TCS Daily

Which Anti-Terror Model Do You Like?

By Ariel Cohen - March 26, 2004 12:00 AM

Three anti-terror models emerged over the last week. As world leaders grieve in Madrid over 201 victims of the train bombing, the Pakistanis demonstrate their Keystone Cops qualities, and Israel is taking flak from the Europeans for the targeted killing of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, you be the judge.

The first model is bureaucratic. It has been articulated by Javier Solana, a Spaniard who is European Union foreign policy chief. "Europe is not at war," Solana said. "We must oppose terrorism energetically, but we must not change our way of life. We are democrats who love freedom."

His boss, Romano Prodi, EU Commission president said that the answer to fighting terrorism is, among other things, adopting the EU Constitution more quickly. European heads of state are adopting a declaration of solidarity with Spain and a call to jointly fight terrorism and "root causes of terrorism -- conflicts, poverty, deprivation and frustration."

Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister said that "a hard line security policy does not improve security unless it is complemented by a political strategy." But two and a half years after 9/11 "political strategy" has not prevented the Madrid massacre.

De Villepin's answer to fighting terror is also to speed up the transfer of power from the coalition to the United Nations in Iraq. He apparently believes that terrorism will stop after that.

De Villepin's information about Iraq seems to be deeply flawed. He stated that under Saddam "there was no terrorism in Iraq." However, Baghdad harbored such terrorists and operations as Ansar Al Islam; Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda branch; Mohammad Abbas, the hijacker of Achille Lauro cruise ship and the murderer of the disabled American Leon Klinghoffer; and Abu Nidal, the 1970s super-terrorist. Saddam's payments of $20,000 to each Palestinian murder-suicide bomber's family is certainly terrorism.

The European answer in their "no-war" on terrorism is more bureaucracy: Solana is appointing the Dutchman Gijs de Vries, former State Secretary of the Interior, to become the new EU anti-terrorism coordinator. However, European politicians warned that de Vries will be a "technical man", not like Tom Ridge" and the new structure will not become "an EU CIA."

Creating a Europe-wide security service is vital in view of disappearing borders in the EU, the Madrid bombing, and the Greek pleas that Athens is not ready, security-wise, for this year's Olympics. However, uniting European spooks will be like herding cats.

Otto Schilly, the German Interior Minister and one of the toughest European terror fighters, has warned that historic and operational differences between European security services and intelligence agencies will prevent effective information sharing. Small countries' services are woefully underfunded.

Most importantly, Europe's continuous anti-American rhetoric and anti-Israel stance will impede Europe's effective struggle against financial, political, and ideological sponsors of terrorism. Solana has called Israel's targeted killing of the Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin "extremely terrible," while most European foreign ministers harshly denounced the Israeli operation. This included the Russian Foreign Ministry, which initiated a U.N. condemnation of the Yassin operation, while mopping up after Russian intelligence operatives who have assassinated Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, a Chechen terrorist leader in Qatar.

The second model anti-terror model, Keystone Cops, has emerged in Pakistan, where 7,000 troops have failed to storm an Al Qaeda compound which harbored up to 500 terrorists. President Pervez Musharraf has announced that a high value target, possibly Al Qaeda number two, Aiman Al Zawahiri, has been trapped. Unfortunately, the Pakistanis suffered casualties, got themselves ambushed, and fought to standstill. They are now negotiating with local tribes in hopes to find an honorable way out.

The Pakistani army, prodded by the US, failed to bring to bear an overwhelming artillery, armor and air power to finish Al Qaeda off. There was a great intelligence failure. Pakistan's ISI -- the spy agency originally with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda -- supposedly did not know that the besieged compound had a mile-long escape tunnel. It is also possible that Al Qaeda sympathizers inside Pakistani military and intelligence service intentionally sabotaged the operation -- and their president's orders.

The third model was demonstrated by Israelis in Gaza. Hamas leader, Sheikh Yassin and his retinue, were killed by three helicopter launched missiles in a four minute window it takes to walk from a mosque to the Sheikh's home. Yassin, on the U.S. global top terrorist list, founded Hamas as a militant offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist organization which aims to destroy Israel and moderate Arab regimes.

Such an operation takes months of meticulous intelligence preparation and coordination between high tech assets, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and Israeli Air Force helicopters. This operation was akin to elimination of a senior Al Qaeda operative responsible for USS Cole attack in Yemen by an American Predator UAV.

Sheikh Yassin was one of the Middle East's biggest mass murderers of Jews and Arabs, sending Palestinian boys as young as 12 for suicide bomber training, and sanctioning mothers to become human bombs. He was responsible for death of hundreds and life-long maiming of thousands of Israeli women, children and elderly. He set up brainwashing factories in mosques and schools to legitimize and enable murder of Jews whom he called "sons of monkeys and pigs," in preparation to total destruction of Israel. Glorifying him as a "spiritual leader" is like glorifying Dr. Joseph Goebbels as a "spiritual leader" of the Third Reich.

While not perfect, robust anti-terror operations like targeted killings will remain among the most effective tools in a policymaker's arsenal when diplomacy and deterrence fail. These operations need supporting measures: interrupting terror financing, police coordination, and most importantly, the "war of ideas" -- the battle for hearts and minds of Muslims.

In the absence of effective nation-states able to control global radical Islamist terrorist networks, from Madrid to Gaza to the North Western Province in Pakistan, targeted killings are legitimate acts of national self-defense.


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