Conference warns against destructive effects of fourth-generation warfare

  • 18 May 2016

Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) is indeed dangerous, with its destructive effects that consist of non-traditional tools that serve to target and destroy countries in a systematic way.

This generation of wars does not solely aim to destroy the military capabilities of the state; rather, it seeks to spread sedition, unrest and instability and to provoke internal unrest and infighting with the aim to eliminate the state in its entirety, participants said at the conclusion of the Fourth-generation Warfare Conference, organised by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).

The two-day event was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the ECSSR.

‘’There is a need for a realistic and effective vision to be prepared and solidified in a bid to address and confront such types of wars and the subsequent challenges and risks that arise.

“This is especially paramount in order to protect the nation-state from any plans that seek to destroy the political system of the state and/or to destabilise its social cohesion,’’ the delegates recommended.The media, they underscored, needs to become more qualified in their ability to play a key role in analysing the objectives and missions of the media to serve the local reality.

This includes the need to qualify and develop the skills of the youth so that they are able to cope with types of e-warfare. The role of the media must also serve to follow-up with the scientific analysis of local events through specialized institutions to enlighten public opinion and keep them away from the rumours that are also capable of being broadcast through some channels of mass media and communications.

‘’There is a need to invest in building and supporting the youth, and to protect them against any subversive ideas upon the basis that they are indeed targeted by extremist and radical groups that seek to sow chaos within the society,’’ they said.

Dr Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the ECSSR, the sincerest thanks and appreciation were conveyed to Sheikh Mohamed for his kind patronage of the conference and for his resolute and enduring support for the ECSSR alongside its scholarly and humanitarian activities and events in every field on national, regional and international levels.

Al-Suwaidi expressed his deepest gratitude and appreciation for the researchers and scholars for their contributions towards the four sessions of the conference through their discussion, interaction and participation. The discussions and presented papers have no doubt, according to him, shed light on the topic of fourth-generation warfare (4GW).

He lauded the comprehensive papers presented at the conference and the rich discussions that have taken place over the past two days, as they have successfully provided an objective, integrated vision regarding the concept of 4GW.

They have also served to establish a framework of 4GW while significantly adding to the relevant studies that are currently available. This conference will indeed contribute to the promotion of awareness regarding the challenges facing the overall Arab national security.

Al-Suwaidi added that in light of the challenges facing many Arab countries at this stage, it has become necessary for research and study centers to help decision makers in their efforts to best address the challenges that arise. Correspondingly, it is just as important to raise the awareness of the Arab people regarding the nature of the risks that face Arab national security. Let it be known through this conference dedicated to 4GW, that the ECSSR stands at the ready to cooperate with Gulf and Arab research centers to organize conferences and workshops to further address the new security challenges that face our nations and our societies.

A panel, entitled “Possible Threats of Fourth-generation Warfare,” was chaired by Rear Admiral (Ret.) Suhail Shaheen Al Marar, Former Commander of the UAE Naval Forces to discuss several important topics. Riad Kahwaji, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), United Arab Emirates, presented a paper entitled “International and Regional Crises and the Applications of Fourth-generation Warfare.”

In the paper, Kahwaji discussed Iran’s use of the strategy of hybrid warfare to launch fourth-generation wars; he also talked about the Arab counter-strategies following the Yemeni crisis.

He said that 4GW has been effectively implemented by a limited number of countries, and most of which had already mastered the art of hybrid warfare. Iran, with its Shiite militias, sophisticated cyber and media campaigns, and its modern defence technologies has pioneered the hybrid warfare strategy in order to spread its influence in several Arab countries such as Lebanon and Iraq.

Correspondingly, Iran and Russia’s joint efforts and superior application of hybrid warfare and 4GW strategies enabled the Syrian regime to survive and reverse the balance of power in its favor. This is a scenario that Moscow and Tehran can also implement elsewhere; and following the Syrian conflict, the question remains if Iran is likely to continue its 4GW capabilities.

Kahwaji sees that the hybrid warfare was additionally utilised by the Houthis in their takeover of Yemen and yet their capabilities proved poor when compared to the counter-hybrid warfare strategies utilised by the Yemeni national army and popular resistance forces with the support of GCC and Arab ground troops and air power.

Member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) surprised the international community with their military intervention in Yemen and this first-ever employment of a successful hybrid 4GW by an Arab power. Based on the experiences, they have now gained, it is essential to consider now how Arabs will apply hybrid counter strategies following the Yemini Crisis.

Upon the conclusion of the conference proceedings, the participants lauded the ECSSR and its Al-Suwaidi, for shedding light upon the various issues that concern not only the UAE, but also the Arab world and international community.

They also stressed the importance of the issue of 4GW raised in the conference, especially in these difficult historical stages experienced by the Arab nation, in which certain Arab states witnessed a state of instability caused by some of the internal developments and events. These events have in turn produced certain repercussions that indeed impact the stability of the region and the province.

During the conclusion of the proceedings, the conference participants expressed their hopes that the submitted papers, suggestions, discussions, and the reached recommendations to serve as a road map for decision makers in the various Arab countries. They wished also for these to reach all national institutions in a bid to achieve peace and stability in their countries, and in order for these institutions to benefit from the recommendations in their development of comprehensive strategies to address the challenges and threats raised by 4GW.