitations and potential for US cooperation with Iraq’s armed forces.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Islamic State, Economy
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Dr. Robert J. Bunker
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: June 2014 to December 2017 represented the high tide of radical Islamist (Salafi-jihadist) territorial control under the authority of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This monograph analyzes and provides policy response options for US national security and Army planners concerning the potential for postterritorial caliphate battlefield migration by the sizable contingent of battle-hardened Islamic State foreign fighters situated within various enclaves in Syria and Iraq. The monograph achieves these ends by discussing Islamic State territorial eras and demographics; offering an overview of the initial inflows of these fighters into the territorial caliphate, outflows to the United States, and lateral transfers to new battlefields, as well as mentioning special issues related to Islamic State women and children; highlighting and analyzing the four strategic options available to the Islamic State in its postterritorial caliphate phase; and offering senior US policy makers and planners options for counterbattlefield migration policy responses. These options pertain to policies focused on extremists and the Islamic State as an organization and embedded within the context of higher-level US foreign policies toward Syria and Iraq. Additionally, recommendations for counterforeign terrorist fighter programs and the Joint force are provided.
  • Topic: Insurgency, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Islamism, Army, Foreign Fighters
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Liesbeth van der Heide, Audrey Alexander
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: This report focuses on the topic of foreign minors who are stuck in limbo after the fall of the territorial caliphate, particularly those who live in dangerous conditions within detention facilities as countries determine their roles and responsibilities in addressing the issue in the region. Although nations are right to assess the potential risks associated with returning Islamic State-affiliated minors, the costs of delayed action are high. To support stakeholders tasked with weighing such tradeoffs, the first half of this report uses a range of primary and secondary sources to review the experiences some foreign minors have during and after life in the Islamic State. The report suggests that such circumstances can create barriers to a minor’s rehabilitation and reintegration, but argues that addressing key issue areas may improve programming for returning minors. With that rationale in mind, the second half of this report lays out four focus areas and draws from research about children in other adverse contexts, including those affected by conflict, displacement, deprivation, or abuse, to raise considerations for stakeholders developing rehabilitation and reintegration programs for returning minors.
  • Topic: Crime, Counter-terrorism, Islamic State, Youth, Rehabilitation
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Sara Nowacka
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Iraq remains an area of rivalry between the U.S. and Iran. The latest example was the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad by the U.S. in January. The Iraqi parliament then demanded the withdrawal of all foreign military troops. However, the fear of the resurgence of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and continued protests against Iranian influence, ongoing since October 2019, may lead the Iraqi authorities to alter their position. An alternative option to request a NATO mission to take over some of the activities of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS may be a good solution.
  • Topic: NATO, Military Affairs, Islamic State, Military Intervention, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Sara Nowacka
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The activity of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a state-financed organisation of around 60 militias, deepens the political crisis in Iraq. This was mirrored in their brutal suppression of anti-government protests and a series of attacks between PMF Kataib Hezbollah (KH) forces and U.S. troops. The structure of the PMF and their political influence in Iraq and abroad prevent the state from controlling the militias. This hinders attempts to calm the ongoing protests in Iraq and threatens the security of the military missions present there. The absorption of PMF members directly into the army and demobilisation of some militias could counteract this.
  • Topic: Security, Non State Actors, Islamic State, Protests, Militias
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Pishko Shamsi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: In 2017, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq held an independence referendum, which triggered severe backlash, including the loss of control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The backlash from the independence referendum prompted the regional government (Kurdistan Regional Government) to urgently shift policy and re-engage with Baghdad. Since then, the region has recovered politically and has implemented a pragmatic strategy to revitalize the economy and internal affairs. The KRG also launched diplomatic initiatives to restore relations with Iran and Turkey, and has pursued a policy of neutrality to manage the Region’s myriad of crises. Moreover, the KRG has pursued tactical alliances with Iraqi political parties to secure short-term gains, including the resumption of budget transfers from Baghdad. The KRG’s deal-making with Baghdad, however, has fallen short of translating into a sustainable policy, and many of the gains are fragile and dependent on Baghdad’s changing political scene. Without a long-term strategy, the KRG’s new leadership is unlikely to be able to deliver much needed institutional reforms to help curb corruption, improve governance, and enhance transparency in public affairs. And while the KRG has committed to reform politically, it remains unclear if it will bring about meaningful change and address structural challenges, such as entrenched crony networks, rentier economics, and partisan control over the public sector and security forces.The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.
  • Topic: Islamic State, Autonomy, Referendum
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Kurdistan
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tens of thousands of foreign men, women and children affiliated with ISIS are detained in northeast Syria. The camps where they are held pose a formidable security and humanitarian challenge to the region. Western governments should, at minimum, accelerate the repatriation of women and children. What’s new? Alongside the thousands of foreign fighters detained in north east Syria are thousands of non-Syrian children and women. Western governments have for months publicly wrestled with political and policy qualms about repatriating their nationals. Turkey’s incursion into Syria highlights that the window for repatriation or transfer could close suddenly. Why does it matter? The long-term detention of these men, women and children in north east Syria has always been deeply problematic for security and humanitarian reasons. The Turkish incursion and shifting balance of power in the region makes the security of the camps where they are held more precarious. What should be done? As a first step toward addressing this challenge, Western governments should accelerate repatriation of their national children and women. They should recognise the diversity of women’s backgrounds and repatriate those who are unthreatening. They should also pour substantial diplomatic and financial resources into developing responsible options for the remaining population.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Law Enforcement, Islamic State, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Once again, the Islamic State may be poised to recover from defeat in its original bases of Iraq and Syria. It is still possible, however, for the jihadist group’s many foes to nip its regrowth in the bud. What’s new? In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is down but not out. The group remains active but reduced and geographically circumscribed. Keeping it down requires sustained effort. Any of several events – Turkish intervention in north-eastern Syria, but also instability in Iraq or spill-over of U.S.-Iranian tensions – could enable its comeback. Why does it matter? Iraqis, Syrians and their international partners paid a heavy price to dislodge the militant organisation from its territorial “caliphate”. Yet even as an insurgency, it still threatens Iraqis and Syrians locally, and, if it manages to regroup, it could pose a renewed threat globally. What should be done? Keeping ISIS weak will require avoiding new conflict in either Iraq or Syria that would disrupt counter-ISIS efforts – most immediately, Turkish intervention in north-eastern Syria. Syrians and Iraqis need a period of calm to pursue ISIS insurgents and stabilise their respective countries.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The U.S. decision to leave troops in north-eastern Syria has bought the area time but not lasting stability. Washington should press its Kurdish YPG allies to loosen their PKK ties – lest Ankara intervene – and stop obstructing their autonomy talks with Damascus. What’s new? After President Donald Trump announced a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria, his administration decided to leave a residual force there. All parties – the U.S., Turkey, the Syrian regime, Russia and the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) that control the north east – are adjusting their stance to the resulting uncertainty. Why does it matter? The withdrawal reprieve provides an opportunity to prevent a violent free-for-all in the north east. Had U.S. troops left precipitously, Damascus might have tried to recover the territory and Ankara to exploit the vacuum to destroy the YPG. A resurgent Islamic State could have filled the void. What should be done? Washington should use its remaining influence to address Turkish concerns about the PKK’s role in the north east while protecting the YPG; and Moscow should help the YPG and Damascus reach agreement on the north east’s gradual reintegration into the Syrian state on the basis of decentralised governance.
  • Topic: Islamic State, Syrian War, Autonomy, YPG
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Should U.S.-Iranian tensions escalate to a shooting war, Iraq would likely be the first battleground. Washington and Tehran should stop trying to drag Baghdad into their fight. The Iraqi government should redouble its efforts to remain neutral and safeguard the country’s post-ISIS recovery. What’s new? In June, several rockets landed near U.S. installations in Iraq, and in July-August, explosions shook weapons storage facilities and a convoy of Iraqi paramilitary groups tied to Iran. These incidents helped push U.S.-Iranian tensions to the edge of confrontation, underscoring the danger of the situation in Iraq and the Gulf. Why does it matter? While the U.S. and Iran have so far avoided clashing directly, they are pushing the Iraqi government to take sides. Iraqi leaders are working hard to maintain the country’s neutrality. But growing external pressures and internal polarisation threaten the government’s survival. What should be done? The U.S. and Iran should refrain from drawing Iraq into their rivalry, as doing so would undermine the tenuous stability Iraq has achieved in the immediate post-ISIS era. With the aid of international actors, Iraq should persevere in its diplomatic and domestic political efforts to remain neutral.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Geopolitics, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The US is losing against al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other like-minded groups, which are all part of the Salafi-jihadi movement. US counterterrorism efforts have made Americans safer, but the Salafi-jihadi movement is more than its terrorism threat. That movement now prioritizes developing its relationships with local Sunni communities, from which it draws its strategic strength, to transform the Muslim world. Winning today means adopting a strategy beyond counterterrorism that will defeat the Salafi-jihadi movement, instead of just countering the terrorism threat. The US must reframe its approach against al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other groups. With the help of partners, the US must sever the ties of the Salafi-jihadi movement to local Sunni communities. America and its allies must offer these communities a viable alternative to these terror groups.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Salafism, Islamism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jessica Trisko Darden
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Young people serve as a vital source of support for terrorist groups. Extensive youth participation creates an intergenerational terrorism problem and lays the foundation for future conflicts. Youth end up in terrorist groups through forced and voluntary recruitment. They perform a range of roles that vary according to age and gender, with girls and young women often being subject to gendered social roles and sexual and domestic violence. To effectively counter terrorists’ exploitation of youth abroad, governments should adopt a data-based approach to improve the targeting of terrorism prevention programs, move beyond a traditional focus on young men, address the potential for radicalization within the family, and emphasize attitudinal and behavioral change among those most vulnerable to recruitment.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Radicalization, Islamic State, Youth, Boko Haram
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Successes on the battlefields against al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other like-minded groups have not led to their defeat or permanently reduced their threat to the United States. The deterioration of conditions in the Muslim world has made communities vulnerable to and created opportunities for the Salafi-jihadi vanguard to develop local ties. The reliance of the Salafi-jihadi movement on its relationship with Sunni communities to strengthen and expand beyond ideological supporters is a key vulnerability. The US should reorient its efforts to focus not only on disrupting and preventing active terror plots as a national security priority but also on severing the relationships the Salafi-jihadi movement has formed with Sunni communities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Al Qaeda, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Dr. Shima D. Keene
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: This monograph provides an assessment of the emerging threat posed by foreign jihadist fighters following the reduction in territory controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and recommends ways that the U.S. Army should address the issues highlighted.
  • Topic: Migration, Military Affairs, Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Jihad, Army
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Dr. Robert J. Bunker
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: This monograph focuses on an understudied, but yet a critically important and timely component of land warfare, related to the battlefield use of chemical weapons by contemporary threat forces. It will do so by focusing on two case studies related to chemical weapons use in Syria and Iraq by the Assad regime and the Islamic State. Initially, the monograph provides an overview of the chemical warfare capabilities of these two entities; discusses selected incidents of chemical weapons use each has perpetrated; provides analysis and lessons learned concerning these chemical weapons incidents, their programs, and the capabilities of the Assad regime and the Islamic State; and then presents U.S. Army policy and planning considerations on this topical areas of focus. Ultimately, such considerations must be considered vis-à-vis U.S. Army support of Joint Force implementation of National Command Authority guidance.
  • Topic: War, Islamic State, Conflict, Syrian War, Army, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Chris Bosley
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Communities worldwide face the challenge of reintegrating people exiting violent extremist conflicts. This report draws on established programs and the recommendations of authoritative bodies to examine community-based approaches to their rehabilitation. Given that criminal justice responses may not always be possible or appropriate, recovery-focused approaches such as resocialization and reconciliation are recommended to minimize risk and foster resilience.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Conflict, Criminal Justice, Risk, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Milton, Don Rassler
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: One of the much-discussed aspects of the Islamic State’s caliphate project was the opportunity it provided for families to travel and live under the control of the organization. While various studies have provided a somewhat clear picture of the more accountable population of those travelers—the men and women who decided to join the group—less clear-cut information has appeared regarding the minor population that lived under the organization’s governance. Using a portion of a spreadsheet captured by U.S. military forces, this report offers an examination of the minor population that lived inside the Iraqi portion of the Islamic State’s control in late 2016. It reveals a diverse population of over 100,000 minors, mostly from Iraq but also from 56 other countries around the world. This report provides important context and data for current discussion regarding what to do with those left in the conflict zone and those being repatriated to countries throughout the world.
  • Topic: Children, Islamic State, Youth, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Asaad Almohammad, Charlie Winter
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: This report offers a unique contribution to the literature by examining the Islamic State’s production, dissemination, and evaluation of propaganda in the months running up to its territorial collapse. Utilizing a range of materials collected in eastern Syria during the first nine months of 2018, namely audio-visual records and interviews, the authors inspected the administrative structure undergirding the group’s Central Media Directorate. Key responsibilities of this entity included interdepartmental oversight and monitoring, as well as media production and distribution. Focusing primarily on infrastructure concerning security and production, the study examines how the Islamic State cultivated a high degree of operational security, fluidity, and effectiveness. By assessing these trends during a period of existential external and internal pressure, the report demonstrates how the group ensured the continuance of its influence operations. Beyond highlighting the utility of its guiding methodology and the operational value of its findings, this investigation enabled the authors to outline how the Islamic State might traverse the post-proto-state phase of its history. Among other things, the report draws attention to the increasing ascendency of diwan al-amn al-‘am (Directorate of General Security), especially regarding its role in instilling operational opacity, maintaining archives, and managing personnel. Taken altogether, the findings show how the Islamic State sought to navigate through critical trade-offs, such as efficiency and security, particularly in the context of its media operations.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Media, Islamic State, Propaganda, Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, Global Focus
  • Author: Lana Baydas
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in July 2017. In December 2017, he announced that a joint effort between the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, had liberated all Iraqi territory from ISIS. The 2017 operations in Mosul, Tel Afar, and Hawija marked the formal end of a bleak era for swaths of the Iraqi populace after being subjected to the horrors of ISIS rule.
  • Topic: Crime, Human Rights, Islamic State, Conflict, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Katherine Zimmerman
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Salafi-jihadi movement shifted to prioritizing local over global objectives during the Arab Spring. Analysts wrongly understood this as a weakening of the groups. Groups have hidden their true nature by hiding their ties to global jihadi groups, such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and by rebranding and reorganizing on the ground. Movement leaders design and execute attacks in ways that create doubt and ambiguity about the responsible party. This new technique exploits US counterterrorism policy, which is not designed to pursue anyone other than the individuals directly responsible for the attack. American officials are countering a dynamic enemy with an irrelevant and outdated strategy.
  • Topic: Counter-terrorism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Salafism, Arab Spring, War on Terror, Sunni, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Syria, North America, Arabian Peninsula
  • Author: Łukasz Jurczyszyn
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The fight against terrorism is one of President Emmanuel Macron’s political priorities. Activities in this field are carried out in two main directions, one, in the country, through new institutions and regulations and, two, abroad, through military operations and by increasing development assistance in Africa and the Middle East. More and more evidence indicates that they have been having the expected operational and political effects. The number of detected and subverted terrorist plots is increasing and Macron’s initiatives in this area can count on considerable public support.
  • Topic: National Security, Terrorism, Islamic State, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France, Africa
  • Author: Jonas Parello-Plesner
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: The fight in Iraq and Syria against the brutal terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) has been led by an unprecedented international coalition, with the U.S. as the galvanizing diplomatic and military component. ISIS was defeated militarily in Iraq at the end of last year, but even today small pockets remain as a fighting force in Syria. As the war is won, peace must be secured. Key to that effort is post-conflict stabilization through restoration of essential services and a gradual return of governance. As the U.S. National Security Strategy puts it, “instability and weak governance threaten U.S. interests.” In Iraq and Syria, reasserting stability is vital so that terrorist organizations do not find fertile ground again. This report draws some lessons from Iraq and Syria on stabilization efforts and the path forward. The backdrop is the evolving U.S. approach to stabilization under the Trump administration. On June 19, 2018, the administration published the final version of the Stabilization Assistance Review report, which provides an inter-agency definition of stabilization, including a more hard-nosed approach to sharing the burden with partners in accordance with President Trump’s priorities. The review also draws demarcation lines between humanitarian assistance, stabilization, and reconstruction. Stabilization is short-term and transitional, and thus also limits the time frame for U.S. engagement. However, the U.S. no longer provides public funding for reconstruction to avoid nation-building, which the administration has declared to be off limits.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Reconstruction, Islamic State, Political stability, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Marc Hecker
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: This study, based on original judicial sources, assesses the profiles of 137 individuals sentenced in France for cases related to jihadism. Among other things, the study reveals several common denominators including a lower level of education, poorer integration into the labor market, higher levels of criminal activity, and stronger ties to the Maghreb and to sub-Saharan Africa than the average French citizen. Moreover, a qualitative analysis provides an understanding of the processes of radicalization and subsequent participation in terrorist activities. As such, it expounds the role played by group dynamics, the internet, and prisons. This study further illustrates the strains imposed on the judicial and penal systems by the jihadist phenomenon. Relapse is specifically explored, notably through the cases of individuals convicted of terrorism, who, after serving their sentence, launched attacks on French soil. The subject is all the more topical in light of the likely release from prison of some sixty individuals, sentenced for acts of terrorism, in the upcoming two years.
  • Topic: Crime, Terrorism, Islamic State, Courts, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, France
  • Author: Elisabeth Kendall
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: Regional conflict and internal chaos have allowed militant jihadi groups to rise and flourish in Yemen. This paper analyzes two of the most prominent such groups, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Yemen (ISY), by scrutinizing the factors that led to their respective ascents and examining the challenges and pressures that have caused their respective declines. By comparing and contrasting their operations, respective styles of leadership, and varying levels of community integration, this paper charts the path of jihadi militancy in Yemen and assesses its future in Yemeni politics and society.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Haid Haid, Charlie Winter
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: Insurgent strategic communication has rarely posed as great a threat to regional and international security as it does today in Syria, where jihadists are using it to aggressively advance their short- and long-term interests. Using a qualitative mixed-methods approach incorporating semi-structured interviews with activists and journalists operating inside Syria and in-depth, longitudinal content analysis, this paper compares and contrasts the in-theater outreach strategies of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, tracking how each has used propaganda and censorship to entrench its rule over local constituents in recent years. It demonstrates that, notwithstanding the fact that both organizations share the same ideology, there are significant tactical and strategic disparities between their respective approaches toward public diplomacy, disparities that run right to the heart of what drives their enmity for each other.
  • Topic: Media, Islamic State, Propaganda, Jihad, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Paul Salem
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: The conditions that brought about the rise and spread of violent transnational movements in the Middle East are complex and have been long in the making. In order to address the existence of V.T.M.s, the region must address the political and socio-economic challenges that provide the space for such groups to arise, foremost the lack of strong and legitimate state structures. This paper strives to provide the necessary historical and theoretical context in order to understand the enablers of V.T.M.s in today’s Middle East. Within this contextualized framework, the paper proceeds to consider strategies to reverse the V.T.M. trend.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Islamic State, Transnational Actors, State
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries