Anne Speckhard and Molly Ellenberg As published in Homeland Security Today Mohammed Khalifa, otherwise known…
“Hold On, America; The War Is Not Over and You Have Yet to Win”
Ahmet S Yayla, Ph.D. & Anne Speckhard, Ph.D.
“These are the words of ISIS deputy and spokesman Mujahid Shaykh Abu Muhammad al- Adnani ash-Shami released as a new audio message via Al-Furqan media (the official ISIS media) on the 21st May 2016.
The Furqan media audio file as well as several of its translations (including English) was immediately and widely distributed via the Internet by ISIS members. The English version of the speech used in this document was translated and provided by ISIS members through Al-Hayat media center which is one of the media outlets of the ISIS.
This speech, entitled That They Live by Proof is important from several points. The first objective of the speech is to provide morale and rally ISIS fighters to get them ready for the upcoming coalition operations against Fallujah and Raqqah. In doing so Adnani cites the 2003 U.S. coalition invasion of Iraq as a war that was never won, as U.S. President Bush claimed, or completed when U.S. President Obama pulled his troops out of Iraq. Instead, Adnani goads the U.S. with having never won and points out that ISIS is once again drawing the U.S. troops to fight against them in Iraq and in Syria saying, “Here we are again ready to fight you in the battlefield” and “you have not won the war and you have yet to win it.” In his speech Adnani attempts to strengthen the legitimacy of his terrorist organization’s position by referencing Islamic End Times texts and tries to justify the righteousness of ISIS’s actions in Islamic terms—which incidentally most Muslims would outright reject as legitimate.
However, apart from the propaganda in support of rallying his existing and rapidly degraded fighting force in Iraq and Syria, what is more important and critical in this speech is the fact that Adnani called all ISIS supporters in the West who were not able to take hijra [travel to Islamic lands] to join the Islamic State and their jihad, to carry out attacks in the countries they live currently—that is if they cannot travel to jihad to bring it instead to their homelands. He furthermore encouraged his followers to carry out terrorist attacks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which starts June 06, 2016, and wished that through the attacks they would reach shahadah [Islamic “martyrdom” during the holy month of Ramadan.
This claim that most Muslims would see as false to Islam, that all Muslims have a duty to travel to the land of jihad and take part in jihad or if they are for some reason unable to do so is a claim that was popularized and distributed globally by al-Qaeda previously and popularized in the English language by Anwar al Awlaki and American Yemini imam who made Internet based speeches that have been implicated as part of the radicalization process of nearly every Westerner who has taken part in militant jihadi terrorist attacks. Awlaki was droned and killed in Yemen by the U.S. in 2011 but his messages live on the Internet and he continues to inspire beyond the grave. Now ISIS has made him a hero and continues to amplify this message and not only that has claimed to have created the actual “Caliphate” which they put out as some kind of Islamic utopia which will be won by the blood of those who follow the duty to come.
Al Qaeda also in the past called upon Muslims to carry out homeland terror attacks during the Holy month of Ramadan claiming to do so was a holy duty to cleanse and purify the soul; with minor attacks, including one stabbing in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels, occurring as a result. What al Qaeda started with these calls for terror attacks in the West during Ramadan has now, with ISIS and their so-called “Caliphate,” been put on steroids. The West has been warned and it’s likely there will be attacks as a result.
Adnani’s actual call for travel to the land of jihad and homeland terror attacks in which he attempts to legitimize attacking civilians and “innocents” in homegrown terror attacks due in part to the West’s own policy of allowing collateral damage in their attacks, went as follows (emphasis and definitions added):
“O slaves of Allah, O muwahhiddin [holy warriors]! If the tawaghit [unbelievers, friends of Satan] have shut the door of hijrah [holy migration to Islamic lands] in your faces, then open the door of jihad in theirs. Make your deed a source of their regret. Truly, the smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here; it is more effective for us and more harmful to them. If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State, then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them THAT THEY LIVE BY PROOF and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor. If one of you is unable, then do not make light of throwing a stone at a crusader in his land, and do not underestimate any deed, as its consequences are great for the mujahidin [holy warriors] and its effect is noxious to the disbelievers.”
“It has reached us that some of you do not act due to their incapacity to reach military targets, or their finding fault with targeting those who are called “civilians,” so they leave harming them, doubting the permissibility thereof. Know that inside the lands of the belligerent crusaders, there is no sanctity of blood and no existence of those called “innocents.” This is not the venue for mentioning all of the evidences, for the list is too long; the least of which is dealing with them in just, as their warplanes do not distinguish between one who is armed and another who is unarmed, nor between a man and a woman. Know that your targeting those who are called “civilians” is more beloved to us and more effective, as it is more harmful, painful, and a greater deterrent to them.
So go forth, O muwahhidin [holy warriors] everywhere! It might be that you attain great reward or even shahadah [“martyrdom”] during Ramadan.”
This call to attack all over the West during the month of Ramadan is a clear, very dangerous and unfortunate act of terror which might indeed end up being a starting point of a chain of undifferentiated attacks all inspired by, but not directly command and controlled by ISIS. In fact, many ISIS members around the world after this speech have started to post “sticky” notes in ISIS chat rooms or via other social media indicating where they live and their intentions of executing such an attack. Immediately after the speech, the following poster has been circulating over the Internet between ISIS members and their global supporters. (Turkish version, from the speech of Adnani ordering attacks)
Likewise, after such releases, ISIS members around the world from different countries started to post their country’s name and the hashtag of Al-Furqan to indicate the speech of Adnani. Please see the examples below:
Date, #Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Munster, Germany.
#Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
#Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Stockholm, Sweden.
Date, #Al-Furqan, Norway.
Turkey and others
Date, Istanbul, #Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof,
Very Soon, Inshallah [God willing]
That They Live by Proof, #Al-Furqan, Very Soon!! God willing.
#Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Soon!
#Al-Furqan, We are waiting, God willing, #Turkey
Date, #Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Very Soon, God willing.
#Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Date, Corlu, Tekirdag, Turkey (West border of Turkey)
Long live Islamic State, with God’s permission.
Date, #Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Very Soon, #Islamic State
#Al-Furqan, That They Live by Proof, Date, #Islamic State, #Raqqa, we are waiting (in Turkish)
It is very clear from the pictures above and from the social media messages of followers and supporters of ISIS, Adnani’s message was taken very seriously and inspired actions of posting support for it. Whether that will translate into actual terrorist action is yet to be seen.
One of the main aspects of Adnani’s message was to spread fear as well as to continue to portray ISIS as a powerful enemy to be reckoned with that will continue to be able to fight the West via it’s grassroots and Internet incitement of terrorism. Sadly, it has been established that during the migration of streams of legitimate Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS and the war in Syria, an unknown number of foreign ISIS members were embedded in these refugee streams and sent through Turkey to the EU by ISIS to their countries as sleeper cells. We also know, based on our ISIS Defectors Interview Project that some of our defectors were aware of such plans. Now , this message is a a clear order for those cells to carry out professional attacks like the 2015 and 2016 Paris and Brussels attacks or similar to the low-level unconnected attacks like the San Bernardino attacks.
While this inducement to homegrown terror attacks by ISIS to its supporters in the West is hardly new, it is a credible threat that should be taken seriously by the Western countries, particularly Europe, and by their intelligence and law enforcement agencies—especially given that we know there are actual ISIS trained members who have returned to the EU. For the U.S. we must remember that some of these ISIS cadres have managed to slip through EU security and are unknown to them and at the same time are EU passport holders that have visa waiver privileges to the U.S. So while it is more likely that they will attack at home, it is not beyond belief that those who are unknown to their security services could also board airplanes to the U.S. where they could easily equip themselves with firearms as the San Bernardino attackers did to carry out a coordinated and lethal attack in any major U.S. city—perhaps during Ramadan, particularly aimed at the Fourth of July activities where large celebratory crowds are gathered. As we can see in the pictures above, many ISIS members and supporters in Western countries have not hesitated to share pictures of their support and deadly intentions, even displaying their weapons. Whether or not it is false bravado or will translate into actual attacks remains to be seen, but should not be taken lightly either.
As researchers and academicians, the best we can do is to inform the public and hope that ISIS and its followers cannot achieve the deadly ends they so desire. As we work on our ISIS Defectors Interviews Project we firmly believe that a military solution is not going to be a quick and easy fix, and that ISIS is symptomatic of a much deeper political crisis and reflects economic and social rifts and grievances both in the region and globally—also issues unlikely to resolve quickly. Therefore, we know that using the voices of actual ISIS insiders is one of the most powerful ways to discredit and denounce the group—making it less attractive to the very persons who might carry out the homegrown terrorist attacks Adnani is now calling for. The idea of the so-called “Caliphate” being brought to fruition by a bloody war with the West and via terrorism, as well as the ISIS brand, must be thoroughly discredited on the Internet and in social media forums. We are currently on the path to doing so, beginning in late June to load the first of our ISIS defector video clips onto the Internet to fight with ISIS in the social media space. If you would like to support our work please visit our website at www.icsve.org and donate.
Ahmet S. Yayla, Ph.D. is Professor and the Chair of Sociology Department at Harran University in south of Turkey by the Syrian border and the Deputy Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). Dr. Yayla served as Chief of Counter-terrorism and Operations Division in the Turkish National Police. He has earned his masters and Ph.D. degrees on the subject of terrorism and radicalization at the University of North Texas. Dr. Yayla’s research mainly focuses on terrorism, sociology, dealing with terrorism without use of force, terrorist recruitment and propaganda, radicalization (including ISIS and al Qaeda) and violence. He has authored many works on the subject of terrorism. He has also been advisor to the United States Department of Homeland Security (November 2005 to April 2006) on issues of terrorism and interacting with Muslim Communities in the United States. Dr. Yayla witnessed (October 21st, 2006) to the United States Congress and Senate, Homeland Security Committee and Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attacks on the subject of “Local Law Enforcement Preparedness for countering the threats of terrorism.”
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine and is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and is a nonresident Fellow of Trends. She is also the author of Talking to Terrorists and coauthor of Undercover Jihadi. Her newly released book, inspired by the true story of an American girl seduced over the Internet into ISIS, is Bride of ISIS. Dr. Speckhard has interviewed nearly five hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, the West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan and many countries in Europe. She was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to twenty thousand detainees and eight hundred juveniles. She is currently running the ISIS Defectors Interview Project with Dr. Ahmet Yayla at ICSVE. Personal website: www.AnneSpeckhard.com
Reference for this article is: Yayla, Ahmet S. & Speckhard, Anne (May 26, 2016) Hold On, America; The War Is Not Over and You Have Yet to Win, ICSVE Brief Report. www.icsve.org