CSP, by Julian Fleischman, June 26, 2015:
Another horrifying video has emerged from ISIS, depicting 15 accused spies being murdered brutally and bizarrely. Some are executed in a car by an RPG fired by an ISIS soldier, while others are decapitated by an explosive necklace. The most unusual and disturbing method of execution shown in the video is a scene in which five prisoners are drowned in a cage. An expensive underwater camera is even used to capture the final agonizing moments of the prisoners’ lives.
While ISIS is certainly upping the ante in both the production and shock value of their publications, these videos are nothing new. In August 2014, ISIS released their first beheading video of American journalist James Foley. They released more footage of beheadings, including that of Israeli-American Steven Sotloff and the murder of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh who was burned alive in a cage in a strikingly sophisticated and sickening production.
With each video more barbaric than the last, ISIS is clearly sending a message to the world. However, there have been numerous interpretations as to what exactly this message is.
Experts such as Ryan Mauro of the Clarion project claim that the videos are used by ISIS militants to warn “enemies” of Islam based on their distorted interpretation of the Koran:
“These executions are chosen to show their compliance with sharia law,” said Mauro, “ISIS is acting upon doctrines that say spies and apostates, those who leave Islam, are to be executed.”
However, this high-budget propaganda machine most likely has an even greater purpose than to portray themselves as “legitimate followers of Islam;” ISIS is employing the age-old political strategy of fear tactics. The SS used it to consolidate control of their citizens in Nazi Germany, as did Mao in China and Stalin in Russia. Currently, North Korea carries out public executions, sometimes in front of victims’ families.
The purpose of such cruelty is to deter the enemy by creating horror and panic so that the enemy, regardless of military capacity, would be paralyzed to fight ISIS by the mere image of falling in the hands of people who practice such barbarism.
This strategy of terror has proven successful as evidence in fleeing Iraqi soldiers and upwards of 500,000 Mosul residents in the Northern Iraq offensive of June 2014.
Since this offensive, ISIS’s thirst for domination has only grown and the people of the Middle East have turned increasingly fearful. In the aftermath of the fall of Ramadi in May, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told CNN that Iraqi forces had no will to fight ISIS in that city. The Iraqi forces were not only provided with superior military training and equipment by the U.S., but they vastly outnumbered the ISIS forces. It is reasonable to assume that fear played an important role as millions of people continue to flee from the areas threatened by ISIS, namely, Iraq and Syria.
Furthermore, such fear has also created the so called “ “astronaut phenomenon”: that is,regular soldiers who bribe commanders to leave danger zones, such as Anbar, Salahaddin and Diyala, where they are expected to see combat against ISIS. This has significantly reduced many military units from 500 men to about 300 men.
This problem is not likely to improve, regardless of foreign aid.
This “visual” strategy is a powerful tool for ISIS, particularly in view of the fact that ISIS aspires to gain influence and power in areas where the state has collapsed and anarchy prevails. Yemen and Libya are two embattled countries where ISIS has aspirations and where such tactics can serve the Islamic State well. It was reported just last week that an ISIS car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in Yemen’s capital. Earlier this month, 88 Eritrean Christians were kidnapped by ISIS in Libya. And just today, ISIS carried out at least two more attacks: a car bomb in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and an attack on a Tunisian beach, killing a total of at least 63, and injuring hundreds more. Many of those killed in Tunisia were western tourists.
The only sign of hope is that of the Kurdish forces, who have proven to be the most effective weapons against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
It is in this sense that the U.S planning has to take this into account in order to generate a strategy that would enable major blows against ISIS. The idea is to strike ISIS up to the point where people will again dare to fight them without fear.
How to do it is for the generals and strategists to decide. However, watching these videos and not granting them strategic and military importance would be a huge mistake. Psychological issues play a huge role, and most totalitarian bodies and regimes I mentioned above have understood that well.
- Yet Another ‘Known Wolf’: France’s Beheading Terrorist Was Well-Known By Authorities, But No Action Was Taken (pjmedia.com)
IS Launches Attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia and France – More to Follow (isisstudygroup)
Tunisia Attack Demonstrates Terrorists’ New Target on Tourism (centerforsecuritypolicy.org)
Islamic State claims responsibility for massacre in Tunisia as death toll rises (longwarjournal.org)