Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terror's Root

Yesterday's attack in Paris appears to have been orchestrated by ISIS (they've claimed responsibility), and one of the attackers had a Syrian passport.  What might be their motivation?  On CNN this morning, "It is the ideology that drives these attacks."  But why the ideology?  It's primarily political and event driven over time, is it not?  The root question ... did ISIS spring up from nothing?
The area westerners call
the Middle East

We and the world are faced with challenges from the Arab world.  ISIS, Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia, Hezbollah.  They are extraordinarily violent radical groups.  Curious where they originated?

The secret Sykes-Picot map
 of 1916 (two years before the
war ended
): Area 'A' would

go to France, 'B' to Britain.
The map was made without
consulting representatives
from the affected region.
Why would Islamic terrorists target the U.K. or France?  Or the U.S.  Or other Arabs, as is most often the case?

One early trigger point for the current trend was imposed boundaries. The Middle East countries were defined and established by outsiders. At the end of WWI, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned under French and British mandates; the borders of Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine were drawn on a map with a straightedge.  Syria and Lebanon were created similarly.  The countries remained under foreign domination for decades despite prior promises of independence and self-determination.

"The newly created borders did not correspond to the actual sectarian, tribal, or ethnic distinctions on the ground."  
Political oppression and disenfranchisement followed as dictatorial rulers were emplaced by external players.

Israel was established and successfully defended its borders in 1948.  "Following Israel's 1967 defeat of Arab forces, Palestinian leaders realized that the Arab world was unable to militarily confront Israel.  At the same time, lessons drawn from revolutionary movements in Latin America, North Africa, Southeast Asia as well as during the Jewish struggle against Britain in Palestine, saw the Palestinians move away from classic guerrilla, typically rural-based, warfare toward urban terrorism." ~Tarek Osman

By the 70's, the U.S. was the emerging influence in the region.  As oil rose in strategic significance, tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union extended into the region as each tried to bend the nations in their own favor.  Support from the two Cold War opponents exaggerated and polarized discontent.  Arms were supplied to both sides along with military training.

For years, the several ideologies in the Arab world were suppressed by strong leaders.  Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad were murderously brutal as was Muammar Gaddafi in northern Africa.  The factions persisted despite the repression (persecution), however, and later emerged violently as the regimes began to weaken.  They were never effectively assimilated nor adequately represented in the culture.  Turkey has had 250+ internal incidents since the 70's; they're a 90% Muslim population.

"Radical Palestinians took advantage of modern communication and transportation systems to internationalize their struggle. They launched a series of hijackings, kidnappings, bombings, and shootings, culminating in the kidnapping and subsequent deaths of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic games.

These Palestinian groups became a model for numerous secular militants, and offered lessons for subsequent ethnic and religious movements. Palestinians created an extensive transnational extremist network -- tied into which were various state sponsors such as the Soviet Union, certain Arab states, as well as traditional criminal organizations. By the end of the 1970s, the Palestinian secular network was a major channel for the spread of terrorist techniques worldwide.~Tarek Osman

'Terrorism' was a label originally applied to governments and their mistreatment of the citizenry.  The term transitioned to actions by non-government groups in the last forty years.

Acts of terrorism can be categorized by ideology and target.  The majority (56%) of recent acts have been by Islamic extremists (Sunni) primarily targeting Arabs in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria.  Terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere are a small percentage of the world's total with most being ascribed to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Yesterday's brutal attack in Paris appears to have been orchestrated by ISIS (they've claimed responsibility), and one of the attackers had a Syrian passport.  The criminal perpetrators must indeed be dealt with, but do we understand them?  On CNN this morning, "It is the ideology that drives these attacks."  But why the ideology?  It's primarily political and event driven as it evolves over time, is it not?

Do we understand those individuals at the core of the problem?*  Are there additional measures besides the necessary confrontation of criminal acts that might begin addressing the underlying rationale?

Countering violent extremism (CVE) is a programmatic approach, and perhaps a beginning. (Refs: DoS, DHS, White House, and critical review by Al Jazeera)  

Terrorism is the symptom but not the cause.  It appears to rise as a response to political repression rather than religious differences.  Our concern is perhaps larger than just the Middle East and religious extremists.

See ISIS Roots.
*See the Smithsonian Magazine's A Lesson in Hate for the twisted path to fanaticism and Osama bin Laden.