by Florian Grunert
The prefix cyber, prepended onto terms like war, peace, security, and so on, results in interesting word combinations which we construct with our spoken language. Many scholars, from political to social science, have discussed the terms and the semantics of it in order to understand the problem and to create some scientific value out of it. But this article will not be another endless discussion on whether cyberfoo exists  somewhere in any computer network at the moment or not.
The careful reader has seen that the title of this article has something to do with language – but not only with our spoken languages. What I want to discuss is a theoretical aspect of defense research regarding the inherent insecurity of computer languages and their usage in today’s computers, which are programmed by human beings (most of the time). This article is an offer and maybe a response to the article How to Abolish Cyberwar by Dr. Miriam Dunn Calvelty.
Von Julia Berczyk
Teil XX unserer Serie
zum „Islamischen Staat“
Persons traveling to participate in foreign conflicts by no means constitute a new phenomenon that is intrinsically tied to the ‘Islamic State’ (‘IS’). However, law enforcement agencies all over the world increasingly focus on foreign fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq due to a considerable rise in their number as well as the perceived threat they pose upon their return. Currently, around 650 German residents and citizens have travelled to the region to support jihadist groups such as the ‘IS’.
Von Hazim Fouad
Teil XVIII unserer Serie
zum „Islamischen Staat“
The burning of the Jordan pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh created a worldwide outcry, which was noticeably vocal in the Islamic world. Not only were we able to see people taken to the streets, we could also witness an utter condemnation of this act by prominent religious institutions like al-Azhar. Moreover, even before this terrific event the so called Islamic State (IS) has been criticized on various occasions by prominent Muslim scholars. The common trope these statements share is that despite its name, IS does not represent “true Islam”. The most prominent document in this regard surely is the open letter, which was addressed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed “caliph” of IS, signed by 174 prominent Muslim figures and spokespersons from all over the world and which has been translated into multiple languages. The Facebook group that formed around this letter has currently reached over 100.000 likes and has developed into a hub for people from all over the world, who oppose IS ideology from a Muslim perspective. Although there has been some media coverage mentioning the publication of the letter, its actual contents have not been discussed very much in detail so far. So what does the document actually say? Let’s have a closer look:
by Holger Marcks
Teil XV unserer Serie
zum „Islamischen Staat“
Asymmetric conflicts in which rule is contested by non-state actors are often interpreted as a destabilization of order. This also holds true for the case of IS. Indeed, it cannot be denied that its transnational “jihad” has contributed to destabilizing a whole region. On the other hand, it has been repeatedly noted that IS has – within the territory it controls – established an alternative order offering stability. At least for those who fit in the worldview of the wannabe-caliphate. As reported by inhabitants of its powerhouse Raqqa, IS does not only create obedience by force but also by providing administration, workplaces and public services. Or as Benham T. Said put it, some few Arabs “associate an Islamic state with notions of justice, stability and prosperity”.
Von Yassin Musharbash
Teil IX unserer Serie
zum „Islamischen Staat“
Last November, the media organisation of the „Islamic State“ (IS) published a video, the sole purpose of which was to prove that the „caliphate“ which the IS has established in June 2014 was in fact a proper state. The video highlighted a host of institutions in order to drive home the claim of real statehood, including examples like a working judiciary, a prison administration, a schooling system, and so on. At one point in the video, the IS claimed that it was also financially independent and had apt resources at its disposal, namely oil and gas.
However, while it is true that the IS controls a number of oil and gas fields in Syria as well as in Iraq, we have by now enough evidence to be rather sure that the economic base of the „caliphate“ is by no means sustainable.
By Yan St-Pierre
In 2014, two insurgency organisations stood out by their expansion, success and brutality: The Islamic State (IS) and Boko Haram (BH). The former emerged from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and became a major actor in the Middle East, its influence reaching beyond the borders of its self-proclaimed “caliphate”, while the latter spread its violence throughout north-eastern Nigeria, spilling over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Because of their still growing success, many wonder about a possible partnership between IS and BH. To this I answer that there is a connection, but no partnership. Currently, any evidence suggesting a partnership is circumstantial at best.
By Guido Steinberg
Since 2003, several organizations in the Arab world swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida and became part of what was been called “al-Qaeda’s affiliate network”. The emergence of al-Qaeda groups in Saudi Arabia 2003, Iraq 2004, Algeria 2007 and Yemen 2009 convinced many supporters and enemies that there was a truly global network of jihadist groups at work, commanded and controlled by the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
However, the reality was a lot more complicated. Far from being subordinate to Osama Bin Laden and Aiman al-Zawahiri, these organizations were not willing to submit to al-Qaeda command and control. Their relationship with “al-Qaeda central” was rather an alliance between independent partners of different strength. Although the al-Qaeda leadership sometimes influenced decisions taken by the regional groupings, there are numerous examples of “affiliates” ignoring its advice even regarding strategic issues.
By Andreas Armborst
One element within US counter-terrorism strategies is “reducing terrorist group cohesion”, as the think tank RAND recommends in one of its reports. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC) puts these recommendations into actions. Reports like ”Cracks in the Foundation” or ”Dysfunction and Decline” vividly depict the internal disagreement and disunity between al-Qaeda central (AQ) and its regional affiliates, most of all AQ in Iraq (AQI). Albeit these reports are drafted by pundits and certainly provide meaningful and often rare insights into the inner life of the global jihadi movement, they also serve another purpose: to deliberately amplify the very same trend they describe: disunity.
By Mathieu Guidere
Part III of our series
In the late summer of 2014, the international community watched helplessly as ISIS unleashed widespread serious human rights violations against civilians across Syria and Iraq. Of note, were the different forms of sexual abuse initially directed against women from the Yazidi community of Sinjar, but rapidly expanded to women from many regions and backgrounds. Far from being attributable to isolated incidents or to the behavior of a few individuals, the abuses were, and continue to be, part of the “sexual politics” implemented by ISIS in all “wilayas” (regions) under its control and endorsed by its military hierarchy. The abuses represent a clear example of the use of rape as a weapon of war, based on the “theology of sexuality” in a war zone. Fatwas and theological arguments inspired by the medieval practices of historical Muslim armies provide the justification for the policies and practices.
By Pieter Van Ostaeyen
On Thursday January 15, only a week after the bloody attacks in Paris by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibali, Belgium was on high alert. In a raid carried out by police and security forces in the small village of Verviers, two alleged terrorists were shot dead, a third suspect was arrested. The action was part of a larger operation carried out throughout the country to prevent imminent attacks by a group of Islamists, some of whom were directly tied to the war in Syria and Iraq. In the days that followed it became clear that the prevented attacks probably were aimed at a high ranking police official. The terror threat level was subsequently raised to level three, indicating that the threat of attacks was imminent. What makes Belgium such a hub for Jihadis?
by Martin Schmetz
With everybody focusing on cyberwar, our blog has decided to discuss cyberpeace instead. So far we have seen musings on war and peace, the meaning of the term “cyberpeace” itself and how we construct it discursively and calls to end cyberwar by focusing on the technical aspects again. All of these points are valid. But I feel that they are limited in their scope, because they focus too much on the adversarial: The hacks, the malware, the evil hackers from North Korea. But peace is more than the absence of war – and, in our case, more than the absence of hacks. If we want to be serious about cyberpeace as a societal goal, we have to pay more attention to how we handle our data because this data has a huge impact on the peace within our society.
by Myriam Dunn Cavelty
Cyberwar is like a discursive plague. After years and years of writing texts about it and against it, the concept is still scary, still spreading, still harmful. Its power is such that it is not simply being used in discourse – but is in fact forcing its specific discursive structures and rules on us. In short, we may keep questioning this concept, but we will never get rid of it.
Is there a way out of this? Yes, there is.
by Evgeniya Bakalova
“WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, AND IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”. The slogan from George Orwell’s “1984” dystopia appears to capture the state of Russia’s 2014 official discourse quite accurately. This has not gone unnoticed by public and academic spectators in and outside Russia: while Bild magazine is counting Putin’s lies in his recent ARD interview, a Zeit article declares Russia itself to be a post-modern “lie”.
Matthias Schulze very competently argues that ‚cyberwar‘ is not war in any way that we usually understand war. I’m sympathetic. But in deconstructing the term ‚cyberwar‘ Matthias also hopes to eliminate the term ‚cyberpeace‘ because, as the implied binary of ‚cyberwar‘, it would no longer be necessary. I’m going to argue that ‚cyberpeace‘ is more than semantic nonsense. It’s a term that makes cyberwar more salient in the public imaginary of the Internet and implicitly militarizes the discussion.
by Martin Schmetz
The discipline of International Relations has always been impacted by its historical political context. In fact, the way its theoretical genesis is often presented, critical points in history led to the advancement of new theories that could cope with them. The advent of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, the continued conflict in the South China Sea and all sorts of cyber-related security issues pose new challenges for the discipline, specifically with regard to interventions and multipolarity. How do these challenges affect the discipline and what will its reactions be?