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Ten theses on security in the 21st century

openSecurity has closed as a section of oD—temporarily, it is to be hoped—because its funding has expired. Here, some of the themes emerging from these three fertile years of publishing are distilled. Below are some emblematic pieces—with signals to the series of which they were part. - free thinking for the world
Protecting the state over against the citizen doesn't make anyone feel safer.

Many Davids versus One Goliath

BrightPalestinian-Israeli Peace Initiatives Although constantly faced with sharp restrictions imposed by the Israeli security forces, courageous Palestinian-Israeli peace activists are persisting in their protests against the Wall, sometimes with success. Mona Sarkis reports on the activities of the joint action alliance.

New frontiers: from Iraq to outer space

The United States leadership's unbounded military ambition stems from an absolute need to maintain control.


The war in Iraq continues to bring tragedy to Iraq's people and devastation to many American families. But just as there are minimal signs of any serious rethinking of military strategy in Iraq by the George W Bush administration, so the scale of forward thinking by the United States is revealed by its plans to dominate space.

Iran and the effects of the Bush doctrine of pre-emption

Despite admitting that the international community cannot remain idle while new threats emerge, the doctrine of pre-emption (or anticipatory self-defence) may have counterproductive effects caused by states feeling the next target. by Esther Martin-Ortega

Can democracy be exported?

en.wikipedia.orgMilitary action has rarely succeeded in achieving the United States’s main political aims. Daniele Archibugi examines the precedents and explains why carrots work better than sticks. The two main wars which have opened the third millennium, those in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been justified by the United States and its allies with a mixture of arguments. The first, and perhaps foremost, argument has been self-defence: to eradicate "terrorist" roots in Afghanistan and to destroy alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In addition to this traditional motivation, another has been added: to force a regime change and export democracy. However, is democracy a good that can be exported like bananas? In what conditions is it feasible and legitimate to export democracy?

Lebanon: slices of life

Chach CoatiThe war shook the Lebanese inside out. Now – at rallies and parties, in art and life, with white anger and black humour - they are trying to make sense of it all. Mai Ghoussoub shares her journey into hearts and minds.
Driving with Rida

Iran test fires longer-range missile

Although Iran insists its missile programme is purely meant as a deterrent, the latest test-firing manoeuvres have alarmed the international community since one of the missiles, namely the Iranian-made Shahab-3, is able to reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Gulf. by Esther Martin-Ortega

After failure in Iraq United States is considering two military options in Iraq: keep going, or fortify around key military bases. What will happen if neither works? A frank statement of the seriousness of Britain's predicament in Iraq from the chief-of-staff of the British army, General Richard Dannatt, has precipitated an unusual air of realism that opens up the serious possibility of a British withdrawal. Dannatt's remarks, published in a newspaper interview on 12 October 2006, opened a space of debate into which senior politicians as well as commentators have entered with a mixture of alacrity and relief.

A New War Is Possible in Lebanon

According to Andreas Zumach, Germany and the other countries involved in the UNIFIL mission have to get Israel to stop its violations of Resolution 1701. Otherwise, he says, there is a risk of a return to war.
A few weeks after it began, the deployment of the German navy off the Lebanese coast as part of the United Nations UNIFIL mission has already caused more controversy than the four-year-old deployment of German troops in the far riskier environment of Afghanistan — at least as far as German public opinion is concerned.

خطر اندلاع حرب جديدة في لبنان

يتحتم على ألمانيا والدول الأخرى المشاركة في قوات اليونيفيل الحيلولة دون خرق إسرائيل لقرار مجلس الأمن رقم 1701 وإقدامها على استفزاز حزب الله؛ وإلاّ سوف تتجدّد الاشتباكات من جديد. تعليق أندرياس تسوماخ.

After Iraq

Regardless of the outcome of the US mid-term elections, one thing has become abundantly clear over the past few weeks. Three years into the Iraq experiment, we have finally entered the ‘exit phase’. Even amongst American neo-cons, the question is no longer ‘if’ but ‘when’ and ‘how’. The most astonishing admission of defeat came last weekend from Richard Perle – once known as the Prince of Darkness – who said that, had he been clairvoyant, he wouldn’t have advocated the Iraq war.

Sajjan Gohel on the Heathrow Terror Plot: 'Transnational Terrorism's Obsession with the Aviation Industry'

Interview by Jesse Brown

Sajjan Gohel is currently, Director for International Security for the Asia-Pacific Foundation (APF), which is an independent security and intelligence think-tank based in London. In addition, he has written Op-Ed pieces for the national print media, he is also makes frequent contributions to television and radio. In 2005, Sajjan was asked by the UNHCR to produce an assessment on Lebanon and the security concerns after the killing of prominent Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri. Sajjan has been one of the leading authorities in investigating the profiles and nature of terrorist individuals and trans-national groups throughout the world.

Madrid11: Regarding Thursday’s(10/08/06) terror plot on Heathrow Airport, was there anything particularly different or surprising in your view?

Sajjan Gohel: Yet again with this alleged plot we've seen another obsession by transnational terrorism to target the aviation industry, using planes as weapons and inflicting a mass causality atrocity. With the particular plot itself, it would have been perhaps the most catastrophic since 9/11. We’ve seen that whenever Al-Qaeda is trying to use airplanes as part of a terrorist attack the goal is designed, ultimately, to inflict as many causalities as possible and create a political, social and economic reaction.

It’s interesting that it comes at a time just before we get close to the 5th anniversary of 9/11. There was worry in the intelligence community that terrorists in any part of the world would want to be planning something spectacular that would attract attention. Fortunately, thankfully the authorities were able to act quickly and decisively, spoiling a plot of this scale and size, which, if had worked, would have had devastating, long-lasting consequences and would have seriously curtailed the aviation industry.

Madrid11: You touch on the similarities with 9/11. Why this trend amongst terrorist in targeting airplanes and airline passengers?

Sajjan Gohel: the aviation industry is so essential for today’s world; commerce, business, travel, those wishing to go on holiday. It bridges a very important divide, it brings people together. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have seen that by targeting it, it has an economic impact by creating problems for businesses. It also puts pressure on governments. It means that more security is needed for airports and other transportation hubs. It makes the life of the average individual much more complicated. That’s the thing we have to remember, that even though a plan can be thwarted, like the one we’ve just seen in the United Kingdom, the secondary goal of the terrorists has still actually worked. That goal is to cause disruption, confusion, anger, and resentment.

They always want and try to create psychological reactions and emotions. Their goals are two different guises. One is a psychological reaction and the other is to actually inflict maximum harm. For that reason, you will always see the transportation system throughout the world being attacked. We saw with devastating effect the train system being hit in London, Madrid and most recently in Mumbai. The transpiration system is always a target because it almost serves as a guarantee. If a successful attack takes place, it will create a maximum, mass causality atrocity, and it assures to attract attention. It gives the terrorist notoriety, and they’re able to use it for their own propaganda purposes. So it serves them pretty well because it is effective it is in creating horror, shock, and fear. Therefore, transportation systems will always be under threat in any part of the world.

Madrid11: Do you find any connection between the timing of this terror plot and the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hezbollah?

Sajjan Gohel: Throughout the world there will always be problems, there will always be conflict. What the extremists and terrorists like to do is exploit the situation for their own agenda. They know how to pick on a certain issue and turn it around in order to inflame and insight tension, that’s what they do very well. Of course, whenever there is conflict, particularly in the Middle East, it does provoke a reaction. What the terrorists know how to do is channel that anger and frustration, and direct it toward targeting innocent victims.

We have to bear in mind that those who are actually recruited to take part in a terrorist act, aren’t always motivated by some regional grievance or conflict. They’ve been brought into a terrorist group primarily because they espouse the same ideological influence as people like Osama Bin Laden. The war on terrorism is a war of ideas, of ideology, of concepts. When Osama Bin Laden or his affiliates issue a statement, whether we see it on the internet or on television, it’s there as a message, as a platform, as a source of propaganda to encourage individuals to join different terrorist groups. So an attack may not be planned by Al-Qaeda central, but they are always Al-Qaeda inspired and influenced by the ideology that Osama Bin Laden preaches. And that’s now the most powerful tool that groups like Al-Qaeda have, even though they’ve evolved from being an organization to a movement.

Madrid11: In mentioning ‘ideology’ and ‘regional recruitment,’ there were also several arrests in Pakistan linked with the UK plot. What is it about Pakistan that has made it such a good breeding ground for fundamentalist or radical sentiment?

Sajjan Gohel: Pakistan became the new home for Al-Qaeda after the group fled following operation Enduring Freedom. It basically transferred itself and set up shop there. We know it has remained. Key members of Al-Qaeda have been captured in the major urban heartland of Pakistan. Perhaps most importantly at the moment, Kalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the master planner of 9/11, was captured inside Raul Pindi, which is very close to the capital Islamabad. The problem is that in the past there have been elements in Pakistan that have been very sympathetic to the extremists and terrorists, and those elements have often had ties at a governmental and security level. They still largely exist, which is why the terrorists have found Pakistan a very comfortable sanctuary, where they are able to carry out their agenda. It’s largely believed and assumed that Osama and deputy Zawahiri are based there. Let’s not forget that when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan was the base for the Mujahadeen from all over the Islamic world to go into Afghanistan and that has largely remained. The structures of that, the bases, still exist. So it’s become an extremist hot bed.

Now the fact that a lot of Britons have been connected to Pakistan is primarily because they go there to meet with radicals and terrorists for further indoctrinating and for ideological guidance. They also learn the tools and skills to be able to assemble an explosive device and carry out an explosive attack. It’s very much seen as a finishing school. Furthermore, the extremist schools, the Madrasas that still exist, they haven’t been clamped down upon and that’s still a problem in terms of there being a lot of the terrorist groups that operate there. General Musharraf, who is supposedly a very important ally in the war on terror, hasn’t done enough in clamping down on all these different elements. When you have a military dictator there, these problems usually increase. Whereas when you had a proper democracy in Pakistan there was greater control on the activities of the extremists.

Madrid11: That’s an interesting connection you draw between democracy and dictatorship in terms of controlling terrorism. When you mention that some British people are drawn to Pakistan for indoctrination, and recalling 7/7 and the riots in Paris this year, would you say there is a growing identity crisis that has increased in the last two years amongst British born or European born Muslims?

Sajjan Gohel: If we look at terror recruitment today, Europe has very much altered in the eyes of the terrorist from being a playground where plots and plans were being executed from abroad, to Europe now becoming the battleground where attacks are being orchestrated from within the major cities of the continent. People usually do the plots from that particular country that may have origin in another part of the world. People who are carrying out attacks or are behind plots are individuals who are 2nd or 3rd generation, well educated, and have a good middle class background. They posses the western social skills and the ability to blend into the civilian fabric of society without giving any indication that they are actually harboring their own resentment against their own society and are willing to turn against it. The problem within this has also been the issue of identity. They are somewhat confused about who they are, where they are, and whom they actually belong to. The extremists who give them their own answers, turn them around, cultivate and indoctrinate them into becoming ticking time bombs have exploited that. They are exploited, and turned around against their own society to kill and be killed.

Madrid11: If terrorists exploit that identity crisis, is there any responsibility on the part of European society or governments to resolve that crisis, and do you think it’s possible enough hasn’t been done?

Sajjan Gohel: The war on ‘terrorism,’ as we call it, is really a tactic. Terrorism is a strategy. You can’t necessarily defeat the strategy, but what you can do is try to counter the ideas and propaganda that are being used to espouse extremism and intolerance. It’s absolutely pivotal to defeat the ideology and rhetoric that people like Osama Bin Laden preaches. When Bin Laden issues a statement it involves a lot of rhetoric, a lot of content from the Koran, and what he’s done is misinterpret it for his own warped meaning. There is no one ever countering his arguments and ideas. Many of them are very weak, but unless proper discussions, public debates, actual counter arguments, those ideas will grow, infest into the minds of young impressionable individuals. They will eventually encourage them to become a part of a terrorist group.

Extremists know they can’t always attract everybody, but it’s a wide net. They hope that by throwing across their ideas they can attract a few people and those few people can still carry out an attack. Suddenly, Europe has become a major platform. We saw the attacks in Istanbul back in 2003 that were on the doorstep of the continent, and then we saw Madrid and London attacks, which were in the heart. It’s a problem that all European countries face, the threat of transnational terrorism. Therefore there needs to be a united effort in defeating the concept and ideas that are encouraging their own citizens to become extremists. In The war on terrorism, capturing and arresting people is a very important component, but the other vital component is defeating the ideas and propaganda that is used. Until we do that, terror groups will simply replenish their ranks, and they will never really be dismantled.

Madrid11: What does the deterrence of these attacks mean for British counter- terrorism?

Sajjan Gohel: The British authorities really need to be congratulated for their efforts in curtailing a large number of attacks. They have actively prevented a plot from being executed in the UK. After September 11, as well as after 7th July, they’ve disrupted a number of plots, and they‘ve had to face a lot of unfair criticism. However, they’ve had a very difficult job in assuring the country’s safe and basically preventing a terrorist attack from taking place. The authorities in the UK, as well as those in every country, have to be 100% successful all the time. The terrorists just have to be lucky once and that once can inflict a mass casualty atrocity. So for that reason, it is essential that there is understanding and support for the security force. It’s a very difficult job, and they don’t deliberately make life difficult for people. What they try to do is save lives.

What we’re seeing is greater cooperation taking place between countries. For example, the US and the UK have cooperated very closely since 9/11, sharing information and resources on potential individuals that could be connected to terrorist plots. When they work together, like we’ve seen with the recent plot that’s been thwarted, it’s a great result, it’s a success, it means lives have been saved.

We’ve also seen that the UK has cooperated with its European partners as well, and that’s very important because each agency has a piece of the puzzle, and it gives them a greater understanding of how wide and large a threat actually is. So, cooperation is essential, it always needs to be improved, and it’s getting to a point now where we can say it’s producing successful results in stopping acts of terrorism.

George Kassimeris on the Heathrow Terror Plot: 'Timing is Everything'

Interview by Jesse Brown

George Kassimeris, a Senior Research Fellow in Conflict and Terrorism at Wolverhampton University, is the editor of The Barbarisation of Warfare just published by Hurst. He specialises in terrorism and political violence. He also writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal Europe and the International Herald Tribune and broadcasts on terrorism and Greek current affairs for the BBC.

Madrid11: Was there anything different or striking about this plot? Should we be surprised in anyway?

Dr. Kassimeris: Apart from the fact that this latest attempt shows that the militant Islamists remain obssessively determined on inflicting catastrophic human casualties, no - I don't think that we should be surprised. The magnitude of the plot and the imagination of the plotters may have come to some as a surprise but with the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks looming into the horizon a maximum symbolic value of an attack was always going to be on the cards.

Madrid11: These plans had been underway for months, but do you see a connection between the timing of the attacks and the crisis in the Middle East between Israel and Lebanon?

Dr. Kassimeris: Timing is everything when it comes to launching a terrorist assault and so is symbolism. There are those who argue that political events can influence a terrorist agenda but they do not define it. However, I personally think that the tragically worsening situation in Lebanon has a lot to do with this thwarted plot. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that the plotters decided on bringing the entire operation forward because of Lebanon.

Madrid11: What mistakes, if any, do you think have been made in Western-Middle East relations recently?

Dr. Kassimeris: It is less a question of mistakes and more of a question of deliberately missed opportunities coming back to haunt us. Let's take the latest, in a long series of mistakes, made in West-Middle Eastern relations - the situation in Lebanon.

For almost a month now Israel has besieged and ravaged Lebanon, creating in the process a humanitarian disaster by destroying the country's economy and expensively restored infrastructure. Israel has a problem, Hizbullah, which I can understand. But, I wonder, is inflicting massive casualties on all Lebanese, killing indiscriminately more than 1100 Lebanese civillians - many of them children - the way to resolve or deepen the Arab-Israeli conflict? Shouldn't the United Nations, together with the US and Britain, have exercised their power and leverage to push early on for an unconditional and comprehensive ceasefire, and an exchange of prisoners on both sides? It’s allies should never have allowed Israel to 'turn the clock back on Lebanon for 20 years', for it has achieved the same for West-Middle Eastern relations.

Madrid11: You’ve recently published a book, the Barbarization of Warfare. How, if at all, would you say this relates to terrorism?

Dr. Kassimeris: In the bleak environment of early twenty-first century, when war, terrorism and torture are quickly becoming addictive media spectacles, it is more necessary than ever to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the brutality currently displayed by human beings and taking place not only on the battlefield. This new book, I'm proud to say, is the first collaborative effort where world-class scholars such as Niall Ferguson, Joanna Bourke and Richard Overy among others to explore the effects of the barbarisation of warfare on our cultures and societies.

Madrid11: With several arrests in Pakistan, linked to the case, what are some of the more intricate reasons that the country has become a breeding ground for Jihadist/anti-western sentiment?

Dr. Kassimeris: Pakistan is seen by some US and UK intelligence officials as rapidly becoming a centre of international, jihadist militant terrorism. They point out that the majority of the plotters arrested are primarily of Pakistani origin who have visited the country on several occassions. The Pakistani government is a key ally of Britain and the US in the war against the 'Islamic fascists' - to use President Bush's phraseology - which it does not go down well with the general population and especially with imams in madrassas.

Madrid11: The NY Times mentions ‘disaffected British born Muslims.’ Reflecting on 7/7 and the Paris riots, do you see a significant identity problem growing within European born Muslims, and why has it reached such serious heights in the last two years?

Dr. Kassimeris: I don't think there is much connection between the British born Muslims behind the 7/7 attacks and the youngsters who devastated in rage Parisian suburbs earlier this year. In France, the problem stems from long-festering societal alienation and failed integration the part of the Arab Muslim and non-Muslim I hasten to add community. The young Parisians, on the other hand, when they do come out of their claustrophobic banlieues, they burn cars and fight the police for days on end because they feel that their life is going nowhere, there is no way out and want to make their anger known. That's all there is to it.

To answer this question we need to see what the facts on the ground are. And the facts of the ground are that a number (thankfully not significant enough yet) of young British born Muslims have chosen to channel their anger via religious-driven political violence. The fact that they are prepared to commit suicide in order to advance their positions does not suggest to me an existential identity crisis but a zero-sum game mentality.

From Ulrike Meihof and Renato Curcio to Timothy McVeigh and the Madrid bombers, the history of modern terrorism is full of groups and individuals with such mentality who, in their attempts to right real or imagined wrongs, resort to intransigent political terrorism combined with a fanatical determination to engage in a life-or-death confrontation with the 'enemy'. I think we should place the 7/7 bombers and the Heathrow plotters in that category, if they ever end up being prosecuted.

Shiite "Arc of Crisis" in the Middle East?

Middle East and Islam expert Arnold Hottinger describes how, in the recent past, Shia influence in the Middle East has been fuelled by the Iraq and Lebanon armed conflicts From a global perspective, between 10 and 15 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are Shiites. But in the Islamic heartland – the countries from Lebanon to Pakistan – there are almost as many Shiites as Sunnis. And the globally strategic zone of oil deposits at the head of the Gulf is home to about 80 percent Shiites and only 20 percent Sunnis.

A War against Islamic Fascism?

Following the thwarted attempt to blow up ten airliners over the Atlantic, President George W. Bush declared that the world was at war with ‘Islamic fascism’. It was the first time the President publicly described the challenge in these terms. No doubt, the phrase is catchy, but does it actually make sense? The concept itself is not new. In the widest sense, it draws on Francis Fukuyama’s idea that liberal democracies are under siege, and that, consequently, they need to be strong in defending freedom against the temptations and vicious attacks by totalitarianism and its various ideological manifestations. First Nazism, then Communism, now, it seems, Islamofascism.

Is Pakistan Doing Enough?

Following the thwarted attempt to blow up ten passenger planes over the Atlantic, Pakistan yet again emerged as the place where the terrorist plot has been conceived. Though Pakistan is an American ally in the ‘war on terror’, some believe that the Pakistani government under General Musharraf isn’t doing nearly enough to clamp down on extremist activities. What’s your view?

Two prominent voices lead the debate, but you should have a say too! To post a comment, go straight to the end of the page...

The Two Sides of Musharraf
Sajjan Gohel

Sajjan Gohel

Pakistan has become the new home for Al-Qaeda. In the past there have been elements in Pakistan that have been sympathetic to the extremists, often with ties to the government and the security services. Those ties still exist, which is why Pakistan represents a comfortable sanctuary. A significant number of Britons have been connected to Pakistan, because it is there that they can meet with radicals for further training and ideological guidance. Contrary to Musharraf’s claims, the extremist schools 'the Madrasas' haven’t been clamped down upon at all. The Taliban are still functioning and are able to launch deadly raids in Afghanistan. Furthermore, democracy in Pakistan has been severely diluted, in which the radicals seem to have benefited. Musharraf portrays himself as an ally in the war on terror, but he hasn’t done nearly enough because some of his power depends on these extremist elements.

Sajjan Gohel is Director for International Security at the Asia-Pacific Foundation in London, and has participated in various high-level working groups.
Problem Goes Much Deeper
George Kassimeris

George Kassimeris

Western officials believe Pakistan is rapidly becoming an international plotting centre for jihadist terrorism. The Pakistani government is a key ally of Britain and the US in what President Bush calls the 'war against Islamic fascists'- This doesn't go down well with the Pakistani population and especially the Imams in madrassas, which are dubbed by many in Western counter-terrorism circles as 'terrorist nurseries'. The Musharraf government takes every opportunity to point out that it has been dealing effectively with the madrassa issue. That said, closing down madrassas involved with Islamist militancy won't eradicate the problem for it goes much deeper. Pakistan is littered with all types of camps and training grounds, and the irony is that many of them were set up in mid to late 1980s in order to train fighters for jihad in Afghanistan.

George Kassimeris is Senior Research Fellow in Conflict and Terrorism at Wolverhampton University, and the editor of the recently published The Barbarisation of Warfare (Hurst, 2006)

Tolerance Cannot Be Based on Fear

Integrating Islam in Europe tiereckeIn order to successfully integrate Muslims, European societies have to demand that they embrace the principle of religious freedom. However, this also entails a strict separation of church and state in Europe, writes Paul Scheffer.

عصيان مدني ومبادرات قانوني

(Bright “حركة التضامن الدولي" و"فوضويون ضد الجدار" منظمتان تضمان ناشطين فلسطينيين وإسرائيليين وأجانب يقاومون بشتى الوسائل السلمية من أجل الحد من مصادرة الأراضي الفلسطينية ووقف بناء الجدار. تقرير بقلم منى سركيس.

‘If you call someone bad long enough they will become bad’’s Esther Martin-Ortega talks to Dr Reefat Drabu of the Muslim Council of Britain about the veil, Jack Straw’s remarks, and what Muslim women contribute to British society. What is your view of the remarks recently made by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said he would prefer women not wear the face veil?

"The Children of Jihad"

The Roots of Modern Radical Islam In their new publication, Souad Mekhennet, Claudia Sautter and Michael Hanfeld examine the development of modern radical Islam among adolescents and "teenage" Islamists in Europe and the Arab-Islamic World. Jürgen Endres has read the book. With its many areas of focus, the book is a combination of several different approaches: an analysis of extremist Islamic organization, a micro-sociological sketch of the lives of increasingly radical Islamists, an investigation of prevailing conspiracy theories, and an examination of how Islamists interpret conditions and events in the Middle East.

الفضائيات العربية جزء من المعركة!

البث شبه المتواصل للحرب في لبنان وعرض صور القتلى والجرحى أثارا مناقشة في أوساط صحفيين وباحثيين كثيرين عن مدى توافق ذلك مع مواثيق الشرف الصحفية. حوار أجرته قنطرة مع نخلة الحاج، خالد الحروب وأكثم سليمان.