Sunday, June 5, 2016

ISIS is becoming unhinged and paranoid. They are rounding up suspected spies and killing them.

ISIS fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria. AP

ISIS has begun a purge of suspected spies, executing many fighters. AP. After a high ranking Tunisian Jihadist, Abu Hayjaa al-Tunsi, the group killed 38 fighters suspected to be informants. Dozens of other Jihadists have been executed by the group while even more have been sent to prisons while others have fled. ISIS has gone so far as to display the bodies of the suspected informants and even dunked several men into vats of acid. The airstrikes targeting ISIS leaders has profoundly changed the way the militants act. ISIS officials are no longer announced and they rarely move around. ISIS has also taken steps to root out informants by feeding misinformation to the fighters and then killing them if an airstrike follows. They also routinely inspect ISIS fighters cell phones and force them to call any strange numbers. 

My Comment:
ISIS is becoming unhinged. They are paranoid that they are going to lose more commanders and officials and they are taking it out on their troops. It's obvious why they are doing this, many of those commanders are irreplaceable. ISIS has plenty of wet behind the ears recruits joining them, but they have precious few people with military experience. Their theory is that they have traitors in their midst that are feeding information to the United States or their allies. By killing these men they are trying to root out the spies.

But what if there aren't any spies? The United States surveillance system is strong enough that they can intercept basically all but the most encrypted phone calls and e-mails coming out of Syria and Iraq. Plus our satellite and other physical surveillance systems, like drones and U-2 spyplanes, can identify ISIS commanders visually. In short ISIS might be executing people for something they have nothing to do with.

Even if there are spies though, the net that ISIS is throwing is too wide. A lot of innocent people (well, innocent of espionage) are getting caught up in this and it will have a major impact in morale. Being an ISIS fighter is tough enough as it is. Not only do you have to worry about airstrikes and combat, you also have to worry about your paranoid commander executing you, perhaps in an horrifying and creative way. If I was an ISIS fighter I would be leaving the country as soon as possible.

These kinds of purges usually backfire in a huge way. Just look at what happened to Russia during World War II. Before the war, Stalin, the paranoid person that he was, killed most of his officer corps. This devastated the Soviet Army and when they tried to invade Finland they lost way more troops than they should have. The same kind of thing will probably happen to ISIS.

ISIS is losing quite a few of their best troops to paranoia and suspicion. Killing their own troops may even be hurting them on the battlefield. After all it is harder to fight when your commanders don't support you. Why would you risk your life for people that don't trust you? 

And I am convinced it is for nothing. Not only does the United States have a robust and sophisticated intelligence gathering system, we have always been rather bad at getting human sources. As our intelligence systems have moved away from human intelligence and towards electronic sources, the threat of actual human spies in ISIS territories is rather low. And other countries intel programs suffer the same weakness. Whatever human sources we have on ISIS are probably from people that fled the group and then turned themselves in. Either that or militants that we have captured. 

I don't think we have any human sources in ISIS at all. But if we did, letting them get purged would be unethical. We have a responsibility to our sources and letting them get murdered is a great way to ensure we won't get any spies for us in the future. The difficulty of retrieving people from Syria and Iraq alone makes me think that this purge is nothing more then paranoia and stupidity from ISIS. 

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