Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 30.6.17

Massenbach-Letter. News Kardinal Marx zur Debatte um die „Ehe für alle

– Pressemitteilungen der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz

  • US committed to Europe force extension through 2020, Mattis says
  • Russia’s Engagement with the Taliban
  • Radio Vatican: Nuntius Zenari: „Mit 23 Millionen Syrern zum Papst"
  • CTC Perspectives: The Islamic State’s Internal Rifts and Social Media Ban
  • RPT-China pumps cash into African floating LNG projects in strategic push
  • US Democrats face identity crisis

Massenbach*US Democrats face identity crisis

Democrats are grappling with how to keep their progressive base happy while winning over white working-class voters who left the party in the 2016 elections.

Defections by blue-collar voters cost Democrat Hillary the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which went to President Trump. It was the first time since 1988 that a GOP presidential candidate had won Michigan or Pennsylvania, and the first time since 1984 in Wisconsin.

The fallout has created an identity crisis for a Democratic Party seeking to find its way forward in the post-Obama era.

A string of House special election losses culminating in Democrat Jon Ossoff’s disappointing defeat in Georgia last week has only intensified the scrutiny and second-guessing of Democratic strategy, to say nothing of the hand-wringing by party activists craving a victory.

“I’m not convinced we know what the best thing is for the party right now,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley. “I’m not convinced we have the answers.”

Democrats trying to figure out what they’re doing wrong are focused on how they’ve seemingly lost a significant part of the Democratic base all while failing to turn out enough progressives.

There are different views about what to do across the party, with some questioning whether the white working-class voters can be won back by a party that seems to be tilting leftward with the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other liberal voices.

“I’ve spoken to some folks who think we have to only choose one or the other,” said one former senior aide to President Barack Obama. “And after this election cycle, I think there are some who believe there may be some truth to that.”

A lot depends on whether the party can find the right candidate with the right message, particularly in 2020.

“Democrats need a reason for showing up. Give them a reason to believe, and we won’t be having this discussion,” the former Obama aide said.

Democrats say there is a way to appeal to both progressives and white working-class voters.

“Everybody is being too simplistic,” Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons said. “Voters are much more complex.”

Simmons said it’s not a matter of choosing to talk about police violence and climate change or the minimum wage and creating jobs.

Progressives, he said, want Democrats to talk about all of that.

They “want politicians to say something about Black Lives Matter and equality — they also want to know how they’re going to get their kids through college, pay off their house and get a better job,” he said. “The thing that’s most frustrating to me is this either-or dichotomy.”

Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 show Democrats can win over both groups, say some Democrats.

“This crisis is Democrats not realizing their own strengths, or being scared of articulating their core principles, rather than a crisis of having no agenda,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

He said a focus on economics, climate change and being anti-Trump would animate the party.

“These are the places that 2018 candidates need to focus on, because they are ways to distinguish themselves from the GOP and its agenda,” he added. “Then they should continue to use Trump as a unifying theme. Often experts downplay this, but Republicans were very effective at using Obama that way.”

In recent days, particularly since the Ossoff loss, Democrats have been doing a lot of finger-pointing.

There’s been a movement to stop blaming the 2016 presidential election loss on Russia. And there have been calls to cut ties with current Democratic leaders like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Some of those calls, within the House, come from lawmakers such as Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who is worried about losing the white working class.

On the other end of the spectrum, some say Sanders’s bashing of Democrats has only deepened wounds.

“A lot of people are sick of it,” said Manley, a former adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “The mainstream part of the party has had it up to here with what he’s been saying.”

Some Democrats are seeking to build a bridge between the two groups.

In an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the party will unveil a “strong, bold, sharp-edged and commonsense economic agenda” in the coming weeks.

Addressing both wings of his party, he added, “I’m talking to Bernie Sanders. I’m talking to Joe Manchin. This is going to be really something that Democrats can be proud of, and I’m excited about it.”

Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, is among the most centrist members of Schumer’s conference.

Michael Tyler, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats will look to expand their support across the party.

He acknowledged in an email to The Hill that in order to win elections, Democrats “have to focus on broadening and turning out our base and on reaching out to Americans who cast ballots for Donald Trump or didn’t vote at all.”

Tyler said Democrats are in the process of rebuilding a party “from an organization whose mission was solely to elect the president of the United States to one that organizes to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, from school board to Senate.”

But it may not be as easy as that, some strategists say.

Asked how the party rebounds and lures both working-class and progressive Democrats, Manley admitted: “I don’t have the faintest idea in this point in time. I’m still trying to digest what happened.”


Pressemitteilungen der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz


Kardinal Marx zur Debatte um die „Ehe für alle“

Zur aktuell in der Öffentlichkeit geführten Debatte um die Einführung der „Ehe für alle“ erklärt der Vorsitzende der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz, Kardinal Reinhard Marx:

„Die Deutsche Bischofskonferenz betont, dass die Ehe – nicht nur aus christlicher Überzeugung – die Lebens- und Liebesgemeinschaft von Frau und Mann als prinzipiell lebenslange Verbindung mit der grundsätzlichen Offenheit für die Weitergabe von Leben ist.

Wir sind der Auffassung, dass der Staat auch weiterhin die Ehe in dieser Form schützen und fördern muss.

Wir bedauern, wenn dieser Ehebegriff aufgelöst werden soll und damit die christliche Auffassung von Ehe und das staatliche Konzept weiter auseinandergehen. Es ist auch wegen der von vielen Seiten geäußerten erheblichen verfassungsrechtlichen Bedenken völlig unangemessen, eine solche gesellschaftspolitische Grundentscheidung in diesem überstürzten Verfahren zu fällen.

Die Deutsche Bischofskonferenz hat in ihren Stellungnahmen zum Lebenspartnerschaftsrecht betont, dass es ein Missverständnis wäre, die hervorgehobene Rechtsstellung der Ehe und ihren bleibenden besonderen Schutz als Diskriminierung homosexuell veranlagter Männer und Frauen zu verstehen.“


Russia’s Engagement with the Taliban

June 21, 2017. In December 2015, the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed that Russia was engaging in intelligence sharing with the Taliban to counter the growing presence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan … caught the world by surprise.

2016 saw a sudden increase in the Taliban’s offensive attacks and its establishment of control over more territory than during the past decade and a half.

Subsequently, in April 2017, the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, accused Russia of providing weapons to the Taliban … Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov termed the allegations ‘unprofessional and groundless’ and charged that it was an attempt to ‘put the blame for Washington’s failures in Afghanistan [on Russia]’. Russia, in turn, accused the US of supporting Islamic State operatives in Afghanistan. Even earlier, in 2016, the head of the Asia and West Asian department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Zamir Kabulov, had stated, ‘It is some miracle that Taliban leaders who wouldn’t cooperate with Islamic State in Afghanistan tend to be hit by American airstrikes.

And those who do are being left alone’. While these accusations and counter-accusations reflect Cold-War rhetoric, it is important to understand why Russia has begun to engage with the Taliban and what its aims in Afghanistan are in the foreseeable future.

Even though Russia’s links with the Taliban are purported to have begun around 2007, renewed attention was focused on such links from 2014 onwards after the West, led by the US, imposed sanctions on Russia in the wake of Crimea voting to become a part of Russia …

The open declaration of Russian assistance to the Taliban can be read as an effort to gain a bargaining position vis-à-vis Washington to extract concessions on the Crimean issue …

Many analysts and officials see the US intentionally trying to prolong the conflict for its own strategic interests and using the Islamic State as a proxy to counter these countries …

Another factor for the Russian involvement could be the need to tackle the growing menace of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Moscow takes very seriously Islamic State statements threatening attacks against its interests, especially in the aftermath of the downing of the Russian airliner in Egypt and the more recent St. Petersburg metro bombings which have been attributed to the group.

Further, Russia’s support to the Assad government in Syria is also bound to attract the wrath of the Islamic State. Russia is therefore worried that if there is a growth of Islamic State influence in Afghanistan, there is a possibility of radicalisation taking place on a larger scale in the former Soviet Central Asian states.

This would then make the Russian underbelly vulnerable to increased cross border terrorist attacks … moreover many Islamic State recruits are Central Asians as well as Russians.

Given all this, the Taliban is naturally seen as an emerging ally for Russia … Moscow may possibly be hoping that the Taliban, which is seen as more of a nationalist movement in contrast to the radical Islamist character of the Islamic State, would help secure the Central Asian borders with Afghanistan … It remains to be seen as to what extent the ‘red-line’ approach accepted in the Moscow six-party talks in February 2017 would be followed by the Kremlin … The Russian engagement with the Taliban has created new dynamics, the repercussions of which will be felt in the region and beyond.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* US committed to Europe force extension through 2020, Mattis says

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen speak at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.

GARMISCH, Germany — The United States will extend its forward presence of forces in eastern Europe through 2020, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday, continuing a commitment to the Continent’s security that was declared 70 years ago this month.

The extension of forces to train with and strengthen eastern Europe’s ability to counter any further acts of Russian aggression is in line with what former Gen. George C. Marshall, then secretary of state, outlined June 5, 1947, in what became known as the Marshall Plan — a plan to spend billions of U.S. dollars to help Europe rebuild and rebuff the influence of the Soviet Union after World War II, Mattis said.

“We can see today in Europe the realization of a strong vision,” Mattis said in a speech at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. “A peaceful, industrious and prosperous continent, free from tyranny, possessing the military strength to defend itself from aggression.”

Today, that commitment is embodied in the buildup of forces and increased U.S. spending to increase training and exercises with NATO and partner forces, he said. Some 1,000 U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, are leading a Poland-based battle group of an enhanced forward presence in Europe. Four multinational battle groups, totaling about 4,500 troops from 15 member nations, conduct exercises and train to quickly mobilize.

Mattis met with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch to commemorate the anniversary. The two also discussed Germany’s contributions to the proposed surge of forces in Afghanistan and future plans for the European enhanced forward presence, Mattis said, without providing details.

The return of U.S. forces to Europe was prompted by Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. That support was temporarily put into question during the 2016 presidential campaign as then-candidate and now President Donald Trump questioned NATO’s value and criticized alliance members that failed to meet commitments to spend 2 percent of their budgets on defense.

The Trump administration has since reaffirmed the importance of that alliance and has committed $4.8 billion in the 2018 defense budget to expand the U.S. European Reassurance Initiative, Mattis said.

“Beyond any words in the newspapers, you can judge America by such actions,” he said.

Mattis said the budget includes funds to extend the presence to 2020 but could not say whether it would also increase U.S. forces.

“Russia must know what we stand for, and equally, what we will not tolerate. We stand for freedom and we will never surrender the freedom of our people or the values of our alliance that we hold dear.”

Moscow has denounced the military buildup as provocative, and has repeatedly asserted it has no designs on any NATO member state.

Mattis acknowledged that the support has not been one way: In the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, European allies have contributed more than 39,000 troops to operations in Afghanistan and 59,000 to operations in Iraq,

The Marshall Plan became the underpinning of the trans-Atlantic alliances that would follow, Karen Donfried, president of George Marshall Fund of the United States, said Wednesday.

“NATO grew out of that” in 1949, Donfield said, as did the European Union, which just marked its 60th anniversary.

When Marshall proposed the initial plan in 1947, he was asking a United States weary of war to commit billions of dollars — the equivalent of 12 percent of the U.S. national budget in 1947 — to rebuild Europe, Donfried said. Marshall was able to closely tie the success and political security of Europe to the success of the United States. He mobilized Congress to go across the U.S., to rotary clubs and town halls, to sell the idea.

Today, as the U.S. government faces continued pressure to rein in spending, the idea of cutting NATO funding and U.S. presence overseas has become popular, but that would be shortsighted, said Jeff Rathke, the deputy director for the European program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank.

“The reason U.S. forces are in Europe is not out of charity to the Europeans,” he said. “The security of the U.S. would be directly affected if Europe came under the domination of an unfriendly power.”

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* RPT-China pumps cash into African floating LNG projects in strategic push

LONDON, June 27 China plans to pour almost $7 billion into floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) projects in Africa, betting on a largely untested technology in the hope that energy markets will recover by the time they start production in the early 2020s.

Western banks are wary due to the depressed state of the shipping and gas markets, as well as the technical difficulties of pumping gas extracted from below the ocean floor, chilling it into liquid form on a floating platform and transferring it into tankers for export.

China, however, is making a strategic push into FLNG, aiming to become the lowest cost seller of the complex floating plants and lead the global rollout of a technique that remains in its infancy, with only one project in commercial production so far.

The country needs gas as a cleaner alternative to coal under a drive to improve air quality in its cities, and has already lent $12 billion to Russia’s conventional Yamal LNG project in the Arctic as U.S. sanctions scared away Western banks.

It has also lent or committed almost $4 billion to three FLNG schemes off the African coast. In two more African projects costing a total of $3 billion, it plans not only to provide the funding, but also build the production platforms.

"We see a real commitment to FLNG in China both from the construction side and from the LNG consumption side where decreasing costs mean potentially lower cost LNG," said Steve Lowden, chairman of Jersey-based NewAge which is planning FLNG projects off Congo Republic and Cameroon.

China already dominates the global market for solar panels and is a major supplier of coal-fired power plants, aided by easy money, cheaper labour and state support.

Now, with Beijing pushing President Xi Jinping’s "Belt and Road" vision of expanding trade links between Asia, Africa and Europe, it is turning to FLNG to bring high technology work to its shipyards and create jobs – a strategic priority.

FLNG is also attractive to resource-rich but debt-burdened African countries. Projects can sail into place, drop anchor, and begin exporting for much less than the cost of onshore plants, the price of which quadrupled in the decade to 2013.

That, at least, is the theory. The reality is that the technology remains complex. Royal Dutch Shell’s mammoth Prelude FLNG plant, for example will be aboard the world’s biggest floating structure, but must squeeze the equipment into a quarter of the space occupied by an LNG plant on dry land.

Wave motion and ocean currents add to the difficulties.

The $12.6 billion Prelude project, which is due to start operating off Australia in 2018, is typical of those conceived during the era of high energy prices. However, spot LNG prices have fallen 70 percent since early 2014 and are expected to remain under pressure or drop further due to extra supply from new conventional plants in Australia and the United States.

Despite this, some producers and buyers are banking on the glut ending early in the next decade, although they don’t want to lock themselves into big projects, preferring smaller, more flexible ones like in Africa.

The only operational FLNG project launched in Malaysia last year, with construction of the floating platform costing around $1.6-$1.7 billion. Bankers say this is still too expensive and if the Chinese can build one for $1 billion, they would corner the market.


With new investments in costly conventional LNG plants on hold, the only two production projects to advance this year are floating types, in Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea. Both are largely backed by Chinese loans although the platforms are being built by more established Asian shipyards.

Lowden said the two NewAge projects will be wholly financed by Chinese companies and this time also built in Chinese shipyards. "They are more than fully able to handle such projects," he said.

Still, Dutch offshore engineer SBM and JGC of Japan will partner with the Chinese players, including China Offshore Oil Engineering & Construction Ltd.

NewAge expects to sanction both the projects next year.

Last year, China’s Wison Offshore & Marine completed the first-ever FLNG ship but it remains unused following the cancellation of a project in Colombia it was intended for.


As typical Western sources of funding have slowed due to the weak state of the shipping business, highly-capitalised Chinese players believe the market has reached the bottom and are keen to step up lending before the cycle turns and pushes up costs.

"The difference is that in the West banks lend at the top of the market when they have most liquidity, but in China they’re smarter and put money in at the bottom," a financier who advises Chinese lenders on LNG shipping deals said.

This month, Chinese banks including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Bank of China committed around 1.75 billion to project finance the Coral South FLNG project in Mozambique, bankers said. ICBC declined comment while BOC did not respond to a request for comment.

By contrast Western commercial banks provided just $200 million in uncovered debt to Coral, to be developed by Italy’s Eni, instead of an originally proposed $1.9 billion. They cited uncertainties around FLNG technology and a public debt crisis in Mozambique.

Adam Byrne, Managing Director at ING Bank, said Chinese lenders "have very deep pockets indeed".

"If they decide to, they can support something for even a billion or a billion and a half dollars," Byrne told a shipping conference earlier this month.


The next big African deal, in Equatorial Guinea, is being financed by China State Shipbuilding Corp with a $1.2 billion loan for Fortuna FLNG, bankers say. This project – which is being developed by UK-listed Ophir Energy, shipping firm Golar LNG and oil services group Schlumberger – will produce 2.2 million tonnes of LNG a year and is expected to be sanctioned within weeks.

China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) also lent $960 million to Golar LNG in 2015 for the first-ever conversion of a conventional LNG tanker into an FLNG platform, which is set to enter operation this year in Cameroon. CSSC declined comment.

All these projects were awarded to established shipbuilders in South Korea, Singapore or Japan, but the experience sets up Chinese developers to take the lead on other projects in Africa and beyond, say consultants and industry sources.

Equatorial Guinea sees scope for another two FLNG projects, its petroleum minister has said, while BP and joint venture partner Kosmos Energy are also eyeing two in the waters of Senegal and Mauritania.

China also has plans for conventional LNG production in Africa. Chinese conglomerate Poly-GCL has begun construction of an onshore LNG facility in Djibouti which will export Ethiopian gas to China, according to Poly-GCL’s website.


Middle East

Radio Vatican: Nuntius Zenari: „Mit 23 Millionen Syrern zum Papst"

Jeden Tag aufs Neue kommen Schreckensnachrichten aus Syrien, ein Ende der Kampfhandlungen ist trotz internationaler Aufrufe noch lange nicht in Sicht. Im Gegenteil, immer unübersichtlicher wird die Verquickung der verschiedenen internationalen Interessen auf syrischem Gebiet, und die Akteure bringen sich in Position, um bei Ende des Krieges auch ihr Stück vom Kuchen abzubekommen.

Dies alles, man kann es nicht oft genug wiederholen, auf dem Rücken der Zivilisten, die unter unmenschlichen Bedingungen im Bombenhagel ausharren müssen. Allein seit Mai seien es über 470 unbeteiligte Menschen, die dem Krieg zum Opfer gefallen sind, berichten Oppositionskreise. Auch darüber hat der Nuntius in Syrien, Kardinal Mario Zenari, an diesem Freitag mit Papst Franziskus gesprochen. Der Nuntius war im Vatikan, um an der 90. Versammlung der Hilfswerke für die Ostkirchen teilzunehmen.

Auf dem Rücken der Zivilbevölkerung

„Ich bin in Begleitung von 23 Millionen Syrern zum Papst gegangen – Katholiken, Christen, Muslime und Angehörige anderer Religionen – die den Papst sehr schätzen und ihm sehr für alles danken, was er tut. Ich habe eine große Bitte überbracht: ein Ende der Gewalt und das Bedürfnis nach Frieden.“ Der Papst bete nicht nur, sondern tue auch konkret und auf internationaler Ebene etwas, würdigt der Nuntius im Gespräch mit Radio Vatikan den Einsatz von Franziskus. „Als ich schon in der Tür stand und gehen wollte, hat er mir gesagt, ,Bring allen Syrern, die leiden, eine zärtliche Geste mit!´ Das [Denken an die Leidenden] ist leider eine Priorität, denn mehr als die Hälfte der Krankenhäuser sind wegen des Krieges nicht funktionsfähig. Wir appellieren an die Großzügigkeit aller!“

Syrer wollen einfach nur Frieden

Eine politische Lösung des Konfliktes, der nunmehr im siebten Jahr tobt, sei nach wie vor in weiter Ferne, befürchtet der Nuntius. Insbesondere aus den ehemaligen IS-Hochburgen Rakka und Deir Ezzor kämen besorgniserregende Nachrichten, berichtet der Kardinal mit Blick auf die Menschen, die dort festsitzen: „Man müsste wohl humanitäre Korridore einrichten. Was die politische Lösung betrifft, da würde ich sagen, dass zuerst die Gewalt aufhören muss. Das Übereinkommen von Astana vom vergangenen 4. Mai wäre vielversprechend, aber die Probleme kommen bei der praktischen Umsetzung zutage. Das, was man jetzt erreichen muss, ist ein Ende der Gewalt.“

Hartnäckig müsse man daneben die Suche nach einer politischen Lösung weiter verfolgen, betont Nuntius Zenari. Ein Weg dazu seien die Genfer Gespräche. Doch: „Man darf sich nicht leugnen, wie kompliziert die Wirklichkeit ist. Ein Syrer hat mir vor zwei Wochen bitter die ausländischen Fahnen aufgezählt, die derzeit auf syrischem Territorium präsent sind. Da sind Truppen und Soldaten… deshalb würde ich sagen, dass es sich um einen sehr komplexen Konflikt handelt, doch mit der Hilfe der internationalen Gemeinschaft muss man zu einer politischen Lösung kommen. Doch ich wiederhole, der erste Schritt muss das Ende der Gewalt sein, um humanitäre Hilfe zu ermöglichen.“

(rv 24.06.2017 cs)

Vatikan-Staatssekretär Kardinal Pietro Parolin trifft im August in Moskau den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin und das Oberhaupt der russisch-orthodoxen Kirche, Patriarch Kyrill I. Das bestätigte Parolin am Mittwoch auf Journalistenanfragen. Der Besuch sei „schon lange geplant“ und jetzt seien „alle Bedingungen vorhanden“, sagte die „Nummer Zwei“ der Vatikan-Hierarchie: „Ich glaube, ich werde Präsident Putin und die Leitungspersönlichkeiten der russisch-orthodoxen Kirche treffen, weil dies ein hochrangig eingestufter Besuch sein soll.“ Der geplante Besuch in Moskau folgt dem historischen Treffen in Kuba zwischen Papst Franziskus und Patriarch Kyrill im Februar 2016.

Newsletter von Radio Vatikan – 22.6.2017


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.

CTC Perspectives: The Islamic State’s Internal Rifts and Social Media Ban

June 21, 2017

Author(s): Bryan Price, Muhammad al-`Ubaydi

An important part of the Islamic State’s meteoric rise to power in Syria and Iraq was due at least in part to its creative use of social media tools to distribute propaganda and recruit new members. The group’s well-documented social media skills have attracted tens of thousands of foreign fighters to join the fight. As documented by the CTC weeks before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi established the caliphate in Mosul, the Islamic State propaganda machine also served a critical role in psychological operations during the group’s blitzkrieg advance into northwestern Iraq in June of 2014.

It is somewhat ironic, therefore, that the group has issued an official ban on social media for all of its soldiers. In a document (see below) produced by the Islamic State’s Delegated Committee a few weeks ago and disseminated via Islamic State distribution channels more recently, the group’s order to all of its soldiers stated: “effective from the date of this notification, using social networking sites is entirely and completely forbidden. Whoever violates this exposes himself to questioning and accountability.” The order was published by the group in both Arabic and English.

This is not the first time the group has warned against the use of social media by its rank-and-file, but the May 14th order is its most forceful attempt to date. As early as September 2014 and again in official releases in January and September of 2015, Islamic State officials warned against individual soldiers posting updates on social media platforms and prohibited them from publishing official statements on behalf of the group. Official Islamic State propaganda units, the leadership advised, would take care of these activities.

The May 14th ban emphasized the security reasons for staying off social media. There are several documented cases in which Islamic State soldiers have jeopardized the operational security of the group. In one infamous case two years ago in June 2015, an Islamic State foot-soldier posted a selfie in front of his headquarters building. The social media post, complete with geolocation data, enabled U.S. intelligence officials to quickly target and destroy the facility in an airstrike. The May 2017 official ban acknowledges that the Islamic State’s enemies monitor social networking day and night in an effort to “penetrate the ranks of the muwahhidin (those who worship Allah only) and to learn their secrets.” It specifically laments the group’s past losses to social media missteps of Islamic State fighters. “How many mujahid has [sic] been killed because of this! How many a maqarr (headquarters) has been destroyed!”

Stopping today’s soldiers from posting content that could jeopardize operational security is a concern for any fighting force. The same goes for the desire to speak with one voice and to stay on message. Islamic State officials stated that operational security was the reason behind the ban, but keeping the rank-and-file away from social media may serve another purpose that is potentially more important to the group—to stifle dissent and discontent within the group’s ranks and to prevent burgeoning ideological schisms within the organization from widening.

Three days after issuing the ban, Islamic State leadership followed the one-page order with a 12-page document (see below) to everyone in the caliphate. This document responded to the group’s Muslim critics, including defectors who have been active on social media, and clarified the group’s position on takfir and other contentious matters of ideological import. It was also featured in the Islamic State’s Arabic weekly, al-Naba, on May 25, 2017.

Meticulously justifying every policy decision on religious grounds is standard practice for the group, but the long-form May 17th document’s emphasis on obedience signals an attempt to heal ideological rifts that are occurring inside the organization and being stoked by defectors leaving it.

Like any political entity, the Islamic State has had to answer to critics on both their left and right, including defectors who are now criticizing the group via social media. The May 17th document, entitled “That Those Who Perish Would Perish Upon Proof and Those Who Live Would Live Upon Proof,” addresses these two camps. To counter the critics who believe the Islamic State is too extreme in its declarations of takfir (the practice of declaring one as an unbeliever) and those who proclaim the Islamic State is itself kafir (unbelievers) because it is not extreme enough, the group defended its positions using numerous Qur’anic verses, hadiths, and passages from notable Islamic scholars. The document states the Islamic State’s application of takfir is appropriate and in complete accordance with the Qur’an.

The May 17th justification also chides those who are cowardly criticizing the Islamic State from kafir regions outside of the caliphate instead of doing it from inside the caliphate and in accordance with Islamic customs and traditions. For example, the document features guidance from Ibn Abi ‘Asim, a 9th Century Iraqi scholar, on the proper way to criticize an authority figure in the caliphate:

“Whoever wants to sincerely advise an authority, then he should not do so publicly, but he should take him by his hand and withdraw with him. If he accepts it from him, then so be it; and if not, then he has fulfilled his responsibility.”

Other passages in the May 17th document focus on the importance of obedience to authority. The Delegating Committee stated that obeying authority figures is a religious duty. Even “if they command something that the soul dislikes, obeying them is obligatory.” Openly criticizing decisions made by the Islamic State results in “the loss of trust between the troops and their umara (emirs), as well as bad assumptions about the umara and the removal of their dignity, which leads to dissension and separatist corruption.” In the end, the document portends that “mentioning the faults and errors of the umara in private and public gatherings only leads to evil.”

Another odd passage includes a quote from ‘Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, a companion of the Prophet Mohammad, on the importance of obedience, even obedience to a tyrant. “If the imam is just, then he gets the reward and you must be grateful. And if he is a tyrant, then he bears the burden and you must be patient.”

Finally, the document concludes by encouraging Islamic State followers “to be content, accepting, and having [sic] good assumption of those in authority.” It is improper to criticize the emir or “to insult, gossip, expose, provoke, or incite with the claim of reconciliation.” The selection of these passages, especially when viewed in relation to the Islamic State’s social media ban, suggest that the group is suffering from command and control and other related operational authority problems, and that the group views this issue not only as a strategic problem but potentially also a strategic vulnerability.

Today, one of the Islamic State’s unofficial media group, al-Wafa Media Foundation, posted a seven-page article filled with paranoid allegations about outsiders penetrating the group online in an attempt to divide the organization. Of note, the post describes an alleged conspiracy hatched by the former emir of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia and shared with current al-Qa`ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to sow doubt about the group online on Twitter and Telegram. This plot entailed a two-phase approach to initially spark an online debate about the authenticity and reliability of the Islamic State’s media ministry and al-Naba magazine and then challenge the authority of the Delegated Committee (the same organization that issued the social media ban) and various ministry emirs within the Islamic State.

It will be interesting to see what effect all of this has on the group’s followers and what counterterrorism officials do to exploit the situation. The Islamic State has long prided itself on its effective use of social media, and it has enjoyed the amplifying effects of thousands of its followers that extend the virtual reach of the group’s message and image online. Will Islamic State soldiers comply with the new edict, or will this ban, coupled with new and heightened concerns over obedience, lead to a backlash and further internal rifts?

It is said the pen is mightier than the sword, and the Islamic State has used both to great effect thus far. The group’s recent social media ban for tens of thousands of its soldiers and a follow-on manifesto on obedience and the appropriate mediums for voicing dissent, however, speaks to its growing fear of the pen.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.


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*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*