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May 2016

Transnational Jihadism, between East and West

Institut Montaigne and the Observatoire des radicalisations of the Maison des Sciences de l'HommeFoundation organized an unprecedented gathering of over thirty high-level academics specialising in Jihadism, from Europe, America, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This three-day international scientific symposium attracted a wide audience, including political actors, industry leaders and journalists. It drew upon different knowledge and approaches to a topic which is too-often compartmentalized by country, research area and specialization. 

The Jihadist phenomenon has impacted every continent. The current situations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya generate direct repercussions elsewhere, and notably in Europe, with regards to issues such as safety and migratory movement. The reverse is also true, with growing radical Islam on the Old Continent contributing to conflicts beyond Europe.

Together, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists and political scientists analyzed the phenomenon of Jihadism, from its economic, social, religious and political roots, to its actors and networks.

Taking place just a few months after the Jihadi attacks in the French and Belgian capitals, this opportunity to reflect and exchange—in French, Arabic and English—shed light on the need to foster transversal collaboration, and covered a broad spectrum of transnational Jihadism in its varying cultural contexts. 

The discussions were held under Chatham House Rules, which have also been adhered to in this report.


Round Table 1: Radicalization, Violence and Deradicalization (I)

This round table focused on new forms of Jihadism which have sprung from the Islamic State (IS) organization in Europe, and notably in France. The discussions dealt with the specific and underestimated role of women within the organization, as well as with the discourse and world views of young French Jihadists upon their return from Syria or Iraq, as seen through the lens of the recent Paris attacks of 2015.

Session chairperson: Michel Wieviorka, President of the Maison des sciences de l'homme Foundation

Daesh surfaced around the same time as two new categories of Jihadists in Europe: on the one hand, adolescents and post-adolescents (20-25%); and on the other, young adolescent and post-adolescent girls (10% of women to join up). These two categories make up a significant proportion (between 12% and 25%) of European Jihadists leaving for Syria and Iraq. The proportion of converts (at least 20%) is also growing. It should equally be noted that almost every European country is concerned, with 5,000 Europeans having integrated the Syrian and Iraqi networks. Sections of the population that remained indifferent to propaganda from groups such as al-Qaeda, have, in unprecedented fashion, been drawn to the political and religious model, which Daesh claims to embody. For the first time, the Jihadi ideology of the Islamic State is influencing not only the working classes, but also middle-class, educated individuals. This major change may first be interpreted as a symptom of a declining political utopia within Western societies. Both in France and Belgium, the 'de-Islamization' of Muslim families and the break-up of traditional family structures also appears to have contributed to the phenomenon of religious radicalization.

But Jihadism is not merely born from specific local contexts and conditions. Above all, it is the product of a contact between the ultra-local and the transnational, between the dynamics created within small neighborhood groups, and those of online communities and groups on the front lines in Syria and Iraq. Interviews conducted with young French citizens detained after their return from Syria, and with young recruits from working-class neighborhoods, show that the motivations and convictions of these radicalized individuals vary widely. There is notably a bitter ideological dispute in France between the followers of Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Quaeda in Syria) and those who are pro-Daesh. This discord between the advocates of Jihad is reflected in the attitudes they expressed after the attacks that stained the streets of the French capital with blood in 2015. In this regard, the attacks of 7-8 January 2015 often occupy a different place in their discourse compared to those of 13 November. By targeting the public at large in an indiscriminate way, the attacks of 13 November failed in their objective to entice large numbers of French proponents of Jihad to join the movement. While they may have been motivated by the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercasher market, individuals with weaker ideological leanings identified far more with the victims of the later attacks than with their perpetrators. Government efforts must therefore focus on this "grey area"—representing individuals who are just as likely to turn towards Jihadism as they are to defend the values of the French Republic—by placing social harmony at the heart of public policy.

Today, the increase in female support of Islamic Jihad is perhaps the hardest phenomenon to grasp. Recent figures from the French Ministry of the Interior suggest that women make up 46% of Jihadi forces in Syria and Iraq. Considering that women cannot fight alongside men since they are forbidden to directly engage in acts of violence, what is their motivation for joining Daesh? How can we explain the fact that women who have grown up in the Western world make an informed decision to lead a submissive and restricted life? Faced with this seemingly counter-intuitive female participation, gender-based analyses, which seek to explain female Jihad through a lens of infantilization, manipulation and emotion have not been able to elucidate its full complexity. Aside from the fact that women are increasingly engaged in spreading Daesh propaganda, it appears that they also seek to play a leading role and be a driving force within the Jihadi movement. By doing so, they fulfil what they consider as "their part in Jihad", both in the West and on the Syria-Iraq front. While women are not, for the time being, participating in combat, the relative lack of understanding of their role within the organization (often reduced to that of "victims" of their own fate or "manipulated" by recruiters) is all the more damaging as it limits both our capacity to gauge its risk and our overall understanding of the phenomenon. 


Round Table 2: Radicalization, Violence and Deradicalization (II)

This round table was devoted to the cognitive and psychological aspects of radicalization, as well as to the necessary evolution in the treatment of the individuals concerned, notably within the prison system.

Session chairperson: Farhad Khosrokhavar, Director of Studies at the School for Advanced Studies and Director of the FMSH's Observatoire des radicalisations

Radicalization and the underlying rationales of Jihadism are the subject of many controversies which had previously been restricted to the scientific community, and which are now influencing public opinion at the risk of obfuscating a reading of the phenomenon. To confront such discord forming a "theology of radicalization", which hides real understanding, the fight against terrorism requires the scientific community to work together in order to grasp every aspects of a constantly mutating phenomenon.

Lacking a single common enemy after the fall of the Soviet Union, the West did not anticipate the progression of a threat foreshadowed by certain historic events: the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca (revealing an internal Jihadism opposed to the House of Saoud), the invasion of Afghanistan, and the fall of the Shah in Iran. Events such as these, occurring a decade before in 1979, were early warning signs.

As such, the French intelligence services, trained in a culture of counter-espionage, would benefit from launching a cultural revolution in order to adapt to an enemy that is not easily identifiable. A new culture of information-sharing within shorter time-frames will have to gradually replace the old habits of operating in isolation and over long periods of time.

There is also a pathological and often hidden aspect to the phenomenon of radicalization, which has been brought to light by empirical research data. It is in fact estimated that over 30% of radicalized individuals have underlying psychopathological disorders. Considering the age of these individuals (with two thirds being between the ages of 15 and 25), clinical research into radicalization has looked at issues surrounding adolescence, which has been considerably prolonged in the modern world. This is a period during which the ideals of childhood are left behind, making the individual especially vulnerable to the "offer" of radicalization.

Amplified by a specific social and political context, which prompts sensitized individuals to embrace a collective trauma as their own, such psychological conditions lead to a religious one-upmanship embodied by the figure of the "super-Muslim" who is driven by a deadly sacrificial desire. Feelings of stigmatization and an identification with a supposedly outcast community—whose relegation to poorer neighborhoods often contributes to such sentiment—are displayed through a constant expression of victimhood or an oversimplified rhetoric.  

Research into the personal, political and religious motivations of these individuals includes a program on citizenship values aimed at detainees who have been involved in a process of radicalization. This approach is contributing to the development of effective deradicalization measures, namely reconstructing the ties that bind the individual to society. There is no shortage of institutional resources available to this end, especially not within the prison administration system, as long as radicalization is considered as a "classic" process rather than an exceptional one arising ex nihilo.


Round Table 3: Global vs. Local (I)

The aim of this round table was to offer a comparative approach to the various movements which claim to act in the name of Daesh in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the United States. It focused on the specificities of local contexts and on the manner in which these groups develop their local strategies in relation to the rhetoric produced by the organization on the world stage.  
Session chairperson: Laurent Bigorgne, Director of the Institut Montaigne
Jihadism cannot be viewed as a homogeneous phenomenon. It is evolving, being structured and deployed in many different ways throughout the world. Daesh, Boko Haram and Kurdish Salafism, among others, each follow a specific rationale and call for a different response. Moreover, there is a profound discrepancy between the image that Jihadi groups seek to project and the realities of their organizations.
Firstly, radicalization does not occur in a uniform way around the world. Its impact is not at all the same in Europe and in the United States, for example. The dynamics observed in Europe certainly have their American counterparts, but they are far less pervasive. This may be explained by two factors: how well people are integrated, and how well the networks are structured. First of all, Muslim communities in the US are better integrated than those in Europe. While the Muslim population emigrating to Europe is largely made up of poorer, less educated individuals, in the US they represent an elite which has often emigrated to study abroad. Nevertheless, the relationship between integration and radicalization remains unclear and calls for the consideration of a second factor: network structure. There are no organized Salafi networks in the US. It is a country in which only a small number of people become radicalized, often on their own and outside of any structured networks that have greater influence in Europe. While many people may claim to adhere to Salafi ideology, few are able to join a network enabling them to take concrete action.
The difference between Jihadi movements must also be recognized. A clear distinction must for instance be made between Boko Haram and Daesh, even though the former claimed allegiance to the latter in March 2015. Historically, Boko Haram called for the full implementation of Sharia Law and the creation of a Caliphate well before the appearance of Daesh. Formed in the 2000s around Mohamed Youssouf, the group is now confronted with a double paradox. Firstly, while Boko Haram reviles democracy, its exactions caused a nationwide response during the 2015 elections. The vote acted as a means to restrain the advance of Boko Haram; Nigerian democracy emerged stronger than before, and Boko Haram is now weaker than it was at the end of 2014. The second paradox is the discrepancy between Boko Haram's international ambitions and the reality on the ground. On-site investigations offer up a radically different vision to that spread by the media. The group is not truly international since no Syrian or Algerian has joined its ranks. Rather than becoming more international, the group is mainly expanding its military playing field.
It is also important to recognize that differences exist within the movements themselves. For instance, the Kurdish network within Daesh is treated quite separately. While Kurdistan is essentially seen as a force of resistance against Daesh, for over fifty years it has also harbored a radical form of Kurdish Islam embodied by three successive generations of fundamentalism. A politicized Islam appeared on the Iraqi border of Kurdistan in 1952 and was progressively "normalized" until it became fully integrated into Kurdish political life. The birth of the Kurdish Jihadi organization, Ansar al-Islam, in the region of Halabja, marked the spread of terrorism in Kurdistan, with some of its actors now joining Daesh forces.
In the face of such a disparate and cross-border threat, we must seek to understand these different movements, their methods of funding and their actions plans.  While the extent of the threat varies around the world, nobody is immune, and the response must be an international one. For the time being, the international community has focused on responding with increased security measures, but this cannot be the solution to everything. It does not for instance help in anticipating the reactions of groups like Daesh or Boko Haram. In order to respond to the threat of Jihadism, it is essential to understand, evaluate and closely analyse it. Only a detailed understanding of the strategies, the means, and the organizations within the different movements will allow us to prevent their expansion. The effectiveness of such detailed information will depend on how well it is shared between the various national intelligence agencies. Subsequently, it will be up to the international community to agree on the methods by which to fight the expansion—both physical and ideological—of the movements posing a threat to our democracies and social cohesion.


Round Table 4: Global vs. Local (II)

Following on from the preceding round table, various exchanges led to a discussion of the geographic birth place of transnational Jihadism in Central Asia.  
Session chairperson: Saoud El Mawla, Professor Of Social Sciences, Reseacher on Islamic movements
While today's media attention focuses on the evolution of Daesh in Iraq, Syria, the Sinai and Libya, the influence of the movement is also felt, to varying degrees, in areas already infiltrated by Jihadi ideology, such as in the North Caucasus region or within tribal zones bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Indeed, the attack organized by the Pakistani Taliban movement (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) against a school in Peshawar on 16 December 2015, was a reminder that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is the center of international Jihadism. For this reason, it is important to analyze the functioning and networks of radical Islam in Pakistan, especially within tribal zones, in order to try to explain the increase in the numbers of international and Pakistani Jihadi organizations, and the role which they play in forming Western terrorists like Mohamed Merah and David Headley. These groups are increasingly likely to distance themselves from the authority of existing organizations and swear allegiance to Daesh, either for ideological reasons, or due to a desire to reassert their own authority over other Jihadi organizations. 

In the North Caucasus, religious and nationalist factors also gave rise to a spectacular spread of radical Islam from 2007, the year in which the Kremlin placed Ramzan Kadyrov at head of the Chechen government. Yet 2014 and 2015 were notable in that levels of violence dropped significantly. For two consecutive years, the number of deaths dropped by half compared to the previous year. This may be explained in part by the effectiveness of security services, but also and above all by the mass exodus of many of the most radical actors towards Syria and Iraq (it appears that nearly 5,000 Russian citizens have joined Daesh to date). Daesh propaganda has therefore succeeded in convincing Jihadists from the Caucasus of their duty, as Muslims, to join the fight in Syria. For many among them, Daesh also represents a sort of utopia; the possibility of escaping the stranglehold of Russian authority and the promotion of a certain form of social equality is enough to seduce most recruits. Furthermore, Daesh offers Jihadists a chance to satisfy their overwhelming desire for vengeance against Russian imperialism.

In the run-up to the Sotchi Olympic Games, Russia willingly allowed the most radical actors leave the region, while at the same time making it a crime to join foreign military groups. Following the Games, security services made an attempt to halt this exodus, but Russian citizens continued to join the Jihadi forces. As a result, the Russian secret services are at present forcefully eradicating Salafi activity within the North Caucasus (in Dagestan, seven Mosques were recently shut down and their preachers tortured). 


Round Table 5: Intellectual and Ideological Resources for Jihadism

This round table traced the evolution of Jihadi history and ideology, from its surfacing in Afghanistan in the 1980s, to its present expressions in the Levant.

Session chairperson: Jean-Pierre Dozon, Director of Studies at EHESS and IRD and vice-President of the FMSH

There are many varied ideological and intellectual foundations for Jihadism. While al-Qaeda and Daesh have a certain number of shared references, Daesh ideology cannot be seen as merely perpetuating that of al-Qaeda, just as its actions are not a simple continuation of al-Qaeda's. A distinction must be made between these ideologies starting from their very origin and right up to their interpretation and appropriation by Jihadists. Even the propagation of these ideologies varies. While they are now becoming transnational—helped along by the emergence of the Internet and new technologies—they should not be understood as one and the same. 

Firstly, concerning the origins of its foundations. Daesh uses three types of literature as its source material: historical writings and traditions taken up by the Salafis (verses form the Koran and hadiths, major Sunni and Wahhabi theologians, etc.); an important Jihadi literature composed during the 20th century; and a Jihadi literature created during the post-Afghanistan period. Bin Laden is seen as being of minor importance, marking a first point of rupture between the two movements.

Secondly, concerning their interpretation and assimilation. One of the major texts on which Daesh ideology bases itself is Management of Savagery, attributed to Abu Bakr Naji. It deals with a specific subject: the creation of the Caliphate, without however specifying how this should be organized or governed. The text therefore leaves room for Jihadists to interpret and adapt its ideas, hence the wide variety of readings and actions which it inspires. In Management of Savagery, al-Qaeda is depicted as an external entity, towering above the chaos, while the Islamic State is born of this chaos—it is the product of a failed State, not a foreign body which has infiltrated it. Daesh is not a post-national phenomenon; it is closely linked to national issues, while al-Qaeda appeared in a transnational context. The original dichotomy established by this book allows us to better understand the ideological gap between the two movements.

Finally, concerning the propagation and transnational nature of Jihad. From its beginnings, there has been a transnational aspect to both the ideology and strategy behind Jihad. Military combat takes precedence, even over the propagation of ideology. Jihadi military actions, much like the ideas behind them, have spread rapidly throughout the world, without there necessarily being a correlation between the two. Al-Qaeda embodies this "strategic" transnational aspect. Nomadic and with a highly centralized decision-making structure, al-Qaeda is able to strike a distant western enemy while maintaining a very concentrated ideological base in Sudan and Afghanistan. This strategy is complemented by a transnational ideology. Very quickly, as of the late 1990s, their ideas became de-territorialized and started to emerge in places like "Londonistan" and the Palestinian camps in Lebanon. After military Jihad, there emerged a transnational, intellectual Jihad. Both the assassination of Théo Van Gogh in 2004 and the caricatures of the prophet in 2005 created the context for a sociological and cultural Jihad which has only been strengthened by the spread of new technologies. Indeed, the Internet has allowed Daesh to go one step further in its transnational ambitions. The natural ties between militants from the North and South of the Mediterranean have thus been reinforced, allowing Daesh to spread its influence through the heart of Europe.


Round Table 6: Salafism and its Different Configurations

This round table considered the ideological foundations of contemporary Jihadism and its relationship to various forms of Salafism in the Middle East. The appearance and development of Daesh within the geopolitical context of Iraq, as well as its consequences for other regions in the Levant—notably Palestine and Lebanon—were debated.

Session chairperson: Jean-Luc Racine, Emeritus Senior CNRS Fellow at the Centre for South Asian Studies and Senior Fellow at the Paris-based think tank Asia Centre
Up until now, young French citizens pursuing Jihad in Syria were believed to mostly adhere to Salafi ideology. However, a closer observation of their practices and religious rhetoric has shown that their conversion (or reconversion) to a religious absolute suggests a revival of standard forms of fanaticism. Most of them have not followed the "classic" Salafi path (they never joined a madrasa or any form of humanitarian or scholastic religious association). These young Jihadists adhere to a new type of faith, which does away with the highly ritualized practices of traditional Salafism, considering instead that Jihad in itself guarantees direct access to heaven. This new form of faith gives rise to a new vision of existence. While Salafis view life as a lengthy preparation for the moment of salvation, young French Jihadists reduce it to a mere access hatch to death. In terms of morality, Jihadi and Salafi ideologies also largely differ, notably concerning their views on marital relations, sexuality and enslavement. Therefore, while these young people are attempting to reinvent themselves through the lens of radical Islam, Salafism is by no means their main source of inspiration. To see these young Jihadists as idealists, aspiring to create a new society transformed by Islam, would also be to wrongly interpret the situation. Once among the ranks of Daesh, young French converts rarely participate in the organization of civil society. Their priority remains to fight and perpetrate suicide attacks, seen as the only path to heaven. The only elements they share with Salafism are a radical stance and a refusal to accept an Islam culturally rooted in French society.
When it comes to Lebanese Jihadi Salafism, we are confronted with a different set of issues. Born of the forced exile of the Muslim Brotherhood after the Ba'ath Party's coup in Syria, it has intrinsic links to the rise of the Palestinian movement and the appearance of Fatah in Tripoli as of the early 1960s. The outbreak of civil war in Lebanon from 1975 propelled the tide of radical Islam.  It gained notable ground in poorer neighborhoods, where an increasing number of youth became radicalized. In 1982, the Israeli occupation reinforced this trend and led to the birth of three Islamic movements in Tripoli, including Ansar Allah which views itself as Jihadi. The invasion of Iraq by American military forces in 2003, followed by the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005, was also considered a double humiliation for the Sunni community in Lebanon. This exacerbated sectarian sentiment against Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime. Finally, the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011 contributed to the spread of Jihadism beyond Tripoli and provided public support for Jihadi Salafism. Many Lebanese citizens went to fight against Bashar al-Assad's army in Syria at this time.
In Iraq, sectarian tensions arising from the competing ambitions of Sunni and Shiite communities are not in themselves sufficient to explain the growing popularity of Jihad. Rather, Jihadi groups were able to take advantage of the weakened State, general instability and division between communities brought on by the Iraq war, to expand their networks. Amidst complex relations with the Sunnis in Iraq—somewhere between conflict and negotiation—Daesh is not seeking to "represent" the interests of Iraq's Sunni community so much as reinstate a "Caliphate" beyond Iraq's borders. The only solution to defeating Daesh would therefore be to dismantle the sectarian reasoning which continues to destroy Iraq, by raising awareness among Iraqi citizens, starting in school, of the consequences of ethnic discrimination.
Finally, within the Gaza strip, the presence of Salafi Jihadists was for a long time problematic for Hamas, which wanted to preserve its position as defender of Gaza's citizens against Israel. While Hamas was mostly able to contain these groups by requiring them to respect relative peace along the borders, in certain cases it could decide to let them act. This fragile balance has now been compromised in favor of strictly oppressive policies, in a context in which Takfiris from the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis group of the Sinai peninsula have officially sworn allegiance to the Islamic State and have accused Hamas of "apostasy". Today, Hamas continues to waver between tolerance and oppression, changing its position according to the international context and the evolution of the political situation in Egypt. The privileged relations that Hamas currently has with General el-Sisi will probably lead to firmer action against Palestinian Jihadists who are affiliated with the Takfiris in Sinai.


Round Table 7: National Variations in Transnational Jihad

The aim of this round table was to present empirical studies on Jihadism in Western Europe, the area most affected by departures for Jihad to Syria and Iraq outside of the Arab world. Relying on data which does not as yet cover the French context, participants were able to discuss the spread of the Jihadist phenomenon within other European countries.
Session chairperson: Michel Foucher, Professor at Ecole Normale Supérieure (Ulm)
In Europe, the process of radicalization differs in each country. The various forms of radicalization have also rapidly evolved over the past years. In many countries, the first wave of radicalization appeared during the American invasion of Iraq. In Belgium at this time, indoctrination often occurred within groups of friends watching videos together. A second wave appeared in 2010 in the same country, forming around Sharia4Belgium. From 2011, the rhetoric became increasingly violent and we witnessed the first departures towards Syria. This latest wave was composed of less educated individuals who were younger and displayed narcissist tendencies. This chronicle of radicalization in Belgium sheds light on the most common profiles among European Jihadists. As such, from the 600 individuals identified, three typical profiles have emerged:
·         the defender: he forms a part of the wave of departures from 2011 to 2013. This type of individual leaves to fight, he answers a call, and wishes to defend the Ummah (community of Muslims) which, according to him, is under threat;
·         the searcher: he is part of the wave of departures in 2014. For the most part, this individual is young and without future prospects. He does not feel like he belongs in his home country and is seduced by the lure of the Caliphate which promises to fulfil his every desire. Above all, he seeks a sense of belonging within a new society;
·         the follower: this individual leaves for Syria merely to follow his peers or friends. He is already part of a network of people who have left for Syria.
Applying this categorization in the Belgian case, we can classify radicalized individuals into two main groups: those who have a criminal past and for whom Daesh represents the height of lawlessness, and those who have no criminal past and who are seduced by the promise of the Caliphate. In both cases, religious considerations are not the main driver of radicalization. The true motivating factor is the absence of future prospects. In contrast, Daesh seems to offer up a range of possibilities for the future by promising power, a sense of belonging, comradeship, respect, recognition, adventure, heroism and martyrdom.
In Germany however, social issues do not appear to be the mainspring of radicalization. Rather, Jihadism corresponds more to a form of subculture or "lifestyle"; its proponents often have a family life and are economically fairly well integrated. This subculture has developed its own iconography and mental representations which are expressed in many forms: music, videos, t shirts, accessories, etc. In terms of its sociological context, radicalization usually occurs through friendships, in mosques, on the internet, at seminars or within the family unit. There is no truly typical pattern. The process of radicalization is rather long and individuals rarely travel alone to Syria. The 900 Germans in Syria are on average between 21 and 25 years old; half of them already had run-ins with the police in Germany and 12 % are university graduates.
In contrast to the situation in Germany, radicalization in Italy is a very fast process. Most initiations occur in small villages, with the preachers involved in the radicalization largely coming from the Balkans. Couple dynamics also play an important role in the mutual reinforcement of radicalization.  The psychological drive behind the process is essentially a search for meaning and for a system that clearly differentiates good and evil, man and woman, East and West. The seductive power of the Caliphate, as well as the draw of weapons and conflict in what may be termed "the terrible love of war", should not be dismissed. In some sense, the Caliphate acts as a "brand", creating a powerful emotional reaction among its audience. Unlike Belgium, there is no Molenbeek in Italy; immigration is distributed throughout the territory.
In general, there is great heterogeneity among forms of Jihadism, and it appears risky to propose a single explanation outside of the framework of European nations. Thus, in a country like Denmark, Jihadism has been present since the first Afghan war (whereas in many countries it appeared only after the invasion of Iraq). We also note that, as in a number of other European countries, there has been an evolution in the profiles and motivations of radicalized Danish individuals. Moreover, ideology must be understood not only as a key factor in radicalization, but as a social practice.

Round Table 8: Jihadism’s New Military Strategies

By relying on the analysis of documents produced by Daesh and on the accounts and experiences of Daesh deserters, this round table shed light on the military aspects of Daesh operations, on the group's territorial expansion and decline in the Iraq and Syria regions, as well as on its use of violence in administrating its territory.

Session chairperson: Pierre Conesa, Deputy Director of the FMSH's Observatoire des radicalisations

The assassination of Anwar Sadat, President of the Republic of Egypt, by armed militia during a televised military parade in 1981, is seen as an initiating act. This historic event represents both the first victory of Jihadi terrorism—the fall of the "Pharaoh"—and also its first failure as it was unable to then seize power.

Having led a global and de-territorialized Jihad for thirty years, al-Qaeda has developed various combat strategies—depending on the possibilities on the ground—and a four-level military organization (a central organization, regional groups active in the lands of Jihad, domestic groups carrying out attacks in enemy territory, and also lone wolves). The Islamic State, which splintered off from al-Qaeda in 2013, chose to conduct a territorial Jihad by creating a sanctuary for its Caliphate in the Syria-Iraq region. However, the setbacks it suffered to its territorial expansion since 2014 resulted in more external actions being deployed. As such, it has set up combat operations to rival those of al-Qaeda, with experienced commandos trained in Syria being sent to strike at the very heart of Europe.

Daesh has mainly gained support through propaganda, which is highly effective because of the simplicity of a message with little religious content, focusing rather on themes of identity or utopia while obscuring acts of torture and extreme violence. Designed to attract youth seeking all types of compensation—monetary, moral, symbolic, etc.—this strategy combines the promotion of a virtual form of reality, the glorification of martyrdom, and a display of material plenty through the use of a particularly elaborate aesthetic.

With this in mind, cross-analyzing young people's rationale for joining the French army, and individual trajectories leading to the ranks of Daesh, allows us to see a certain continuum between these two fundamentally opposed paths. The generation gap which affects many of these young people—who feel uprooted and in limbo between an unattainable "Frenchness" and distant foreignness—is easily appropriated and fully exploited by Daesh.

Yet the gulf separating the huge expectations of new recruits with the reality in the Levant generates an inevitable frustration. The extravagant displays of Daesh, which it stages to attract future fighters, necessarily lead to its own demise. The extent of this shared disillusionment is confirmed by the families of Jihadists, who report the disappointment felt by their offspring upon arriving in Syria and Iraq. Many fighters justify their return by invoking the conflict fought between the Sunnis themselves, a far cry from the image of Islamic unity depicted in their propaganda. Gratuitous acts of barbarism (sometimes used for personal gain), corruption, blatant inequalities and discrimination are further reasons reported by these foreign fighters, whose legitimacy within Daesh is often undermined.

Based on ethnic considerations, the structure of its leadership reflects the discrimination inherent to the whole organization. European fighters, who are at times suspected of being infiltrators, are assigned to technical or logistical tasks and never attain command positions. Those from the Caucasus, on the other hand, are considered to be seasoned fighters and form the Special Forces at the front lines of the most difficult operations. Local fighters also face discrimination: the Daesh general military staff, consisting of 43 officers, includes only one Syrian representative (the spokesperson) and 35 Iraqis.

Moreover, geographic factors prove to be equally important in the administration of zones occupied by Daesh. The organization distinguishes several types of area according to the local population, but also in terms of its recruitment strategy. With the exception of a small number of city-dwellers given command positions, most fighters come from Bedouin farming areas, as Daesh believes that Islamic values ​​are corrupted in urban settings.

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