July 7, 2015

Corneliu PIVARIU: Which are the trends in the evolution of global terrorism?

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The Previous publication: Kobane in the Swirl of Geopolitical Interests


The US Department of State organized a special briefing on 19 June 2015 in which it released the annual document entitled “Country Reports on Terrorism 2014”. In its almost 400 pages, the document analyzes more than 70 terrorist organizations assessed by the US, the situation of the terrorist threat in various countries around the world grouped according to continents, the countries supporting terrorism, the danger of using weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) for terrorist purposes etc.

As expected, one of the major threats under consideration is (according to the name used in the document) the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which managed “to occupy territories at an unprecedented level” in Iraq and Syria and which continues to receive an important inflow of foreign fighters.

The analysis indicates that “although al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations split, the weakness or existence of failed states continued to offer a permissive environment for extremist, radicalism and violence, particularly in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Nigeria and Iraq”. The terrorist attacks in Tunisia on 26 Juneclaimed by ISIL, which killed more than 30 foreign tourists and forced other thousands of tourists to immediatelyleave the Tunisian resorts, together with the attack at a mosque in Kuwait stress even more thethreat that this organization represents.

In line with the trend mentioned in the previous year’s report, the terrorist groups are using methods and tactics increasingly aggressive in their attacks. In the case of ISIL, they include the brutal repression of communities controlled by the organization by using methods of extreme violence such as decapitation or crucifixion, with the direct purpose of terrifying the opponents (also see “Considerations” in the “Geostrategic Pulse” issue 181/20.12.2014, p.17 and issue 188/05.04.2015, p.24).

Decapitation is a form of execution that has been gradually abandoned in the world, but few people know that it is included in the legislations of Iran, Qatar and Yemen as legal punishment. Nevertheless, the use of this method has been officially suspended in these countries.

In spite of the international coalition against ISIL and the UN Security Council Resolution 2178 in September 2014, the organization continues to grow. Preventing the flow of terrorists towards and from the conflict zones continues to be a challenge for which the democratic countries have not yet identified a completely efficient response.

The civil war in Syria influenced the evolution of terrorism in 2014. According to the information included in the report mentioned above, the total number of foreign fighters that entered Syria in 2014 was 16,000 people (December 2014) from more than 90 countries. This number is higher than the total number of foreign terrorists that entered Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia in the last 20 years. The vast majority of these people joined ISIL since the organization was able to occupy contiguous territories in the west of Iraq and east of Syria, self-proclaiming the Islamic State (with the capital in Raqqa — Syria).

ISIL proved a particular ability in using the media and online means in order to reach the widest range of people possible, including the Arab Sunni population, recruits, possibly members of the coalition and other English-speaking people around the globe. To this end, they have used the most popular media channels (YouTube, Facebook and Twitter). In 2014, ISIL extended the strategy of messages by presenting an idealized version of life after its rules and the progress in the consolidation of state order institutions promoted by the organization.

According to the statistics (carried out by the University in Maryland) annexed in the report of the US Department of State, the number of terrorist attacks increased with 35 % in 2014 whereas the total number of victims increased with 81 % as compared to 2013, particularly as a consequence of the attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Over 60 % of the terrorist attacks took place in five countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, India and Nigeria and 78 % of the total number of victims originated from five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

We stop here with the presentation of data, underlining that Anthony H. Cordesman, a prominent author and analyst at the Center of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published on 23 June a very interesting critical commentary of the information provided by the Department of State regarding global terrorism in 1982-2014. Regardless of the situation, it is clear that there is no success in the elaboration and implementation of coherent laws and programs preventing extremist violence.