Term Paper: International Terrorism

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International Terrorism

Terrorism is now considered to be the largest threat facing the international system and the security framework around the world. Its transnational nature and the unconventional means used have transformed the phenomenon into an indisputable challenge for the national security strategies. In this context there are various types of terrorism which differ in the aims and scope of the issues targeted. Therefore, the differences existing between groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, or the PKK only come to prove the complexity of the terrorist phenomenon which has come to influence from the conduct of everyday life up to the highest levels of decision making.

Hamas is one of the most representative and well-known terrorist groups fighting for the Palestinian cause. It was established in 1987 in order to address the world the issue of a Palestinian state in present day Gaza and the occupied territories (Pina, 2006, 1-2). Their activities also include, aside from the Gaza strip, the regions of Judea and Samaria. The means used to deliver their messages have been, from the beginning, violent and have therefore been labeled a terrorist group.

Another major role in the Middle East volatile security system is played by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization established in 1982 in Lebanon (Westcott, 2002). Sharing a certain similarity with the Hamas movement, Hezbollah as well targets the Israeli interests and its civilian population. However, unlike the Palestinian-based group, its main goal was determining the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territory in Lebanon. This has been achieved in May 2000 when "Israel's battered and bruised army was forced to end its two-decade occupation of the south" (Westcott, 2002) Presently, the leaders of the group have publicly affirmed their commitment to the Palestinian cause as a means of ultimately ending the Israeli presence in the Middle East.

The Islamic Jihad group can be considered as an important piece in the puzzle that is the terrorist environment in the Middle East. Unlike Hezbollah, the PIJ has some essential common points with Hamas; however, the span of its activities is inferior to the more influential role of Hamas. Still, the Islamic Jihad and Hamas share the same ultimate goal which is the establishment of a Palestinian state and the elimination of Israel as a national state in the region (Donovan, 2002). The major difference between the two Palestinian groups is the size of the organization and the number of its members. Nonetheless, the Islamic Jihad is seen to be gaining an increasing support from states such as Syria or Iran. Such financial aid also attract a growing number of members, especially from universities and mosques from around the world (Donovan, 2002)

There are certain resemblances and similarities between these three main terrorist groups activating in the Middle East. On the one hand, all of them are completely opposed to the presence of the Israeli state. However, Hamas, as part of the 2006 elected Parliament of the Palestinian authority, has been summoned to recognize and accept the existence of the Jewish state, as well as to eliminate terrorist acts as a means of acting against the interests of the Israeli state and its citizens (Pina, 2006).

Yet another common element between the three groups is given by their relatively lack of interest in targeting American citizens and the U.S.'s interest in this part of the world. The three groups are considered to be strictly related to the Middle East area in terms of goals and political aims. However, the international and transnational nature of the terrorist phenomenon which is manifested at this level through the constant sponsorship of terrorist activities by states such as Iran, Syria, and even Egypt cannot compound the range of the terrorist activities to a single region. Therefore, in various suicide attacks, there have been U.S. civilians killed, one example being "In 1983, (when) militants who went on to join Hezbollah ranks carried out a suicide bombing attack that killed 241 U.S. marines in Beirut." (Westcott, 2002) Even so, officially, they cannot be considered a threat to the direct interests of the American state, as their targets rarely involve U.S. civilians and citizens.

Despite an explicit connection between the U.S. And these terrorist groups, the threats imposed by them address the entire security stability in the region and indirectly affect the American state. From this point-of-view, opening a negotiation path as a means of dialogue cannot be completely ruled out. Indeed, there is the traditional policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists, but, under such circumstances in which terrorist groups play an ever growing role in the security equation, dialogue even with extremist groups must be taken into consideration by political leaders.

Another issue that constitutes a major problem and eventually threat for the security situation in the Middle East and neighboring countries is the Kurdish population, which represents almost 20% of Turkey's population (Federation of American Scientists, 2007). However, the fact that the Kurds are also spread in countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria is what makes the issue to have an even greater importance.

The PKK, or the Kurdistan Working Party was established in 1978 adopting a nationalistic stand on the issue of an eventual Kurdistan; traditional for such an extremist group, the PKK made use of violent means in order to capture the attention of the world concerning the Kurdish problem. However, the result was the labeling of the organization as a terrorist group, taking into account the fact that their attacks "caused the deaths of over 30,000 people, including Kurdish civilians, members of the security forces, and terrorists" (Cerrah, 2006).

There are different perspectives for analysis of the Kurdish situation depending on the point-of-view taken into account. From a Kurdish one, the opinion justifies the need for a national state, taking into account the fact that they consider themselves oppressed in Turkey as a minority with little if no political rights, and a scarce economic situation. From the perspective of the other actors involved, Iran, Iraq and Syria, an eventual Kurdish state would automatically imply an attack on the territorial integrity of their countries. Thus, a Kurdish state would be unacceptable.

It is rather hard to have an objective opinion on the matter, especially considering the sensitive issue of nationalism. However, from a personal point-of-view, the establishment of a Kurdish state would generate an immense regional tsunami because it would mean reshaping national borders, and thus a challenge to the sovereignty of some of the most nationalistic states in the Arab world. A possible compromise, which should be reached by all the parties involved and not imposed to one or more of them, would be a certain type of autonomy for the regions in which the Kurdish population is a majority, without the possibility for future independence. Although in theory it appears as a good solution, in practice, at the moment, there seems to be little room for diplomacy, taking into account the Turkish troops deployed at the Iraqi border.

History has seen various forms of terrorist manifestations. Starting with the Ku Klux Klan in the late 19th century the terrorist phenomenon has known constant evolution and development. In the contemporary world, and especially following the 9/11 attacks, the discussions over the forms of terrorism have been more and more fervent. In this sense, Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network are seen as the most representative figures for what came to be known as "new terrorism" (Morgan, 2004).

The discussions over the rise and evolution of bin Laden have often revolved around controversial historical issues. On the one hand, there are those who consider him a product of the U.S.'s support of the Afghan resistance against the Soviet troops during the late years of the Cold War. On the other hand however, there are also suppositions that place bin Laden in a regional context and consider him to be in fact the embodiment of the opposition felt by Arabic extremists towards the Western world. Nonetheless, the organization formed in 1988 placed as its essential duty the rise against the West and "to rid Muslim countries of what it sees as the profane influence of the West and replace their governments with fundamentalist Islamic regimes." (Al Qaeda, 2005) Therefore it can be said that the activities of this terrorist group and of the organization with its connectors has given terrorism a new global perspective.

The key issues in the discourse of bin Laden and his proponents revolve around the idea of an extremist Islamic revolution which tries to reshape the spheres of influence of states such as the U.S. And Great Britain. Unlike groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Islamic Jihad, whose goals are not universal in their scope, Al Qaeda developed following bin Laden's decision to expand the activities of the "mujahedeen, or holy warriors, in more than fifty countries. Bin Laden wanted these fighters to continue the 'holy war' beyond Afghanistan" (Al Qaeda, 2005) thus he internationalized the actions undertaken and the subsequent attacks.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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