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So now ISIS has its own fake news

Friday, March 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — propaganda and, i suppose, impropaganda ]
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Publication of the last three issues of the ISIS magazine Rumiyah have been preceded or accompanied by bogus issues, thus giving ISIS its own quota of fake news. I’m of course delighted because one can compare authentic and fake versions as visual DoubleQuotes. Here are some examples from the latest issue, #7, courtesy of Charlie Winter:

**

MEMRI has graciously made its February report, Release Of Two Suspicious Fifth Issues Of ISIS’s ‘Rumiyah’ Magazine – Timeline, Characteristics, And Takeaways, openly available — here are the basic paras:

On January 6, 2017, the Islamic State (ISIS) released Issue 5 of its online magazine Rumiyah. The issue, which included, inter alia, the usual threats to the West and advice for carrying out attacks there,[1] was picked up by Western media outlets and widely reported. Much less attention, however, was given to two other purported issues of the same magazine, which were released a few hours prior to the official Islamic State release of Issue 5.

Each of the two fake issues of Issue 5 of Rumiyah appears to have a different purpose. While the first was reportedly a rogue PDF file packed with malware aimed at infecting the devices of anyone downloading or opening the file, the content of the second was surprisingly well crafted content in what appeared to be a malware-free PDF file, making the point of its release not entirely clear.

This is not the first time that a jihadi magazine or other release is comprised, especially in light of the fierce cyber warfare being waged against terrorist groups. The most prominent example of this is the 2010 operation that aimed to undermine the first release of the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) English-language magazine Inspire. That attack resulted in the release of two modified PDF versions of the magazine, and has had a negative impact on one of the magazine’s distribution channels as well.[2] In another incident in 2013, which also targeted AQAP, a video of the group was purposely sabotaged and a segment calling for the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Yemen at the time was removed prior to its official release.[3]

Terrorist groups’ distribution chains and channels have evolved in the last decade. What was once a single download link posted on a password-protected top-tier jihadi forum, is now a widely distributed URL to jihadi content posted on the San Francisco-based Internet Archive (archive.org)[4] that goes viral on Twitter, Telegram, and elsewhere within minutes of its initial release. Jihadi response to suspicious content, on the other hand, has been relatively consistent during that same period, with overly cautious and even paranoid behavior characterizing many members of online jihadi circles. In fact, social media has in many ways made it more difficult to “trick” jihadis into consuming dubious jihadi content, since warnings about such content are now generated and disseminated faster and easier than ever before.

The graphic at the head of this post is taken from a February Heavy Terror Watch post, ISIS Alleges Someone Is Publishing Fake Islamic State Magazines

It’s all faintly hilarious / deadly serious: fake news, ISIS-style.

A Tale of Two Places – Dabiq and Rumiyah

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — Rumiyah is a city for sure, Dabiq not so much ]
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The Islamic State has a new magazine out, and it’s titled Rumiyah, not Dabiq. Here’s the first inside page of the first issue of Dabiq, together with the cover of the first issue of Rumiyah:

dabiq-rumiyah-front

And here’s the back cover of each magazine:

dabiq-rumiyah-back

What’s significant here is that the names of both magazines, like bookends, refer to a significant location in IS eschatology — but not the same place, two different places. And thereby hangs my Tale.

**

The front cover of Rumiyah, the new magazine, opens with a quote from Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir, who was Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi‘s immediate successor as emir of Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), the precursor to the Islamic State:

O muwahhidin, rejoice, for by Allah, we will not rest from our jihad expect beneath the olive trees of Rumiyah (Rome)

Moreover, the back page of Rumiyah, the new magazine, features a hadith about Rome:

Allah’s Messenger (saw) was asked, “Which of the two cities will be conquered first? Constantinople or Rumiyah? He (saw) replied, “The city of Heraclius will be conquered first,” meaning Constantinople (Reported by Ahmad and d-Darimi from ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr).

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By way of contrast, the first issue of Dabiq opens with a quote from Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the founder of AQI and thus “grandfather” to the Islamic State:

The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify – by Allah’s permission – until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.

The back page then offers this hadith concerning Dabiq:

Abu Hurayrah reported that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,

“The Hour will not be established until the Romans land at al-A’maq or Dabiq (two places near each other in the northern countryside of Halab).

Then an army from al-Madinah of the best people on the earth at that time will leave for them. When they line up in ranks, the Romans will say, ‘Leave us and those who were taken as prisoners from amongst us so we can fight them.’

The Muslims will say, ‘Nay, by Allah, we will not abandon our brothers to you.’ So they will fight them.

Then one third of them will flee; Allah will never forgive them. One third will be killed; they will be the best martyrs with Allah. And one third will conquer them; they will never be afflicted with fitnah.

Then they will conquer Constantinople. While they are dividing the war booty, having hung their swords on olive trees, Shaytan will shout, ‘The [false] Messiah has followed after your families [who were left behind.]’ So they will leave [for their families], but Shaytan’s claim is false. When they arrive to Sham he comes out.

Then while they are preparing for battle and filing their ranks, the prayer is called. So ‘Isa Ibn Maryam (‘alayhis-Salam) will descend and lead them.

When the enemy of Allah sees him, he will melt as salt melts in water. If he were to leave him, he would melt until he perished, but he kills him with his own hand, and then shows them his blood upon his spear.”

[Sahih Muslim]

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It looks to me that Rodger Shanahan has the difference nailed in his Lowy Interpreter piece, Australia stars in first edition of new ISIS magazine:

First is the name change; no longer is ‘Dabiq’ the title (unless this masthead continues to put out editions separately); ‘Rumiya’ [sic] (formal Arabic for Rome) has replaced ‘Dabiq’. As most marketers will tell you, when a company’s brand is on the skids then it’s time for a refresh.; the same applies to jihadists. Jabhat al-Nusra has (to date) unsuccessfully tried to re-brand itself as a non-Al Qaeda jihadist group by changing its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, as its old name long ago became a dead weight on its leadership aspirations.

With its hold on territory becoming more precarious by the day, ISIS has possibly decided that naming your social media magazine after a town that will likely soon fall out of your control would not be a good look ‘going forward’. Re-naming your publication after the centre of Christendom is a way to show what you aspire to, rather than what you have lost. It’s also in line with the late Muhammad al-Adnani’s recent claims that IS did not fight for territory as a way of extolling the virtues of continuous jihadi resistance.

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Recent posts featuring the idea that we may be near the end of ISIS, at least as a proto-state:

  • Kyle Orton, The End of the Islamic State by Christmas?
  • Kyle Orton, Is This the Beginning of the End for the Islamic State?
  • Anthony Cordesman, Syria and Iraq: What Comes After Mosul and Raqqa?
  • Washington Post, Flow of foreign fighters plummets as Islamic State loses its edge
  • Wikileaks weak on graphics

    Sunday, August 7th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — interested in close, not far-fetched, analogies ]
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    A while back in 2011, Aaron Zelin picked up on a tweet by Aaron Weisburd and retweeted:

    the cover of Inspire 5 is remarkably similar to a wikileaks logo, e.g. http://goo.gl/2wibr coincidence I’m sure…

    I posted about it here on Zenpundit, and to me eye the match does have something to be said for it:

    wikileaks inspire

    **

    But c’mon, baby.

    I was reading through today’s pretty harsh Intercept piece, What Julian Assange’s War on Hillary Clinton Says About WikiLeaks — amazing, considering the origins of the Intercept in the work of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras — and came across another purported similarity, this one claimed by Assange himself.

    Only this one really just doesn’t work at all:

    wikileaks clinton

    **

    Did Assange invent arrows?

    I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.

    In any case, Hilary got it from Netflix, where they’re airing the Glenn Close series Damages, with John Goodman playing Howard T Erickson, the boss of High Star, a private security firm..

    clinton damages

    Case closed.

    A powerful, credible narrative?

    Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — how about a powerful, credible foreign policy? — maybe that’s asking too much ]
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    double

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    James P. Farwell‘s piece in the National Interest, Information Warfare: The Key to Destroying ISIS, claims:

    A coalition of Shia militias, Iraqi government forces and anti-ISIS Suncni tribesman are making progress towards ejecting ISIS from Tikrit. What’s needed now is to capitalize on those defeats and complement kinetic action with a cohesive information war campaign driven by a powerful, credible narrative that demoralizes, divides, confuses, and frustrates ISIS members in order to blunt their effectiveness as fighters, and undermine their expectations, destroy their momentum, and quash any hope of victory in creating a sustainable Islamic State or caliphate.

    A powerful, credible narrative?

    **

    Let’s look at two recent efforts. The first was just “published from above” by the US Government:

    PsyOps lealet

    Here’s some context and commentary, from Al Jazeera’s DC office:

    On March 16 an F-15E fighter jet dropped 60,000 copies of the above leaflet on Raqqa, the base of operations for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

    The image shows a “Daesh Employment Office” (Daesh is a pejorative nickname for ISIL in the Arab world).

    Two ISIL recruiters, one of whom appears more monster than man, feed young men into a meat grinder with “Daesh” written in blood on its side. A sign in the upper-right corner reads “Now Serving Number 6,001”.

    When asked about the intended message of the leaflet, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren, said “If you allow yourself to be recruited by Daesh, you will find yourself in a meat grinder.”

    Warren said the leaflet was created by the Army’s Military Information Support Operations, or MISO. Until 2010 that outfit was known as “PSY-OPS” (short for “Psychological Operations”).
    Experts have questioned the efficacy and tenor of the leaflet.

    Faysal Itani, a Fellow at the Atlantic Center in Washington who studies the various groups fighting in Syria’s civil war, said anyone in Raqqa thinking of joining ISIL is either ideologically committed or coerced.

    “Members of the first category are likely immune to leaflet propaganda, especially if distributed by an air force that has been bombing Raqqa,” Itani told DC Dispatches.

    Frankly, I think that’s the wrong way to appeal to the people of Raqqa, who see worse everyday, and either don’t want or don’t need to be reminded.

    **

    Next up is the effort of a consortium of British Imams — a magazine called Haqiqah, whose editor pitches it thus:

    We’re turning the tide – though we still have a way to go, we know that by taking efforts to support and mobilise the huge online Muslim population we will eventually drown out the violent voices

    Here’s a sample double-page spread:

    Haqiqah

    I would like to applaud the effort, but I’m afraid a 17-page magazine featuring text blocks in a typewriter face and the occasional poor color photograph is just no match for IS’ own magazine, Dabiq, whose first issue ran 50 pages, and which looked like this:

    Dabiq double page

    Ouch. Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group is gentle in the way he phrases his comment, but I’m afraid he’s also right on the mark:

    **

    Okay, let’s look at some of the possible theological “alt-narratives” I’ve seen proposed.

    First, there’s the idea that losing battles might “prove” that ISIS was not divinely approved and supported — but Qur’an 2:154-56 concerns those who fight fi sabil Allah, an suggests they will encounter “tests” up to and including “loss of lives” in the course of events:

    And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not. And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.”

    Furthermore, IS’ favorite eschatological hadith (I’ve quoted it before) specifies that many will be lost, both to glorious death and inglorious desertion:

    The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them). When they will arrange themselves in ranks, the Romans would say: Do not stand between us and those (Muslims) who took prisoners from amongst us. Let us fight with them; and the Muslims would say: Nay, by Allah, we would never get aside from you and from our brethren that you may fight them. They will then fight and a third (part) of the army would run away, whom Allah will never forgive. A third (part of the army). which would be constituted of excellent martyrs in Allah’s eye, would be killed ani the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople

    Losing ground? I think the third “alt-narrative” — the narrative brought into effect by IS losing significant ground they had previously captured, is the most powerful of those currently proffered — but it depends on perspective rather than capture or loss. Blows to IS such as the loss of Tikrit, or a fortiori the possible loss of Mosul, might seem persuasive to most western eyes, but in the eyes of potential recruits they may well be counterbalanced by new oaths of allegiance such as thos of Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab to the IS caliph.

    At least, though, we glimpse here that changes in military reality may impact thelogically-based beliefs.

    **

    Taking that a step further, I’d suggest that credible behavior on our own part, rather than the fatwas of ulema — even Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, let alone those who may seem obviously compromised by complicity in power — will comprise the most effective of counter-narratives.

    America supported Muslims in Afghanistan against the Russians, America supported Bosniac Muslims against the Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats — these are the kinds of action that most clearly refute the idea that the US is at war with Muslims — as it may appear to be in the cases Bacevich listed a few months back in a WaPo op-ed:

    As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extent into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

    Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.

    That could be viewed as a pretty devastating list.

    **

    Actions — as a poet, I dread to utter these words, but they seem appropriate in this context — actions (in the form of foreign policy) just may speak louder that words .

    The paradoxical roles of luxury cars in the lives of the women of IS

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — not particularly anxious to own a BMW — but did I once win a Rolls for a night of Bach at the Hollywood Bowl ]
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    SPEC DQ IS BMW

    Sources:

  • Belfast Telegraph, Jihadi brides with BMW M5s
  • Dabiq, issue #8 p.34, The Twin Halves of the Muhajirin
  • So we’re somewhat fond of the Dunya after all, ladies?


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