By Mohammed Ayoob, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is author of the upcoming book ‘Will the Middle East Implode?' The views expressed are his own.
Wednesday’s massacre by the security forces in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt has left hundreds dead and perhaps thousands more injured. The old order is lashing out with ferocity against those who dared challenge it. What is worse, a substantial segment of the Egyptian public – mesmerized by the rhetoric of the military brass and its civilian henchmen – consider this a “restoration of democracy” to use John Kerry’s Orwellian term to describe the July 3 military coup.
It is becoming increasingly clear that history is repeating itself as tragedy in Egypt, although with its own peculiar twist. This year reminds me of 1954, when Colonel Nasser, who had led the Egyptian military coup against the then corrupt monarchy in 1952 with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood, turned against his Islamist allies, banned the party, threw its leaders in jail and ultimately executed several of them. The Brotherhood, which had emerged into the open after years of clandestine activity against the monarchy, was forced underground once again.
By Fareed Zakaria
On the broader question of the state of al-Qaeda, there's room for debate. Al-Qaeda Central, the organization based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is battered and broke. But the idea of al-Qaeda remains vibrant in other places–notably places where the government is extremely weak and cannot actually control territory. Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups are not flourishing in hotbeds of Islamic radicalism like Saudi Arabia. They thrive instead in Yemen, Somalia, Mali and northern Nigeria. Some of these groups have real ties to al-Qaeda and share its goals. Others, like the ones in Africa, look like local warlords using the label to burnish their brand.
So what kind of strategy should the U.S. pursue against these small groups in weak states? There are three possible paths. The first would be a full-bore counterinsurgency strategy, the kind that General David Petraeus executed in Iraq and (to a lesser degree) in Afghanistan. But does anyone think that sending thousands of U.S. troops into these countries is a smart idea? Does anyone think keeping more troops in Afghanistan would make terrorists in Mali tremble? As Michael Hayden, CIA director under George W. Bush, has pointed out, there is a delicate balance between doing too little in these countries and doing so much that you exaggerate the importance of local thugs, Americanize local grievances and create a global threat that didn't really exist.
By Soner Cagaptay and Aaron Y. Zelin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Soner Cagaptay is director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of the forthcoming book The Rise of Turkey: The 21st Century’s First Muslim Power. Aaron Zelin is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and founder of Jihadology.net. The views expressed are their own.
In late May, the Turkish government uncovered a plan to use Sarin gas as part of a potential bomb attack in southern Turkey. Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), was allegedly behind the plot, and the subsequent arrests highlighted the increasing trouble jihadi radicals could pose for Ankara. Indeed, the longer Turkey turns a blind eye to jihadi rebels crossing its territory into Syria, the more likely there will be blowback.
The reality is that providing jihadists access to a neighboring country can result in unintended consequences as radicals ultimately bite the hand that feeds them, something Pakistan should have learned over Afghanistan, and Bashar al-Assad has discovered as Syria-backed al Qaeda elements from Iraqi territory have turned against the regime in Damascus.
True, Turkey has neither the vulnerabilities of Syria, nor Pakistan – the country is a democracy and a majority middle class society, so does not have the social and economic problems so often conducive to jihadist radicalization. Nor does Turkey have a homegrown jihadist tradition. A foreigner orchestrated the 2003 Istanbul bombings that targeted the British consulate, the headquarters of a Turkish bank and two synagogues, and few Turks have since demonstrated a taste for jihad.
By Anthony Dworkin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Anthony Dworkin is a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
Relations between the United States and Europe hit a low point following revelations that Washington was spying on European Union buildings and harvesting foreign email messages.
Behind the scenes, though, it is not data protection and surveillance that produces the most complications for the transatlantic intelligence relationship, but rather America's use of armed drones to kill terrorist suspects away from the battlefield. Incidents such as the recent killing of at least 17 people in Pakistan are therefore only likely to heighten European unease.
In public, European governments have displayed a curiously passive approach to American drone strikes, even as their number has escalated under Barack Obama’s presidency. Many Europeans believe that the majority of these strikes are unlawful, but their governments have maintained an uneasy silence on the issue. This is partly because of the uncomfortable fact that information provided by European intelligence services may have been used to identify some targets. It is also because of a reluctance to accuse a close ally of having violated international law. And it is partly because European countries have not worked out exactly what they think about the use of drones and how far they agree within the European Union on the question. Now, however, Europe’s muted stance on drone strikes looks likely to change.
By Ahmad Majidyar, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ahmad Majidyar is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on South Asia and the Middle East. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
The opening of a Taliban office in Qatar prompted fresh optimism over the prospect of a political settlement being reached that could end the 12-year conflict in Afghanistan. The U.S. and Afghan governments hoped that the insurgent group would agree to renounce violence, cut ties with al Qaeda and accept the Afghan constitution. The Taliban, however, clearly had a different agenda, using the occasion as a publicity stunt to present itself as an alternative government and gain international credibility. And its approach sent shockwaves across Afghanistan.
At the inauguration ceremony in Doha, Taliban representatives reportedly played their official anthem, hoisted their white flag and placed an “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” nameplate outside their embassy-like building. Feeling betrayed by the U.S. and Qatari governments, Afghan President Hamid Karzai almost immediately announced he was boycotting the talks and suspended planned negotiations with Washington over a bilateral security agreement that lays out the legal framework for post-2014 American military presence in Afghanistan. Since then, the peace talks have been placed on hold.
As a result, despite Secretary of State John Kerry’s conciliatory phone conversations with President Karzai, and Presidents Obama and Karzai on Tuesday “reaffirming” their support for talks with the Taliban, any negotiations are unlikely to produce something tangible.
By Matthew Levitt, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew Levitt directs the Stein program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is the author of the forthcoming book Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. The views expressed are his own.
The Group of Eight is holding its annual summit in Northern Ireland under the presidency of the United Kingdom. While the summit is slated to focus on trade, tax, transparency issues and of course Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron staked out several months ago a particular focus on counterterrorism for the G8 under the U.K. presidency. But with Hezbollah plotting attacks targeting civilians around the world from Europe to Asia, and in light of its military support for the brutal al-Assad regime in Syria, London should press for a G8 condemnation of Hezbollah at the meeting.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, Cameron stated that among Britain’s top priorities for the G8 agenda this year was tackling the threat of extremism and terrorist violence. “I’ll put my cards on the table,” Cameron said in Davos. “I believe we are in the midst of a long struggle against murderous terrorists and a poisonous ideology that supports them.”
By Mieke Eoyang and Christopher Preble, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mieke Eoyang is the director of the National Security Program at Third Way. Christopher Preble is the vice president for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. The views expressed are their own.
In his speech on counterterrorism last month, President Barack Obama said something both profound and overdue – the war underway since 2001 should end, not just factually but also legally. Outlining his views, the president said he wanted to “refine, and ultimately repeal,” the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the main legislative vehicle governing U.S. counterterrorism operations around the world. He also pledged not to sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.
But to make that goal a concrete reality, the president should have called for legislation repealing the administration’s authority for war – sunsetting the AUMF, which provides the legal authorization for our troops in Afghanistan, once combat operations there conclude at the end of 2014. Future counterterrorism operations can rely on the plentiful authorities the executive branch already has, including some that have been added since 9/11. And if this president – or any other in the future – needs greater war powers to deal with a threat, they can return to Congress and ask for specific, limited authorities tailored to address the future challenge.
By Izza Leghtas, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Izza Leghtas is a Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. You can follow her @IzzaLeghtas. The views expressed are her own.
When I heard the news about the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on May 22, my first reaction was horror. My second was dread. Sadly, my fears that anger would be targeted at Muslim communities across the U.K. have been confirmed.
Over 200 incidents against Muslims and mosques have been recorded since the murder, the most serious one an arson attack on Grimsby Islamic Centre in Lincolnshire, while people were inside. (Thankfully, initial reports suggest that police forces across the U.K. have responded well, including with preventive deployment of officers).
Rigby’s gruesome killing is rightly being treated as a crime. The alleged attackers, Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, have been charged with murder. They should be prosecuted fairly. But the murder is inevitably also being treated as a terrorist incident, triggering an almost equally inevitable political response.
By Christopher R. W. Dietrich, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Christopher R. W. Dietrich is assistant professor of the History of U.S. Foreign Relations at Fordham University. The views expressed are his own.
The awkward balance that President Barack Obama tried to strike between morality, law, and national security with Thursday’s drone speech reveals the major flaw in our era’s opaque “war on terror.” More and more, the ends do not justify the means. Indeed, the evidence from today and from history confirms that drone attacks in particular forfeit rather than protect national security.
Obama and supporters of targeted killings argue that drone strikes have benefits. Their unique capabilities have allowed the United States to annihilate the governance of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, they say. The drone program has also limited the operational capacity of al Qaeda members in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Somalia.
Yet while Obama described drone strikes in the same breath as “a necessary evil,” defining unmanned aerial violence as indispensable to U.S. national security is wrongheaded. As Micah Zenko’s special report for the Council on Foreign Relations on reforming drone policy notes, the drawbacks actually outweigh the benefits.
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By Fareed Zakaria
The sheer barbarism of the attack on a British soldier in Woolwich is really beyond comprehension – the alleged murderers are said to have hacked the victim to death, waited for the police to arrive, and seemed to encourage people to videotape their brutality.
And yet, we have to search for some way to think about what appears to be our future.
Terrorism used to be about something big and dramatic. But perhaps because groups like al Qaeda are on the run, their people hunted, their money tracked, their hideouts bombed, Woolwich and Boston have become the new faces of terror – a few people, disturbed or fanatical, radicalized by things they have read or watched, decide to commit evil.
By Michael O’Hanlon, Special to CNN
Michael O’Hanlon is senior fellow at Brookings and author of The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity. The views expressed are his own.
President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism speech Thursday did not deliver any radical policy changes or huge revelations, but it was well done nonetheless. It explained his reasoning behind the use of certain techniques of warfare including drone strikes and Guantanamo detentions, even as he also promised to minimize the use of these methods in the future and try to move towards a world in which the 2001 authorization for war against al Qaeda and affiliates would no longer be needed. It was an intelligent blend of the tone of his more idealistic speeches, such as the Cairo address of June 2009, with his more muscular messages like the December 2009 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
But one section of his speech is worth particular focus – the use of armed unmanned combat vehicles or drones. Even though President Obama did not specify exactly how drone strikes would change in the future, and did not provide a great deal of new information about them, the modest amount of detail he did provide was welcome. That is because U.S. drone strikes are badly misunderstood around the world, a point underscored by a New York Times op-ed today contained the following statements:
“...the C.I.A. has no idea who is actually being killed in most of the strikes. Despite this acknowledgment, the drone program in Pakistan still continues without any Congressional oversight or accountability.”