ISIS security risk in Iraq after the territorial defeat of the group

ISIS security risk in Iraq after the territorial defeat of the group

Marc Simms is an occasional blogger for Proelium Law LLP. Marc holds a MLitt in Terrorism Studies and a Masters in International Relations, both from St Andrews. His particular interests are in emerging international security issues, unconventional warfare and terrorism.

An assessment of the likely impacts on businesses and foreign workers

With the liberation of Rawa on Friday November 17th, ISIS lost its last town in Iraq and so it’s entire occupied territory within the country.  While ISIS almost certainly still operates in unpopulated land in Anbar, northern Diyala and Niveneh governorates, this victory marks the defeat of ISIS as a territorial based insurgent organisation in the country.

This is not an unknown situation for ISIS, who previously operated as a terrorist group before the opportunities of the Syrian civil war allowed them to form their ‘state’, but it will undoubtedly impact on and effect the way in which they operate and the kind of threat they pose going forwards.

After the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’: How ISIS regrouped

The best guide to how ISIS will act in this situation is how they previously acted in similar circumstances.

In 2006, the Anbar tribes who had previously been cooperating with Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch dramatically broke ranks with the group. Forming a coalition calling themselves the Sons of Iraq, among many other names, these groups were funded and backed by the US military to fight with coalition forces against Al-Qaeda, with considerable success.  By 2008, when the Iraqi government took over control funding for the groups, Al-Qaeda’s capabilities had been significantly degraded, to the point that CIA Director Michael Hayden confidently predicted that the group was “on the verge of strategic defeat.”

Instead, as we saw, the group retreated to remote desert areas within Iraq and regrouped under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who ascended to leadership of the group in 2010.  With this, the group consolidated their position, obtained new forms of funding and significantly increased their attacks against Shiites in the country.  In 2012, the first major move by ISIS was its “Breaking The Walls” campaign, a sustained prison-break venture combined with attacks on the judiciary, security services and supporters of the Iraqi government in those areas which it had previously controlled.

Taking advantage of the chaos in Syria

A year before the Breaking The Walls campaign was launched, sometime in the summer of 2011, al-Baghdadi sent a number of operates to Syria.  Led by Abu Muhammed al-Julani, these became the nucleus of the “Nusra Front”, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.  When Raqqa fell to the Syrian opposition in 2013, having its soldiers on the ground and being able to bring additional manpower over the Iraqi border meant that ISIS were able to seize control of Raqqa and use it as a logistical and military base.

From here on in, ISIS is able to use its advantageous position straddling the border between Iraq and Syria to deploy its insurgents to either theatre as required.  Thus having secured a position in Syria, ISIS then brought its operatives back over into Iraq to conduct the “Soldier’s Harvest” campaign, which targeted Iraqi security forces in preparation for their 2014 territorial campaign, where they ended up taking Fallujah at the start of 2014 and then Mosul later in the summer.

Events over the border will impact on Iraq’s security

From this, it should be clear that the security situation in Iraq is going to be at least partially determined by the conditions in Syria and especially along the border area.  While on the ground the SDF and Syrian Army have done much to capture cities from the group, contributing to the complete collapse of their territory in the country, the continuing violence from the civil war and partial collapse of the Syrian state will provide opportunities for ISIS to re-establish themselves in the country.  If this does happen, there will undoubtedly be knock-on effects from this on the Iraqi side of the border.

 

Even putting aside for the moment the question of the settlement of the Syrian civil war, the border region between the two countries is sparsely populated and the perfect territory to maintain a “safe haven” for a terrorist group.  Without some form of significant and ongoing security commitment from both countries in their respective regions, it is extremely likely that remnants of ISIS will try to regroup in these areas, though with its Iraqi origins it may find it easier to do so there than it will in Syria.

 

A question of funding

At its height, ISIS was an incredibly well-financed group.  Its gains from illicit oil smuggling were estimated to have netted the group over $2.4 billion in 2015 alone.  In addition to this, it was also able to finance its operations through looting banks and levying taxes on the population in the cities it controlled.

However, with the loss of its territory, it has also lost its two main income streams simultaneously.  While this may not matter in the short term – as the costs of operation for the group will inevitably decrease due to defecting fighters and no need to maintain conquered territories any more – it inevitably will need to find new sources of revenue if it wishes to continue as an organisation.

Businesses and NGO’s are advised to be wary

It has been theorised that ISIS will step up its kidnapping attempts to support itself.  This was a vital source of early income for the group, and it seems very likely it will turn to this again, targeting prominent local families in areas where the group still has some influence, or else looking to kidnap foreigners and business executives for ransom.  Businesses and NGOs operating in more isolated areas of northern and eastern Iraq should be especially wary of the possibility of kidnapping attempts.

ISIS is also likely to turn to other traditional, organised-crime adjacent methods of raising funds to finance itself, such as antiquities smuggling and extortion rackets, again the latter more likely in areas where it still has some level of local control or influence.  Extortion will likely be targeted against smaller Iraqi businesses, but this will of course impact on anyone they themselves are doing business with, and should also be a consideration for companies operating in the aforementioned areas of Iraq that ISIS previously controlled.

Terrorist attacks and broader strategy

The broader question of whether ISIS will seek to try and rebuild its caliphate or else try to pursue a more terrorist-centred strategy is not knowable at this time.

However, based on its past behaviour, it seems extremely likely that ISIS will undertake certain kinds of violence regardless of its future direction.  Firstly, the extremely sectarian nature of ISIS means that it will continue to try and target Iraqi Shiites, and to a lesser extent other religious minorities in the country.  Attacking Shiites, however, will pay the most potential dividends, in that it will help stoke the kind of sectarian tensions that helped ISIS flourish previously, and indeed still exist now, as well as hopefully provoking a response from the Shiite-based militias that have fought ISIS, and are now occupying Sunni-majority cities.  Shiite mosques and shrines are a likely target, as are prominent local Shiite personalities, especially those involved in politics.

Private Military Contractors and Reconstruction workers may be at risk

This will also figure into their larger military strategy, as attacking the militias will deprive the Iraqi government of a secondary security force.  Much as with its campaign of assassinations against the Sons of Iraq, this will remove groups who could potentially lead any fight back against the group or provide security at a local level.  It is also likely that ISIS would also seek to target foreign soldiers, private military contractors and even foreign workers brought in for reconstruction efforts.  The latter two may also be targeted as part of the kidnapping for ransom approach mentioned previously.

After its defeats, ISIS may also feel like it has ‘something to prove’ with regard to its branding and reputation.  As such, it seems likely that ISIS will attempt to carry out acts of “spectacular” terrorism within Iraq – large scale attacks to prove that they are still a force to be reckoned with, and will not be going away anytime soon.  The precise nature of such attacks are hard to predict ahead of time, but it should be assumed that there is a potential high risk of a terrorist incident taking place in Baghdad or other cities in northern Iraq, despite the currently decreasing casualty and incident numbers.  As insurgent warfare morphs into terrorist violence, it will inevitably become much less constant, but also less predictable.

 

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ISIS security risk in Iraq after the territorial defeat of the group

With the liberation of Rawa on Friday November 17th, ISIS lost its last town in Iraq and so it’s entire occupied territory within the country. While ISIS almost certainly still operates in unpopulated land in Anbar, northern Diyala and Niveneh governorates, this victory marks the defeat of ISIS as a territorial based insurgent organisation in the country.

read more

Proelium Law LLP

Proelium Law LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales No.OC411568.

Proelium Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No. 629608 (www.sra.org.uk)

VAT Registration No. 242 4002 59.

© www.proeliumlaw.com

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Cambodian opposition leader arrest bodes poorly for 2018 election

Cambodian opposition leader arrest bodes poorly for 2018 election

Marc Simms is an occasional blogger for Proelium Law LLP. Marc holds a MLitt in Terrorism Studies and a Masters in International Relations, both from St Andrews. His particular interests are in emerging international security issues, unconventional warfare and terrorism.

Kem Sokha, the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, was arrested on Sunday September 3rd and has been charged with treason.  Specifically, the charges are that he has been conspiring with the United States to overthrow the government of Cambodia.

The UN’s human rights high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said he was “seriously concerned” about Kem Sokha’s arrest, which was carried out “with no respect for due process guarantees, including respect for (Kem Sokha’s) parliamentary immunity”.

Cambodia is due to hold elections in 2018 and the arrest is widely seen as politically motivated, and part of a broader pattern of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s authoritarian approach and desire to remain in power.

A strongman in power

Cambodia has been de facto ruled by the Cambodian People’s Party since 1979, when the Vietnamese invasion toppled the Khmer Rouge regime and established the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in its place.  Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who defected to Vietnam, had originally served the new regime as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, becoming Prime Minister after the death of Chan Sy in 1984.

Cambodia operated as a one-party state until 1993 (though in an effective state of civil war with the Khmer Rouge, propped up by the Vietnamese military) when, in its first contested parliamentary elections since 1958, the Cambodian People’s Party lost to the royalist FUNCINPEC.  However, Hun Sen refused to step down, instead staying on as “co-Prime Minister” with Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the FUNCINPEC leader.  This arrangement lasted until the 1997 “Cambodian Coup”, where military forces loyal to Hun Sen ousted the Prince and those forces loyal to him.  Hun Sen’s seizure of power was confirmed in a questionable election held the next year, where he resumed the post of Prime Minister.

In 2013, the opposition CNRP disputed the election, claiming there had been voting irregularities and fraud, claims which were lent weight by the EU and US expressing concern about the vote.  The CNRP chose to boycott the opening of Parliament and instead organised protests in Phnom Penh, leading to civil unrest and violence in the capital, along with arrests of CNRP MPs, including Mu Socha, one of the protest leaders.

A new political crisis in the making

Hun Sen and the Cambodian leadership do not appear to be prepared to relinquish their grip on power, despite the aftermath of the previous election.  If anything, they appear to be doubling down on heavy-handed repression, stripping the previous opposition leader Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary seat and issuing a warrant for his arrest on charges of criminal defamation, after Rainsy accused the Cambodian People’s Party of corruption and Hun Sen of involvement in the murder of a union leader.

The Cambodian Daily newspaper has also been forced to close, ostensibly over a tax bill, but more likely as part of a general trend by Hun Sen’s government to crack down on independent media, a campaign which has also seen the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia removed from Cambodian airwaves.  While this measure may have some effect on the organising capabilities of any potential opposition in the countryside, it will have less effect in urban areas where the internet, which is not systematically censored by the government, is more readily available.  It is highly likely therefore, that the fall out from this election will eclipse that of the 2013-14 political unrest.

 

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ISIS security risk in Iraq after the territorial defeat of the group

With the liberation of Rawa on Friday November 17th, ISIS lost its last town in Iraq and so it’s entire occupied territory within the country. While ISIS almost certainly still operates in unpopulated land in Anbar, northern Diyala and Niveneh governorates, this victory marks the defeat of ISIS as a territorial based insurgent organisation in the country.

read more

Proelium Law LLP

Proelium Law LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales No.OC411568.

Proelium Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No. 629608 (www.sra.org.uk)

VAT Registration No. 242 4002 59.

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Counter-Terrorism overhaul in the UK

Counter-Terrorism overhaul in the UK

Marc Simms is an occasional blogger for Proelium Law LLP. Marc holds a MLitt in Terrorism Studies and a Masters in International Relations, both from St Andrews. His particular interests are in emerging international security issues, unconventional warfare and terrorism.

Counter-Terrorism policy in the UK is likely to undergo significant reorganisation, based on recent reports from the press, comments by intelligence officials and appointments in Parliament.

Reviews ongoing

In the wake of the London Bridge attacks in June, following on from the Khalid Masood Westminster attack in March and the bombing of a Manchester music concert in May, and allegations that key indicators had been missed or ignored, MI5 and the police pledged to review their practices and processes.

Those reviews have not yet been completed, but there are indications that their outcome will result in changes to how the security services work.

“Every last drop of learning”

Some of these coming changes were alluded to by MI5 Director General Andrew Parker, in a speech he gave on October 17th.  In the speech given in central London, he talked about how MI5 has always “been about innovating to meet the changing threat and shifting technological environment” and how the agency intends to use “the harsh light of hindsight” to combat the current threat situation.

The full speech can be watched here.

“Biggest shake-up since 7/7”

On the 23rd of October, the Evening Standard reported that MI5 and the police would be undergoing their biggest reorganisation since the 7/7 attacks.  According to the report, the main focus of this would be to better identity extremist individuals who are thought to pose no direct security risk but go on to carry out attacks – a key feature of several recent UK and European attacks.

The measures are expected to focus on improving detection of potential activities which may be a precursor to a terrorist attack in relation to such individuals, such as financial transfers, social media activity or the purchase of potential bomb materials, and is also believed to involve a greater focus on right-wing extremists, who have been the subject of several recent intelligence-led police investigations.

ISC appointments decided upon

Another important sign that changes are likely on the way is that the membership of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has finally been decided upon.  With the ISC’s role in regulating the security services, it would form an important part of any restructuring of the intelligence services or how they work and share intelligence.

Until now, there has been what has been described as an “unprecedented delay” in re-establishing the committee since the 2017 general election, despite the number of security incidents since the last meeting of the ISC in April of this year.  It’s not clear what the cause of the delay has been in getting the Prime Minister’s approval for the committee appointments.

 

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ISIS security risk in Iraq after the territorial defeat of the group

With the liberation of Rawa on Friday November 17th, ISIS lost its last town in Iraq and so it’s entire occupied territory within the country. While ISIS almost certainly still operates in unpopulated land in Anbar, northern Diyala and Niveneh governorates, this victory marks the defeat of ISIS as a territorial based insurgent organisation in the country.

read more

Proelium Law LLP

Proelium Law LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales No.OC411568.

Proelium Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No. 629608 (www.sra.org.uk)

VAT Registration No. 242 4002 59.

© www.proeliumlaw.com

Web Design by Tim Mitchell Design | Web Consultancy by John Griffin, Up Marketing Co

Germany and Egypt agree on migrant deal

Germany and Egypt agree on migrant deal

Marc Simms is an occasional blogger for Proelium Law LLP. Marc holds a MLitt in Terrorism Studies and a Masters in International Relations, both from St Andrews. His particular interests are in emerging international security issues, unconventional warfare and terrorism.

Germany has agreed a deal last August with the Egyptian government designed to prevent the flow of migrants from the country reaching the EU.

Under the terms of the agreement, Egypt will be receiving German financial aid for training programs and increased funding for Egyptians to study in Germany.  It would also involve the improvement of existing Egyptian refugee camps and closer coordination in cracking down on people smuggling groups within the country.

The Egyptian route

Egypt as a source of undocumented migration has been noted since 2014, though it has been overshadowed by other areas and issues, such as the large numbers of refugees caused by the Syria conflict and by fighting in Libya.  Both of these theatres have led to large scale movements of people through Turkey and over the Mediterranean into Europe.

Two factors appear to be driving the issue in the case of Egypt: that of refugees escaping from Eritrea; and of Egyptians trying to escape the poverty and worsening economic conditions of their own country.

Eritrea is widely considered one of the most repressive regimes in the world, a rigidly nationalist one-party state where the media is state-owned, religious organizations are tightly controlled and citizens are required to undertaken lengthy, indefinite periods of military conscription. Eritrea also has ongoing border conflicts with both Ethiopia and Dijbouti, the latter of which has recently threatened to flare up again due to the withdrawal of Qatari peacekeepers from Dijbouti following the ongoing diplomatic crisis between the Gulf States.

Due to a large number of Eritreans being Christians, they often feel uncomfortable in Egypt, where ISIS has carried out repeated attacks on the Coptic Christian minority and are often the subject of lurid conspiracy theories by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.  As such, many fleeing to Egypt do not wait to be resettled by the UNCHR to Europe or America – a process that can take years – but instead risk the people smuggling groups to escape to Europe.

Human rights concerns

In both Turkey and Libya, where similar schemes exist, there have been considerable human rights concerns associated with such programs.

In the case of Turkey, refugees fleeing the Syria conflict have been subject to arbitrary detention and even deportation back to Syria, in violation of international law which bans countries from returning refugees to conflict zones.  Refugees were also tortured and forced to sign documents against their will.

With Libya, Human Rights Watch has pointed to the Libyan Navy’s lack of capacity to safely carry out rescue operations, and the UNCHR has found inhuman and shocking conditions at refugee centres in the country.

Egypt has recently been criticised by the US for its human rights record, cutting the aid it gives to the country as a result.  In recent months, Egyptian security forces have undertaken a series of extrajudicial killings, which raise obvious concerns as to whether Egypt will respect international law where refugees are concerned, or instead focus on getting results favourable to the deal with Germany regardless of the risk to migrants.

“Germany and Egypt are both very much interested in preventing migrants from setting off illegally on the hazardous voyage across the Mediterranean to Europe, now and in future,” said government spokesperson Steffen Seibert on Monday 28 August at the government press conference in Berlin.

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ISIS security risk in Iraq after the territorial defeat of the group

With the liberation of Rawa on Friday November 17th, ISIS lost its last town in Iraq and so it’s entire occupied territory within the country. While ISIS almost certainly still operates in unpopulated land in Anbar, northern Diyala and Niveneh governorates, this victory marks the defeat of ISIS as a territorial based insurgent organisation in the country.

read more

Proelium Law LLP

Proelium Law LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales No.OC411568.

Proelium Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No. 629608 (www.sra.org.uk)

VAT Registration No. 242 4002 59.

© www.proeliumlaw.com

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Conviction of Neo-Nazi bombers highlights “foreign fighters” risks in Ukraine conflict

Conviction of Neo-Nazi bombers highlights “foreign fighters” risks in Ukraine conflict

Marc Simms is an occasional blogger for Proelium Law LLP. Marc holds a MLitt in Terrorism Studies and a Masters in International Relations, both from St Andrews. His particular interests are in emerging international security issues, unconventional warfare and terrorism.

On the 7th of July, three men were convicted by the Swedish courts for carrying out a series of bombings on targets including refugee centres, migrant housing and left-wing activist meeting places.

The three men were all former members of the Neo-Nazi “Nordic Resistance Movement” (NRM), a pan-Scandinavian group which has been involved in acts of violence in the past, but has more recently been trying to publically distance itself from its street violence and instead leverage anti-immigration sentiment to become a more mainstream political actor.  Dissatisfaction with the group’s change in rhetoric was a factor in the bombings, according to prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist.

Training in Russia

However, more worrying was the news that two of the bombers, Viktor Melin and Anton Thulin, had received training in Russia.  Here, they trained with paramilitaries who had fought on the side of Russian separatists in Ukraine, specifically alongside members of the “Imperial Legion”, the paramilitary arm of the Russian Imperial Movement.  The group offers a week long military-style training course called “Partisan”, which appears to double as basic training for fighters looking to take part in the Ukraine conflict.

The Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) also has existing links to the Nordic Resistance Movement, which may be how Melin and Thulin first became aware of the course.  In 2015, representatives of the RIM took part in discussions with the NRM and invited them to join the “World National-Conservative Movement”, an international umbrella group for far-right movements in Europe and North America, based in Russia and organised by the far-right “Rodina” party.  In addition to this, the RIM also donated an unknown sum of money to the NRM at this meeting.

Not Europe’s Syria…yet.

From the outset, the Ukrainian conflict has seen the presence of fascist and Neo-Nazi groups on both sides of the conflict.  In particular the presence of the Azov Battalion and of Right Sector on the Ukrainian side raise worrying prospects both for the conflict itself and for Ukraine’s politics once the conflict is over.

However, in the aftermath of the occupation of Crimea, Russia set about internationalising the conflict.  While portraying itself as fighting “Ukrainian fascism” allowed it to draw in international communist and anti-fascist fighters, it also forged links with far-right, pro-Russian individuals in eastern Ukraine and invited European far-right groups to “observe” the Crimean referendum.  Since then, a number of Neo-Nazi and far-right Russian groups have taken part in the conflict, and these have drawn in other nationalist groups, such as the Hungarian “Legion of Saint Stephen” and the Serbian “Jovan Sevic Detachment”, among others.

The number of foreign fighters going to Ukraine is relatively small when compared to the number of those which have travelled to Syria.  While hard figures are hard to come by, it appears that foreign fighters excluding Russians number in the hundreds, rather than the thousands.

But the Ukrainian conflict is part of a larger process of a gradual internationalisation of these extremist movements within Europe, with coordination and cooperation of them increasing.  While the Ukrainian conflict continues, militants who have taken part will be an important source of knowledge and experience for those individuals and groups who are committed to violence.  And with European agencies not monitoring those foreign fighters effectively, this may be a significant blind spot with regards to future counter-terrorism requirements.

 

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If you’d like further information, or to discuss working with us, you can get in touch via our Contact Us page

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ISIS security risk in Iraq after the territorial defeat of the group

With the liberation of Rawa on Friday November 17th, ISIS lost its last town in Iraq and so it’s entire occupied territory within the country. While ISIS almost certainly still operates in unpopulated land in Anbar, northern Diyala and Niveneh governorates, this victory marks the defeat of ISIS as a territorial based insurgent organisation in the country.

read more

Proelium Law LLP

Proelium Law LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership registered in England and Wales No.OC411568.

Proelium Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No. 629608 (www.sra.org.uk)

VAT Registration No. 242 4002 59.

© www.proeliumlaw.com

Web Design by Tim Mitchell Design | Web Consultancy by John Griffin, Up Marketing Co

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