Information Warfare: Fear Of Facts

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May 30, 2016: One reason ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is so dangerous is because it learns from its mistakes. Thus after losing the western Iraq cities of Ramada (by the end of 2015) and Fallujah (most of it by now) ISIL concluded that a key factor in the loss of these cities was the local access to some Internet and cell phone service as well as the presence of many satellite TV receivers. ISIL (and other Islamic radicals) have long tried to control use of all three of these items but has been unable to eliminate them from populations in ISIL controlled territories.

Since early 2016 ISIL has changed its approach and is now more ruthless about cutting cell phone service (even though it hurts ISIL communications and morale) and Internet access (the same). Cell phone service can be eliminated by ordering the phone companies to shut down or have their facilities destroyed. Internet is more difficult to take down completely because it can still be obtained via satellite and is a lot cheaper (to set up and use) than satellite telephones. This uncontrolled Internet access enables bad news about ISIL to get out of, and into, ISIL held areas.

Satellite TV is considered of little real value to ISIL and a major threat. That’s because the Iraqi government has used satellite TV to warn civilians in ISIL controlled territory about what ISIL is up to, where the front line is and when to head for shelter (to avoid increased artillery or air attacks). These alerts also make it more difficult for ISIL to find civilians to use (involuntarily) as human shields (against air attacks, especially by Western aircraft).

ISIL is very concerned about all this in Mosul, the largest city ISIL still holds and the target of a major government operation to liberate it. The front line gets closer to the city center each day and ISIL knows that remaining cell phone and Internet service is being used to coordinate resistance by civilian and communicate details of ISIL defenses and movements inside the city. More vigorous searches to satellite TV receivers had reduced but not eliminated presence of households with access.

 


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