- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2015

The Islamic State is building a terrorist society complete with medical centers, central kitchens, weapons factories, oil companies and schools, according to an analysis of the group’s copious social media dispatches.

And it is waging a slick media campaign to staff those institutions. On Twitter and elsewhere, it depicts its land conquests as the Muslim promised land. The message is aimed at enticing educated Westerners from Europe, Canada and the U.S. to come to Iraq and Syria to run what leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls a caliphate, or Islamic State.

Rather than being on the run amid daily U.S.-led bombings, the Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, says it is building an urban infrastructure, especially in and around its so-called capital of Raqqa in Syria to meet the needs of a growing population.

“In order for its project to last, ISIS knows that it needs to supply basic services to the population and to create revenue, and it knows that educated professionals are an integral part of forming a successful, operational society,” says a new report from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Its analysts constantly review thousands of Islamic State Internet postings 24 hours a day.

“To recruit these elements,” the study says, “ISIS propaganda appeals to their desire to be part of a successful community that implements Islamic law.”

Another think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, concludes that the Islamic State is so entrenched in a fractured Syria that the current Obama administration war strategy there cannot work.

James Phillips, a Middle East analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told The Washington Times that the terrorist group is dispensing propaganda in the same way as previous oppressive dictatorships.

“I think ISIS is constructing an Islamist totalitarian ‘Potemkin village’ that it claims is a utopia, but it clamps down on any reporters that try to present the truth,” Mr. Phillips said. “Like other revolutionary totalitarian movements, it insists that it is bringing heaven to earth, but in reality it has created a hell on earth, certainly for non-Muslims and for Shia Muslims, but even for Sunni Muslims who are forced to live under the dictatorship that ISIS has imposed.”

What helped kick-start the Western migration to Syria — now thought to number in the thousands — was the third issue of the Islamic State’s online magazine, “Dabiq,” in August, with its theme of “A Call to Hijrah,” or call to come to Muslim-controlled lands.

The Islamic State now is showcasing its highly educated recruits in various video feeds as a scheme to get more doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers to follow them.

MEMRI’s report captures some of the tweets, videos and online articles.

In a March tweet, the Islamic State announced that a medical college has opened in Raqqa, with more to come.

‘A beautiful job’

“We need engineers and doctors,” says the posting with a photo of an Islamic State “official” sitting in what appears to be a modern office, a phone and laptop computer on the desk and the Islamic State flag nearby.

The next month, a British member who claims to be a student now in Syria tweeted: “If you make hijra to the Islamic State and have skills or are specialized in something you will be transferred to that dept.”

Another British member, Omar Hussein, posted an online article on a need for public relations experts who can man a media center and combat the West’s slander against the Islamic State.

Mr. Hussein described himself as part of the “hisba” force — so-called police who patrol streets and enforce Islamic law by public lashings and beheadings.

The group needs more medical technicians.

“This is a vital aspect of Dawlah,” he wrote, using the Muslim word for the Islamic State. “Many brothers get injured, and many times the hospitals get packed out.”

And the group wants cooks to man what is apparently a huge kitchen operation that packs and sends meals to fighting units.

The help-wanted requests include auto mechanics who can split their time as bomb-makers.

“Ever wondered who assembles the cars and trucks that the brothers drive for their martyrdom operations?” Mr. Hussein writes. “Ever wondered who makes the explosive belts? Ever wondered who places bombs on the roads between us and the enemy? The brothers in the bomb making department are the core and backbone of nearly every operation . So it is a beautiful job for those who truly wish to reap rewards.”

Martyrs and doctors

There are other recruiting tweets and videos from other Islamic State members who share a common biographical thread: They are educated and appear to have been prospering in the West. But for some reason, the Islamic State’s call to come to Syria and Iraq and slaughter innocents overrides their Western assimilation.

“I was one of you. I was a typical Canadian,” John Maguire, known as Abu Anwar al-Canadi, says in a recruiting video.

Mr. Maguire reportedly was killed earlier this year while fighting in the Syrian town of Kobani.

Canadian Abdullah al-Khorasani worked for a Canadian oil and gas company before leaving it all behind and traveling to Syria, where he blew himself up as he killed 46 Iraqi soldiers, MEMRI reports.

To make sure there are more “martyrs” to follow, Hamayan Tariq, from Dudley, England, has posted instructions and sketches on constructing improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He urges followers in Britain to build and detonate them.

The Islamic State features Tareq Kamleh, a pediatrician from Adelaide, Australia, who urges other doctors to come to Syria, where hospitals have been established in Raqqa and Aleppo. He is part of a broader media campaign — including a video of a surgery at one hospital — to show recruits that many medical professionals are arriving in Syria.

On his Facebook page, Dr. Kamleh posted a message denying the Islamic State commits mass murder, according to Australian media.

The Islamic State itself has sent out photos and video of its beheadings and mass executions.

A failing strategy

Its outreach has not been just for professionalizing the caliphate. It is part of a broader military plan.

“ISIS in 2015 is expanding to new battlefronts elsewhere in the region and attempting to radicalize supporters in the West, efforts designed to divert attention away from ISIS’s defenses inside Iraq and Syria,” says a new report by the Institute for the Study of War.

The institute portrays the Islamic State as gaining new territory in Syria because it does not face the full force of American airstrikes that have focused on Iraq during the U.S. retraining of the Iraqi army. This helps explain why it can open schools, medical centers and other infrastructure in Raqqa, Aleppo and elsewhere.

“ISIS is seizing on new fronts in Syria,” the think tank says. “ISIS’s urban control in Syria is not likely to face the same threats as its control of cities in Iraq, and therefore ISIS is not likely to face an existential challenge to its credibility.”

The study was written by Jessica Lewis McFate, a former Army intelligence officer who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. She concludes that the current Obama administration strategy of limited airstrikes and a small coalition-trained anti-ISIS army is doomed in Syria.

Syria before 2011 is gone,” she writes. “The loss of Syria as a state will allow ISIS, al-Qaeda and Iran to claim the land and the people that had once belonged to Syria for their own claims.”

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