Tag Archives: IRA

The New IRA: A Legitimate Threat?

While the new Irish Republican Army (IRA) will have the capability to conduct small scale operations, and likely pose a threat to the security services and police officers, they will not be able to muster a campaign comparable to those of the historical IRA.

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Graffiti in Derry

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[dropcap]S[/dropcap]everal Republican dissident groups in Northern Ireland announced recently that they would be merging to present a unified face of Republicanism and intensify attacks on British security forces and targets. The primary components of this new group are the Real Irish Republican Army, and the Republican Action Against Drugs vigilante movement. There are also several smaller Republican groups involved in the merger, but many of them are unnamed or are not noteworthy. They are to merge under the constitution of the IRA, and believe unity will promote greater cooperation and increase their strength. While the premise of a renewed IRA is excellent at grabbing attention in newspaper headlines, what capabilities and support will this new group actually have?

This merger could potentially result in a new force of several hundred members, but that does not necessarily equate to great strength or capability. In fact, police say the threat posed by Republican groups has not changed since the announcement. This implies that the prospect of a united front for Republican dissidents has not been successful as a ‘call to arms’ for the new IRA. Security journalist Brian Rowan said that the relationship between these groups is not particularly steady, and that calls for unity and cooperation can quickly be replaced by fragmentation and disagreement. Beyond that Rowan said that the new group will lack the support to run a terrorist campaign. This does not mean that the groups are not dangerous, but rather that they lack the capacity to conduct large scale attacks.

Historically both of these groups have had a propensity for violence, but their attacks have been small in scale. The Republican Action Against Drugs group has murdered one man and shot more than forty others, as well as threatened to shoot dozens of others unless they moved out of town since 2008. These attacks were primarily aimed at alleged drug dealers and head shops, but in June they claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) has repeatedly threatened to attack police officers and soldiers, but has not been very effective in recent years.  Some of the people involved in the smaller groups are believed to be responsible for the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr in 2011. In January of 2008 Michael Campbell, a member of the RIRA, was apprehended during a weapons buying sting operation by MI5 in Lithuania. This shows that the RIRA was trying to procure weapons, presumably for an attack, but does not indicate the degree to which they have been successful doing so.

It takes more than weapons to run a successful terrorist campaign. Support is an important element of any terrorist campaign, and can often make the difference between a group achieving its political ends or meeting its demise. Both the RIRA and the Republican Action Against Drugs group lack widespread support. Opportunity Youth, an organization in Northern Ireland that provides drug and alcohol support to young people, has criticized the Republican Action Against Drugs group and urged them to bring an end to their violence. They believe that violent punishment will not help solve drug issues, and that those who are dependent on drugs need to be helped through supportive methods. The Real Irish Republican Army has also been the target of much criticism as a result of killing three young children in an attack aimed at police forces in 2010. Additionally, both unionist and nationalist politicians have publicly expressed their opposition to the founding of a new violent group.

Ultimately the new incarnation of the Irish Republican Army will have the capability to conduct small scale operations, and likely pose a threat to the security services and police officers, they will not be able to conduct the kind of maintained intense campaigns the IRA has historically be known for. More than anything this announcement seems to be a cry for attention, a group trying to grab a few headlines for their cause at a time when concern over the threat of terrorism is already elevated due to the Olympic Games in London.

Anti-Terror Raids & The Continuing Threat From Terrorism

The threat from terrorism over the Olympics and Paralympics is more from violent Irish dissidents than from violent Islamist radicals.

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July 2005 terrorism London memorial

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is nearly seven years to the day since Mohammad Sidique Khan, Hasib Hussain, Germaine Lindsay and Shehzad Tanweer killed themselves and 52 others on London’s transport system.

The attacks, 3 of which occurred on London’s tube system, one on a bus in Russell Square, served to remind Britain that she had deployed her army to combat violent extremism, a violent extremism that was capable of striking the heart of the London. But the all the more dangerous and fearful aspect of the attacks was that the bombers were British: they were homegrown terrorists.

The revelation that five men and a women suspected of terrorism were arrested a few hours ago, some of whom were British nationals, serves as a reminder that we are shortly about to enter into a stage of increased threat from political violence.

This starts with the anniversary of the 7th July 2005 bombings in two days time: The terrorist penchant for commemorating anniversaries of previous strikes and deaths of senior members (recall the FBI notice warning of possible attacks on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death) is well documented.

Whilst the Security Service (MI5) – responsible for setting the threat level from terrorism related to Northern Ireland and Great Britain – and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) – for the threat from international terrorism – have not acted to change the UK’s current threat level, it does remain at substantial, indicating their belief that an attack is a strong possibility.

The BBC have quoted police as saying that the arrests are not linked to the Olympics or Paralympics, and whilst there is no suggestion of there being an imminent attack, the police did choose to act now on public safety grounds. The scaremonger in me wishes to ask whether this was a set of arrests to prevent a commemorative attack?

Moving on from the 7th July bombings, it is clear that the Olympics will be high on the hit list of al-Qaeda’s finest – if you were them, wouldn’t you want to strike it? – but it is worth noting the chatter among those in the know on the subject.

A well-connected source recently informed me that the threat from Islamist terrorism over the Olympics is most definitely present, but the security services are far more concerned with the threat from Irish republican terrorism. He went so far to say as he expects an attack from Irish republicans. So, in short, if you are a member of the English Defence League, perhaps a better target to vent your anger at your lackluster life would be the Irish?

Europol’s TE-SAT: Disappointing Analysis On Terrorism

In the 21st century decision makers are confronted with an increasingly complex environment and subsequently the demands on institutions such as Europol have grown exponentially: the body must keep up.

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[dropcap]E[/dropcap]uropol publishes an annual report (TE-SAT: EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report) on terrorism activity in Europe which has shown that since 2007 there has been a continued decline of terrorist activity in the continent. The 2012 report however suffers from flaws: Firstly, the definition of the Andreas Breivik attack as explicitly not right wing and secondly, the questionable outlook and trends that it provides. This piece will briefly look at both of these aspects in turn.

Breivik

The report fails to identify the Breivik attack for what it was: a right wing attack. Separating it from other incidents, such as recent right wing attacks in Germany, creates the illusion of continued low levels of right wing violence in line with historical attitudes of governments in Europe that have tended to underestimate this issue. The report is also inconsistent: In its key judgments the report states that right wing extremism has reached new levels in Europe and should not be underestimated. It is assessed to most likely come from lone actors or underground groups making an implicit link to Breivik. This is, however, surprising because when ignoring Breivik, right wing terrorism is only responsible for a single attack in the EU in 2011. When later discussing the case it is explicitly said that Breivik ‘established his own ideology from various influences and without clear affiliation, presenting himself as a “cultural conservative”’. The formulation here is puzzling as well: “His ideology is assessed as opposing multiculturalism and more specifically Islamism”. It can be assumed that Europol does not believe Islamism to be a form of multiculturalism, but this might be another indication for the somewhat disorientated approach that Europol has taken to this specific case. In addition we can be quite sure that for Breivik a difference between Islam and Islamism does not exist; he opposes Islam per se, making him an enemy of a part of society based on its religious believes. Signifying that he is indeed right-wing.

The contradiction here is obvious; When it comes to the political spectrum: “cultural conservatism” can easily be fitted on the right side of the scale. In addition the use of “conservatism” in this context is a stark euphemism. Taking up weapons with the will to smite the perceived “traitor” is clearly outside the realm of classical “conservatism”.

Even worse: the notion that Breivik has constructed his ideology without connection to a wider ideological movement ignores the obvious facts to the contrary. His manifesto is a copy & paste work. It is not an original piece of work, but incooperates the work of Islamophobes “cultural conservatists” from all over Europe. Europol ignores recent developments on the right side of the political spectrum and the fact that Breivik is embedded in a much larger movement.

Trends and outlook

The trends and outlooks that conclude the report concentrate almost exclusively on Jihadist oriented threats despite that fact that Europe has seen only one such attack in 2011 (the shooting of two US airmen in Frankfurt, Germany). Other than that the report registers 110 separatist motivated plots that either failed, were foiled or were completed, and 37 leftwing oriented. Even when it comes to arrests separatist terrorism still beats religious oriented. A possible bias is also showing itself when discussing the Olympics. Despite fears by experts that Irish republican dissident groups might use the event for attacks, the only variant discussed is al-Qaida inspired terrorism.

To improve future reports in this regard is crucial especially when Europol states that: “The TE-SAT aims to provide law enforcement officials, policymakers and the general public with facts and figures regarding terrorism in the EU, while also seeking to identify trends in the development of this phenomenon”. If this report is supposed to inform decision makers than it will have to improve its assessments. In the 21st century decision makers are confronted with an increasingly complex environment and subsequently the demands on institutions such as Europol have grown exponentially: the body must keep up.

An Introduction To Terrorist Organisational Structures

An introduction to conventional hierarchy, cells, networks and leaderless resistance.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is generally considered that there are four forms of structure employed by terrorist groups: conventional hierarchy, cellular, network & leaderless resistance. The decision to employ one of these formats is grounded in the security/efficiency trade-off of each; conventional hierarchy providing the most efficient and least secure, leaderless resistance the opposite: highest security, least efficiency. It is worth stating in advance that certain terrorist groups prohibit us from placing them into just one category; the term ‘fuzzy boundaries’ is used to describe those organisations that transgress the stated demarcations. For example, Hezbollah utilize a conventional hierarchy in Lebanon whilst maintaining networks in the West. It is the purpose of this piece to briefly explain these structures and provide some examples of how they have been implemented by various groups (N.B. the security/efficiency numerals presented after each variant are purely indicative).

Conventional Hierarchy (Security: 1, Efficiency: 4)

Audrey Cronin has argued that all terrorist groups would, in an ideal world, utilize the conventional hierarchical structure, thus attempting to cross the border into full-blown insurgency. Such a structure equates to the mimicking of the hierarchy employed by modern-day military forces: the pyramid shape is populated at the bottom by footsoldiers (privates), managed by their officer (corporals) and so on until the top of the pyramid and the high command (generals).

Employing such a structure provides an organisation with the greatest efficiency (this format aids the specialization of units in, for example, intelligence, recruitment, finance and support), ease of information transfer, and allows it to enforce a coherent long-term strategy. With regard to ideology-based organisations, it aids ideological unity among its members – an important issue given the need to maintain such unity within these groups. The weaknesses of this structure have been ably discussed by Beam (an American white nationalist), albeit with reference to the subversion of the American State. Beam argues that such a system is extremely dangerous when utilized against a state, especially in this era of electronic surveillance: should the state infiltrate or otherwise compromise the organisation at the higher echelons of command, the whole entity is compromised. Similarly, should the high command be killed or captured, there is a very real possibility of the group disintegrating. Thus, a more subversive organisational construct is of greater use for a terrorist group that seeks to remain in existence in the face of the “War on Terror”. The early Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) provide good examples of the use of this structure.

Cellular (Security: 2, Efficiency: 3)

The cell structure incorporates a network within a hierarchy. Each cell (generally comprising three to ten individuals) possesses one member (‘X’) – usually the leader – who maintains contact with the organisation’s high command. Often only one element of the command will have contact with X, and X will generally have no knowledge of other cells, or other members of the high command. Should X be compromised, the information that she is able to provide is distinctly limited: whilst her cell will likely be rendered inoperable, she is unable to provide details of other cells, nor is she able to provide details of the high command other than the commander that she has dealt with. Similarly, if a member of X’s cell is compromised, the only information they can provide is that of their cell and X.

Whilst the high command is removed from contact with their footsoldiers, this structure suffers from the same problem with that of the conventional hierarchy: should the high command be compromised the entire organisation could topple. Beam writes that “the efficient and effective operation of a cell system … [is] dependent upon central direction, which means impressive organization, funding from the top, and outside support”. The central command must maintain their hold on each individual cell in order to maintain strategic unity and thus remove the possibility that cells will act alone, thus potentially damaging the organisation as a whole (for example, say that a renegade AQ cell was responsible for 9/11. The United States would likely still have responded with an attack against the entire AQ infrastructure, even if the attack had not been initiated by the high command).

Network (Security: 3, Efficiency: 2)

An organisational network structure comprises numerous nodes/cells connected/interconnected in differing ways. Variations of such a network, each with different levels of security & efficiency, can include:

1) Chain
A linear trail: A – B – C – D – E. For a message to get from A to E it must pass through B, C & D.

2) Hub
One node acts as the hub for all other nodes: A is connected to B, C, D & E. B through to E have no connection with each other. Should B wish to send a message to E, it must go through A. This does not equate to A being the lead cell, simply the hub cell.

3) Star
The same as for the hub network, but each cell has contact with its two neighbouring cells in addition to A (the central node). So, aside from A, B would connect with E & C; C with B & D; D with C & E, and; E with D & B.

4) All-Channel
Each node is connected to every other: A is connected to B, C, D & E; B to A, C, D, E; C to A, B, D, E; etc.

Such structures result in the decentralisation of decision-making, permitting initiative from each cell and thus making it impossible to topple the organisation in one go. As Arquilla, Ronfeldt & Zanini explain, such an organisational structure can appear to be acephalous (headless) & polycephalous (multi-headed) at the same time. The points of the network with greater connectedness indicate their importance (so, for example, if a hub network was in position as per the example above, targeting A would provide for the greatest effect on operational capability).

Network structures, whilst benefiting from far greater security than conventional hierarchy/cell structures, suffer from low efficiency given the difficulties in getting a message out to all members of the network, with clear implications for organisational unity and strategic coherence. This, however, does not detract from the danger that such a structure poses.

Leaderless Resistance (Security: 4, Efficiency: 1)

The last structure that this piece will analyse is the most secure and the least efficient. An Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) recruitment video describes it perfectly: “Remember, the ELF and each cell within it are anonymous not only to one another but to the general public”. In the truest form of leaderless resistance there is no contact between cells and/or the central command. However, given the spread of the internet and the ease of international communication, such a finite requisite has been watered down (see Pantucci’s lone wolf classifications).

Such a structure (or, more appropriately, a lack of) poses the greatest difficulties to counter-terrorist agencies given the minimal connection between the organisation (or the propagandist of the ideology), and the actor committing the terrorist act (the subscriber to the ideology). As with networks, this form of structure is incalculably aided by developments in information technology (the transformation of terrorism from ‘old’ to ‘new’, see Neumann).

Such a structure is highly secure; it is almost impossible to know which viewers of a website have been radicalised and whether they would ever come to commit an act. But the lack of control over such actors can be incredibly damaging. Should an act be committed by a member of an ideological network in the name of a specified group, resultantly negatively affecting said group’s public support, the group cannot disassociate itself from the act, regardless of its lack of participation in, or support for, the act. Further, given that the organisation propagating the ideology has no control over its ideological movement, such a movement may well disintegrate owing to a lack of developments: these sleeper cells may never wake from their slumber.

An example of leaderless resistance actor would be Roshonara Choudhry.

[toggle title=”Sources & Related Texts”]

Arquilla, J. & Ronfeldt, D. (2001), Networks and Netwars

Beam, L. (1983), Leaderless Resistance

Cronin, A. (2006), How al-Qaida Ends

Hoffman, B. (2006), Inside Terrorism

Neumann, P. (2009), Old and New Terrorism

Pantucci, R. (2011), A Typology of Lone Wolves: Preliminary Analysis of Lone Islamist Terrorists

Sageman, M. (2004), Understanding Terror Networks
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Negotiating With Terrorists

Under what conditions should governments negotiate with terrorists?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}

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‘You’ve got to be strong, not weak. The only way to deal with these people is to bring them to justice. You can’t talk to them. You can’t negotiate with them.’

George W. Bush[1]

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eorge Bush articulated the above statement as part of a response to a press conference question concerning Al-Qaeda in 2003. He had clearly summed up his administration’s position on the subject in question – that negotiating with terrorists is a sign of weakness and should thus be avoided, even suggesting that merely talking to them was out of the question. His rhetoric remained consistent throughout his presidency regardless of the actor in question; if they could be successfully labelled ‘terrorist’ then dialogue was instantly deemed unacceptable and counter-productive. For instance, in 2008 he made an address to the Israeli Knesset mocking negotiations with ‘terrorists and radicals’ as half-baked attempts to ‘persuade them that they have been wrong all along.’[2] It is easy to be swept away by the conviction of these words, yet the administration’s actions did not always reflect Bush’s uncompromising language. In Iraq for example, the U.S. military was authorised to negotiate extensively with insurgents who were known to use terrorist tactics against coalition troops and civilians.[3] This essay will examine how and why the conditions arise for negotiations with terrorists and will conclude by suggesting best practices.

Peter Neumann has identified ‘a number conditions [which] must be met in order for talks to even have a chance of success’ – these can be simplified as three questions: who, when and how.[4] ‘Who’ refers to the nature of specific terrorist groups i.e. a government needs to assess ideology, propensity to violence and internal cohesion before committing to a course of action. The IRA made suitable negotiating partners for the British Government because their leaders realised that violence had limited utility and were capable of controlling the rank and file of the organisation. ‘When’ refers to the timing of negotiations in terms of strategic juncture, perhaps when the terrorists have recently suffered an tactical or operational setback, or are otherwise ‘questioning the utility of violence’[5]. ‘How’ refers to the actual format of the negotiations – ideally a ‘broad, multiparty process [which] exposes the terrorists to democratic practices.’[6] In Northern Ireland this was achieved through encouraging the participation of Sinn Féin in the democratic process.

Particularly contentious is Neumann’s assertion that ‘…a government should begin formal negotiations only after the terrorist group has declared a permanent cessation of violence’[7] which is directly contradicted by Jonathan Powell’s declaration that ‘it is always an error to set a precondition to a negotiation.’[8] There is a long, well documented history of deceitful or capricious behaviour by non-state ‘terrorist’ negotiators and the setting of preconditions is intended to provide assurances (mainly) to the government. However, the very act of securing these assurances, such as agreeing upon mechanisms for implementing and monitoring a ceasefire, can derail the whole process. The Government of Colombia has repeatedly experienced these frustrations with FARC.[9]

Neumann does not consider the conditions imposed by the nature of the state actor. It is important, for instance, to contemplate the effects of the counter-terrorism model adopted by the state in question.  In broad terms there are two ways for states to deal with the threat posed by those sub-state actors labelled ‘terrorists’. One might be forgiven for deducing from the above statement alone that George Bush advocates the criminal justice model, which was internationally prevalent until he dramatically declared ‘war on terror’ in an address to congress nine days after the 9/11 attacks. The war model sees terrorism as an act of war (as opposed to a criminal act), leverages military rather than law enforcement assets to provide a maximum force response and proactively searches for terrorists wherever they seek sanctuary (as opposed to the reactive, minimum force employed by the criminal justice model).

The problem with the war model is its high economic and human cost. Currently U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan number 6,399[10], spending on the ‘9/11 wars’ is in excess of $1.3 trillion[11] and consequently the U.S. is growing weary of its open-ended commitment to ‘war on terror’. Hence, in direct contradiction of the above statement the U.S. sought after a negotiated settlement with terrorists in Iraq and similarly the search is now well underway for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and Haqqani network.[12] This turn of events should not have been unexpected. Indeed ‘since the 1990s the majority of armed conflicts have been ended through dialogue, negotiation and compromise’[13]. The war model thus makes negotiations more likely, given the difficulty of developing a plausible theory of victory for Afghanistan or the war on terror more generally. Additionally, terrorists are arguably raised to the international plane (alongside nation-states) by the very act of declaring war on them. This puts the state at a relative disadvantage, hence the war model should only be used where a rapid military victory is realistic and sustainable, a notable recent example of which is the Sri Lankan campaign against the Tamil Tigers 2006-2009.

Bush’s rhetoric therefore seems increasingly nonsensical. However, there is one possible explanation: secret negotiations. Browne and Dickson have examined the secret negotiation policies of other world leaders who have made hard-nosed declarations which condemn terrorists and apparently forgo the possibility of negotiations. In 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel reneged on an earlier assertion that his government would never negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). In 1999 José Aznar of Spain entered into peace talks with Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) despite his stated policy of no negotiation being ‘one of his party’s strongest weapons’.[14] Browne and Dickson go on to offer the plausible explanation that this behaviour is actually designed to reduce the state’s bargaining power, thus encouraging terrorists to come to the table. This is because engaging in secret negotiations while publicly decrying them increases the potential ‘audience cost’ for the state – i.e. ‘a leader who denounces a counterpart, but then negotiates with him anyway, and then fails to achieve an agreement may pay a particularly harsh price for appearing irresolute, incompetent, or both.’[15] Despite this risk, secret negotiations are preferable to public negotiations because they avoid conferring the same degree of legitimacy.

Avoiding the legitimisation of terrorism is a key aim of the criminal justice model. In contrast to the war model, terrorists are treated like regular criminals and denied any political recognition. However, this can also backfire, as was demonstrated by the hunger strikes of Bobby Sands and other IRA prisoners in 1981. The Government policy of avoiding public negotiations and offering only limited concessions behind the scenes (which were rejected) led to the death of ten prisoners and ultimately ‘growing polarisation between the two communities in Northern Ireland. In this context, the level of violence within the province climbed once more…’[16]

In summary, favourable conditions for negotiations exist when the government can easily activate existing, reliable channels of communication to negotiate secretly with a coherent and dominant terrorist leadership who have reached a strategic juncture in their campaign. Where possible, the government should use a criminal justice model over a war model, but should be open to the possibility of limited political concessions. Of course, these conditions are rare. However, they are more likely to manifest if dialogue is maintained. As Jonathan Powell puts it: ‘…we had to keep things moving forward like a bicycle…If we ever let the bicycle fall over, we would create a vacuum and that vacuum would be filled with violence.’[17] It therefore follows that to impose preconditions and risk stifling negotiations before they begin is bad practice: ‘It is best to leave the issue of weapons to the end of a peace process.’[18] At the time of writing, the government of Nigeria is struggling to open negotiations with the violent Islamic sect known as Boko Haram (BH). This has been a failure until now, but stands an increasing chance of success as the Nigerian government moves away from the war model towards the criminal justice model and attempts to open channels of communication without preconditions. However, the fractionalisation of BH and its lack of coherence, plus the absence of any apparent ‘strategic juncture’ do not bode well for the immediate future.

 

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[1] George W. Bush quoted in Harmonie Toros: ‘We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists!’: Legitimacy and Complexity in Terrorist Conflicts, in Security Dialogue 39:407 (SAGE, 2008) p.407

[2] George W. Bush: Address to the Knesset, (15/05/08) available online: http://bit.ly/FR0QkY

[3] See Michael Rubin & Suzanne Gershowitz: Political Strategies to Counterterrorism, (12/07/06) available online: http://bit.ly/aLA8oG

[4] Peter Neumann: Negotiating with Terrorists, in Foreign Affairs 86:1 (CFR, 2007) p.128-138

[5] Ibid. p.132

[6] Ibid. p.135

[7] Ibid. p.133

[8] Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008) p.317

[9] Camilo González Posso: Negotiations with the FARC 1982-2002, in ACCORD: An International Review of Peace Initiatives, (Conciliation Resources in association with CINEP, 2004) p.46-51

[10] Coalition Casualty Count: http://icasualties.org/

[11] Amy Belasco: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, (CRS, 2011) available online: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

[12] Jill Dougherty: U.S. met with Haqqani terrorists this summer, (CNN, 21/10/11) available online: http://bit.ly/nyFrUa

[13] Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bart Schuurman: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011) p.677

[14] Giles Tremlett quoted in Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) p.398

[15] Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) p.381

[16] John Bew, Martin Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co. 2009) p.92-93

[17] Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008) p.5

[18] Ibid. p.317

 

Books:

John Bew, Martin Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co. 2009)

Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008)

 

Research Papers:

Peter Neumann: Negotiating with Terrorists, in Foreign Affairs 86:1 (CFR, 2007)

Harmonie Toros: ‘We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists!’: Legitimacy and Complexity in Terrorist Conflicts, in Security Dialogue 39:407 (SAGE, 2008)

Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bart Schuurman: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011)

Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010)

Camilo González Posso: Negotiations with the FARC 1982-2002, in ACCORD: An International Review of Peace Initiatives, (Conciliation Resources in association with CINEP, 2004)

 

Web Resources:

Amy Belasco: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, (CRS, 2011) available online: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

Jill Dougherty: U.S. met with Haqqani terrorists this summer, (CNN, 21/10/11) available online: http://bit.ly/nyFrUa

George W. Bush: Address to the Knesset, (15/05/08) available online: http://bit.ly/FR0QkY

Michael Rubin & Suzanne Gershowitz: Political Strategies to Counterterrorism, (12/07/06) available online: http://bit.ly/aLA8oG

Coalition Casualty Count: http://icasualties.org/
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Provoking Islamism: The Banning Of The Burqa

Populist political theater parading as a measure to increase social cohesion.

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Last Friday the Dutch cabinet announced plans to move forward with the question of banning the wearing of burqas, along with other clothing such as ski-masks that cover the face, in public. The decision still requires approval by the Dutch Parliament, but if passed the Netherlands would be the third EU nation (France and Belgium already have a ban) to ban the religious garment. The arguments put forth in favor of such bans generally take the tack of public safety and social cohesion. Those opposed usually cite individual rights to religious expression. It seems there is little room for resolution between these two viewpoints and most importantly neither address the threat posed from violent extremism. Banning the wearing of the burqa in public is bad policy, from a national security standpoint, because it provides Islamists with what they perceive as additional evidence backing up their narrative that the West is at war with Islam.

Narrative is crucial to how extremist organisations maintain popular support, recruit, and justify violent action. Events and policies are not viewed in a vacuum, but are instead contextualised as part of a particular narrative. For example, in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, an encounter where a young Catholic is beaten or otherwise abused by British soldiers, despite the specifics of the particular situation, is contextualized as part of a long story of British abuse and exploitation that has gone back centuries. Violent response can then be seen as honorable and in the spirit of fondly remembered revolutionary action. The late IRA operative, Eamon Collins, reflects on this in his memoir, Killing Rage: ‘I felt those heroes of 1916 were like the priests who had died for us at Cromwellian hands. I felt my mother must be right: the struggle for our faith was not yet over.’ Later, when he was university aged, Collins had a run-in with soldiers from the British Parachute Regiment in his neighborhood where he was beaten while in custody. This encounter was not interpreted as an isolated incident but as part of the war against Republicanism and his ethnic identity. This experience is remembered as a key point in his radicalisation.

Back to 2012. For Islamists the banning of the burqa is not an issue of religious freedom, which they do not support. The banning of the burqa may be contextualised to young Muslims like this: ‘The West is killing innocent muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq and they support the Jewish occupation and oppression of your brothers and sisters in Palestine. Now in Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam they are dishonoring our sisters, mothers, and wives.’ For those who have bought into the Islamist narrative this is a powerful symbol of oppression that is not thousands of miles away, but on their doorstep. Ed Husain talks about similar tactics that he used as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir to stir up animosity in Muslim circles in the UK: ‘We had been trained always to link local issues to the global concerns of Muslims.’ These tactics allow extremist organisations to draw connections that miscontextualise local events, they can convince followers that they are living in a front in the the war on Islam.

There are policies that states must enact to ensure that their citizens are secure, many of them controversial. These decisions, from law enforcement and prosecution considerations at home to military and intelligence intervention abroad, should be debated vigorously and publicly on their security benefits and their potential impact on civil liberties. It must also be mentioned that the impact of these policies on the Islamist narrative should not always be a major consideration because it is likely that those who propagate or subscribe to that ideology will approve of very little that Western states do. However, what policy makers can be sure of is that banning a religious garment will do nothing to make theirs states safer and will certainly be made part of the ‘war on Islam’ narrative. The Dutch attempt at a burqa ban is a piece of populist political theater aimed at galvanising supporters against a largely peaceful religious minority within their borders. If the Dutch government wants to fight extremism it should focus on policies that engage moderate Muslims with Dutch society, not policies that agitate and alienate.