ISIS Twitter Census and Data Science

Jonathon Morgan comes on the show to talk about using data science to analyze and understand issues in the Middle East. Jonathon is the co-founder of CrisisNET, and recently co-authored the ISIS Twitter Census with J.M. Berger.

Topics:

  • The data collection and verification involved in making the ISIS Twitter Census
  • Dealing with multiple languages in their data set
  • Information that can be learned from a large data set of ISIS supporters
  • Potential to use data like this to study radicalization and improve countering violent extremism strategies
  • Why journalists, scholars, and others should try using data science tools and techniques
  • How to start using data science, even if you have no experience
  • Limitations of data science and “big data”
  • How to ask the right questions to make your data more valuable
  • How subject matter experts can better work with data scientists

Links:

Thanks to Middle East Week patrons Alex Dunne and Michael Jorgensen! You can support the podcast by making a small donation on Patreon!

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Jordanian Salafism and the Jihad in Syria

Kirk Sowell comes back on the show to talk about his new paper Jordanian Salafism and the Jihad in Syria. We covered a lot of information including:

  • What is Salafism and Salafi-Jihadism?
  • Who is Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and how did he come to play a central role in these issues?
  • The split between Maqdisi and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
  • Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists turn towards Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra
  • The effects of the ISIS-JaN split on Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists
  • What the Jordanian government lets the Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists do, and why
  • Maqdisi’s role in the efforts to free Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh
  • What could be next for Maqdisi and the Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists

Links:

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Yemen’s Political Soap Opera

Adam Baron comes back on the show to talk about the recent political drama in Yemen. We covered some of the major events of the past few months and then discussed other issues including:

  • Former ex-president Hadi ‘leaving’ Sanaa for Aden
  • Embassy closures in Yemen and what that could mean for the country
  • The southern secession movement and why they’ve been unable to capitalize on Yemen’s political chaos
  • The Houthi’s aims, and the blunders that have eroded some of their popular support
  • The potential for Yemen’s political problems to become far more violent
  • Failures of the international community to effectively handle the situation in Yemen
  • Role of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other neighboring countries in the current conflict
  • Humanitarian problems that go largely unnoticed but could have serious long-term implications

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ISIS in North Africa as War Against Them Grows

Hassan Hassan comes on the show to talk about issues related to the fight against ISIS. Topics we covered include:

  • ISIS growth in North Africa
  • Where ISIS is winning, and where it is losing
  • Tactical vs. strategic effects of airstrikes on ISIS
  • Influence of Management of Savegery on ISIS actions and propaganda
  • Importance of local forces and tribes in fighting ISIS
  • Challenges to building those local forces
  • ISIS is setting the agenda, but the world needs to change that

Links:

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The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects

Phillip Smyth comes back on the show to talk about The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects, his recent monograph for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Topics covered include:

  • Why Shiite jihadi groups don’t receive nearly as much attention as Sunni ones
  • Recruitment methods used by Shiite militia groups
  • Risks faced by not addressing the issue of Shiite jihadi groups
  • Phillip’s policy recommendations presented in his monograph

Links:

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Libya: Understanding the Crisis

Mary Fitzgerald comes back on the show to discuss the conflict in Libya. Topics we covered include:

  • The two competing parliaments, their strengths and weaknesses, and the various armed groups that make up their coalitions
  • The complexity of the conflict, and the importance of resisting simplistic narratives to describe the situation
  • Political leaders’ ability to control the armed groups operating in Libya
  • Attempts by the UN and UN Special Representative Bernadino Leon to deal with the crisis
  • Contradictions between what Libyan political leaders say and what they do
  • External actors’ role in the development and escalation of the crisis
  • How Libya’s oil factors into the conflict
  • What could come next in the Libyan conflict

Make sure you check out the book the upcoming book that Mary co-authored: The Libyan Revolution and its Aftermath – you can pre-order it on Amazon.

Jabhat al-Nusrah: Infighting & Evolving Strategy

Sam Heller comes on the show to talk about infighting in Jabhat al-Nusrah, JaN’s evolving strategy in Syria, and their relationship with Ahrar al-Sham and other jihadi groups in Syria.

Sam’s recent posts on Jihadology.net:

Links:

Continuing Problems for the Iraqi Security Forces

Nate Rabkin comes back on the show to talk about the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). We discussed the problems that were exposed by the ISIS advance this summer, efforts over the past few months to rebuild the ISF, the importance of Shiite militias in Iraq, the lack of cooperation between the ISF and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, what US airstrikes and military advisors mean for the ISF, current problems within the ISF, and more.

Nate is the managing editor of Inside Iraqi Politics, an excellent newsletter with in-depth information and analysis on Iraq.

Political Chaos in Yemen

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Adam Baron comes on the show to discuss the ongoing political chaos in Yemen. Topics covered include:

  • Who the Houthis are, and where they get their power and influence
  • Saleh’s continued grip on power and recent connections to the Houthis
  • The Islamist Islah party’s current status
  • How AQAP fits into the current chaos
  • What president Hadi has been able to accomplish over the past two years
  • The importance of local politics in Yemen
  • The relevance of the international community (including the recent sanctions) on Yemeni politics
  • Problems with viewing the situation in Yemen through a sectarian lens

Links:

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Countering Violent Extremism

Humera Khan comes on the show to discuss countering violent extremism (CVE) and de-radicalisation. We talked about CVE strategies, how CVE differs from counter-terrorism, the role of social media in CVE, and much more.

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