counter-terrorism

An Interview with the Jordanian Ambassador to the UK: Mazen Hamoud talks to DU PolSoc

Following Mr. Hamoud’s address to the Durham Union Society on Tuesday the 7th of June, the Jordanian Ambassador spoke to your journal editor and elaborated on the situation in Jordan and the Middle East. The full transcript, which has been lightly edited for clarity, is available below.

Will Jordan be able to cope with the problems of the Palestinian refugee crisis in the long run? How do you think it will manage the related problems such as increased child marriages?

“I am not aware of any child marriages that have taken place in Jordan, and Palestinians in Jordan have been part of our community for the past few decades and have integrated into our society. Part of the final solution to the Palestinian Israeli problem is the right of return and the right of those people who are in Jordan to be able to go back to their newly established Palestinian state and live there, so this is how we plan things to be done, this is part of the peace process.”

In your opinion, has Pan-Arabism failed? Particularly after Sadat signed the Camp David Accords with Israel.

“Pan-Arabism is still very much alive in terms of the Arab League. All the Arab countries are part of the Arab League, every year there is a summit conference that takes place and brings all the leaders together. There is always hope that there are continued operations between the countries, but what I would like to say on this particular issue is that when talking about Pan Arabism as a union of Arab states, the word ‘union’ can mean many different contexts in many different shapes. Before, we used to talk about the [Arab] Union where every country comes under one banner and one leader. What is more important than that (when it comes to the Arab union), is what we can see happening in the EU and generally in Europe, which is a cooperation between countries. As a result, trade between the countries increases to allow freedom of movement within Arab countries. I think that recent history has shown that this is more important for Pan Arabism, so long as the [Arab] Union becomes more integrated and, cooperates on humanities, arts, culture and economically. This is what is really important and that is what the Arabs are working for.”

Apart from the coalition airstrikes, what else is Jordan doing to counter the influence of Daesh?

“We have one of the most prominent security agencies, I would say, in the world, and a very strong army. With the help of our friends and our allies, we protect our borders from any infiltration coming into the country, which is always under threat. We screen all the Syrian refugees coming into the country, making sure that there are no sleeping cells, but I think the most important thing we have to do and what we are trying to do, as I mentioned in the lecture is focusing on the economy, trying to draw in more investments and job opportunities for Jordanians, because by giving opportunities for people to work you give them a choice and they are less vulnerable to extremist ideology.”

Newspapers such as “The Economist” claim that Jordan is balancing its relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. How does Jordan manage to balance its relationship between two countries that are clearly opposed to each other?

The way that Jordan historically has had a balanced relationship with everyone is that we have an open relationship with all the countries. Of course, Saudi Arabia is our neighbour, historically they are our friends and our brothers, they and the GCC countries and they remain our most important neighbours. I would never compare our relationship with Iran with that of Saudi Arabia or the GCC countries. They are totally at different levels, but I would like just to add on top of this that we have recently asked our Ambassador in Iran to come back to Jordan for consultations and he has not been back to Tehran. We took a very strong stance in retaliation to Iran’s continued interference in the affairs of its neighbouring states, so that’s how we have tackled that issue. We therefore have a balance, but we have to take a stance: we stand with our brethren.”

What is Jordan doing trying to do to become independent from Gulf States? As it is currently quite dependent on them for aid.

“As we said at the beginning, you asked me about Pan Arabism, Pan Arabism is about all of us working together, cooperating in difference places. Economically we are very proud of the support that Saudi Arabia has been giving Jordan. We have recently signed a very important agreement with them that is going to bring a lot of investments into the country, so Saudi Arabia are creating many jobs for Jordanians, as they realise the importance of a stable Jordan. At the same time, the cooperation is that we maintain a very strong and secure country because Jordan lies on the borders of Saudi Arabia, so it is in everybody’s interest that Jordan remains as stable as it has always been.

Josh Moss, Journal Editor of DU PolSoc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Challenging Terrorism After Paris

Chris Marshall explores the changing face of British counter-terrorism after the attacks on Paris. 

On the evening of 13 November 2015, Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis, fell victim to what was undoubtedly one of the worst terrorist attacks of recent times. Appropriately, worldwide tributes flooded global media in tribute to the French capital. However, President Hollande’s sudden decision to launch the biggest airstrike to date of Opération Chammal (France’s bombing campaign against ISIL) was widely considered to have been unnecessarily hurried and to have lacked long-term vision. This week, British politics is likely to produce a related decision on airstrikes. This article aims to determine whether long-term national defence can benefit by following in France’s footsteps.

Lessons from History

 Undoubtedly, the political situation surrounding terrorist activity has undergone key transformations since the events of 11 September 2001. However, one element that has not necessarily altered is politicians’ apparent need to display a hardened exterior through the utilisation of immediate, reactive bombing in the Middle East. In his article entitled The Endless Cycle of Terrorism, Ivan Eland condemns the frequency of such actions. He believes that the so-called disposition behind the “war of civilisations”, initiated after 9/11, has been unfortunately maintained and continues today. As a result, terrorism has simply taken the form of “a heinous Islamist reaction and retaliation to continued Western neo-colonial meddling” in Muslim territory. If Britain, amongst others, can suspend the mind set that future physical intervention in Iraq and Syria is necessary, then incentives to attack Western powers will surely decrease significantly. To showcase some potential evidence that drove the Paris attacks, France recently sent troops to Mali (February 2014) in an attempt to tackle Islamic extremists, who had obtained fighters and weapons from neighbouring Libya.

 

The aggressive mentality that developed from 2001 has led to a string of conflicts, all bearing partially negative consequences and all creating vast power vacuums in the subject nation as postcolonial regimes toppled and were not replaced with planned political strategies for the future. This is something that powers such as Britain should have foreseen and implemented. A case study that demonstrates this point brilliantly is the alternative response to the Mumbai attacks of 2008. In the aftermath of the events, the Indian government did not rush into frenzied war implementation. Instead, they opened up organised investigation and unravelling the plot and execution method first, stating that “patience is the order of the day.” Immediate airstrikes would probably have escalated the situation and drawn India and Pakistan into an insufferable war. Through indirect methods such as confronting the flow of economic resources from Saudi Arabian monarchies and putting pressure on Turkey’s rulers to put aside their domestic concerns, Britain and the West surely have a much greater chance of stemming terrorist development in the future.

 

Through this comparison with past counterterrorism strategy, I do not wish to criticise the proposed British airstrike policies or indeed the new developments in Opération Chammal. However, although emotional rage and immediate action is a perfectly natural and justifiable reaction to the recent events in Paris, it would seem foolish for Britain to implement a prolonged strategy based on this logic for the foreseeable future. Admittedly, and as David Cameron has stated in his foreword to the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, no government can predict the future based on history alone.However, no more than a brief glance at the past 14 years of counter-terrorist strategy reveals that something new needs to begin now. This is not to be found in missiles dangerous raining down upon localities saturated with both civilians and terrorists, even though this may be necessary as a short-term solution.

 Naivety in British Politics?

 This week will probably see a decision over one of the most important British political decisions concerning counter-terrorism we have seen in recent years. Should the decision go ahead to implement airstrikes in order to offset ISIL developments, there is the danger of repeating the mistakes of history. However, there is also great potential for a new, more successful, chapter in counterterrorist strategy. Shreds of evidence for this potential success are scattered throughout the media, such as Boris Johnson and his outlook that “bombing Syria is not the whole solution…but it’s a good start” and his confirmation that this would not be a “knee-jerk” reaction to the events in Paris, but rather a motion representing the sober judgment of the Prime Minister.The Mayor of London has assured the population that this situation is wholly different to that of 2003 because now nobody is thought to seriously doubt the immediate threat posed to British soil. As a result of this apparent change in attitude, politicians are calling for an idealised local form of “boots on the ground”, utilising the power of Presidents Assad and Putin. Such a strategy does not appear particularly promising, however, when Johnson has recently referred to dealing with these leaders as like a “writhing bag of snakes.” Although intentions may seem promising, practicality apparently lacks.

 

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn and his relatively niche collection of labour supporters (with regard to this specific topic) mark a different outlook altogether. Despite the fact that Corbyn claims to be “respectful of differences of opinion within the party” he has made quite clear that “it is the leader who decides”, seemingly set on opposing air strike methodology. Although maybe ethically noble, the idea of inaction in an issue that affects Britain so close to home appears implausible. By laying foundations through immediate, if rash, action, Britain simply slows terrorist activity in an attempt to develop more sophisticated alternative approaches. The House of Lords leader Baroness Stowell of Beeston has summed up this point accurately:

We cannot shed our responsibility here. We are under threat ourselves. We see the IS force as a direct threat to our way of life. How could we possibly hand over responsibility for that to other people?

In addition to conflict directly within the political sphere, the British government is increasingly facing cyber-based challenges. The role of the “hacktivist” group Anonymous claimed to have taken down 3,824 pro-ISIL Twitter accounts within 48 hours of the Paris attacks and were also able to reveal personal details about many online recruiters. If one makes the confident assumption that these figures represent a minimal portion of the total pro-ISIL social media constructs, then the enormity of online propaganda comes clearly into vision. In his extensive work on terrorist strategy and action, Bruce Hoffman has outlined the five key stages of terrorist development; attention, acknowledgement, recognition, authority, governance. The access to global marketing through the internet hands the first two steps in this five-step process to terrorists on a silver platter. The “recognition” element simply requires the capitalisation on this internet marketing process through violent acts, something that is becoming all two common. This technological facilitation of terrorist strategy may well be the dominant element that British policy will need to focus around in future counterterrorism actions.

Although brief, both the errors of the past and potential for the future have been framed within the current tense environment of British politics. Should we bravely stray from historical consistency in order to adapt and challenge the ever-changing, fluid movements of terrorist activity, we could experience like never before against extremism. The events in Paris, although horrific, cannot be simply compared to terrorist attacks ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years ago, and treated as thus. Even though airstrikes may be a necessary first step, they must not be implemented without secure plans for what will happen afterwards. If there is no sufficient follow-up, then we may fall into an unnecessary back-and-forth conflict once more. Having said this, maybe December 2015 will mark a new venture in British counter-terrorist policy, one that might utilise technology rather than weaponry.

By Chris Marshall