Tag Archives: terrorism

Should the US Negotiate With ISIS?

The official policy of the United States government has long been that it will not negotiate with terrorists. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has numerous hostages, including a Japanese security contractor and a Jordanian pilot. ISIS has demanded $200 million for the Japanese contractor and wants to exchange the Jordanian pilot for Sajida al-Rishawi, a female jihadi imprisoned for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack.

What do you think? Should the United States broker negotiations with ISIS to secure the release of hostages held by the organization? Or do such negotiations undermine security in the region? Would you support negotiations? Why?

Yemen’s Coup and US Anti-Terror Operations in the Middle East

Houti rebels celebrate advances in Sanaa, Yemen.

Houti rebels celebrate advances in Sanaa, Yemen.

The government of Yemen fell yesterday after Houthi rebels captured the Presidential compound and much of the capital, Sanaa. President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his entire cabinet tendered their resignations and most foreigners and embassy personnel fled the country. Mansour had been a key US ally in anti-terror operations in the region, particularly in operations targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the al Qaeda branch widely recognized as one of the most active in the world. AQAP had claimed responsibility for the attacks against the satirical French journal Charlie Hebdo and had conducted dozens of operations in Yemen.

In a news briefing yesterday, the White House asserted the coup would make no difference in US operations and would continue anti-terror operations in Yemen. The Houti have regularly spoken out against any foreign intervention in Yemen, and US drone strikes in the country have been widely unpopular. The United States suspended drone operation in Yemen in December but remains ready to launch operations using drones and/or special forces to target al Qaeda forces in the region.

What do you think? How will the change in government in Yemen affect US anti-terror operations in the region? Should the United States seek to work with the Houti rebel groups in Yemen? Should it respect the request of the Yemeni government to refrain from intervening in the country? Why?

Terror in Paris vs. Terror in Nigeria

Michelle Obama holds the #BringBackOurGirls message after the April 2014 kidnapping of 273 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. Approximately 230 remain missing.

Michelle Obama holds the #BringBackOurGirls message after the April 2014 kidnapping of 273 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. Approximately 230 remain missing.

While the world’s attention has been focused on the fallout from the Paris terror attacks, Boko Haram, a terrorist organization dedicated to establishing an Islamic state in Nigeria, has intensified its operations in the country. While social media has been dominated by the message #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), referring to the attack against the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo in Paris, much less attention has been paid to the message #JeSuisNigeria.

Meanwhile, new satellite photos suggest that as many as 2,000 people have been killed and more than 3,600 structures in Baga, a town in northern Nigeria, have been destroyed. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of the attacks and ongoing fighting between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram terrorists.

Boko Haram, officially known as the People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad, has been implicated in a series of attacks and kidnappings, including the kidnapping of more than 270 girls from Chibok last April. That kidnapping launched a social media campaign featuring celebrities, politicians and others holding a sign with the message #BringBackOurGirls. In total, as many as 1.5 million people have been displaced as a result of the group’s activities in northern Nigeria, and Boko Haram has recently threatened to expand its operations into Cameroon and other countries in the region.

What do you think?  Why have the activities of Boko Haram generated significantly less international attention than the Paris terror attacks? Do you think that the international community should respond to Boko Haram? If so, how? If not, why not?

The Paris Terror Attacks

FranceShootingDemonstrators took to the streets of Paris this afternoon, less than twelve hours after a terrorist attack on a satirical newspaper resulted in the death of twelve people, mostly journalists and cartoonists working at the paper. Protestors were expressing solidarity with the dead, holding signs that read “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), in honor of the paper, Charlie Hebdo. The paper had been threatened by extremists after publishing several images critical of the prophet Mohammed, a violation of Sharia law. The paper had previously been the target of a firebomb attack in 2011. Paris police are searching for the three terrorists who escaped in a car after the attack.

Some observers are warning that this style of attack is likely to become more common. Local attacks supported by a larger organization have proven much harder to detect that the al Qaeda-style cells that were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

What do you think? Does the attack in Paris signal a rise in the threat posed by terrorists on the global stage? How will the strategies employed by the United States and its allies change to adapt to the new threat?

Targeting Terrorists Through Missile Strikes

The United States on Sunday night launched a strike against Ahmed Mohamed Amey, a chemical weapons export and suspected militant leader with close ties to al Shabab. Amey was hiding out in southern Somalia. The organization he belonged to, Al Shabab, came into the spotlight in last September when several of its members launched an attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Kenya that resulted in 67 deaths. The attack has been widely covered, including by the BBC (though it has received considerably less attention inside the United States than outside it).

What do you think? Is the current US policy of using missile strikes in an effort to kill key leaders of militant and terror groups likely to be effective in disrupting the effectiveness of such groups? Or do the unintended deaths often associated with such strikes weaken the US position and generate support for its opponents, as some critics suggest?

Enforcing Human Rights Through the Courts

A Meeting of the European Court of Human Rights

A Meeting of the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights is hearing a case centering on the extraordinary rendition and alleged torture of two men currently held at the United States’ Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. The case was brought by lawyers for Abu Zubaudah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, both al Qaeda members, against the government of Poland. In it, lawyers for Zabaudah and al-Nashiri allege that they were seized and flown to secret US-administered “black sites” in Poland, where they were subject to waterboarding, mock executions, and other ill treatment. Lawyers allege that all of this took place with the knowledge and consent of the Polish government. Lawyers for the Polish government do not contest the accusations but assert that the Polish government should be allowed to undertake its own investigation before the case is brought to the European Court. A similar suit filed by lawyers for Khaled al-Masri against the government of Macedonia in 2012 was successful, resulting in an order by the European Court that the Macedonian government compensate al-Masri.

The use of the European Court of Human Rights is an interesting twist in the protection of human rights of alleged terrorists. One of the key features of the extraordinary rendition program was that it took place outside the United States, and thus beyond the reach of US courts. Do you think that the European Courts will be able to effectively protect the rights of suspected terror suspects held incognito by the United States in Europe? Why?

Radicalization: Inclusivity, Poverty, and other Factors


Michael Adebowale, one of the suspects in the Woolwich (London) murder.

Michael Adebowale, one of the suspects in the Woolwich (London) murder.

A British soldier was beheaded in an attack by two Muslims on the streets of London earlier this week. The two men who murdered Lee Rigby, a soldier in the British army, who had served in Afghanistan and Cyprus, were described as Nigerian-British who converted to Islam after college. The attacks have sparked concerns about the threat of reprisal attacks against Muslims in England, and raise concerns about a general anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe.

Muslims in Europe were already concerned about laws they perceive as undermining the practice of their faith. While the United Kingdom had historically avoided much of the attention, Muslims in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands had complained of discriminatory laws which they argue impinge on their religious freedoms. A 2004 French law, for example, banned the wearing of the conspicuous display of religious symbols in school, a move which French Muslims claimed was intended to prohibit wearing the burqa or hijab. In 2010, a more expansive law was passed, prohibiting the wearing of face coverings (like the burqa) in public. Belgium and the Netherlands have passed a similar “burqa bans” in public spaces.

Such bans have proven wildly popular among the electorates. Even in countries without such prohibitions—like Sweden and Denmark—public opinion polling regularly finds support for such bans exceeding 60 percent of respondents.

Why is there so much concern over Islamic religious practices in Europe?

Muslims in Europe are a growing and highly visible minority population. Across Europe, approximately 6 percent of the total population is Muslim. Many far-right European political parties have painted immigration—particularly Muslim immigrants—as a threat to the “traditional way of life,” arguing that immigrants pose a threat to national identity. Europe’s current economic instability no doubt contributes as well. And in the United Kingdom, British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan likely also plays a role.

The nature of citizenship in Europe is an important underlying factor. In the United States, citizenship is based on is determined by birthplace. People born in the United States are American citizens, regardless of the citizenship of their parents. In international law, this is referred to as jus soil, the right of the soil. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, about 8 percent of all children born in the United States are born to parents who were not citizens of the United States. Many European countries, by contrast, base citizenship not on birthplace but on the citizenship of the parents. This is referred to as jus sanguinis the right of blood. Children born to German parents, for example, are German citizens regardless of where they were born. People born in Germany to non-German parents, by contrast, do not necessarily receive German citizenship. In the case of Germany, this has created a problem for millions of Turks born to parents who were guestworkers in Germany but who lacked German citizenship.

Some observers note that the differing conceptions of citizenship under such a system can help to radicalize the minority population. Because they are not accepted as “true” citizens, members of such minority populations may become more radicalized and embrace violence as a vehicle for addressing perceived grievances.

Radicalization, of course, is a far more complicated process than can be attributed to citizenship laws. Indeed, Britain is one of the most diverse countries in Europe, and London, its capital, is among the most diverse cities in the world, and Britain has been more accepting of immigrants—and their diverse identities—than has been the case in many other countries.

What do you think? What is the most important factor in explaining the radicalization of minority populations? Does citizenship play a role? Is citizenship and inclusion more important than economic factors? And what do you think will happen in Europe as Islam continues to grow as a minority religion? Take the poll or leave a comment below and let us know what you think.