Daesh: Defeating the virtual caliphate

A fighter of Daesh holds a Daesh flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, Iraq, June 23, 2014. (Reuters)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Daesh: Defeating the virtual caliphate

PARIS: Daesh may soon be defeated in Iraq and Syria but a “virtual caliphate” could be harder to conquer, experts and officials have warned.
The jihadist propaganda machine will continue to exist in hidden corners of the dark web, inciting sympathizers to action, they say.
“Defeating ISIL on the physical battlefield is not enough,” General Joseph Votel, the top commander for US military forces in the Middle East, warned in a paper earlier this year using another acronym for Daesh.
“Following even a decisive defeat in Iraq and Syria, ISIL will likely retreat to a virtual safe haven — a virtual caliphate — from which it will continue to coordinate and inspire external attacks as well as build a support base until the group has the capability to reclaim physical territory,” said Votel.
He described this online network as “a distorted version of the historic Islamic caliphate: it is a stratified community of Muslims who are led by a caliph (currently Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi), aspire to participate in a state governed by sharia, and are located in the global territory of cyberspace.”
The Daesh group’s loss of almost all its territory in Iraq and in Syria has damaged its online communication efforts, following a boom in propaganda operations in 2014-2015.
But it has not put an end to it completely.
The Daesh “news agency” and propaganda machine Amaq continues to claim responsibility for attacks and incite further violence.
Most recently, it claimed that Stephen Paddock, the gunman who massacred 58 people in Las Vegas on Sunday, was a Daesh “soldier” — an assertion met with widespread skepticism.
One theory is that Daesh is seeking to keep up publicity efforts to maintain relevance with its sympathizers and continue to recruit support, even as it faces military defeat on the ground in Iraq and Syria.


Researcher Charlie Winter, who wrote a report on Daesh’s web presence for British think tank Quilliam, says the group will work to persuade followers that the idea of a caliphate is more important that its physical presence.
“Censoring the Internet is not going to work,” he told AFP.
“Policy makers are focusing their attention on the wrong part of the Internet, and that’s problematic given that it’s going to be a phenomenon to be dealt with in the next few years.
“Terrorists are now hiding in the deep web using encryption.
“There will always be a safe place for them on the Internet regardless of what politicians like to say.”
Under pressure from public authorities, Internet providers and major online players are beginning to put in place measures and procedures to disrupt IS’s exploitation of the web.
“But despite the increased vigilance of authorities and social networks the Islamic State has demonstrated significant resilience due to its flexibilty and ability to adapt when facing the suppression of online jihadist content,” according to French researchers Laurence Binder and Raphael Gluck.
“It manages to still disseminate sufficiently to reach a pool of sympathizers and recruits.”


Egypt says Israel’s Jewish nation-state law undermines Middle East peace

Updated 21 July 2018
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Egypt says Israel’s Jewish nation-state law undermines Middle East peace

  • Egypt on Saturday said a new Israeli law giving Jews the exclusive right to self-determination in the country undermined the chances for peace
  • The law, which was passed on Thursday, has drawn rebuke from the EU and was denounced by the Palestinian Authority

CAIRO: Egypt on Saturday said a new Israeli law giving Jews the exclusive right to self-determination in the country undermined the chances for peace in the Middle East and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
The law, which was passed on Thursday, has drawn rebuke from the EU and was denounced by the Palestinian Authority and Arab citizens of Israel as racist legislation.
“The Arab Republic of Egypt announces...its rejection of the law passed by the Israeli Knesset on the “national state for the Jewish people” law ... for its ramifications that consecrate the concept of occupation and racial segregation,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.
“It undermines the chances for achieving peace and reaching a just and comprehensive solution for the Palestinian issue,” it said.
It said the law would also have a potential impact on the right of Palestinians displaced from their homes in 1948 when Israel was founded, and their descendants, to return to their homes under United Nations resolutions.
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to forge a peace treaty with Israel under the US-sponsored Camp David accord that provided for the Jewish state to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula.
But relations between two countries remained lukewarm, with Egypt demanding that Israel quit other lands it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, including the Syrian Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem.
On Friday, Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, the most prestigious Sunni Muslim institution, denounced the Israeli law calling it “a step that reflects repugnant racism“