Kremlin Pushing False Narrative About Ukraine to Russian School Children

“I think the teachers are wrong. We are told that the people of Ukraine were brainwashed, but it seems to me that we were brainwashed here.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has cleansed the Russian information space has been cleansed of almost every source daring to contradict the government-approved narrative.  This unanimity of thinking has now spread to the Russian educational system.  The first excerpt from the official news agency, TASS, describes a recently mandated school lesson developed by Russia’s Ministry of Education “dedicated to the liberation mission in Ukraine [which] was watched by more than 5 million schoolchildren.”  Among other topics, the lesson “explained the danger NATO poses” to Russia, while stressing that “the Russian military does not strike at cities, but disables only the military infrastructure, so nothing threatens the civilian population.” 

The second excerpt comes from an article from Russian-run opposition news source Novaya Gazeta, which was forced to suspend operations in late March due to censorship pressure.  The article recounts what happened to a 6th grader, when during this history lesson, he “expressed his position on the ‘special operation’” in Ukraine.  The student objected to the teacher’s claims that “Ukraine started [the war], and it will end when Ukraine capitulates,” also “that Nazism is flourishing among Ukrainians.”  After this classroom incident, the teacher apparently reported the student’s disturbance to the authorities.  As the article points out, a few days later, police visited the apartment of the student’s family, turning off the electricity and leaving a summons for an interrogation.  The article concludes by quoting the 6th grade student, who said, “I think the teachers are wrong. We are told that the people of Ukraine were brainwashed, but it seems to me that we were brainwashed here.”


“Открытый урок ‘Защитники мира’ посмотрели более 5 млн школьников (More than 5 million schoolchildren watched the open lesson ‘Defenders of Peace’),” TASS (official Russian news agency), 3 March 2022.

The All-Russian open lesson of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, dedicated to the liberation mission in Ukraine, was watched by more than 5 million schoolchildren, the press service of the Institute for the Study of Childhood, Family and Education of the Russian Academy of Education reports.

“More than 5 million schoolchildren watched the open lesson. During the lesson, the audience was told in detail the background to today’s events and explained what danger NATO poses to our country. The lesson also helped to figure out how to distinguish truth from lies in the flow of information,” the report says…. As noted in the text, a video was shown during the lesson, which told about the common history of Russia and Ukraine, traditions, common holidays and cultural heritage….

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation in Ukraine in response to the appeal of the leaders of the Donbass republics for help. He stressed that Moscow’s plans do not include the occupation of Ukrainian territories, the goal is the demilitarization and denazification of the country. As stated in the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian military does not strike at cities, but disable only the military infrastructure, so nothing threatens the civilian population.

Source: Irina Lukyanova, “Диссидент из 6-го ‘А’ (Dissident from the 6th A),” Novaya Gazeta (independent Russian opposition news source), 9 March 2022.

At a history lesson, a Moscow schoolboy expressed his position on the “special operation.” After that, the police came to his house and turned off the electricity.

Kirill… is 12 years old, he studies in the 6th grade of a Moscow school. His mother Natalia says that the boy has Ukrainian roots, he attended the Ukrainian Cultural Center. What is happening now between Russia and Ukraine hurts him.

On Friday, March 4, sixth graders had their usual history lesson. Cyril himself tells about what happened:

– The teacher said: “Actually, this is not discussed with the sixth graders, but if you want to understand what is happening, then ask questions.” And I started asking questions. I asked: “Why did Putin start a war?” To this the teacher replied that it was a “special operation.” She said: “I don’t know exactly where our troops are now, but if they had stopped halfway, the Ukrainian aggression would have continued.” A small part of the class was on my side, they also asked questions….

After that, I asked the question, why did someone start this at all and when will it all end? She said that Ukraine started it, and it will end when Ukraine capitulates. She also told us that Nazism is flourishing among Ukrainians…

This opposition of the sixth graders did not go unnoticed….

The next day, Sunday, Kirill was at home alone. Mom left for work. At this time, two policemen began to knock on the apartment, but Kirill did not open it. They knocked for about half an hour, then turned off the electricity in the apartment, left a summons “to be called for an interrogation” under the door and left. The summons contains an illegibly written date of the interrogation and a threat to “subject to arrest” in case of non-appearance….Kirill calmly explains his position: “I think the teachers are wrong. We are told that the people of Ukraine were brainwashed, but it seems to me that we were brainwashed here….”

Russian Public Approval of Military Likely To Decline over Use of Conscripts in Ukraine

“…the official representative of the RF Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov, admitted that conscripts participated in the special operation….”

Alongside Russia’s improvement in combat readiness over the past decade, we have seen a significant improvement in Russian public attitudes toward the military.  As reported earlier, (see: “Russian Patriotism and Values,” OE Watch, August 2020) polls suggest that Russians regard their military as one of the most trusted institutions, with the majority claiming that some form of military service should be mandatory for young Russian men.  However, as the accompanying excerpt from the moderate source Nezavisimaya Gazeta suggests, the ongoing conflict with Ukraine may change public attitudes toward the military.

The article reports that the official representative of Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD), Igor Konashenkov, admitted on 9 March that conscripts participated in the “special operation” in Ukraine.  As the article points out, this admission took on added poignancy since the day prior,  President Putin had congratulated women on International Women’s Day and asserted that only contract soldiers were participating in the operation.  As the article suggests, the Russian MoD only revealed this information after “the Ukrainian media distributed several videos showing young people who said they were captured Russian servicemen and not contract soldiers.”  The article stresses that Putin had earlier instructed the MoD “to categorically exclude the involvement of conscripts for any tasks on the territory of Ukraine.”  The article asserts that “the perpetrators of misinforming the president are planned to be identified and punished.”  If such deception continues, public attitudes toward the military will likely decline.


Vladimir Mukhin, “Минобороны России признало участие срочников в спецоперации (The Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged the participation of conscripts in the special operation),” Nezavisimaya Gazeta (moderate source), 9 March 2022.

…Meanwhile, the official representative of the RF Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov, admitted that conscripts participated in the special operation. Earlier, the Ukrainian media distributed several videos showing young people who say they are captured Russian servicemen and not contract soldiers. Russian officials denied this information until March 9, and President Vladimir Putin, congratulating women on International Women’s Day [8 March], confidently said that only contract soldiers were participating in the operation. “I would like to emphasize that soldiers who are serving in military service do not and will not participate in hostilities. There will be no additional call-up of reservists from the reserve,” the head of the Russian Federation said.

The position has now been corrected. “Unfortunately, several facts of the presence of conscripts in parts of the Russian armed forces involved in a special military operation on the territory of Ukraine were discovered,” Konashenkov said. – Almost all such servicemen have already been withdrawn to the territory of Russia. At the same time, a sabotage group of the national battalion attacked one of the units performing the tasks of logistical support. A number of servicemen, including conscripts, were captured.” According to Konashenkov, measures are now being taken to prevent conscripts from being sent to combat areas and to release captured soldiers.Press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov said that Putin was informed that his instruction “to categorically exclude the involvement of conscripts for any tasks on the territory of Ukraine” was carried out. Now the perpetrators of misinforming the president are planned to be identified and punished….

New Development in PLA Close Air Support

The J-10 multirole fighter can mount laser-guided bombs, anti-ship missiles and land attack missiles.

The J-10 multirole fighter can mount laser-guided bombs, anti-ship missiles and land attack missiles.

“In view of the issue of air combat support, they organized special training for command, reconnaissance and special operations officers and soldiers of the services and arms, compiled training materials, arranged specialized forces such as flight instructors and aviation engineers to give lectures, carried out inspection and training based on tactical live fire, and improved the joint quality of officers and soldiers in one move.”

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force recognizes strikes close to maneuver units are difficult and is taking steps to improve their efficacy. The accompanying excerpt from a recent PLA Daily article discusses a new development to improve PLA combat effectiveness by training Army officers from reconnaissance units to provide guidance for air-to-ground strikes.  The PLA Air Force defines “close air fire support” as air strikes in support of the Army or Navy against enemy forward and shallow targets, usually according to a predetermined plan.  Strike targets are those that directly affect the maneuver unit.  Key enemy targets for air strikes include tactical missiles, artillery, armor groupings, landing ships, fire support ships, command posts, communications facilities, and ammunition and oil depots.  Target guidance groups identify the target, time, and other requirements, coordinating with Army maneuver and fire support units in the area.  The target guidance group designates the target via radio communication using landmarks, smoke, and other means.

The PLA Air Force has sent these target guidance groups from bomber and air assault units to the Army and Navy to coordinate and guide air strikes against surface targets.  The team leader is usually flight personnel with staff that includes combat pilot and communications personnel.  They guide the aircraft to the target, providing parameters such as time and distance, as well as observe the strike effect and correct for subsequent strikes.

However, the PLA Air Force has too few target guidance groups to provide to the Army or Navy and is working to remedy this problem.  The article describes a base in the Western Theater Command Air Force that is training Army officers from reconnaissance units to provide guidance for air-to-ground strikes.  Reportedly hundreds of guidance personnel from different military branches including command, reconnaissance, and special operations officers and troops have been trained.  In one training event, a guide designated a camouflaged enemy command post that an aircraft struck with precision munitions.  At the same time, the article states that problems remained between the services in the integration of data standards, terminology, and tactical understanding.  An example was a failed training event where aircraft could not strike the intended target due to poor communications signals and a misunderstanding in terminology despite advanced planning.  Training of Army personnel to provide target guidance removes the burden from the Air Force and likely will increase the ability of ground maneuver units to call in close air support against targets that artillery cannot address.  The article also states that this development will increase jointness across the PLA.


“A Base of the Western Theater Air Force Improves the Terminal Execution Capability of the Joint Operations System of Systems – Army Guides are Active at the Air Force Drill Grounds (西部战区空军某基地提升联合作战体系末端执行力 — 陆军引导员活跃在空军演兵场)” People’s Liberation Army Daily, May 20, 2021, February 10, 2020.

Taking combat training and jointness as a guideline, we must implement the concept of joint training to all levels of strategy, campaign and tactics, and solve the problems existing in the training field to a certain extent, such as joint immobility, joint incompatibility and joint disjointedness and other problems. In particular, we should solve the chronic disease of “form and spirit are not connected” at the end of combat effectiveness, so as to lay a good foundation and gather strength for the gradual development of higher-stage joint training. A base of the air force in the Western Theater has promoted the front-line officers and soldiers of the services and arms to improve their joint literacy and joint combat skills, which is worthy of recognition.

Image Information:

Image: The J-10 multirole fighter can mount laser-guided bombs, anti-ship missiles and land attack missiles
Attribution: Wiki Commons

China and Taiwan Explain Key Differences Between Cross-Strait Relations and Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

“We have seen that some people emphasize the principle of sovereignty on the Ukraine issue, but continue to undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on the Taiwan question. This is a naked double standard.”

-Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked widespread concern that China could similarly invade Taiwan, although not everyone agrees with this analogy.  The accompanying passages from Chinese and Taiwanese sources consider the key differences between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China-Taiwan relations.

Two days before Russian forces invaded Ukraine, China’s Central News Agency released an article in which a high-level Taiwan national security official describes Taiwan as strategically located within the first island chain in East Asia, providing an important line of defense to keep communist forces “from crossing the first island chain and threatening the U.S. mainland.”  The article also argues that unlike Ukraine, which shares a common border with Russia, the Taiwan Strait offers a natural barrier between China and Taiwan, making it harder for communist forces to attack across the sea.  Finally, the article argues that Taiwan is critical to the development of automobiles, smart phones, wind power, and military equipment, which makes it more important than Ukraine to the international supply chain.  The article also states that China sought to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), arguing that “triggering boycott or sanctions by the CPTPP member states, which are mostly in the Indo-Pacific region, will not be something that China wants to see.”  The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Four days after the invasion began, Taiwan’s only English-language newspaper, Taipei Times, published an article describing further differences between the Ukraine and Taiwan issues.  First, Taiwan “has the advantage of being a mountainous smattering of islands that have been building up defenses for decades.”  Next, the article opines that sanctions against China would likely have “a far more acute sting” due to the country’s economy heavy integration with the rest of the world.  Finally, like the first article, the author talks about the importance of Taiwan to the global supply chain.  According to this article, “The world relies on Taiwan for semiconductors, meaning that a Chinese invasion would at best disrupt supply and at worst rewrite the technological and geopolitical world order.”  In comparing the two leaders, the article describes Russian President Vladimir Putin as a tyrant in charge, who fears his time is running out, and Chinese President Xi Jinping as more calculating and prudent and who believes he only has to wait.  Despite these arguments, the second article warns, “no one can predict the calculations happening in the halls of power, and as the Ukraine crisis has shown, anything is possible.”  The article ends on a note for the people of Taiwan to be prepared. 

Chinese sources, such as the third article, published by China’s official English-language news outlet, China Daily, explain that the situation in Ukraine involves a dispute between two sovereign countries, whereas the question of Taiwan is a domestic matter.  However, the article also warns that while Beijing will try to unify Taiwan with the mainland peacefully, the central government will never exclude taking military action as an option.


Wen Kui-hsiang, “國安高層:台海與俄烏情勢三大不同 嚴防中國認知戰 (High-Level National Security Official: Three Major Differences Between Taiwan Strait Situation and the Russia-Ukraine Situation; Guarding Against China’s Cognitive Warfare),” Taipei Chung-yang T’ung-hsun-she (The Republic of China’s central news agency), 22 February 2022.

 First, in terms of geostrategy, Taiwan is in the first island chain in East Asia, which is extremely important for the United States to containing the expansion of China’s communist forces and for maintaining the military, commercial and shipping security of the Indo-Pacific region. It is an important defense line to prevent the communist forces from crossing the first island chain and threatening the U.S. mainland.

 Second, the geographical environment is very different, and the U.S. commitment to cross-Strait security is clear and firm. The senior national security officials said that unlike Ukraine, which is close to Russia, the natural barrier formed by the Taiwan Strait makes it far more difficult for the Communist forces to cross the sea and attack Taiwan than it is for Russia to invade Ukraine. Moreover, the United States is more interested in the Indo-Pacific region, having U.S. military deployed there, whereas the Russia-Ukraine conflict has a limited impact on U.S. military deployment.

 Third, the importance to the international supply chain is very different. Taiwan holds a key position in the international supply chain for post-pandemic recovery. According to a senior national security official, Taiwan’s economic strength and high-tech industries…are crucial to the development of global industries, such as automobiles, smartphones, wind power generation, and armaments. Even China cannot escape Taiwan’s industrial impact.

 …China is also seeking to join the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership). At this time, unilaterally triggering disputes, boycotts, or sanctions by the CPTPP member states, which are mostly located in the Indo-Pacific region, is not be something that China wants to see.

 Source: “Taiwan is Different from Ukraine,” Taipei Times (Taiwan’s only English-language newspaper and which aims to give Taiwan’s perspective to the international community), 28 February 2022.

 First and most evident, Ukraine shares a long land border with its bellicose neighbor, while Taiwan has the advantage of being a mountainous smattering of islands that have been building up defenses for decades. Ukraine was caught off-guard when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has been playing catch-up ever since. Most experts are confident that invading Taiwan would be immensely lengthy and costly for China, with no guarantee of success — especially with US involvement.

Sanctions against China would also likely have a far more acute sting, given its massive economy’s integration with the rest of the world. Beijing will certainly be watching closely to see how far countries are willing to go in sanctioning Russia, and adjust its risk calculation accordingly.

Perhaps most importantly, Taiwan is of critical economic interest to the countries poised to take action in its defense. The world relies on Taiwan for semiconductors, meaning that a Chinese invasion would at best disrupt supply and at worst rewrite the technological and geopolitical world order.

As unfathomable as it might seem to ignore these immense risks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown the world that when a tyrant is in charge, the war room is always open. Yet Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is not the same as Putin, and neither are their countries.

 Source: “Tsai Ing-wen’s Empathy For Ukraine Ridiculous,” China Daily (China’s official English-language news), 24 February 2022.

What is happening between Ukraine and Russia is a dispute between two sovereign countries. The question of Taiwan is an internal affair of China…

The mainland will try whatever it can to seek the peaceful reunification of the island, which it believes is in the interest of the Chinese people across the Strait. But military action is always an option the central government will never exclude.

Chinese Brigade Makes Improvements to Command Information System

“The battlefield situation changes constantly.  …The difference between victory or defeat can occur within a millisecond.”

A brigade in China’s 71st Group Army reportedly has upgraded and perfected its command information system, improving speed and accuracy in firepower response time.  The accompanying article, published in the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army, Jiefangjun Bao, explains that the command-and-control software originally issued to the brigade was limited and inadequate.  There were delays in coordination between detachments, which affected the firepower response time.  According to the article, to improve the overall function of the command information system, leaders within the brigade assembled a team of key personnel with technical specialties.  Experts from factories and scientific communities also participated.  The new upgraded command information system allows real-time data sharing and precise air defense and targeting.  If the report is accurate, the effort demonstrates the effectiveness of President Xi Jinping’s push to foster an environment of independent innovation at all levels.  There is no mention in the article about whether the PLA will distribute the improved system to other brigades.  However, according to a brigade commander mentioned in the article, they will continue to strengthen the development of information systems, explore and innovate combat methods and training methods, and further strengthen the troops’ expert capabilities in winning modern wars.


Liu Renhao and Gao Junfeng, “数据共享提升体系作战能力第七十一集团军某旅升级完善指挥信息系统 (Brigade in 71st Group Army Upgrades, Perfects Command Information System, Data Sharing Boots ‘Systems of Systems’ Operations Capability,” Jiefangjun Bao (PLA Daily, the official newspaper of the PLA), 14 February 2022.

…By upgrading and improving the command information system, this brigade shortened the firepower response time, effectively enhancing the unit’s combat power.

Previously, a command and control software was provided to the brigade. However, after several combat-realistic drills, troops found that, due to the limited capabilities of the command information system, delays appeared during information transmission, easily leading to situations where coordination between detachments was lacking and delays occurred with respect to firepower response.

“The battlefield situation changes constantly. In the blink of an eye, and the difference between victory or defeat can occur within a millisecond.”

“Real-time data sharing provides technical support for ‘system of systems’ operations and joint operations.” The brigade’s commander explained that in the next step, they will continue to strengthen the development of information systems, explore and innovate combat methods and training methods, and further temper the troops’ expert capabilities in winning modern wars.

Nigerian Governor Assures Counterterrorism Success Against Boko Haram

7 Div NA - Camp Zairo, 2017.

7 Div NA – Camp Zairo, 2017.

“He reiterated that kinetic measures alone will not end the war and therefore advised that a political solution be applied.”  

Babaguna Zulum, the governor of northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State, is assuring Nigerians that a multi-pronged counterterrorism approach is leading to success against Boko Haram.  According to the excerpted 18 February article from Nigerian current events-focused Vanguard News, Zulum met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and reported that 30,000 Boko Haram members had surrendered voluntarily to the Borno authorities.  He further underscored that defections from Boko Haram substantiate that dialogue with the insurgents, including guarantees of assistance for insurgents who lay down their arms, must accompany the army’s use of force.

Zulum noted that the heavy presence of Nigerian troops in southern Borno coincided with the defections and called for a similar deployment in northern Borno.  This indicates that military pressure on the insurgents led to demoralization and caused some of the insurgents to surrender.  Further, Zulum advised that once the government cleared insurgents from local areas, then it should immediately return displaced people to their homes with military protection.

Zulum distinguished between those Boko Haram members who the government captured and those who surrendered, with only the latter granted a chance for rehabilitation.  Given the success of such efforts, Zulum urged the Nigerian government to provide increased funding to repatriation, resettlement, and reconciliation programs.  More broadly, Zulum claims that Boko Haram will not be defeated completely on the battlefield and, therefore, the government must seek some form of political settlement through negotiations.


“Boko Haram insurgency’ll end by 2023 — Zulum,” (Nigerian news source), 18 February 2022.

The governor further said that the Borno state government does not offer any incentive to the fighters to come out of the forests; rather, they have done so voluntarily.

Zulum disclosed that he discussed the continuing surrender of the insurgents and the case of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with the president even as he said that the security situation in Borno state has improved considerably, hoping that things will continue in that direction. He reiterated that kinetic measures alone will not end the war and therefore advised that a political solution be applied.

“… I’m pleased to inform you that there was a very heavy military deployment into the southern Borno. And I hope such a deployment will also take place in northern Borno, with a view to clearing the ISWAP insurgents in the Lake Chad.”

Source: “More than 8,000 Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered,” (Nigerian news source), 21 September 2021.

The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7 Division, Abdulwahab Eyitayo, says more than 8,000 Boko Haram terrorists have so far surrendered to troops.… He said the surrender by the repentant terrorists was a welcome development, adding that the overwhelming fire power of the troops was responsible.

Image Information:

Image: 7 Div NA – Camp Zairo, 2017
Source: Hussaina Muhammad, VOA,_2017.png
Attribution: CC x 2.0

Somalia: How Al Shabaab’s Arsenal Grows

Weapons captured by AMISOM forces from al Shabaab.

Weapons captured by AMISOM forces from al Shabaab.

“The acquisition of weapons, ammunition, explosives, and other lethal capacity remains a priority for [al Shabaab] but is poorly understood as a system essential to the effectiveness of the insurgency.”

The Somali government and AMISOM have been unable to defeat al Shabaab in large part due to the terrorist group’s ability to procure weapons.  According to the accompanying excerpted report from a Somali organization that studies security issues, the Hiraal Institute, al Shabaab annually spends approximately $24 million acquiring weapons through several sources.  These sources include arms directly purchased by the group, including from corrupt government officials; those bought from dealers who frequently sell lethal wares from Yemen; and various small arms obtained in Somali black markets. Al Shabaab spends an additional $1.8 million per year on its in-house explosives and weapons manufacturing activities, with much of that money used to obtain chemical precursors to explosives.

Though al Shabaab is sometimes depicted as having internal divisions and problems, acquisition of these weapons as described by the report hardly appears haphazard.  Instead, consultative bodies and so-called ministries play a large role in properly arming the terrorist organization’s members.  Most important for regular arms procurement is the organization’s defense ministry, which receives a substantial monthly allotment of funds. 

Al Shabaab’s security committee, which draws from both the military command and executive leadership, makes the decisions for acquiring large amounts of equipment in preparation for an increased operational tempo, or for purchasing very expensive individual items.  Al Shabaab’s finance ministry is responsible for acquiring the funds necessary for these weapons purchases mainly through illicit taxation.  The report notes that the farmers, merchants, and others who are barely eking out a living are being extorted so that the terrorists can purchase more weapons which can be used to extort and hurt these people further.  Though the finance ministry’s methods can be quite brutal, they are also quite profitable, enabling continued weapons proliferation in a country already awash in arms from decades of inter-clan warfare.   The ready availability of so many weapons, especially in the hands of al Shabaab, has made the pursuit of peace, security, and stability by the Somali National Army and AMISOM, and the Western powers backing such efforts, extremely difficult.


“Al Shabaab’s Arsenal; From Taxes to Terror,” Hiraal Institute (Somali organization that studies security issues), February 2022.

The situation in Somalia is increasingly one of stalemate, with little prospect of either the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) with AMISOM and international support, or al Shabaab (AS) delivering a decisive military victory. However, AS remains adaptive and in control of large parts of Somalia, in particular in the south, with partial control over other areas. It is clear that AS has access to several sources to acquire weapons. The acquisition of weapons, ammunition, explosives, and other lethal capacity remains a priority for AS but is poorly understood as a system essential to the effectiveness of the insurgency. In October 2021, the Hiraal Institute undertook a four-month project to research the scope, scale, system, and use of AS resources to obtain lethal materiel, both in Somalia and from outside.

… It needs to be emphasised that all of AS’s actions within the security field – including arms procurement, capability acquisition, and distribution – are enabled by the extensive finance operations that the group undertakes, notably its illicit taxation collection and revenue gathering. In essence, the money that AS gathers illegally from those it forces to pay tax in Somalia funds the ability of the group to purchase weapons, arms, and ammunition that it then uses in its operations and attacks in the country.

Within Somalia, AS operates a hierarchical financial administrative structure. A central Finance Maktab headquarters oversees a financial centre under which provincial financial centres (one per AS designated province) operate. Funds are moved through regular AS financial channels, utilising a number of methods and in a corresponding variety of forms – cash, bank accounts and mobile money transfer, and hawala – to channel funds to where they are intended.

While Somalia and Yemen are largely excluded from the international banking system, the use of banks for transfers of illicit payments within Somalia is commonplace; again, reporting states that transactions are made via accounts in the name of friendly legitimate businesses or individuals.

Image Information:

Image: Weapons captured by AMISOM forces from al Shabaab
Source: Omar Abdisalan/AMISOM/flickr,
Attribution: Public Domain

Colombian Military Continues To Forcefully Dismantle FARC Dissident Structures

A protest against the FARC and its activities.

A protest against the FARC and its activities.

“According to the National Army, these offensive operations are carried out within the framework of security provided by the Armed Forces in the midst of the 2022 Democracy Plan, in which they seek to counteract ‘the terrorist actions of the criminal armed groups in this region of the country.”

In 2016, the Colombian government signed a groundbreaking peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  The agreement was intended to put an end to over 50 years of conflict.  Colombia’s military, however, continues to fight dissident members of the FARC who rejected the agreement and did not lay down their arms.  Aided by the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela, FARC remnants remain a deadly and powerful force in Colombia, especially in rural and border regions as they push to expand their control of lucrative drug trafficking routes.  According to the excerpted article from the politically centrist Columbian daily El Tiempo, in recent months, Colombia’s military has clashed with members of FARC dissident groups as it increases the pace of special military operations.  The outlet reports that in one such operation in Arauca, the military killed 23 dissidents, including a top leader.  The excerpted article from Colombia’s most famous weekly magazine, Semana, tells the story of similar captures of important FARC dissidents in Tumaco state.  FARC dissidents are not only reconstituting themselves with the safe haven provided by Venezuela, but also competing internally between various dissident factions for territorial control.  Currently, the FARC is under heavy scrutiny in Colombia as the country is in the midst of a heated presidential campaign where security is, as always, an important topic.


“Mueren 23 disidentes en operación de ejército, entre ellos ‘Arturo’ (23 dissidents die in army operation, among them ‘Arturo’),” El Tiempo (one of Colombia’s oldest dailies generally described as politically-centrist), 25 February 2022.  

The newspaper established that for 20 days intelligence from the National Police had been monitoring the structure of ‘Arturo,’ who crossed the border from Venezuela with at least 35 of his men…It was established that after the intelligence group located the camp, a bombing operation was planned by the Colombian Air Force, and the Army Special Forces immediately entered and fought with part of the guerrilla.  Then the Judicial Police entered and managed to recover 23 bodies, including Arturo’s.

Source:  “Capturan a seis presuntos disidentes de las Farc en Tumaco (Six presumed dissidents of the Farc are captured in Tumaco),” Semana (Colombia’s most famous weekly magazine), 12 March 2022.    

According to the National Army, these offensive operations are carried out within the framework of security provided by the Armed Forces in the midst of the 2022 Democracy Plan, in which they seek to counteract ‘the terrorist actions of the criminal armed groups in this region of the country’…the Ombudsman’s Office warned at the end of February of a rearrangement of criminal dynamics…that seek to control this strategic corridor and the access roads to the city of Bogotá through the use of violence.

Image Information:

Image caption:  A protest against the FARC and its activities.
Attribution:  CC BY-ND 2.0

Iran Repositions Its Proxies in Syria as Russia Turns Focus to Ukraine

Syrian Democratic Force soldiers conduct a patrol during a joint operation with U.S. Army Soldiers in Syria on May 8, 2021.

Syrian Democratic Force soldiers conduct a patrol during a joint operation with U.S. Army Soldiers in Syria on May 8, 2021.

“…Iran will not miss this opportunity to consolidate and expand its influence in various sectors, taking advantage of the regime’s need for assistance and support…”

Local media reports indicate that Iran is “repositioning” in Syria, perhaps seeking to take advantage of the Russian military’s focus on Ukraine.  A late February report by Syria-focused Turkish think tank Jusoor Center for Studies speculates that Russia’s focus on Ukraine may detract from its involvement in Syria, “and Iran will not miss this opportunity to consolidate and expand its influence in various sectors.”   The report mentions several signs of Iran’s repositioning in Syria, including increased activities and weapons transfers by Iran-backed militias in regime-controlled areas of the Syrian desert and the Middle Euphrates River Valley, near the border with Iraq.  Tensions were rising between Russian and Iranian proxies in Deir Ezzor Province during the build up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the accompanying excerpt from the Syrian opposition media source Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.  Russian airstrikes on ISIS positions in the desert have declined substantially since the start of the war in Ukraine, even as the group has ramped up its attacks in the Syrian desert, according to a report from the pro-Syrian opposition Lebanese news website al-Modon.  The Quds Brigade, Russia’s key ally in anti-ISIS efforts in the Syrian desert, withdrew precipitously to Damascus.  Meanwhile, local media reports claim several Iraqi militias have returned to Iraq and Iranian proxies in the Fatemiyoun Brigade have redeployed in the area.  The logic behind these movements remains murky, but the accompanying excerpt from the Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat speculates that they relate to strengthening supply lines and transit corridors between Iran’s proxies in Iraq and Syria.


“6 مؤشرات على إعادة تموضع إيران في سورية

(Six indicators that Iran is repositioning in Syria),” Jusoor Center for Studies (Turkey-based think tank focused on Syria), 4 March 2022.

Since the beginning of 2022, Iran has begun to undertake a series of political, military, economic and security activities in coordination with the Syrian regime, which indicates its repositioning in Syria…

… the continuation of conflict in Ukraine may lead to a decline in Russia’s interest in Syria.  Iran will not miss this opportunity to consolidate and expand its influence in various sectors, taking advantage of the regime’s need for assistance and support…


“تصاعد ملحوظ في الحرب الباردة بين الجانبين الروسي والإيراني في محاولة لكسب ود أهالي القرى السبع شرقي الفرات

(Notable Escalation in the Cold War between Russia and Iran in an attempt to gain allegiance from the ‘Seven Villages’ east of the Euphrates),” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (Syrian opposition media source),, 16 February 2022.

Recently, the competition between Russia and Iran has escalated in the countryside of Deir Ezzor governorate, specifically in the so-called “seven villages” under the influence of the Iranians and the regime east of the Euphrates, and the corresponding areas on the western bank of the river…


“إيران تتمدد في سوريا..إثر تراجع النشاط الروسي

(Iran expands in Syria… following decline in Russian activities),” al-Modon (pro-Syrian Lebanese news website), 12 March 2022.

Russian military activities throughout the Syrian territory have declined as the Russian attack on Ukraine enters its third week. At the same time, Iranian militias are sending military reinforcements to the city of Palmyra and its surroundings.

…“the Russian aerial bombardment on the Syrian desert is half of what it was before the war on Ukraine”…

On Friday, the Palestinian “Quds Brigade” militia withdrew from the city of Palmyra, located in the eastern countryside of Homs. Militia members left the city heading towards the governorate of Damascus. The motives for this withdrawal remain unknown and it is unclear whether they will return later. According to the sources of the Syrian Observatory, the Quds Brigade’s withdrawal came without prior warning or coordination with the regime’s security services located in Palmyra and its surroundings.


“مئات من ميليشيات إيران يغادرون سوريا إلى العراق 

(Hundreds of Iranian miliitas leave Syria for Iraq),” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 7 March 2022.

Syrian activists reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard began withdrawing a large number of militia members of the Fatemiyoun Brigade (Afghani) and Iraqi (Shiite) militias from military sites in the areas of Palmyra and Sukhna, east of Homs, into Iraqi territory, through unauthorized crossings. Other fighters from the (Afghan Fatemiyoun) Brigade were deployed to new camps east of Palmyra. The sites in Homs countryside and a number of military vehicles and equipment were handed over to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The development was described by activists in the region as “remarkable,” at a time when (ISIS) launched repeated attacks against regime forces and Iranian militias in the Homs desert and Deir Ezzor, incurring losses in life and equipment.

Image Information:

Image:  Syrian Democratic Force soldiers conduct a patrol during a joint operation with U.S. Army Soldiers in Syria on May 8, 2021. 
Source: Spc. Isaiah J Scott,
Attribution: Public Domain

Iran’s Supreme Leader Condemns Alleged Corruption of the West

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks on 1 March 2022.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks on 1 March 2022.

“One clear and complete example of modern ignorance is the United States.”

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is Iran’s highest authority and singlehandedly sets key social and security policies.  It is in this context that the speech excerpted here from Khamenei’s official website is important.  Speaking on Eid al-Mab’ath, the anniversary of God choosing the Prophet Muhammad as his messenger and beginning the process of revealing the Qur’an to him, Khamenei draws parallels between Meccan society at the time and the United States today.  Prior to the revelation of the Qur’an, Mecca wallowed in the “Age of Ignorance.”  Muhammad’s subsequent struggles and battles were to end the “Age of Ignorance” and bring light to the world.  Khamenei argues that today America represents the same ignorance and decadence that pre-Islamic, polytheistic Mecca did.  He singles out homosexuality as a prime example of the social chaos and decay, speaks of the shame of discussing it, and laments that the United States systematically promotes the practice.

Khamenei also uses his speech to condemn capitalism.  While many analysts describe factional differences inside Iran as being between so-called reformists and hardliners, there are also fissures that date back to the 1979 Revolution itself between proponents of a command economy and those who seek more free market reforms.  The clerical establishment often shrouds itself in social justice rhetoric.  Khamenei’s castigation of capitalists falls into this context.  An embrace of the role of the state in the economy also brings cover to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose role in manufacturing, construction, and the oil industry borders on monopolistic. 

Khamenei’s discussion of capitalism, however, is also meant to fuel anti-Americanism.  Not only does he claim the United States represents ignorance, but its capitalism funds and promotes various evils and crises, according to Khamenei.  He thus exaggerates and provides a paranoid twist to those who castigate the “military-industrial complex.”  To Khamenei, the capitalist cabal that shapes American policy explains not only the United States’ creation of the Islamic State but also the crisis in Ukraine.

Khamenei also exposes some of his deeper concerns when he castigates America’s capitalist cabal for helping spark revolutions and people power movements in various autocratic states.  He has reason for concern given the increasing frequencies and breadth of Iran’s protest movement.  Certainly, Khamenei’s address is not the first to voice his anti-Americanism.  By reinforcing that now, Khamenei signals that whatever the outcome and course of diplomacy between the United States and Iran, the regime’s anti-Americanism is likely to remain unchanged.


“Biyanat dar Sokhanrani Televizioni beh Monasabat ‘Eid Mab’ath (Statements in a Televised Speech on the Occasion of Eid al-Mab’ath),” (Khamenei’s official website), 1 March 2022.

…The basis of life in western civilization is greed and avarice. Today, the basis of all western values is money. Everything is measured with money. The foundation of all western values rests on money at present…. The common policy among governments moves in the direction of discrimination and the fattening of companies and cartels…. 

Sometimes, one uses money to produce such and such a vaccine and medicine to save a number of people and sometimes, one uses it to build weapons of mass destruction and chemical and atomic weapons which kill a hundred-fold amount of people. This has already happened and it continues to happen in the world.

I can equally mention the plunder of weak countries, extreme moral decadence and chaos, homosexuality and the like that one is ashamed even mentioning them. Today, a strange sexual chaos exists in the world. These are things that existed in those days [of ignorance before the Prophet Muhammad] and in the present time. However, in those days, such things were limited in scope, but today, they are very large in scope and are done in a systematic way.

For many of these forms of corruption and vices, fake rationalizations have been fabricated. They have fabricated an intellectual basis and source of support for it and they present it to humanity. So, this modern ignorance is there in the world today. Therefore, if someone refers to today’s western civilization as modern ignorance, as some people have already done, they are right because it is the same ignorance, but it is showing itself in a modern and modernized way.

So, what should we do? We should review the lessons of bi’tha [the sending to the Prophet Muhammad of the first verses of the Qur’an]. We should treat today’s ignorance in the same way the Holy Prophet (God’s greetings be upon him and his household) treated the ignorance of those past days. This is our responsibility. We should primarily strengthen faith….

Another responsibility is to strengthen the Islamic government. An Islamic government, with and under the flag of Islam, has been established in the Islamic Republic by God’s favor. Therefore, we must strengthen it, solidify its bases and expand its products as much as possible….

Of course, this modern ignorance is not the same everywhere in the world. In my opinion, one clear and complete example of modern ignorance is the United States. This form of ignorance is more serious and severe than anywhere else in the world. This is the case in the true sense of the word. America is a regime that promotes indecent conduct, in which discrimination is exacerbating on a daily basis and in which national wealth is increasingly flowing towards the wealthy and rich…. Today, the embodiment of modern ignorance, discrimination, oppression and generation of crisis in the world is America. Basically, the American regime is a crisis-making and crisis-feeding regime. It feeds off crises. It nourishes off the various crises that occur in the world….

There are networks of mafia power in the United States and these networks feed off and take advantage of the crises that occur throughout the world. The United States is basically a mafia regime. The United States is a mafia regime: political, economic and weapons-manufacturing mafia…. These mafia cartels and this mafia regime need crises to exist throughout the world. Therefore, they create centers of crisis. Notice how many crises they created in West Asia. The Americans even felt the need to give birth to a creature called the Islamic State that was their trained dog….Today, in my opinion, Ukraine is a victim of this policy as well. Ukraine’s situation at present stems from this American policy. It was the United States that dragged Ukraine to this point. Naturally, interfering in the domestic affairs of Ukraine, organizing rallies against governments, launching velvet revolutions and color coup d’etats, American senators being present in demonstrations, and replacing a government with another, leads to these crises.

Image Information:

Image: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks on 1 March 2022