OA psychological analysis of the most recent ISIS magazine Rumiyah 9

A psychological analysis of the most recent ISIS magazine Rumiyah 9By

Brig Barker, Former FBI counterterrorism expert & Global Security Consultant & CEO of Red Rock Global Security Group


Dr. Carlos Vazquez, Social Psychology Professor & Lead Consultant on the Psychology of terrorist recruitment at Behavioral Analysis Group


​This most recent magazine by ISIS displays a conspicuous undercurrent of worry and an obvious sign of loss of control by this group. It is no wonder after significant losses in revenue ($1.9 billion in 2014 to $870 million in 2016; New York Post 2017), sizable losses in territory (some estimate 50% of territory; Business insider,2017), and Fox news reports that 50,000 ISIS fighters have been killed. These three factors are strong indicators that ISIS is hemorrhaging, therefore, corroborating the feeling of angst and loss of control that is evidenced in this recent issue.

Even though this issue has many similar themes to past issues there is a resonating theme of having to demonstrate power, control and stability that is not as prevalent in other issues. We will look at the psychological and counterterrorism aspects of Rumiyah (Rome) #9 to corroborate this claim. We will breakdown the magazine in a comprehensive but far from an exhaustive analysis.


​The first few pages of the newest issue are spent by ISIS justifying their attacks by labeling them as blessed, which insinuates that they are divinely approved. For instance, “From among these blessed deeds were the successive attacks which the soldiers of the Islamic state in Misr and Sinai carried out against the Christians in those lands…”. This opening argument of the issue appears to be a response from those, which are many, that oppose the killing of innocent civilians and the people of the book.

​They continue to demonstrate justification for these acts and try to add rationality and order by stating that the death of the infidel is preventable, if of course the infidels choose to believe ISIS’ ideology. Here is what they say to demonstrate some sort rationality and opportunity for the infidel to survive: “Committing shirk with Allah is a sin that makes one permissible to be killed, and believing in Him gives one protection”, as the Prophet said “I was commanded to fight the people until they say “No God but God” or also known as the shahada. This is a classic deferment of responsibility by placing the responsibility on a divine being which in turn absolves them of any guilt.

​They continue this (we are only doing our duty) sense of supposed righteousness by stating that they would and have punished their own members if they kill someone protected by the covenant. For example, ISIS states whoever kills a person who’s been given a covenant will not smell the fragrance of Jannah. They even attempt to justify the killing of the indefensible by stating the following: “The killing of the elderly and the infirm, due to the prophet agreeing with the Sahabah’s killing of Durayd Ibn as-Summah after the battle of Hunayn. He was an old man who was incapable of fighting, but he was a man whose opinion and counsel was sought among his people and the story is in the Sunnah.”

​The first part of the magazine has an overwhelming focus on justifying killing individuals especially killing innocents. This makes me believe that many of their followers are beginning to question their motives and their violent behaviors, hence the need to contribute a large part of the magazine to justifying their actions with cherry picked verses in hadiths which some are considered weak in authenticity. This can further substantiate in the book “ISIS Defectors” written by Dr. Anne Speckhard and Dr. Yayha Ahmet. The book discusses several interviews with ISIS defectors and one of the resonating reasons of why they defected was the unjustified killing of Muslims, innocent people and children.

Loss of control

​The latter half of the magazine is their attempt to explain away their recent and significant losses of territory, money, and fighters. This is their attempt to save the image that they still have control and that this momentary setback is divinely ordained. Here is what they say to explain away the losses: “If Allah always supported the believers and gave them victory over their enemy in every battle, giving them consolidation over their enemies in every case, their souls would transgress and become arrogant and proud.” Therefore, too much winning can cause character flaws among the people. This is a classic example of reframing the argument.

​They also demonstrate a desperate sign of needing more fighters as they discuss again the transcending of death and attainment of heavenly rewards following martyrdom. They attempt to reframe the killing of a fighter in this manner “Never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead, rather, they are alive with their Lord…”. This is a common psychological persuasion technique known as reframing. They present martyrdom as a no-lose situation- either you are victorious or you are a martyr. Another technique they use to instill psychological control, as other oppressive groups have done in the past, is by instilling a form of acetic behavior and self-sacrifice under the aegis of piety. This acetic behavior can cause in some individuals a feeling of superiority and augments the us vs them narrative in their minds-I am better than they are.

​The final point of analysis is the feeling that the counter messaging maybe working. Even though ISIS has attacked other scholars in the past for being hypocrites in this issue they specifically name scholars and present a lengthy theological discussion on the punishment for Islamic scholars that mislead the Ummah. They once again cherry pick verses to attempt to counter the message of whom they deem as hypocritical scholars.

In this edition, we see ISIS aggressively attempting to justify their violent and senseless killing of innocents which reflects the decreasing of morale within the ranks. They aggressively tried to romanticize martyrdom to increase their attacks in turn giving them an aura of control. They attempted to minimize their significant losses by attributing as how would you say “too much winning is bad”. This psychological analysis was by no means exhaustive but hopefully provided some insight into the unconscious motivations behind the structure and content of the most recent Rumiyah issue.

Counterterrorism Analysis

From the counterterrorism perspective, it’s clear that ISIS sees the writing on the wall in regards to their swath of land in Iraq and Syria. In fact, their concerns are validated in that they lost Dabiq (Previous name of their online journal) to the Turks and consequently had to change the name of their magazine. In this latest edition, with each word and article it’s clear they know victory is out of reach and this Caliphate (11th to date in Islamic history) will soon be smoldering. The tone of Rumiyah (9) is clear, they’re losing and the infidels are gaining ground. This doesn’t make for increased recruitment so the theme because ‘Convince’ versus ‘Convey”. They are strenuously trying to convince followers and fence sitters that there is hope as opposed to simply conveying their perpetual strength and soon to be obtained victory. 

Although the content is well written and persuasive it’s filled with nebulous theological arguments that leave the reader convinced to the opposite. What rings true and tangible are the articles on the mechanics and tradecraft of attacks. This is where ISIS makes their virtual money. However, this one goes to the desperate level of encouraging attacks however possible. Again, ISIS puts themselves in the simpleton box as opposed to the long-range planning and sophisticated approach of Al Qa’ida. As such, ISIS will never climb out of their simple ways and will continue to ride the coattails of the implementation of their field guide, “The Management of Savagery”. Their long-term impact, however, cannot be minimized as 30,000 foreign fighters must return to western countries at some point. This will extend ISIS’ reach long after they are removed from Iraq and Syria.


For presentations or consulting please use the following contact information:

Brig Barker


Website: redrockgsg.com


Dr. Carlos

Email: info@behavioralanalysisgroup.com

Website: behavioralanalysisgroup.com

Why was Trump touching an orb? Here’s the reason 

The trio placed their hands on the orb to formally open the center, and set a welcome film in motion. 

In reality, Trump had touched the globe as part of an inauguration ceremony for the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Ridyah, Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Together, the three leaders placed their hands on the globe to start a film about the center.

The newly-opened center has a large TV wall displaying ongoing extremist activity and aims to come together to stop the spread of violent extremism, the Saudi Gazette reports. It will be used to monitor potential threats of terrorism and, through the help of experts, reveal and confront extremist speech.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said his country wants the US to know that they are “not an enemy” and are committed in the fights against extremist groups like Daesh, also known as the Islamic State.
Story from Business Insider

The unusual relationship between the Saudis and ISIS 

The reach of the Saudis propagation of their religious ideology has been remarkable , reaching nearly every country with a Muslim population, from the Gothenburg Mosque in Sweden to the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles to Asia’s Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea. Saudi teachings have shifted the religious culture in a considerably conservative direction. 
The US State Department has estimated that over the past 40 years Saudi Arabia has invested more than $10bn into charitable foundations in an attempt to replace mainstream Sunni Islam with the harsh intolerance of its Wahhabism. 

The Saudi religious influence varies considerably on the local conditions. As an example, in certain parts of Southeast Asia the effect has been of a cultural shift such an increase women wearing hijab and more growing beards, while in Pakistan the ideology has increased the us vs. them mentality to a lethal level. And in Europe, the Saudi influence is a contributing factor for radicalization.

Furthermore, the biographies of Al-Baghdadi and others in ISIS leadership positions show how they’ve absorbed the Wahhabi doctrine and promote its many ideals such Tawhid (monotheism), rejection of intercessors (saints), and the destruction of monuments and shrines. 

Coincidentally , in 2014, a leading Saudi Cleric proposed the destruction of the Prophet’s tomb. 

The relationship between ISIS and Wahhabism and Saudi is eerily close. To the chagrin of Saudi Arabia, ISIS has adopted the official Saudi textbooks for its schools until the extremist group could publish its own books in 2015. Researchers have found that 7 out of 12 publications that ISIS implements are by the founder of Saudi’s Wahhabism, Abd al-Wahhab.

The extreme version of Wahhabi teachings are destroying the concepts of pluralism, tolerance and openness to science and learning in today’s Islam. 

The educational propaganda of this ideology contains dehumanizing, derogatory and intolerant references to various groups, especially the Shia and Jews.

Dehumanization is one of the central processes in the transformation of ordinary, normal people into indifferent or even perpetrators of evil.

There is a saturation level concerning the amount of exposure a person can have to dehumanizing propaganda ,especially if it’s under the auspices of it being the word of God, without an individual becoming susceptible to recruitment.

In a remarkable 2014 poll public opinion of ISIS taken in Saudi Arabia says that the public is empathetic towards ISIS. The poll showed that 92% believed, “ISIS conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic Law,” and families of sons who have died fighting with ISIS have expressed “joy,” regarding the martyrdom of their child

However, looking at Wahhabism as the single factor in radicalization distracts from the complex political, economic, and psychological reasons people become terrorists. Saudi Arabia has been proactive in the past few years by aggressively curtailing preachers who call for violence, catching terrorist financing and since 2004 over 3,500 imams were fired for refusing to renounce extremist views

A look at who ISIS’ dajjal or anti-Christ is and who follows him

The anti Christ in Muslim apocalyptic literature is known as the Dajjal, he will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. The Dajjal will come with 70,000 men, who ISIS claims are Jews mind you the overwhelming majority Islamic scholars do not believe that the 70,000 are the Jews.
Just before Dajjal wipes off the caliphate’s fighters, the second Messiah comes, its Jesus—the second most revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.

This epitomizes ISIS’ binary perspective of the world- us vs. them or good vs. evil. They believe anyone who doesn’t believe in their distorted ideology is automatically in the them, ourgroup, or evil category, whatever you want to call it. This creates a very narrow world filled with a host of psychological implications that I will discuss in future post

Is there only one version of Salafism?

Many times you might read that terrorists follow salafism but did you know there are three major factions?  The purists, the politicos, and the jihadis. The purists emphasize a focus on nonviolent methods of propagation, purification, and education. They view politics as a diversion that encourages deviancy.

Politicos, in contrast, emphasize application of the Salafi creed to the political arena, which they view as particularly important because it dramatically impacts social justice and the right of God alone to legislate. 

Jihadis take a more militant position and argue that the current context calls for violence and revolu- tion. All three factions share a common creed but offer different explanations of the contemporary world and its problems and thus propose different solutions. The splits are about contextual analysis, not belief. 
By Quinton Wicktorwicz

How’s the weather ISIS?

How’s the weather ISIS?

Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) The self-proclaimed Islamic State group started airing a weather forecast and created a cartoon for children, Alsumaria News reported on Tuesday.
According to SITE Intelligence Group, “The Islamic State produced a weather forecast video for its “provinces” in Iraq, Libya, Sinai, and Syria, to help serve the group’s self-proclaimed Caliphate.”
The Islamic State also released a video showing a child while executing a Kurdish prisoner in Dier ez-Zour.
Moreover, the extremist group created new kids’ cartoons, in order to promote its ideology among children.