A careful examination of the most important reasons why the terrorist threat is increasing in the world today yields the following:
– A crisis of ideology, culture, and religion in Western civilization is coinciding with the spread and growth of influence of Islam in its politicized and radical forms, not only in countries that traditionally shared Muslim values, but also around the world;
– A kind of demographic revolution is taking place, where the population of Western countries is shrinking and that of Muslim countries is growing at a faster pace, which is forcing Muslims to migrate to Europe, the U.S., and Russia in search of higher education and employment, leading to a change in the ethnic compositions and a gradual rise of the influence of Islamic culture on these countries;
– The ongoing global financial and economic crisis has caused massive unemployment and provoked the poorest segments of the population, including Muslims, to participate in various forms of protest (the “Arab Spring”, riots in the suburbs of Paris, etc.);
– Some countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey) have attempted to use Islamic extremists and militants of various terrorist organizations in their fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Shiite majority in Iraq. The sponsors of jihad believe that terrorists will help them overthrow the regime in Syria or put pressure on the government in Iraq, but the hopes that then tens of thousands of fighters who received combat experience in Syria and Iraq would then go back home are rather naïve; most likely, these people would join the vanguard of international terrorism, continuing their criminal activities in many different places. The U.S. already experienced this when they supported the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. After the war with the Soviet Union, militants from these organizations spread out around the world and were involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.;
– The lack of unified approaches, legal frameworks or international standards in the fight against international terrorism causes a situation where some organizations are recognized as terrorist ones in some countries, but not in others. For example, Russia recognizes 20 terrorist organizations and the United States has listed about 45, but only 9 of them have been put on the respective lists by both countries;
– The intelligence agencies of the U.S., NATO, China, India, and Russia have not cooperated effectively enough in the fight against international terrorism;
– Some governments and regimes have been ineffective in combating terrorism on their territories (Somalia, Mali, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and others), and have been unwilling or unable to cooperate with other countries and the international community in the fight against terrorism;
– The scope of activities and the financial capabilities of international criminal groups and syndicates have expanded (drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons, advanced IT fraud, smuggling, etc.), which has resulted in drug cartels and organized transnational criminal communities giving more material and financial support to terrorist organizations;
– Radical Islamist groups have intensified their recruitment of new fighters and suicide bombers in the EU, the CIS, the United States and others. After these militants acquire experience abroad in a so-called holy war, they return to their countries and continue terrorist activities;
– The Palestinian issue is still unresolved, and Israel and the Arab (Muslim) world continue to be in opposition, which has resulted in a growing number of militants in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon (Hezbollah), and in almost all Arab and Muslim countries. Calls for radical Islamist war against Israel, the U.S., the West, and, in general, against the “infidels” are finding more and more supporters among Muslims;
– The Sunni-Shiite religious conflict is flaring up in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, as well as between the monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Iran. The confrontation continues between the U.S. and Israel, on the one part, and Iran, on the other part, and the West continues its policy of isolating Iran in the international arena;
– A number of regional conflicts remain unresolved (Kashmir, Cyprus, Nagorny-Karabakh, etc.), which continue to be accompanied by local terrorist attacks and at any time may revert to large-scale armed conflicts. The Indo-Pakistani conflict may also see the use of nuclear missiles;
– A high level of corruption is observed in most countries of the world; officials, academics, and individuals try to make money at any cost, including giving various types of covert and overt assistance to international terrorists. An example is the Pakistani atomic scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was discovered trying to sell nuclear technology, equipment, and materials using an extensive network of resellers and experts around the world;
– Arms and ammunitions, explosives, and the technologies for their amateurish production can be purchased relatively easily on the world market. A typical example is Syria, where Islamist militants managed to obtain and even to use chemical weapons. The so-called ”blood business,” in which large corporations and smaller dealers who sell weapons and ammunition do not control their final destination, continues to flourish around the world. The UN International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted after much heel dragging in 2013, has not yet produced the results that were hoped for. As of October 2013 this agreement had been signed by 90 states but only 4 had ratified it.
It is obvious that, without dealing with most of the above reasons that are contributing in one way or another to the emergence and development of international terrorism, it is unlikely that either individual countries or the international community will be able to organize effective resistance. What is most important in the fight against international terrorism at the present stage?
First, it is time to finally overcome the legacy of the Cold War that has remained between the United States and the West, on one side, and Russia, China and Iran on the other. International terrorism can only be effectively fought in an atmosphere of mutual trust and sincere interest in improving international and national security.
Second, now is the time to reduce international tensions by shifting all remaining regional and internal conflicts to the level of peace talks and, if necessary, organizing peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the UN (Syria, Somalia).
Third, we must eliminate the policy of double standards, when an organization is recognized as a terrorist one by one country, but in another its members are free to move, live, and work, and carry out their illegal activities. Terrorists shouldn’t be categorized as friends or foes, good or bad, useful or useless. A single list of terrorist organizations should be the basis for fighting against terrorism, adopted in accordance with international law by the UN Security Council. Terrorists should not have country sponsors or bases in countries outside the control of the international community in enclaves such as Somalia. They should be hunted down every place they go.
Fourth, the international legal framework under the auspices of the United Nations should be further improved, to ensure that international terrorists, pirates, resellers, intermediaries and their patrons can be pursued and prosecuted in any country (where a crime was committed, where they were found, or where citizens and property were harmed by the actions of terrorists).
Fifth, attention must be given to the socio-economic problems of the countries of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, hunger, and disease provide a breeding ground for international terrorism. By reducing the gap between the rich minority (about 20%) and the poor majority (about 80%) of the population on our planet, we could significantly reduce the recruiting base for the terrorist leadership.
Sixth, since the threat of international terrorism is the number one threat of modern times and is becoming increasingly global in nature, it must be dealt with on a global scale, focusing the energies and resources of leading world powers in one direction — the fight against terrorists of all stripes. Obviously, significantly greater financial resources could be invested in combating terrorism, including the funds saved due to the reductions in the armed forces and military equipment that the leading world powers have made.
Seventh, extremist ideology should be exposed and discredited; tolerance must be encouraged in individual citizens and groups; any manifestations of ethnic, national, religious or other group or clan hostility should be dealt with decisively; and interference in the internal affairs of any state that is outside the scope of a UN Security Council resolution should be condemned.
For many countries, including Russia, terrorism has long been an important factor in domestic and foreign policy. In order to prevent the growth of extremism in society and new acts of terrorism, federal and regional programs are addressing the most pressing social and economic issues in the North Caucasus, and in other distressed regions. Anti-terrorism legislation is getting more severe, funding is increasing for security forces, police and counter-terrorist military operations are being carried out, and attempts are being made to improve international cooperation on a multilateral and bilateral basis in this area. Russia is interested in exchanging information and experience with other countries in the fight against various forms of extremism, terrorism, and international organized crime, and is paying particular attention to the development of regional cooperation within the framework of the CIS, the CSTO, and the SCO. There are also examples of successful cooperation in counter-terrorism and peacekeeping between Russia and NATO, the EU, and the OSCE (Afghanistan, the coast of Somalia, Sudan, Chad, etc.).
The Russian Federation has set out its state policy regarding counter-terrorism in “Concepts of combating counter-terrorism in the Russian Federation” approved by the president of the Russian Federation on October 5, 2009.
The document notes that “the emergence and spread of terrorism in the Russian Federation have historical roots that are related both to internal economic, political, social, ethnic, and religious antagonisms as well as external.” It also stresses the importance of closer international cooperation in combating international terrorism “on the basis and in strict compliance with the principles and norms of international law.” The Russian Federation is working to confirm the leading role of the UN in combating international terrorism, the strict implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and conventions, and the effective implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2006. The Russian scientific community has reached the conclusion that an effective fight against terrorism at the national and international level is only possible if civil society and representatives of religious confessions of all countries are actively engaged.
Stanislav Ivanov, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Security of the Institute for World Economics and International Relations, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.