The 10h Annual International Institute of Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya opened yesterday. This year marks a decade since the inauguration of ICT’s first World Summit on Counter-Terrorism. More than 100 internationally renowned experts and leading decision-makers from over 30 countries arrived as speakers and panelists for the conference at the conference.
The conference's plenary session continued this afternoon, with Col. Richard Kemp, Former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, United Kingdom
The attacks of the previous decade have made it more difficult for terrorists to commit spectacular mass killings, as security forces have become more vigilant, placing more nets in the sea with fewer holes. Many terrorists have been arrested, tried, and imprisoned. Operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have reduced Al-Qaeda’s ability to use those areas as a central base.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda, through a combination of influence or inspiration, has caused various groups around the world to rise. These Al-Qaeda franchises includes Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Al-Shabbab in Somalia, Lashkar-Et-Taiba in Kashmir, the Islamic Movement in Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Union in Germany. Many less prominent groups have arisen, groups that do not take direct orders from Al-Qaeda central. Even many Americans have become radicalized, through means of inspiration and information-sharing over the internet. These low-level jihadists have the potential to cause serious damage and disarray, whether independently or aided by Al-Qaeda central.
Even though there has been a low frequency of attack, it does not mean that the threat does not exist. We must not become complacent. The dangers of short-term memory are compounded by financial constraints. The global jihadists are committed to committing attacks, and we must work to contain them. This includes counter-radicalization programs that work with at-risk groups and address perceived grievances. It means preventing situations that will facilitate terrorist recruitment, such as overzealous police actions. We must also learn how to handle the media to ensure that our perspective is presented, and we must be as open and transparent as possible to show that we are not violent or discriminatory, as terrorists allege. The truth, not cover-up, must be our objective.
Combating violent jihad over the next decade is going to become more difficult. It is a decade in which we need strong leadership that recognizes the danger of the threat and has the decisiveness to do what is necessary.
Dr. Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum, U.S.A.
Why do politicians, media officials, or academics ignore the obvious—that terrorism has influence from Islam? For example, the Ft. Hood attacker, although he had clear Islamist motivations, was described in psychological, not religious terms.
Islamism is a form of Islam that seeks to make Muslims strong and to impose Sharia law onto the world and revert it to a caliphate, as existed into the Middle Ages. No other ideology has contributed to so many attacks. Officials are in denial. Willfully and consistently, they ignore Islamism as the cause of attacks. Politicians do not talk of Islamists and mujahideen, but of evildoers and extremists. There are some exceptions, such as Tony Blair, but these are few.
Why is there denial? The temptation is that they are avoiding seeming politically incorrect or controversial. But really, even academics who do understand Islamism do not talk about its religious cause. One reason is that they do not want to irritate Muslims, particularly moderates. The second reason is that it defies the order that Western society is based on. Violent acts in the West are generally based on internal, psychiatric causes that could affect anyone, not an external ideology that a select element is subjected to and singled out for scrutiny. Profiling is called racist and Islamophobic, thus, every act of Muslim extremism is a random action, not part of a greater pattern.
These trends will probably continue unless there is a spectacular attack that will kill hundreds of thousands. Then, other considerations will be pushed aside for the attempt to save lives. Hopefully, we do not need to wait for a wake-up call such as this to understand and candidly discuss the threat.
Mr. Jonathan Paris: Associate Fellow, International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), King's College London, United Kingdom
The many attacks and dozens or more of foiled attacks have motivated the British government to focus on home-grown extremism. The response of the UK government recognizes the extremist element within the Muslim community instead of viewing all Muslims as suspect, and works with moderates against the Islamist agenda to show that the Muslim community is the partner, not the target. The diversity of the Muslim community demonstrates the potential that the terrorist groups can be isolated. The challenge is that we fight a battle of ideals. Europe is fighting a long-term ideological war, but believes that it is involved in a law enforcement and operational-based approach that treats symptoms rather than causes. Pressure must be placed on influential religious and political figures with great followings; they are the motivators and should not be ignored.
Furthermore, the rise of distinct Muslim neighborhoods and Muslim prison communities has created separation between them and the general society.
The French are competing with home-grown radicalism, but in a very different way, by imposing secular values and assimilation on all public expressions of faith and group identity. However, in France there is a problem of socioeconomic status. Yet its Muslims are less radicalized than Britain’s.
Many say that foreign policy accounts for much of the domestic anger. During Operation Cast Lead, the noise of anti-Israelism rose in Londonistan, and during current peace negotiations, it has slightly subsided. However, these are not the causes of anger, but just provide excuses of its expression.
Greater sensitivity should be shown to the complexity of the British Muslim community. The current strategy of attempting to prevent long-term radicalism is correct, but the government must do a better job in selecting which organizations to support.</span>
Dr. Boaz Ganor, Executive Director, ICT, Deputy Dean, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya
There are two revolutions that will influence the future of the world—the Islamization of Turkey and the anti-regime revolution in Iran.
Al-Qaeda’s biggest enemy is moderate Muslim states, such as how Turkey used to be, as they show what it means to be Muslim and modern and free.
There are a few trends going on right now that are changing the situation on the ground in the Middle East. The first is the US withdrawal from Iraq, the second is the Iranian push to develop a nuclear bomb, the third is the realignment of Turkey, and the fourth is the renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Meanwhile, the western governments are confused into thinking that free elections that empower Islamists legitimate them, and deny that Islamists and jihadists are our enemies.
Survey results from one hundred experts from over 20 countries: 89% consider themselves to be more informed than the general public. 63% believe that terrorist attacks will increase if Iran gets a nuclear bomb, and 85% do not believe sanctions will be effective. 66% believe that it is likely/highly likely that there will be a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) attack in the next five years.
As for counterterrorism, 66% believe that current efforts are not effective, and 64% said that Bush’s policies were more effective than Obama’s. 88% believed that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is unlikely/very unlikely over the next five years.
As for non-conventional terrorism, chemical and radiological attacks are limited in scope and attempt to impose fear and anxiety onto populations to influence a political response. These are forms of modern terrorism. Postmodern terrorism, however, includes biological and nuclear attacks and are unlimited in scope. They attempt to change the very reality directly by the very act. Not every organization would adopt these tactics, and thus, chemical and radiological attacks are the most immediate threats. The probability of the occurrence of these limited attacks is much higher than that of the massive, unlimited attacks, and those are the ones that research and policies should focus on anticipating and thwarting.