By Iran Review
By Ardeshir Zarei Ghanavati
Unprecedented spread of terrorist operations across the world by such Islamist fundamentalist groups as the ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Nusra Front and al-Shabab has turned into a global threat during recent years. The powerful countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as the United States only came to realize this issue after such groups extended the reach of their extremism and recruitment of members to the borders of the Western countries. Presuming that intelligence and security bodies in powerful countries of the world are efficient enough and in control of the situation, the question is why governments and security institutions claiming to be protecting international system have failed up to the present time to suitably manage and control the activities and the influence of such terrorist groups?
Undoubtedly, the presumption that the strengthening of the Islamist terrorist groups has not taken place all of a sudden and they did not simply descend on the Earth overnight, can provide a relative answer to this riddle and shed light on the cause of the close relationship that exists between terrorist fundamentalism, and certain geopolitical goals pursued by world powers. Unfortunately, at some junctures, existence of common interests and political convergence between the two sides has served to justify this apparently paradoxical binary. Absence of clear demarcation between popular uprisings and democracy-seeking movements in such regions as the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and the alternative role played by terrorist groups, enabled them to take advantage of these countries as fertile grounds for their growth. In the meantime, the most strategic mistake made in the field of regional geopolitics, which enabled terrorist groups to take advantage of these countries as breeding grounds, was the support of international power hegemony for violent developments in countries like Libya, Syria and Iraq, which aimed to bring down secular governments that were not in line with international hegemony. Now, untoward consequences of that strategic mistake is currently evident in the form of the existing ugly picture of regional conditions.
Also, there was a wrong understanding among Western states and political institutions according to which terrorist fundamentalism was supposed to remain limited to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. This was, however, the outcome of a historical misunderstanding for which all people in the world and the entire civilizational heritage of humanity must atone. Fundamentalism embodied by terrorist groups and based on specific goals and ideology does not believe in respecting conventional borders and territorial domains and believes in a global mission for itself. Now, the time is ripe for all actors with a claim to fighting terrorism to distinguish between their geopolitical goals and this disastrous phenomenon, initiate an overarching process to bring together all members of the international community around the pivot of a common and humanitarian goal, and make a basic revision in their national, regional and international policies.
The terrorist fundamentalism and spread of violence in international arena has reached such a catastrophic dimensions and created such a high level of threat that a simple monitoring of official documents and reports released by international institutions and intelligence organizations as well as observation of what has been happening on the ground in the past few weeks can clarify the gravity of the situation. Based on the annual report of the US Department of State on global terrorism, the frequency of terrorist attacks increased 32 percent year-on-year in 2014 and the number of casualties resulting from it has risen 81 percent due to a surge of terrorist attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Terrorism knows no borders and suitable grounds for the growth of such groups exist in Islamic countries, especially in Sunni conservative states and in the teachings of Wahhabi school of thought. However, on top of those reasons, the failure of European convergence, institutionalization of racism in the United States, spread of poverty in Africa, and exacerbation of sectarianism and geopolitical instability in the Middle East have been other factors that have given this phenomenon a global reach. There is no doubt about globalization of terrorism and religious fundamentalism in the existing borderless world, which can be proven on the basis of many documents and reasons. Therefore, on the basis of legal procedures and international law, this ominous phenomenon can no longer be delineated qualitatively and quantitatively on the basis of double standards and false divisions in the “political map” of the world.
Under such circumstances and based on the existing models of international law and human rights trends, nobody can continue to consider part of terrorist groups, which are serving secondary goals of global hegemony like overthrowing the Syrian government, as a local factor claiming that such groups are excluded from the general rules of terrorism. Again, on the basis of the same legal norms, to the extent that supporters of such terrorist incidents as the 9/11 terror attacks, bomb attacks at London Tube and Madrid Subway, and attacks against Belgian museum and Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris are considered as supporters of terrorism, to the same extent, the domestic and foreign supporters of ISIS and al-Nusra Front in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt and Lebanon should be incriminated of abetting terrorism. Supporting terrorist fundamentalism and terrorist groups in the borderless world of today under any pretext, and failure of international institutions and system in punishing “supporters” of such groups are both deviations from the genuine fight against terrorism and, therefore, unforgiveable.
Ardeshir Zarei Ghanavati
Expert on International Relations & Foreign Policy