US Battle Against Islamic State Propaganda Machine: Experts

Washington's fight against the Islamic State (IS) goes beyond air raids in Iraq and Syria, extending to the Web, where the group is carrying out successful propaganda campaign, attracting jihadists from all over the world.

MOSCOW, October 11 (RIA Novosti) — Washington's fight against the Islamic State (IS) goes beyond air raids in Iraq and Syria, extending to the Web, where the group is carrying out successful propaganda campaign, attracting jihadists from all over the world.

"Its public messaging and social media is as slick and as effective as any I've ever seen from a terrorist organization," US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in September.

The official explained that in the hi-tech age, a potential homegrown terrorist is not necessarily required to travel overseas to join a terrorist organization. Instead, one could be affected by extremist social media and literature. "In many respects, this is the hardest terrorist threat to detect and the one I worry about the most," Secretary Johnson concluded.

The militants, though, seem to resort to traditional media, as well. In July, the IS reportedly launched a television channel called Dabiq. It also has an official recruitment magazine of the same name. Earlier this week, the Coordinator of the State Department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Alberto Fernandez claimed that the IS operate several television stations across Syria and Iraq, which, together with social media campaigning, represent a major threat to the US-led counter-terrorism action.

"There is … a Mountain Everest of radicalizing material in social media, and a small hill, a hillock, a foothill of counter-radicalizing material," Fernandez said on Tuesday addressing George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute.

Washington's key official, responsible for fighting radical Islamic propaganda, added that extremist content, distributed online, varies in nature.

"You have jihadist cat videos, you have extremist beheadings, you have sermons — the religious approach, you have the hard sell, you have the soft sell," Fernandez said, adding that the IS propaganda mostly produces "sophisticated, quality products."

Fernandez also noted that he has a team of professionals, messaging in Arabic, Urdu, Somali and English to counter radical Islamic ideology online, as part of the "Think Again Turn Away" campaign, launched by the US Department of State in 2013.

The IS extremist group has seized vast territories across Iraq and Syria and proclaimed an Islamic caliphate on the controlled areas. In order to counter the IS advance, Washington launched airstrikes against the militants in Iraq in August and extended them to Syria the following month.

Air raids are part of US President Barack Obama's counter-terrorism strategy, which also involves the establishment of a multinational coalition and providing aid to the Iraqi army, Kurdish militias and "moderate" Syrian opposition forces. According to the US Department of State, there were around 12,000 foreign fighters in the IS from some 50 countries, as of August.

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