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The future of the terrorist phenomenon in the Middle East

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Shehab Al Makahleh

Terrorism has become a nightmare for many countries. This confirms the dependence of the future of the terrorist phenomenon on internal and external factors, political and cultural, and this means the necessity of comprehensive approaches to eliminate the phenomenon of terrorism from its roots and not to deal with its symptoms, or to resort only to military and security measures to curb terrorism and extremism. Experts note that in the context of the stampede among terrorist groups, in particular al-Qaeda and Daesh, the world would witness three possible scenarios.

The first scenario is the disappearance of terrorist groups and the success to siege and eliminate them, a scenario linked to the ability of the international community to agree on a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism based on complete eradication of the real factors that create the appropriate environment for terrorist groups, the most important resolving conflicts and crises that plague the countries which are hubs for such groups, ending Iranian support for Shiite militias solving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. However, the realization of this scenario is unexpected in the short term due to failures of some national States, and complexity of conflicts and wars which boost terrorist organizations activities and their causes of survival.

The second scenario is the disintegration of the major terrorist organizations into smaller groups. Because of the American-led coalition air strikes on terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other countries, coupled with targeting groups’ leaders, major factions may be transformed into smaller terrorist groups. This scenario may take place in the short term, and has been similar to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Iraq and North Africa.

The third scenario is when terrorist groups are extended by regional alliances of these factions; this scenario is partly achieved through the strategy of Daesh with other terrorist groups with the aim of expanding the alleged Islamic caliphate, and its plans to make North Africa its second hub after Iraq and Syria. It seems that following increased pressure and siege on these terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, they are moving towards North Africa. There is an international and regional strategy against these factions which aim to resettle and expand in Libya and its surroundings, benefitting from Niger and Mali which can be a real logistic support of manpower for this purpose. Such a scenario may take place in Sirte, Libya, and may continue if regional and international forces fail speed up action plans to counter terrorist groups.

The expansion of the phenomenon of terrorism in the last few years has been linked to countries experiencing vulnerability or failure. Therefore, in order to eliminate terrorist groups, it is imperative to strengthen the national states in the region, consolidate security and stability in these countries, resolve political divisions, bolster political reforms, democratic participation and citizenship as there is an inverse relationship between the power and stability of the state and the power of terrorist factions. The military and security solution will not guarantee the elimination of terrorist groups as long as the political conditions that produced them have not been addressed.

It should be noted here that giving priority to the diagnosis of the terrorist threat to internal factors does not necessarily mean that Western governments are being held responsible for what has been done. Suffice it to say that the majority of those who join Daesh and those involved in terrorist acts in the West are not new immigrants, but those whose parents and grandparents were born in the West They, therefore, grew up and learned in Western countries, being influenced by western culture and education.

This is evident in the terrorist events in Paris carried out by the terrorist Daesh. According to observers, it is the responsibility of Western governments, which adopt neo-liberal economies, because they did not recruit and employ these young men. In other words, these extremists have been marginalised before being trapped in the terrorism acts.

This confirms the dependence of terrorism on internal and external factors whether political or cultural. Thus, there is a dire necessity of comprehensive approaches to eliminate the terrorist phenomenon from its roots and not to deal with its symptoms and not to be content with military and security solutions only. Educational curricula at schools and universities should create and enrich critical thinking when dealing religious culture for the young generations. Any curricula should help boost co-existence of contradictions in any community benefitting from media and educational guidance.

Instead of instilling civic awareness, principles of citizenship, values ​​of social solidarity and acceptance of the other, focusing on necessary analytical skills and critical thinking, the curricula of schools and universities in the Arab world were based on the methods of indoctrination rather than interaction, and on credulous acceptance of the idea of ​​hierarchical authority without accountability. The curricula of history and religious education have strengthened the mentality of “we” in the face of “them” on ethnic, ideological and sectarian bases. They have made young people vulnerable to various influences and contributed to radically changing the Arab cultural scene, facilitating the spread of radical ideologies and early indoctrination of children and youth.

The future of the terrorist phenomenon in the Middle East and North Africa depends mainly on the future of education, political reform, enlightenment, the rule of law, institutions and development models in these countries, as well as regional and international cooperation in settling disputes in a non-Arab country in a fair and balanced manner that ensures stability and sustainability.