Part one of this series looked at the historical manipulation of Islamists by Russian security services. Jihadists were armed and trained to fight by the FSB and GRU in places like Georgia and Nargono-Karabakh. Domestically, jihadists were infiltrated by the FSB into nationalist separatist movements in Dagestan and Chechnya, effectively painting those movements as religious radicals rather than freedom fighters battling an oppressive regime in Moscow.
Part two looked at a few specific examples of Chechen and Georgian jihadists who are probably witting or unwitting FSB assets, and how they have become power players within ISIS. The reasons for this are twofold and represent a re-creation of the same strategy used in Chechnya. Chechen jihadists helped to re-contextualize the Syrian rebels, Islamizing them in the world’s eyes. By doing this, they also acted as a spoiler force, preventing the CIA from being able to train and arm many Syrian rebels because of the presence of so many jihadi groups, a draw for many of the moderates in the region.
This article will take a look at ISIS propaganda, or what the world’s intelligence services would call information operations or psychological operations, and ask the question as to whether there is a hidden hand behind these propaganda videos.
The allure that ISIS holds for young jihadis and the fear they inspire in the rest of the world stems not from the actual combat prowess of the organization, but from its image. That image is carefully crafted, and much has been written about the high production values of the propaganda ISIS puts out. Their videos display dehumanized Islamic warriors in black masks, fully devoted to the cause of creating an Islamic caliphate. They never sleep, they never tire, they will conquer the entire world, bathing it in the blood of infidels and installing some kind of Muslim mojo hocus pocus 7th-century sharia law, or so we are told.