Lacking the hard edge – academics alone will always fail in asset recovery efforts

Using academics to locate missing or looted monies from current or post conflict zones makes sense – for part of the problem – namely forensic accounting, unravelling complex financial structures and corporate cloaking mechanisms like trusts and offshore havens. However giving the same academics the responsibility for actioning the recovery strategy informed by this analysis is flawed. They do not possess the dealmaking, “street smarts”, mediation, negotiation, fixer, logistical, operational or in-country savvy to succeed on the ground.

Abdalla Kablan is a case in point. He was chosen to head Libya’s billion-dollar hunt for sovereign wealth hidden around the world by Gaddafi. Kablan is a 30 year old computational finance expert with a PhD degree in Computational Finance from University of Essex, an MSc in Financial Engineering and Knowledge Management from the University of Bradford, UK, and a BSc in Computer Systems Engineering from the University of Malta, based in Malta. He was asked by Ali Zeidan (Libyan PM 2012-2014) to lead an official, government campaign to track down and recover billions in cash stashed away through vehicles like the Libyan Investment Authority.

He decided that a central, government-mandated authority had to deal with government authorities and financial institutions. Kablan gave a presentation of how a central authority could employ computer science and quantitative mathematics to track down financial investments and the life cycle of capital. In Kablan, the Libyans had a desk based expert who could handle the computational forensics, data mining, and asset identification. 

He became part of the newly formed Tracing & Asset-Recovery Support Bureau (TARSB). His plan was to establish links with international organisations, Interpol, and the UN-World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR). StAR’s most important role is fostering ties between countries seeking looted money and those sitting on it. There were similar models that could be examined, Great Britain had formed task forces to work with Egypt and the United States’ Department of Justice had the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section already provided legal and policy assistance to foreign governments. 

Kablan also proposed to link up with Libya’s own institutions, Private Banks, the Central Bank, and the Libyan investment entities, to be able to check data, transfers and investments. TARSB started data mining online resources, using artificial intelligence and heuristics to profile unstructured data for clues.

Progress was glacial. Kablan says he was frustrated by the inability to actually turn the TARSB into a central authority. Malta was ready to transfer €100 million in Libyan funds but they had concerns about the source of the request to re-patriate the monies. According to Kablan, Malta was keeping the Libyan people’s interests at heart by not just “dishing it out to anyone.” Bloomberg then alleged that Malta was being reticent in giving the money back in an “exposé” on Libya’s asset recovery efforts that made serious allegations about Kablan and Malta.

In ‘How Libya Blew Billions and Its Best Chance at Democracy’, Bloomberg claimed Gaddafi’s son Mutassim had €100 million in Maltese accounts, and suggested that the country was being difficult in letting the cash go. It then alleged that Kablan was only picked by Zeidan for being the son-in-law of foreign minister Mohammed Abdelaziz – but Kablan is not even married, nor is he dating Abdelaziz’s daughter. The article also alleged that he had worked for Exante, a finance firm in Malta that also acts as a broker for Bitcoin, “the virtual currency favored by drug dealers and money launderers.” 

Zeidan wanted to appoint an independent person of integrity with proven technical competence to help Libya recover its money. When Zeidan set up the TARSB in August 2013 to hunt down the assets held by Libya’s sovereign funds, such as the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and LAFICO, cooperation was already underway with Interpol, the World Bank, France and Britain, and the United States’ attorney general. Eventually the TARSB was besieged by internal politics: the LIA was intent on recovering the hidden assets itself, while another unit called the Asset Recovery Committee (ARC) appointed by former prime minister Abdul Rahim Al Keeb, sought the sole mandate to recover assets.

Eventually, Kablan was the victim of an abduction attempt in Tripoli. He received threats, was unable to move freely, was poorly equipped to deal with the hostile realities of the “street” as he took the desk based research out into the world to initiate the recovery plan informed by the academic research. He resigned his post, left Libya and will not return. 

Kablan was unable to take the academic theory and put it into practice. He and his team lacked the core skills to action their plan and manage personal and organizational risk while doing so. He was a soft target and those that did not want his work to continue did not need to exert much pressure, relatively speaking, to prompt him to abandon his mission. 

In Kablan and the TARSB, Libya possessed one part of a two part solution – the toothless part. Firms like TMG Corporate Services who can probe the clues and implement the strategy developed by academics like Kablan and his team are the hard edge that Libya did not possess in this spectacularly unsuccessful effort to identify and repatriate stolen assets. 


Precision Guided Message – Radical Islam, Social Media, and Building a Sleeper “Army”

One of the contributing factors in the forward momentum of the Islamic State (IS) [formerly and variously the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq & al-Sham;and the Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant (ISIL)] is the rapid and regimented dissemination of the organization’s message.

In contrast to the occasionally disorganized and single-language social messages of other extremist groups, IS’s strategic use of social media is filled with attempts to intimidate and demoralize as well as recruit both local and Western audiences. Depending on the intended objective or the target audience the IS message and the methods adopt a different “tone of voice” and set of production values.

With a reported 2500 Western fighters (Grose, 2014), IS’s efforts would appear to be a success, but how influential was the use of social media and what are they doing differently? Additionally, are “boots on the ground” the only indicator of success. We do not believe so. A more threatening and undermining effect of this strategy is the construction of a sleeper network and the manipulation of international cells whom IS never intend to draw to the actual conflict zones.

To solely focus on the immediate effect in terms of IS fighting numbers in the field and to encourage this social media activity so that Western intelligence agencies can locate activists or anticipate operations in the short term is one dimensional and ignores the more worrying mid to long term effects and possible strategic intentions of IS.

TMG Corporate Services is conducting a long range study, to determine the success of these methods on all levels while considering established notions about social media, persuasion, and the psychology of scarcity.

‘IS’ as a Corporation – Employing savvy social media use to build a Western “Army”

IS is a more sophisticated and organized extremist organization than most identified in the past, rising from the ashes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its carefully planned four-part operation to target separate processes and terrorize select groups of individuals involved in the rebuilding of Iraq (Kirdar, 2011).

It should come as no surprise, then, that their media wing operates as a manipulative, top-tier, social media savvy corporation with carefully prepared materials in a variety of languages, designed to appeal to myriad audiences. IS uses the same Twitter strategies adopted by key players in social media customer service, including the careful use of hash-tags, tweeting to celebrities, and mobilizing their Twitter followers with calls to action.

The findings of Burson-Marsteller’s first Global Twitter Influence Study (2014) show individuals who follow large corporations are predominantly young, male, Western, and have a social pull 3,274 times stronger than their peers – a powerful audience of potential recruits that IS has designed a very careful social media strategy in order to reach. IS, as a corporation with a carefully deployed social media strategy, uses two main tools: YouTube and Twitter.

YouTube, Scarcity, and Recruitment

TMG Corporate Services have received exclusive YouTube content from sources in the Middle East showing a more complex and sophisticated plan, utilizing original creative content to target desired audience segments in a manner more reminiscent of an experienced public relations firm than a terrorist organization.

When questioning the possible success of these videos as recruitment tools, we first analyzed the content of these videos, as professional production values as well as the use of English may make them more dangerous than previous materials when used for Western recruitment. Second, we considered these videos using the psychological and rhetorical concepts of scarcity, and the role these concepts play in the effectiveness of the clips on their intended audience.

TMG Corporate Services received seven links to YouTube videos, between mid-June and mid-July 2014, which are of value to security and risk management providers as they illustrate that IS, in our view, is adopting media tactics heretofore unseen from Middle Eastern extremist organizations.

These videos feature elements similar to those one might expect to see in a coordinated advertising campaign or a large-scale non-profit drive. All videos feature target audience native speakers delivering the IS message in a calm, rational manner, at visual and vocal odds with the societally constructed idea of a raging extremist. All videos feature song’s with sophisticated arrangements that serve as a backdrop for carefully constructed lyrics brimming with anti-Western / anti-Jewish sentiment. The professionally created content of these videos is dangerous, increasing targeted Westerners’ identification with the group and giving it a similar footing with other sources in the mainstream media.

Another unique aspect of these videos, when considered in conjunction with their high production values, became clear when our analysts noted the viewer numbers of each clip. Unlike other YouTube videos uploaded by IS associated accounts and distributed to the public at large via mass Twitter links and other methods, these videos had low hit counts.

A low YouTube “hit” count and shoddy production values are clear indications of propaganda and easily dismissed as traditional extremism. However, a low number of viewers combined with professional production speak and audience segment targeting makes the “chosen” viewers more susceptible due to the social psychology concept of scarcity. A study by Worchel, Lee and Adewole (1975) illustrated that individuals value an object more highly if it appears to be more rare. Similarly, information that is harder to obtain is viewed as more trustworthy. Two thousand years earlier, Aristotle was already covering the subject in his “Rhetoric,” stating, “Further, what is rare is a greater good than what is plentiful,” and additionally, “… Besides, what comes only as long intervals has the value of rarity.”

In a society where being unique has become a valuable commodity, particularly during key developmental phases for an individual’s personality, it should come as no surprise that these “rare” IS videos have the capability of being dangerous recruitment tools. The videos are viewable to all YouTube users while they are “live”. However, the invitations to view this content were privately sent to multiple TMG Corporate Services dummy Facebook, Google+ and YouTube accounts. These accounts had deliberately demonstrated a demographic and behavior pattern that would make their “owners” interesting recruitment targets for IS.

Over a two week period, of twenty highly active pro-Islam / pro-Jihad accounts, seventeen were privately “invited” to add temporary IS accounts to their profiles or circles and in the process view the seemingly exclusive content. The IS accounts issuing the invites variously stayed active for between two and five days after receipt of the invitation and in the intervening periods some links to external content were withdrawn or the target content source deleted or moved. The objective in this behavior would appear to be to manifest feelings of exclusivity and insider knowledge in the target and may engender increased enthusiasm in a vulnerable or disenfranchised individual, creating the illusion that they may be of particular worth to IS.

Twitter, Propaganda, and Intimidation

If IS has found a niche on YouTube for recruitment and testing the usefulness of audience targeting, then the organization’s tactics when using Twitter should be considered its anti-thesis. IS appears to be using Twitter as a platform for large-scale information dissemination, sharing images and a message of intimidation with local Middle Eastern and Western sources. When deliberating on whether IS’s Twitter strategy has been successful, there are three main points to consider when analyzing the intersection of IS, Twitter, and success.

If learning how to become ingrained in the culture of Twitter is considered success, then IS is making steady progress. From inserting themselves into a World Cup hash-tag with a violent image, which helped IS accounts acquire thousands of unintentional views, to co-opting a sign held by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and subverting her message, the social media strategists at IS understand how to attach themselves to successful social media campaigns to garner more attention (Nordland, 2014). However, this method does not appear to have furthered any of IS’s goals, with the exception of press coverage. While this should not be ignored, it is unlikely to be the organization’s only desire for such a convenient, global communication platform.

If IS’s purpose in using Twitter is not to recruit but to threaten, in a general and non-targeted manner, then results should be considered mixed. There is no doubt that their threatening messages on local accounts for specific Middle Eastern areas may have negative effects on the psychological well-being of the local populace, especially when these account feature images of violence. It is likely that such messages, spread by loudspeaker and on Twitter, led to Christians fleeing Mosul on July 19th 2014 (Swarts, 2014). However, even when accompanied with images of a most violent nature, threats have only served to rouse Western audiences and provide them with a cause to unite against IS more cohesively (BBC News, 2014).

Finally, if the purpose of IS’s Twitter strategy is to exercise control over the platform, it should perhaps be considered a resounding failure. IS’s accounts stay open and active only at the behest of the US intelligence community (Daileda & Franceschi-Bicchierai, 2014), and Twitter itself can shut them down at any time.

Suggested Course of Action

This analysis considers IS’s basic use of two social media tools through June/July 2014. When al-Qaeda used online tools for recruitment, a thorough tactical analysis with in-depth assessments about the organization’s success was not possible until almost a decade after recruitment began (Gerwehr & Daly, 2005).

It is likely that in-depth research about IS’s success or failure to use social media may take a comparable amount of time. However, since IS has succeeded in recruiting more Westerners than any other group to date, it is imperative to begin the process now.

We recommend analysis of accounts which are providing the highest level of audience segment targeting toward Western audiences, including analyzing names chosen for such accounts and their use of idioms and slogans, with particular attention to evidence of positive Western response and IS’s ability to capitalize on success, to predict threats and develop countermeasures. Other avenues for analysis are currently being developed and results and findings will take the form of further posts on our various publishing platforms.

Reference List

BBC News, 2014. Americans scoff at isis twitter threats. BBC News, 8(7), pp.1-15. Available from: [Accessed July 21, 2014].

Burson-Marsteller, 2014. The global corporate twitter influence study – burson·marsteller. Burson·Marsteller, 8(7), pp.1-15. Available from: [Accessed July 21, 2014].

Daileda, C. & Franceschi-Bicchierai, L., 2014. Us intelligence officials want isil fighters to keep tweeting. Mashable, 8(7), pp.1-15. Available from: Http:// [Accessed July 21, 2014].

Gerwehr, S. & Daly, S., 2014. Al-qaida: terrorist selection and recruitment. In Al-Qaida and Global Jihad, Part 1. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, pp. 73-89.

Grose, T.K., 2014. Western ‘jihadists’ trekking to syria, iraq pose new terror threat. US News, 32(5), pp.906-914. Available from: [Accessed July 21, 2014].

Kirdar, M., 2011. Al-qaeda in iraq. Strategic Comments [Online], 8(7), 1-15. Available from: Http:// [Accessed July 21, 2104].

Nordland, R., 2014. Iraq’s sunni militants take to social media to advance their cause and intimidate. The New York Times, 8(7), pp.1-15. Available from: [Accessed July 21, 2014].

Swarts, P., 2014. Christians flee mosul after isil threat: convert to islam or die. Washington Times, 8(7), pp.1-15. Available from: [Accessed July 21, 2014].

Worchel, S., Lee, J. & Adewole, A., 1975. Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32(5), 906-914.

Why does the world not react to Israeli attacks on Palestine / Gaza?

The Short Answer

The polarized and well publicized views of each side and their supporters are so jaded, “old hat” and reactionary that few international commentators or governments wish to become embroiled in a conflict whose roots are so deep that few believe a resolution will ever be possible until one side is utterly defeated by the other. This outcome is completely unacceptable of course so as bad as the status quo would appear to be it is better than the alternative. 

The Long Answer

To elaborate – the current crisis in Israel / Gaza is a two sided affair. Each side and even their moderate supporters comment and pass judgment in an increasingly partisan fashion. 

Palestinian supporters post images of bombed out domestic dwellings, civilian deaths, mass panic after receiving 60 second “dud rocket warnings” / “knock on the roof” bombing techniques and in particular the deadly consequences of the Israeli bombardment for the children of Gaza. Israeli supporters post images of rocket intercepts, burned out cars hit by Hamas rockets, allegations that Hamas are targeting a nuclear reactor and images of firefighters battling gas station blazes caused by short range rocket attacks which were not intercepted by the Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defense system.

The Iron Dome is Israel’s anti-missile defenSe system that, it is claimed, has had a nearly 90 per cent success rate in intercepting potentially deadly rockets from Gaza. The Iron Dome was designed and built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in 2011. It’s aim is to intercept potentially deadly rockets aimed at the Israeli territories. There are seven missile batteries placed around Israel firing 10ft long projectiles to intercept rockets fired on Israeli territories. The missiles have a range of between 2.5 and 43 miles. Each missile fired costs $50,000. Israel has invested in excess of $1 billion into the Iron Dome. The US has also pumped $235 million towards the project this year alone. If the Iron Dome was not in place then atrocities in Israel would match or exceed those in Gaza. 

In the worst violence since 2012 Hamas continues to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel. Operation Protective Edge – the Israeli response – continues to bombard targets throughout Gaza including, highly controversially, the private dwellings of suspected Hamas leaders with the inevitable consequences for those living close by.

It is clear to all impartial observers that the response of a first world military organization will be far more deadly than the acts of terrorism which have provoked it. The Hamas arsenal is made up of short range rockets albeit with lethal consequences when targets are hit. The Israeli arsenal is a complex mix of highly effective and brutally destructive state of the art guided munitions capable of being deployed from land, sea and air platforms. 

The fact is that the provocative acts, whether based on genuine grievances or not, have produced a far deadlier effect for the civilians of Gaza – a sacrifice that Hamas appears to be willing to let their fellow countrymen absorb. 

So why does Hamas do it & why does Israel not experience more international pressure to cease reacting? Here are three points to keep in mind.

Quoting Ishaan Tharoor writing in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Hamas does not want a return to the status quo

A cessation of hostilities may end the current Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza, but it would reinstate a state of affairs many Gazans find intolerable. Since 2007, when Hamas won a battle for control of the Gaza Strip, Israel has clamped down on the densely populated, impoverished territory, imposing blockades and launching various military incursions. “The problem is not the cease-fire, the problem is the situation in Gaza,” said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, in a televised address this week.

Hamas, as well as many ordinary Gazans, want restrictions on border crossings into the enclave to be loosened – in particular, the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which is the main gateway into the territory for goods and aid. But that has been closed since the ascension of Egypt’s Sisi, who ousted president Mohamed Morsi and banned Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, an institution that is Hamas’ ideological progenitor.

After the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last month (who were eventually found murdered), Israel conducted mass arrests of hundreds of suspected Hamas operatives living there, even though the group denies any role in the teenagers’ abduction. Critics accused Israel of carrying out “collective punishment” on the Palestinians. Hamas wants some 54 of those detained to be released. Other demands include the extension of fishing zones in compliance with a 2012 agreement that critics say Israel has not followed. Gazan fishermen, struggling in the dwindling shoals, face routine harassment from Israeli gunboats.

For Hamas, rockets are politics by other means

Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome system has neutralised most of the dangerous rockets launched from the Gaza Strip; many of the rockets fired carry no payload or land harmlessly in the desert or sea. Yet militants in Gaza continue to launch them at Israel amid the current crisis.

Rocket fire is Hamas’ main tool for achieving, or at least asserting, its demands. The Islamist organisation styles itself as a resistance movement against Israeli occupation and has long been at odds with the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the main Palestinian interlocutor in the stalled peace process with Israel. Abbas has little influence over Gaza and the current escalation sidelines him even more, as Griff Witte and William Booth write in The Washington Post:

Bitter Abbas aides acknowledge that the president is fast losing relevance, but they say this is what Israel intended all along: hopeless negotiations followed by a fight that would elevate militant Palestinian elements at the expense of relative moderates. The timing, they say, is aimed at derailing a fragile Palestinian reconciliation deal that brought together the various factions, including Hamas, under Abbas’ leadership. “The objective of this war for Israel is political revenge against Mahmoud Abbas,” said Husam Zomlot, a top foreign policy official in Abbas’ secular Fatah party. “Israel wants to pull all of us into the military arena, because that’s where they have the advantage.”

Hamas thrives in this polarised context. Earlier Israeli operations against Hamas in Gaza in 2008 and 2012 led to tremendous loss of life, but did little long-term damage to the militants. Hardline politicians in Israel are now calling for a ground offensive into Gaza, a move that could lead to a calamitous escalation of the conflict.

Hamas also tragically gains from the rising death toll of Palestinian civilians. A cease-fire on Israel’s terms, writes Mya Guarneri of the +972 blog, “would also mean an end to the immediate damage to Israel’s image caused by the horrific photos and footage coming out of Gaza, and global protests against what Israel calls Operation Protective Edge”.

Hamas has fewer options and less leverage than in the past

Away from the battle, Hamas in Gaza faces crippling financial headaches and mounting anger over its record of governance in the territory. Some 40,000 public employees employed by the Hamas-run government in Gaza have gone without salaries for months, eking by on small stipends. The group is demanding the payment of these salaries as a condition for a cease-fire.
The shortfall in funds is in part a consequence of the upheavals of the Arab Spring. The civil war in Syria caused it to lose a key backer in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who’s now the target of Sunni antipathy – and Palestinian Muslims are Sunnis – across the region. Iran, the Middle East’s chief Shiite power, has also reduced its assistance to Hamas in recent years.

The closure of many smuggling tunnels into Gaza from Egypt has taken a toll as well. Sisi seems to have returned his country’s foreign policy to the earlier era of Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak, where a US-authored pact with Israel guaranteed a degree of stability in the region and military aid to Egypt, but did little to improve the lot of ordinary Palestinians. Sisi accuses Hamas of abetting an insurgency in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula.

Without Egypt on its side, it’s unclear where Hamas can turn abroad for greater leverage. It retains varying levels of support from governments in Qatar and Turkey, but not enough that it can place much stock in a positive diplomatic solution. And so it clings to its bellicose rhetoric and rocket fire, no matter the bodies piling up around it.

Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a Senior Editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.

Read more: Three reasons Hamas keeps fighting a losing battle

Multiple crises blending into regional "end of days"

Libya, Syria, Iraq and Gaza are all edging ever further toward the abyss as the cycles of violence, retribution and retaliation worsen, drawing in – as these matters inevitably do – previously unconnected third parties. Egypt, Israel, Turkey, the EU, the USA and Iran are all getting pulled in by forces outside of their control. 

The USA and Iran make an unlikely couple in Iraq as they consider how best to co-operate in the fight against the Islamic State (formerly ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al-Sham)) and the newly declared leader of the caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad was recently sworn in for his third presidential term amidst allegations of barrel bombing of residential neighbourhoods and the use of WMD in the three year old civil war. IS carve out large swathes of territory from the Iraq border deep into Syria and even the UN states that in the unlikely event of an outcome between the warring sides that the nature of the conflict and “the devastating toll will have sown the seeds of future conflict”.

In Gaza, Hamas are feeling threatened by the emergence and presence of IS and similarly Fatah in the West Bank are feeling the influence of the group on their control of “cells” within their organisation. With the commencement of the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza (07.17.2014) the prospect is raised of the first “official” face-off between Israel and IS. 

Libya has seen an escalation in fighting over recent months – between the victorious groups / militia’s post-Gaddafi (who significantly outnumber government forces) – to the point where the EU this week declared the evacuation of all its citizens and a potential call for the deployment of international troops. Tripoli airport is damaged to the extent that the Libyan government has declared it unfit for purpose and the fleet will require hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to make it operational. 

Egypt has only recently emerged from a period of serious instability after the Hamas friendly Muslim Brotherhood regime was ousted in favor of Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein el-Sisi, former Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Egypt’s attempts to broker a Palestinian / Israeli ceasefire in Gaza failed recently and the Egyptian administration is wary of being perceived within Egypt to be negotiating too closely with Hamas due to the latters association with the Muslim Brotherhood. MB has been accused of being Hamas spies while Hamas is a proscribed organisation in Egypt and is constantly attacked in pro-regime Egyptian media for allegedly meddling in Egyptian affairs. 

Turkey is threatened by events to the south and across the Black Sea matters in Ukraine crisis grow more grave as it plays surrogate to a Russia-EU-US power play over regional influence and after Russian arms in the hands of East Ukraine rebels allegedly downed a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet in Russia / Ukraine airspace (07.17.2014). 

Meanwhile IS have allegedly shown up in Nigeria in talks with Boko Haram, in Afghanistan and release training videos from locations in Uzbekistan and Chechnya. The IS social media campaign has led to a flurry of border activity in the EU and the US as governments there seek to prevent Mujahid recruits from joining the fight and potentially becoming an internal security threat upon their return. 

The effects and consequences of this series of conflicts / crises and the emergence of IS are global. Regardless of the attitude to the declaration of the caliphate – it acts as a new departure in how radical Islam organizes and dispels with national and regional politics in favor of an over-arching unifying call to all Muslims in the context of the Mahdi and “end of days” concept.

The ripples are being felt in the EU and the US as disaffected Western men influenced by the increasingly sophisticated recruitment techniques of IS seek to make the trip to join and fight under the IS banner.   

(VIDEOS/PHOTOS) Is Operation Protective Edge the tipping point in Israel? – Gaza pounding continues …

The civilians of the Gaza Strip cannot afford to pay the price of Hamas aggression which exposes them to death and destruction on a terrifying scale. The civilians of Israel cannot also be expected to run to bomb shelters on a daily basis and live in constant fear of unannounced aerial bombardment. The innocent civilians, moderates and children of Israel and Gaza are the victims of unacceptable extremism on both sides. Scant coverage is given to the fact that Abbas and Netanyahu exhausted all efforts to avoid this catastrophic escalation of violence but both have been cornered by the activities of extreme nationalists in their camps. The current crisis in Israel / Gaza is a two sided affair. Opinions are generally polarized with each side and even their moderate supporters commenting in an increasingly partisan fashion. 

Partisan Commentary by Both Sides: Palestinian supporters post images of bombed out domestic dwellings, civilian deaths, mass panic after receiving 60 second “dud rocket warnings” / “knock on the roof” bombing techniques (see Israeli ‘knock on the roof’ bombing technique caught on film (VIDEO) below) and in particular the deadly consequences of the Israeli bombardment for the children of Gaza. Israeli supporters post images of rocket intercepts, burned out cars hit by Hamas rockets, allegations that Hamas are targeting a nuclear reactor and images of firefighters battling gas station blazes caused by short range rocket attacks which were not intercepted by the Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defence system.

(VIDEO) IDF “knock on the roof” bombing technique: The IDF practice of firing a missile at a civilian home to warn the occupants to leave the building before a larger attack, has been caught on film. Amnesty International has decried “roof knocking” saying it in no way constitutes an “effective warning”. A YouTube video uploaded on Saturday shows how a Palestinian house in Samir Nofal is struck by a warning hit before being destroyed about a minute later by a full missile attack. Prior to the strike the occupants of the building reportedly received a call from the IDF, warning of an imminent attack. Amnesty International has condemned the “knock on the roof” technique in an appeal to the UN to investigate possible violations by Hamas and the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. 

 Israeli 'knock on the roof' bombing technique caught on film (VIDEO)

Comparison with the Crisis of 2012: In the worst violence since 2012 Hamas continues to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel. Operation Protective Edge – the Israeli response – continues to bombard targets throughout Gaza including, highly controversially, the private dwellings of suspected Hamas leaders with the inevitable consequences for those living close by. The map below is a Haaretz analysis of the 2012 crisis – the current crisis has already far exceeded the statistics in this info-graphic in a matter of days.

Weaponry & Response Comparison: It is clear to all impartial observers that the response of a first world military organization will be far more deadly than the acts of terrorism which have provoked it. The Hamas arsenal is made up of short range rockets albeit with lethal consequences when targets are hit. The Israeli arsenal is a complex mix of highly effective and brutally destructive state of the art guided munitions capable of being deployed from land, sea and air platforms. 

While the info-graphic below draws conclusions from the death toll attributed to each sides arsenal in 2012 the fact is that the provocative acts, whether based on genuine grievances or not, have produced a far deadlier effect for the civilians of Gaza – a sacrifice that Hamas appears to be willing to let their fellow countrymen absorb. 

(VIDEO) Israeli Moderate Ari Shavit Speaks of Extreme Consequences: Ari Shavit, senior correspondent for Ha’aretz, says serious and potentially apocalyptic escalation between Israel and Hamas may be imminent and blames “extreme Jewish nationalists” who have been acting in a “very violent way for a long time” for forcing “moderates” on both sides into an unwanted escalation. More from CNN at

(VIDEO) The Iron Dome: The Iron Dome is Israel’s anti-missile defence system that, it is claimed, has had a nearly 90 per cent success rate in intercepting potentially deadly rockets from Gaza. The Iron Dome was designed and built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in 2011. It’s aim is to intercept potentially deadly rockets aimed at the Israeli territories. There are seven missile batteries placed around Israel firing 10ft long projectiles to intercept rockets fired on Israeli territories. The missiles have a range of between 2.5 and 43 miles. Each missile fired costs $50,000. Israel has invested in excess of $1 billion into the Iron Dome. The US has also pumped $235 million towards the project this year alone.

(VIDEO) Reuters report on Operation Protective Edge: Israel says it won’t tolerate rocket fire on its cities as it intensifies aerial offensive against Hamas in Gaza, bombing 50 sites, including homes. 

The consequences for the civilians of Israel – Static Images from the last 72 Hours

The consequences for the civilians of the Gaza Strip – Static Images from the last 72 Hours 

(PHOTOS) July 2014 Alleged Demolition of Shrines & Mosques by IS (ISIS)

This series of images allegedly shows IS (ISIS) jihadists demolish mosques, shrines in northern Iraq. Photographs from the area posted online under the banner: “Demolishing shrines and idols in the state of Nineveh” depicted mosques being turned into piles of rubble – explosives deployed against Shiite buildings – and bulldozers flattening the shrines. 

According to sources who spoke to RT: (
Islamic militant sect, ISIS, which has been rampaging across the north and west of Iraq since last month, has been demolishing sacred sites such as shrines and mosques around the historic northern city of Mosul in Nineveh province.

At least four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures have been destroyed by the bulldozers, according to AFP. The structures had been built around graves of Muslim saints. Six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed using explosives.

“We feel very sad for the demolition of these shrines, which we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers,” 51-year-old Mosul resident Ahmed told AFP. 

“They are landmarks in the city,” he said.

Local residents verified that buildings had been destroyed and two cathedrals occupied to the agency. Crosses at the front of Mosul’s Chaldean cathedral and Syrian Orthodox cathedral were removed and replaced with the black flag of the Islamic State.

The city of Tal Afar, approximately 70km west of Mosul, was also targeted, with a Shiite Huseiniya temple being blown up. 

One of the shrines destroyed had survived a prior targeting by the group on June 24.

“Dozens of men, women and children formed a human wall and surrounded the sacred shrine of Sheikh Fathi in al-Mushahada neighbourhood of western Mosul and prevented the terrorists from storming it,”Ninawa tribal council deputy head Ibrahim al-Hassan told Al-Shorfa shortly after the incident.

Sheikh Fathi’s shrine – one of Mosul’s most important, dating back to 1760, was among those destroyed.

Mosul was captured on June 10 when Sunni militants drove Iraq’s army out of the city. Thousands of civilians fled as jihadists took control of the city against the Shi’ite majority Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Maliki has sworn to defeat the jihadists; on Friday he stated publicly that: “Pulling out of the battlefield while facing terrorist organizations that are against Islam and humanity would show weakness instead of carrying out my legitimate, national and moral responsibility.” 

“I have vowed to God that I will continue to fight by the side of our armed forces and volunteers until we defeat the enemies of Iraq and its people,” he said.

ISIL/ISIS Regional Analysis in Pictures June 2014 (Acknowledgements – Durham Specialist Risk Management)

Jun 25, 2014 1:05:00 PM 
(Acknowledgments to 3rd Party Sources called out below)

In a previous employment I worked in al-Anbar Province, Iraq. In 2010, we monitored a variety of Sunni militant groups, groups with different strategies and ideologies in the Sunni areas of the country. There was the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade, a group whose name refers to the 1920s revolution against British colonial rule in Iraq. Their goal was to establish a liberated and independent Iraqi state on an Islamic basis. An offshoot of the 1920s is Hamas al Iraq, the militant wing of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) who broke away in 2007. This group has a Sunni nationalist agenda and wanted to propel the IIP to being the prominent political party in Anbar. 

Fig 1: Iraqi Spec-Ops Convoy en route to Mosul

Jaysh Rijal al Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN) were felt by the US military to be the greatest long term threat to the stability of Iraq. JRTN operated to desabilise Iraq through attacks against security forces, prevent Iranian influence in the country, with the aim of restoring the Ba’ath Party and expelling foreign forces. This group was made up of former Saddam regime commanders and intelligence personnel under the New Ba’ath Party, a secularist political party, mixing Arab nationalist and socialist interests. Finally there were the Islamic fundamentalist militant groups, al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq, which has morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL.

Fig 2: Vice News Field Report

See full article by Michael McCabe at:

Fig 3: Iranian Regional Sphere of Influence

Fig 4: Islamic State formerly ISIS/ISIL Regional Presence (not current)

Fig 5: The Kurd’s Regional Presence      

 Fig 6: Analysis of the Region known as the Levant                                    

Acknowledgement to copyright holder at

Durham Specialist Risk Management Blog

Our team is staffed principally by security experts with military and/or government intelligence backgrounds. They have had significant exposure to the private sector, often operating at the highest levels of business globally. Additionally, we have an extensive network of security and intelligence professionals which truly gives us global coverage. Our aim is to become the industry thought leaders on security and risk management, moving it into the 21st Century.