Country Reports on Terrorism
Analytical Response to Country Reports on Terrorism 2013
Middle East and North Africa
Notwithstanding the fact that the US has been making vehement efforts to curb terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa region, it still remains a veritable hive of terrorist activity and other extremism. Fragile political and security climate, which serves as an ideal breeding ground for terrorist organizations, has become the new test of anti-terrorist virility of the Washington government. Indeed, the previous year has shown that fighting terrorism in this region is hedged about with a lot of difficulties. For example, harsh security environment resulting from the poorly guarded borders and untrammeled access of extremists to loose weapons in Lybia has turned the country into a minefield of terrorist hazards (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014a). Nevertheless, the necessity to convince local authorities to take anti-terrorist measures in lockstep with their American counterparts was foremost among the challenges that the US security agencies faced in 2013. Thus, the protracted state of political ferment in Syria combined with the chronic permissiveness of the Assad regime made this country the hotbed for the ferocious terrorist elements. Similarly, the information garnered by the American intelligence agencies shows that the Syrian authorities have entered collusion with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which continues to provide both logistical and operational assistance to the Syrian Army in its barbarous clampdown against the countrys peaceful populace. Moreover, many terrorist organizations, including the hydra-headed al-Qaeda, which has recently changed its name in Iraq to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), use Syria as a springboard for spreading their illegal activities onto the adjacent countries (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014b). Indeed, myriad terrorist acts took place with the connivance of the ruthless Syrian regime because the latter either refused to cordon off the routes leading up to the limitrophe states or abetted these terrorist groups altogether. However, in case of Iraq, the national security forces have taken appropriate steps to smoke terrorist groups out of their lairs. Yet, despite the fact that local extremists had been pummeled in a string of defeats, they continued to compromise Iraqi security in 2013. The situation is very similar on the Arabian Peninsula, where al-Qaeda targets government installations as well as security and intelligence officials. Yemen has surged ahead of the rest of the Arabian Peninsula in terms of supporting US counterterrorism missions in the area. Meanwhile, antiterrorist efforts in other regional states lie dormant. Despite the cautious rapprochement with the US, Iran, another Middle East country, continues to sponsor terrorism through its Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).
Last year, the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in the Saharan Africa, relied on the tried-and-true tactics of kidnapping foreigners for ransom. In January 2013, the members of this organization executed 39 foreign hostages, including three Americans (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014a). The news plunged the US into a febrile, agitated state and showed that the country is not close to decapitating al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The author of the report was fain to acknowledge that the recent Arab Awakening has left a power vacuum in the area, which resulted in the mushrooming of Islamic militia groups, such as Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia. The latter has been hunting down secular politicians, thereby ending up on the list of terrorist organizations. The US Department of State hails arduous efforts of the fledgling Egyptian government to counter smuggling activity of Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups along the Gaza-Sinai border region (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014a).
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Iran and Syria as States-Sponsors of Terrorism
According to the generally accepted definition, a state sponsor of terrorism is a state wherein the government provides tangible support for the acts of international terrorism. Iran was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 and has only been ratcheting up its support for Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, such as the Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as some other militia groups throughout the Arabian Peninsula and Trans-Saharan Africa. The IRGC-QF is the vehicle that enables the Iranian regime to orchestrate and choreograph subversive activities in these regions. In 2013, Iran continued to provide arms, financing, training, and the facilitation of Iraqi Shia fighters to the Assad regimes brutal crackdown that had resulted in the death of more than 100,000 civilians in Syria (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014a). The Iranian authorities have publicly admitted that IRGC-QF fighters are fighting in Syria on the voluntary basis to protect Iranian shrines. However, it is apparent that the Tehran government is camouflaging the real intentions of its fighters-turned-mercenaries. Although there is a truce in place between Israel and Hezbollah, meaning that the latter desists from direct attacks against Israel, Iran continues to fan the fires of anti-Semitism among Hezbollah members. Moreover, at the behest of Iran, thousands of trained Hezbollah fighters went to Syria to support the Assad regime. To the discomfiture of both Iraq and the US, Tehran provides Iraqi Shia militant groups with the wherewithal to undermine the countrys stabilization process. At the outset of 2013, Yemeni authorities seized an Iranian dhow full of sophisticated military hardware bound for Northern Yemen, where Iran props up regional separatist movements (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014a). In general, a whole variety of terrorist groups ranging from al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq to Shia oppositionists in Bahrain prosper on the back of the solid Iranian assistance.
Syria has been on the list of states-sponsors of terrorism even for a longer period of time since 1979. Even though the country is mired in civil war, it continues to render significant political and military assistance in concert with Iran to Hezbollah. Iran is one of the most incandescent supporters of the Assad regime, whilst the latter is definitely the doughtiest champion of inalienable right of Iran to pursue nuclear ambitions. Both nations hated towards the Obama Administration, which is in fact the most aggressively cerebral US administration. As it was mentioned before, the Assad regime encourages terrorists to use Syria as a bridgehead from which to advance attacks on the neighboring territories. Under these circumstances, it is interesting that the regime has attempted to portray Syria itself as a victim of terrorism (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014a). Moreover, the fears abound that Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists. Thus, there is no doubt that the US should redouble its efforts to foreclose such a nasty possibility.
Terrorist Safe Havens in the Middle East and North Africa
A terrorist haven is an ill-governed physical area where terrorists are able to conduct their organizational activities because of inadequate governance capacity and political will therein (USDS Bureau of Counterterrorism, 2014a). After the Arab Spring left North Africa prostrated, the majority of the states in the region meet the above criteria. The terrorist activities of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb together with associated splinter groups constituted the greatest menace to the Trans-Sahara region in 2013. Even though the organization is domiciled in Algeria, it used Mali as the safest haven for its activities. Many local governments are largely exhausted from the political rough-and-tumble of the last few years. Although the 2013 French military intervention in Mali had largely decapitated this organization, it did not scour the region of terrorism altogether. Indeed, the badly mauled al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb continues to harry cities in the Northern Africa. In 2013, the Middle East region remained honeycombed with terrorist safe havens. The problem is that the governments of Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and some other regional states do not exercise complete control over their peripheries. Similarly, many local people feel the stirrings of revolutionary ardor and engage in terrorist activities to give vent to their anti-American sentiment.