The Threat of Islamic Terrorism The Threat of Islamic Terrorism With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s and the cold war over, the international community seemed to be on the threshold of an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. Instead, a new series of problems was created, like ethnic conflicts, weapons proliferation, environmental problems, population growth, drug trafficking, and terrorism. Terrorism, as defined by Title 22 of the United States code, section 2656f(d), is the “pre-meditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence and audience.” Islamic terrorism is a serious problem for the United States because of the threat to national security, the safety of innocent civilians, and the foundations of democratic societies throughout the world. Most of the Islamic world view the West, especially the United States, as the foremost corrupting influence on the Islamic world today. The Hizballah have taken this further by labeling the Unites States as “the Great Satan.”(22) This growing animosity the Islamic nations feel toward the Western world has been continually demonstrated by the increase in international terrorism. However, Muslims do not view their actions as acts of terrorism, but self defense and their religious duty. The Islamic radical movements main success or failure has been their ability to gain legitimacy from the general public or from the greater part of it in each Muslim country.(14) During the past two decades, they have had enormous success with their ability to present themselves to the Arab and Muslim world as the true bearers of Islam.
They appeal to the lower class due to the shared resentment of wealthy westerners while the middle class and intellectuals are drawn toward these radical groups in order to expel imported ideologies and forms of government(*). Radical Islamic organizations have declared a holly war , Jihad, in order to bring the Arab world together and take their place as a world power. In order to accomplish these goals, these Islamic radicals have mainly used terrorism as their main instrument of persuasion. The biggest and most active terrorist organizations are those which are state funded. These organizations act as both an overt and covert way of spreading the sponsor countries ideologies.
The U.S. Secretary of State has designated seven governments as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.(13) These governments support international terrorism either by engaging in terrorist activity themselves or by providing arms, training, safe haven, diplomatic facilities, financial backing, logistic and/or support to terrorists.(13) Iran is one of the most active state sponsors of terrorism, involving themselves in the planning and execution of terrorist acts by its own agents and by surrogates such as the Hizballah. Tehran conducted 13 assassinations in 1997, the majority of which were carried out in northern Iraq against the regime’s main opposition groups. An example occurred in January 1997, when Iranian agents tried to attack the Baghdad headquarters of Mujahedin-e Khalq using a supermortar. Despite sanctions and foreign political pressure, Iran continues to provide support in the form of training, money, and weapons to a variety of terrorist groups, such as Hizballah, HAMAS, and the PIJ.(13) Sudan is another large supporter of terrorist organizations.
The Sudanese Government supports terrorists by providing paramilitary training, indoctrinization, money, travel documents, safe passage, and refuge. They also condone many of the objectionable activities of Iran, such as funneling assistance to terrorist and radical Islamic groups operating in and transiting through Sudan.(13) Since Sudan was placed on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993, the Sudanese Government still harbors members of the most violent international terrorists and radical Islamic groups.(13) The countries of the middle east have found terrorism beneficial for many reasons. First, terrorism is an inexpensive alternative to fighting a war, while still spreading their ideology and advancing their political agenda. However, defending against terrorism is very expensive; the United States spends approximately five billion dollars annually to guard against terrorism.(11) Random terrorist acts cause a great amount of psychological damage to the target area. Even though terrorism kills relatively few people, the random nature by which innocent civilian are killed evokes a deep fear and insecurity upon the population.
This form of terrorism was successfully used to target tourism and the economy of Egypt in 1997. Publicity is another benefit of terrorism. By involving acts which are designed to attract maximum publicity, terrorism can bring the smallest group to the forefront of attention.(22) All this is done while exposing the terrorist to minimal risk when compared to war. By secretly funding terrorist organization, the patron state avoids the possibility of defeat and does not appear to be the aggressor. Modern technology has now made terrorism an efficient, convenient, and general discrete weapon for attacking state interests in the international realm.
Furthermore, terrorism causes fear, unrest and hysteria among civilians of target countries which is the ideal setting to launch propaganda. Through propaganda patron states are able to organize revolts, coups, and even civil war. Throughout history terrorism has only been successful in prolonging conflicts, as in Ireland. However, technology is constantly changing the nature of life-threatening hostilities by delivering more sophisticated devices that cause greater damage. No longer are terrorists restrained to simple car bombs and explosives; now nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are becoming more readily available.
The terrorist attack in Tokyo that injured 5,000 people is an example of this kind of terrorism. The latest threat is the cyber terrorist, who can corrupt a governments computer system, steal money, and/or classified information while never leaving his house. Changing methods and techniques that terrorists employ today make threat of attack worse than ever. First, terrorists operate at an international level, no longer concentrating on a particular region or a country. The dawn of the modern age of terrorism dates back to September 5, 1972, when the Palestinian terrorists attacked the Israeli Olympic team in Munich(*). Following this, there has been a period of hijacking of commercial airlines, which culminated in the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Another new aspect of terrorism is the growing possibility of terrorists making use of weapons of mass destructionnuclear, biological and chemical. Also, the governments have to think seriously about the threat of chemical weapons and biological toxins. Both these types of weapons are easy to manufacture but have horrifying after-effects on the civilian population. The Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995 by Aum Shinrikyo, the apocalyptic Japanese sect, showed that the threat of chemical terrorism is now a reality(*). For many years, it had been thought that weapons of mass destruction did not serve the purpose of terrorists, and it was not mass murder they wanted. But in the modern age of terrorism, one sees a wider use of powerful explosives that attack mostly the civilian population, and availability is the only thing that prevents the use of larger weapons.
This trend towards larger attacks is represented by a 25-year low in international terrorism in 1996, with reported incidents down from a peak of 665 in 1987 to 296 in 1996, there was a drastic rise in the number of casualties (311 people killed and 2,652 wounded)(16). The third aspect of terrorism that is new is cyber terror. It has become very easy to penetrate the telecommunications and computer systems of nations and also private organizations, and enter new computer codes that cause the system to shutdown or which make it accessible only to the intruder. Terrorists use computers, cellular phones, and encryption software to evade detection and they also have sophisticated means of forging passports and valuable documents. Similarly, they could even introduce”morphed” images and messages into a country’s radio and television network, and spread lies that could incite violence.
Technology advancement has made it possible to carry powerful explosive devices in a purse and explode these at the rig …