Monday, May 24, 2004

The Worst is Yet To Come

May. 11, 2004 21:26



Global terrorism is on the rise and is likely to continue unabated for the next 100 years, according to Prof. Yonah Alexander, one of the world's leading analysts on the subject.

Alexander, director of the Inter-Universities Center for Terrorism Studies, also believes it is only a matter of time before groups like al-Qaida use non-coventional weapons as part of attempts to promulgate their ideology and undermine western society.

In this respect, he anticipates that al-Qaida's next theater of operations will be Europe, where the organization has established a widespread base and network.

"If you ask me whether the worst is yet to come, the answer is definitely yes," Alexander told The Jerusalem Post prior to giving a lecture as guest speaker at the University of Haifa's National Security Studies Center.

"We can expect to see an escalation in terrorism on a global scale with a continuation of conventional acts of terror, such as suicide bombings and shooting, as well as mega-terror like September 11 in the US and March 11 in Spain.

"There will also be a move towards the use of non-conventional weapons: biological, chemical, nuclear as in dirty bombs, and cyber-terrorism, whereby perpetrators will try to disrupt power supplies and air traffic, for example, at the touch of a button."

Alexander, who is based in the US and Israel, has studied the subject of terrorism in the Middle East and the global arena for over 40 years and has published over 100 books on the issue. The center he heads is a consortium of universities and think-tanks in some 30 countries.

He said there had already been indications of future trends by terrorist organizations such as the anthrax attacks in the US after September 11, 2001, reports that al-Qaida was trying to produce ricin and, in Israel, the abortive attempt to blow up the Pi Glilot fuel and gas storage depot.

"According to the studies we have conducted, we can expect a continuation of bus bombings like the ones that have occurred in Israel, as well as attempts to strike at chemical plants and infrastructure targets and super-terrorism with non-conventional weapons," said Alexander.

The supposition that international terrorism will expand and escalate is based, according to Alexander, on factors such as the spread of radical theological ideology, racial intolerance, ethnic and religious differences and, especially in Africa, tribal rivalries, as well as extremist nationalism and separatism.

Furthermore, he cited the numerous disputes and conflicts throughout the world, such as those in Chechnya, Kashmir, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and South America, as well as the gap between developed nations and poorer countries.

"Other important factors include the intensification of the link between terrorism and organized crime, and the education of hatred, including anti-Semitism, that we see all the time on various Internet sites," said Alexander.

"The problem here is that children are being brought up to hate and they will pass this on to their children and so forth, which is why we don't see an end to terrorism in the next 100 years.

"Should we be concerned about the future? Yes, we should, because of the motivation of terrorists, their ideologies, the availability of funds, the proliferation of conventional and non-conventional weapons, the intrinsic vulnerability of democratic societies and the high cost of trying to counter terror.

"What concerns many is the expansion of international networks as seen after the Madrid bombings, when links were discovered between Spanish citizens and people in North Africa, Asia, and with various other groups like Hamas.

"It would be a grave mistake, however, to say that Islam is generating this terror. In fact, Islam has been hijacked and taken hostage by extremists who are using it to serve their own interests."
Alexander, in his lecture, posed the questions of whether nations should submit to terrorism and whether civilization would survive in the event of the use of non-conventional weapons.

In the first case, he maintained that submission only serves to encourage terrorists and their leaders and boost their motivation, while survival would depend on nations taking all necessary steps to reduce the risks, including international intelligence cooperation.

"Dealing with terrorism requires a broad range of responses, starting with clear and coherent policies. It is necessary to have quality intelligence, as well as law enforcement, the military, and the means to counter technological and cyber-terrorism," said Alexander.

"We also need an educational response because the children of today will be the terrorists of tomorrow. Unless we can defuse the extremist ideological and theological elements and their propaganda, the measures won't work.

"We have to deal with the root causes and try to improve economic and social conditions – a sort of global Marshall plan – but first it is necessary to deal with the terror leadership.

"To this end some innocent civilians might be harmed but, make no mistake, this is war and to fight it nations have to pool their resources. No nation can deal with the problem unilaterally.
"In the past, terrorism was regarded as a tactical rather than a strategic threat but it has become a permanent fixture and a challenge to the strategic interests of nations.

"In fact," said Alexander, "it represents the most threatening challenge to civilization in the 21st century. The question of survival will depend to a great extent on how civilized society tackles this threat."

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