The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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MONDAY, AUGUST 29, 2016
U.S. SHIFTS STRATEGY IN ONLINE FIGHT AGAINST ISIS

The U.S. Government is seeking new ways to combat online ISIS propaganda, including the use of third parties to deliver counter-messaging. Many government-led efforts have failed to gain momentum, as they often lack the credibility to connect with their audience -- vulnerable, disaffected youth. Although there has been a 45 percent decrease in pro-ISIS tweets since June 2014, ISIS supporters are increasingly using encrypted messaging apps, raising questions over whether Facebook and Twitter platforms are reaching the right people, according to experts Will McCants, Ali Soufan, and others. According to a report published last month by the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, at least 69 percent of the suspects charged with supporting ISIS in the United States have watched or read the group’s propaganda. Instead of directly creating counternarratives, the government is now trying to empower third parties to create their own messaging, according to officials. Many of these efforts include partnering with tech companies to run online campaigns and using testimonials of former extremists and defectors to add credibility to their messaging. Wall Street Journal

BIDEN HOPES AND EXPECTS TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO BEFORE END OF TERM
Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday that the Obama administration still intends to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay before he leaves office in January, saying its closure was his “hope and expectation.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest echoed Biden’s comments saying “we’re going to do our best to try to get this closed and it’s our expectation that that’s what we’ll do.” Miami Herald, The Hill, Reuters

Related:
The Hill: Republicans slam Biden remarks on closing Gitmo
Washington Post: From Guantanamo Bay’s top secret cells: The first appearance of a terrorism suspect who vanished in 2002
Miami Herald: Guards and staff outnumber captives 33 to 1 at Guantánamo prison

U.S. Open: NYPD counterterrorism officials have enhanced security over the last year in preparation for the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The NYPD has increased its presence at the event and installed temporary closed-circuit surveillance cameras, as well as devices to detect chemical, biological, or radiation threats. Other efforts included reinforcing a 8,000-seat grandstand stadium with cables that are designed to withstand a crash from a truck filled with explosives. Chicago Tribune

Minnesota ISIS case: On Wednesday, 20 year old Mohamed Amiin Ali Roble was charged in absentia with providing material support to ISIS, after he used money awarded in a 2007 bridge collapse settlement to travel to Syria to join the group in 2014. Federal officials believe Roble is still living in Syria. Nine other young men from the Twin Cities have been convicted and await sentencing on charges related to their attempt to join ISIS overseas. Minn. Star Tribune


U.S. ALLIES COLLIDE IN NORTHERN SYRIA AS TURKEY EXPANDS OPERATIONS
The Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels pushed further into Syria on Sunday, seizing territory held by U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels in the north of the country. Turkish airstrikes reportedly killed 35 civilians in Kurdish villages as Turkey expanded its military operations, according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. New York Times, Reuters

Related:
Washington Post: In Syrian border battle, Pentagon touts role of fighters from troubled train-and-equip program

Yemen: The Houthi-run governing council in Yemen said on Sunday that it was prepared to restart peace talks with the exiled Yemeni government provided the Saudi-led military coalition stopped attacking Houthi-held territories. UN-backed negotiations in Kuwait collapsed earlier this month, as violence re-escalated between the warring parties in Yemen. Reuters


Pakistan: Pakistani security forces arrested approximately 100 people in a raid on a madrassa in the southwestern city of Quetta for suspected links to militant groups. Quetta was the site of a suicide attack earlier this month that killed over 70 people. VOA

Bangladesh: A Canadian man suspected of planning an attack on a bakery in Dhaka that killed 22 people last month was killed in a shootout with police on Saturday. Bangladeshi Police killed 30-year-old Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, and two other militants in a raid outside Dhaka. Some believe Chowdhury served as a coordinator for ISIS in Bangladesh and northeastern India. New York Times

Iran: On Sunday, Iran said it had arrested a person connected to the government team that negotiated last year’s landmark nuclear agreement on accusations of espionage. The unidentified suspect, accused of being a “spy who had infiltrated the nuclear team,” was held for several days before being released on bail. Wall Street Journal, BBC, New York Times

Indonesia: A man attempted to carry out an ISIS-inspired suicide bombing on a church in Indonesia on Sunday. Police arrested the suspect after his explosive device failed to detonate and burst into flames. Washington Post
TOP OP-EDS
A Persistent and Resilient Adversary: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula: “The United States views AQAP as the most dangerous of al Qaeda's affiliates, yet its pursuit of the group has been inconsistent,” writes Brian Michael Jenkins on the Cipher Brief. “Today, amid the tumult, the United States is backing Saudi Arabia in its efforts to prop up the beleaguered Yemeni government. At the same time, the United Arab Emirates has made modest progress as the leading U.S. ally in the fight against AQAP.”

Why Syria's war may be about to get even worse: “How important is a name to a terrorist group’s identity? When the militant organization Nusra Front announced recently that it was calling itself something else, analysts had good reason to be skeptical about whether the new label really did signal a genuine break from its parent organization al Qaeda. In fact, it probably doesn’t matter. Even if symbolic, the mere rebranding of Nusra could be enough to prolong Syria’s civil war.” write Colin Clarke and Chad Serena on Reuters. “The worst-case scenario is that the group, now known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or Front for the Conquest of the Levant, could embed itself within the Syrian rebel opposition and emulate the staying power that Hezbollah has demonstrated in neighboring Lebanon.”

Is Turkey a U.S. Ally Against ISIS?: “One might wonder how a country that recently survived a bloody coup attempt and multiple terrorist attacks could embark on a military incursion into a neighboring country. Yet this is exactly what Turkey has done,” writes Gonul Tol in The New York Times. “Turkey’s move into Syria carries a serious risk of “mission creep.” Turkey is not likely to withdraw if the Y.P.G. fails to retreat to the east of the Euphrates. If the Kurds do not back off, there is the real possibility of a serious clash between two of Washington’s critical allies.”
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Endless Turmoil in Yemen




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