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Category: Terrorism

Trump, Clouds and Silver Linings

Written by Wyn Rees.

Watchers of transatlantic security relations are despondent. President Trump appears to want to undo 70 years of US-European cooperation that has kept the two sides of the Atlantic working together. It is as if the new incumbent in the Oval Office is taking a wrecking ball to the foundations of the trans-Atlantic relationship, instead of just plumping the cushions in the penthouse. Yet this assessment exaggerates the significance of ‘Trumpism’ as manifested during his first month in office. It is timely to note that the ideas of Trump are far from new and that his policies are likely to suffer considerable constraints. This article looks at three salient issues.

Guy Fawkes night: celebrating the most famous act of counter-terrorism in history

Written by Louise Kettle.

With the terrorism threat level remaining at “severe” (meaning an attack is highly likely), and the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, warning that “there will be terrorist attacks” in Britain, there is a climate of continuous public concern.

And yet this November 5, like every other, the British skyline will be filled with explosions and the public will look on in delight. The story behind this annual celebration can become muddled, but it’s worth remembering that Guy Fawkes night marks the most famous counter-terrorism mission in history. Counter-terrorism is going on around us at all time – we just aren’t usually allowed to know about it.

A year after Charlie Hebdo, France is still searching for answers

Written by Emile Chabal.

France has had a tumultuous time in the year since two brothers opened fire in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 11, before going on to murder another five people in Paris. Just ten months later, the November 13 attacks showed that the threat of terrorism had not receded.

And just weeks after the second major attack, the far-right’s onward march in regional elections suggested that a significant proportion of the electorate had sought refuge in a language of fear and revenge after everything they had seen in 2015.

These growing anxieties were reflected at the highest level of the political system.

Why Islamic State targeted Paris, and why it’s changing tack

Written by Cindy May.

The Islamic State (IS) attacks on Paris represent a major shift in the group’s strategy. The response has already been spectacular; increased military action is underway, as is a manhunt for attackers and accomplices still on the loose.

In the flurry of activity, it’s easy to forget that these attacks did not come out of nowhere. It pays to ask why IS attacked Paris specifically, why it did so now – and why it has suddenly adopted a new approach.

As IS’s statement of responsibility indicated, France was probably chosen as its first Western target because of the government’s active involvement in the anti-IS coalition, its intervention against Islamists in Mali, the state’s strong secularism – which prohibits public displays of religion including the hijab – and the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, both by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the newspaper Liberation, which republished the notorious Danish cartoons of 2007.

Paris attacks: how effective has the military response been?

Written by Scott Lucas.

Even as Parisians were trying to assess the scale of the attacks by Islamic State (IS) which killed 132 people on November 13, politicians were promising a decisive and effective military response.

French President Francois Hollande assured, “We will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group. Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron responded, “Your values are our values, your pain is our pain, your fight is our fight and together we will defeat these terrorists.”

US President Barack Obama – who had said only on November 12 that “we have contained” IS in Iraq and Syria – asserted that “those who think that they can terrorise the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong”.

Paris: the war with ISIS enters a new stage

Written by Simon Reich.

When in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January, I wrote a column suggesting that we all had to demonstrate a new toughness.

At that time, I thought the scale of ISIS’ attacks on Western targets was contained by its avowed doctrine of territorial legitimacy. I assumed any attacks in the West would be carried out by lone wolves or with one or two partners.

I was wrong.

Ever since it first declared a caliphate, ISIS’ leadership consistently expressed the intent of fighting a more or less conventional war in a well-defined piece of territory spreading across Iraq and Syria.

Remember, remember…it’s about counter-terrorism

Written by Louise Kettle.

Every year, on 5th November, the British celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Local communities hold bonfires, place a “Guy” effigy on top and set off a spectacular array of fireworks. But what is all about?

The tradition dates back to a Parliamentary Act passed in 1606 (the Observance of 5th November 1605 Act) which called for an annual celebration and thanksgiving. The event was introduced to commemorate the successful thwarting of a terrorist attack against King James I of England and IV of Scotland – perhaps the most famous counter-terrorist operation in British history.

The year before, on 5th November 1605, a group of English Catholics had attempted to assassinate the King by blowing up the House of Lords at the state opening of Parliament. The objective was to remove King James, a Protestant, from the throne in order that he would be succeeded by his daughter Princess Elizabeth, a Catholic.

Fighting Dirty: Assessing the Threat of ISIS Engaging in Radiological Terrorism

Written by Bryan R. Early.

Russia’s recent military intervention in Syria will intensify the fighting taking place within the country and increase the pressure on ISIS to defend its territories.  Backed into a corner, ISIS may be driven to pursue new tactics that could turn the tide of the conflict back in its favor and create the perception that it is once again on the offensive. One of those tactics could be the use of radiological terrorism.  ISIS has already used mustard gas in attacks against the Kurds and it possesses the organizational capacity, materials, and likely willingness to engage in radiological terrorism if sufficiently incentivized.  As the conflict between Russian-backed Syrian forces and ISIS intensifies, the threat that ISIS might resort to using radiological materials in attacks is a lot higher that previous analyses have suggested.

Forbidden Friends, Delivered to your Enemies: Proscription, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State

Written by Lee Jarvis and Tim Legrand.

The precise point at which Islamic State – or ISIS, or Daesh, or simply IS – emerged as an organisation in its own right presents a complicated yet important question. Although its backstory is frequently traced to 2003 and the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq, the moment at which Islamic State definitively split from its apparent progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, is often less precisely drawn. This is understandable: human institutions and organisations seldom have a single, uncontested, point of origins to which their existence might be traced.

Questions such as these are undoubtedly important to historians and others with an interest in the rise and decline of so-called ‘terrorist’ groups. Indeed, the temporal or historical rhythms of terrorism have become a productive research area within scholarship on terrorism in recent years: witness the pervasiveness of claims around terrorism’s ‘waves’, ‘cycles’ or ‘old’ and ‘new’ manifestations.

These questions also matter, however, in a very real and immediate sense to those tasked with arresting the terrorist threat.

Out of the Hornet’s Nest: Legacies of the War in Afghanistan

By Andrew Mumford

On Sunday 26th October British combat operations in Afghanistan officially ended, as Camp Bastion, the last British military base in the country was handed over to Afghan forces. It was fittingly symbolic that only an American general spoke at the flag-lowering ceremony. No British voice was heard. This 13 year-old war had proven to be one of the most complex and protracted wars in modern British military history. The lack of fanfare at the return of British combat troops is a sign that a convincing ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan cannot be claimed. In many ways, for the British and their American allies, this was always going to be an unwinnable war.