The History Of International Terrorism From Antiquity To Al-Qaeda Essay

The History Of International Terrorism From Antiquity To Al-Qaeda Essay

To begin with, it is important to mention that according to various historical researches, the era of international terrorism started in 1968 with the hijacking of the airline carried out by the terroristic organization named Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A close look at the data illustrates that this terrorist organization hijacked an airline on the route from Tel Aviv to Rome. Undoubtedly, the world saw hijackings even before, but this was the first event when nationality played the main role in the hijacking, and particular operational aim of Israel destruction was specified. Furthermore, it was the first time that common passengers became hostages of the hijackers. It happened due to the demands publicly made by terroristic organization against the government of Israel. Evidently, the composition of such unique events shocked the public opinion, gained much media attention, and triggered the international scope of various terror operations.

However, history of international terrorism does not start solely with the fact of foundation of PLFP (Guelke, 2011). The data yielded by this study provides convincing evidence that Ottoman Empire also contributed in setting the stage for constant internationalization of terrorism. Thus, at the time of decline of Ottoman Empire, the world saw the independence of Serbia. However, the uprising of nationalism in Balkans terrorized the Austria-Hungary stability, which had large ethnic minority groups. Furthermore, Russia had an eye on the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, they tried to motivate Balkan Slavs for freedom putting them into clash with Austria-Hungary. Evidently, Russia had to face an embarrassment when Austria-Hungary took over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Needless to say that this occupation quashed any hopes for Bosnian Serbs to restore their nationhood. Finally, After the First World War, Islamic Turks slaughtered more than one and a half million Armenian Christians. It was the first genocide, carried out by Turks who believed that Armenian Christians assisted Islam’s fall of power. It means that the population of the Ottoman Empire experienced terrible events, which influenced the future relations between various ethnic groups. The government and political situation sowed the seeds of implacable hostility in hearts of common people.

It is important to highlight that the ethnic principles were not the only reason for future events. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate in 1924, various groups initiated an inner battle for Islam. At the same time, Middle East came under the significant influence of western culture. Evidently, secular Arab governments accepted the western social modernization and drove the followers of Islam into a fatal wrath. It means that the religious factor also played a huge role in the formation of the international terrorism. Moreover, history combined all these factors in the aspect of the political relations. Obviously, some researchers argue that the terrorist movement of the modern era started in 1928 when The Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan al-Muslimn was founded in Egypt. It had political aims and was responsible for the attempted murder of the future President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Thus, increasing terrorist activities by the decline of Ottoman Empire inspired different Middle East terroristic groups to make their activities international. Since that time, terrorism is no more a matter of some single state but it has affected every part of the entire world while most of the terrorist organizations have their roots from Middle East. Without any doubts, these activities not only bring death but also attract media to play its role and urge countries to learn various lessons and device counter-terrorism strategies. Thus, in this paper, it is important to analyze the process of the formation of an international terrorism since the first serious accidents in 1960s. Undoubtedly, this analysis could help to understand how the historical events influenced the current explosive situation in the world, especially in the U.S.

It is possible to state that the first dramatic expression of international terrorism, which emanated from the Middle East, was the actions of various Palestinian organizations, which started in the late 60s with the diversion of Israeli civilian aircraft. Evidently, the colonial era, failed post-colonial attempts to provide state formation, and the creation of Israel influenced the social situation and engendered a series of anti-Western and Marxist movements and transformations throughout the Islamic and Arab world (Horgan, 2005). The growth of these revolutionary and nationalist movements along with their view that various methods of terrorism could be effective in reaching social and political goals generated the first phase of contemporary international terrorism. Thus, in the late 1960s Palestinian secular movements began to target civilians outside the arena of conflict. It happened because Palestinian leaders realized that they had not enough power to militarily confront Israel. Simultaneously, lessons drawn from revolutionary movements in North Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia saw the Palestinians move away from classic guerrilla, usually rural-based, warfare toward urban terrorism. Thus, radical Palestinians took advantage of modern transportation and communication systems in order to internationalize their struggle. As a result, they launched a series of kidnappings, bombings, hijackings, and shootings, culminating in a violent kidnapping and deaths of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympic Games.

The combination of these unique historic events gained significant media attention. Thus, Dr. George Habash, who was the founder of PFLP, observed that the level of coverage was greater than battles with Israeli army in their previous area of operations. He mentioned that the entire world started to talk about them. It means that media became the necessary source for terrorists because they used it as a possibility to show the terrible consequences of confrontation with them. Another aspect of this internationalization of terrorism is the cooperation between various extremist organizations in conducting terrorist operations (Horgan, 2005). Thus, cooperative training between European radicals and Palestinian groups started as early as 1970. Moreover, joint operations between the Japanese Red Army and the PFLP began in 1974. Evidently, since that time, international terrorist cooperation in operations, training, and support has continued to grow. Without any doubts, it is present even in modern days. Motives of this cooperation range from the ideological, such as the alliance of the Western European communists-oriented groups, to financial, as when the IRA sold its expertise in bomb making as far afield as Colombia.

The current analysis shows that these Palestinian groups became an example and model for numerous secular militants. Moreover, it offered lessons for subsequent religious and ethnic movements. Palestinians created the first extensive transnational extremist network. It is essential to highlight that they had various state sponsors, such as the Soviet Union, some Arab states, as well as criminal organizations. Therefore, the Palestinian secular network was a serious channel for the spread of different terrorist techniques worldwide by the end of the 1970s.

History shows that various religious movements grew while these secular Palestinians dominated the global scene during the 1970s (Hoffman, 2006). Thus, the failure of Arab nationalism war resulted in the strengthening of both extremist and progressive Islamic movements. As a result, Islamic movements increasingly came into irreconcilable opposition with secular nationalism in the Middle East. It provided an alternative source of social education and welfare in the vacuum left by the serious lack of government-led development. Evidently, a key example of this situation is The Muslim Brotherhood. Generally, anti-nationalist conservative regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, supported Islamic groups to counter the expansion of nationalist ideology. It happened because political Islam, which was more open to progressive change, seemed to be a threat to conservative Arab regimes. Therefore, support for more extremist and fundamentalist groups occurred to combat both political and nationalist Islamist movements.

Evidently, the year 1979 was a turning point in the formation of the international terrorism. The Iranian Islamic revolution sparked serious fears of a wave of revolutionary Shia Islam throughout the West and the Arab world. Meantime, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the anti-Soviet mujahedeen war, which lasted from 1979 to 1989, stimulated the significant rise and expansion of terrorist groups. Obviously, the growth of a post-jihad pool of battle-hardened and well-trained militants is a key trend in insurgency-related violence and modern international terrorism. Volunteers from various parts of the Middle East fought in Afghanistan, supported by various conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia. For instance, in Yemen the Riyadh-backed Islamic Front was established in order to provide logistical, financial, and training support for various Yemeni volunteers. As a result, Arab-Afghans used their experience to support different local insurgencies in China, Bosnia, North Africa, Kashmir, Chechnya, and the Philippines. It means that these events seriously influenced the current situation in the world, when well-trained troops bring fear to all parts of the globe.

At that time, the Western experts drew attention on state sponsorship of the terroristic groups (Guelke, 2011). The main object of this attention was the Syrian-supported and Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Obviously, state sponsors’ use of terroristic Palestinian groups was also of concern. Hezbollah pioneered the use of specific terrorist groups consisting of suicide bombers. Evidently, Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing and subsequent deaths of two hundred forty-one U.S. marines in Beirut, as well as multiple kidnappings of Western and U.S. civilians and government officials. Undoubtedly, Hezbollah remains a key trainer of various secular terroristic movements. The researchers argue that Libyan intelligence officers participated in the activities of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine during the investigation of Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. Moreover, Iraq and Syria also supported various terrorist groups. Thus, Baghdad used the Abu Nidal Organization on several occasions. Needless to say that state sponsors used terrorist groups in order to attack Israeli as well as the U.S. interests. They also used their power to intimidate their domestic and regional opponents. It is important to mention that the American policy of defining state sponsors was politicized, and did not include some countries that, under the U.S. government definitions, were guilty of constant supporting or using terrorism.

The disintegration of post-Cold War states influenced the Cold War legacy. Thus, there was a huge amount of advanced conventional weapons and knowledge in the world. Needless to say that such situation seriously assisted the proliferation of terrorism worldwide. Evidently, vacuums of stability created by absence of governance and conflict in such areas as the Balkans, Colombia, Afghanistan, and certain African countries offered ready-made areas for terrorist recruitment and training activity. Moreover, terrorists used these territories as drug trafficking routes to support operations worldwide. Therefore, with the increasing ease of transnational communication and transportation, the continued willingness of such states as Iraq and Iran to provide financial support, and dehumanizing ideologies, which made it possible to organize mass casualty attacks, the lethal potential of international terrorist violence has reached new heights.

It is essential to note that the region of Afghanistan, which is not a country in the conventional sense, has emerged as a terrorist training ground particularly since the Soviet withdrawal. Thus, Pakistan, struggling to balance its needs for economic and political reform with a domestic religious agenda, regularly provides assistance to terrorist groups both in Kashmir and Afghanistan while acting as a further transportation area between South Asia and the Middle East. Evidently, the Pakistani-supported Taliban militia in the Afghanistan territories has assumed several characteristics usually associated with state-sponsors of terrorism since their emergence in 1994 (Schmid, 2011). A close look at the data illustrates that they provide travel documentation, logistical support, and training facilities. Although various radical groups such as the Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Kashmiri militants were prior to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the spread of Taliban control has seen terrorism evolve into a widespread, relatively coordinated activity focused on developing and sustaining terrorist capabilities. The current research shows that Pakistani-backed terrorist troops fighting in Kashmir have increasingly used the practice of training camps inside Taliban-controlled areas since the mid-1990s. At the same time, members of these terroristic groups, as well as thousands of young citizens from Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province have fought with the Taliban against various opposition forces. Obviously, this activity has seen the rise of extremism in different parts of Pakistan neighboring Afghanistan, complicating the ability of Islamabad to control the territories. Moreover, the intermixing of terroristic Pakistani movements with the groups of Taliban and their Arab-Afghan allies influenced the fact that ties between these groups strengthened.

The new face of the Middle East terrorism emerged in the 1990s (Hoffman, 2006). Thus, Osama Bin Laden, son of a construction engineer, became the main leader of a small fanatical pro-Islamic movement called Al-Qaeda. Its public statements were a mixture of contempt for existing Arab regimes, religious extremism, hostility to U.S. dominance, and absolute insensitivity to the effects of terrorist actions. Obviously, many of its leaders, who helped to free Afghanistan of Soviet occupation, now developed the broader ambition of resisting the U.S. and Western dominance, especially in Muslim countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, in pursuit of these ambitions they killed hundreds of people in bombings of U.S. embassies in the countries of Africa in August 1998. It was a new kind of the terrorist movement, which had an international cause and a single enemy. This movement was a network, which was not confined to any state, and whose adherents were able to commit suicide if they could thereby bring carnage and destruction on their enemies, as they did on September 11. Furthermore, since their aims were apocalyptic and vague, there was little scope for any compromise or negotiation.

The analysis shows that Al-Qaeda contributed to the rise of fundamentalism and Islamist terrorism in several ways. Firstly, it provided terrorist-related experience and skills in the use of explosives and firearms to large numbers of non-Afghan militants. Secondly, it launched Osama Bin Laden, who served as the main conduit of Saudi assistance to the mujahidin, helping them with some of his own considerable wealth. Furthermore, he brought his managerial skills to help to set up training camps for newly arrived terrorists and to strengthen and organize Afghani resistance, established contact with various like-minded Muslims, making connections that could soon serve him in his creation of the Al-Qaeda network worldwide (Schmid, 2011).

Evidently, Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group has been linked to other international attacks after September 11. One of the attacks was the Istanbul bombings. Another attacked linked to Al-Qaeda is the gunfire in the United States consulate in 2008. The result of this gunfire on the consulate was six casualties; three of them were Turkish National Police officers. This attack occurred in the morning hours, at a time when the work of the embassy is at full function. Therefore, an attack at this time could have most likely caused more casualties. It shows the principles and methods of Al-Qaeda terroristic actions. Obviously, other attacks linked to Al-Qaeda include car-bombing attacks in Algiers and Yemen. Thus, a member of Al-Qaeda rammed a car with explosive into a tourist convoy killing two Yemeni drivers, eight Spanish tourists, and injuring twelve others on the ground. Simultaneously, there were two bombings in Algiers, when two car bombs exploded ten minutes apart in the Algerian capital Algiers. As a result, the Al-Qaeda Organization claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating that it was successful conquest carried out by the Eastern Knights of the Faith. They thought that their blood could defend the wounded nation of Islam. Needless to say that since 9/11 there has been much evidence of numerous terrorist attacks throughout the entire planet. Although Al-Qaeda made some attacks, the U.S. officials note that this organization seems to be unreliable. It means that we cannot see the real face of terrorism. Undoubtedly, it is also a significant feature of the modern terrorism.

It is crucial to mention that since the September 11 terroristic attacks, other major acts have occurred in New Delhi. Evidently, at that time, the strategic and operational epicenter of Islamic terrorism was centered in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament, London subway, Madrid train, and hotels and train station in Mumbai.The Mumbai attacks lasted three days. The attackers qualitatively planned the attack and knew some areas for the attackers to vanish, and then reappear after security forces had left. Unfortunately, 166 victims and 9 attackers died in the attacks.

The United States has been pretty successful at keeping terrorist incidents down on U.S. soil since 9/11. In fact, it is customary to say that there have been no significant incidents of terrorism on United States soil since 2002. A lot of that reduction is due to FBI reluctance at defining something as terrorism.

There are some common factors, which can be detected behind the many changing faces of terrorism. First, it usually has an unofficial character, claiming to be the result of an upsurge of public feeling. Second, terrorism is based on a naive belief that a few acts of violence, often against symbolic targets representing the power of the adversary, will transform the political landscape in a beneficial way. Third, terrorism has become increasingly involved in attacking innocent civilians, often with the purpose of demonstrating that the state is incapable of protecting its own people. Fourth, terrorists generally underestimate the strong disgust of ordinary people to acts of political violence. There is a further common factor that the tendency of terrorism is becoming endemic in particular countries and regions.

It is important to mention that media play a huge role in the process of the internalization of terrorism. Thus, in the past, there have been strong disagreements about the identification of terrorism. It means that some people argue that certain movements were or were not terrorism. However, global media sources presented the situation from the one point of view. Therefore, the social opinion changed, which caused the aggravation of the situation. Terrorist tried to use these media pictures in order to bring fear to the houses of the common people. The new face of terrorism as mass murder became the symbol of the internationalization. Needless to say, that the terrorist and hijackers of the 9/11 attacks led to a strong global reaction due to the media coverage. As a result, none of the 189 states of the UN opposed the U.S. right to take military action in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, it is preferable to analyze the influence of the modern media based on the works of various postmodernist philosophers because the contemporary epoch has many inner contradictions. However, it is possible to argue that the media was the main source of the terrorism to achieve this aim and were the main source of the global community to fight with terrorism.

The current research shows that the situation in the Middle East affected modern terrorism and counter-terrorism. Evidently, since 9/11 there were any serious terrorist attacks on the territory of the U.S. It means that the methods are constantly changing according to the threats. Thus, since the September 11 attacks, various governments across the globe have frozen more than $140 million in terrorist groups’ assets, but terrorists have adapted well to remain financially intact. As a result, governments have engaged in a wider range of options in an effort to broaden attempts to disrupt the financial “industry” of terrorism. Obviously, their activities included overt as well as covert actions. These efforts to disrupt financial base of terrorism have revealed an important counter-terroristic point that tracking terrorists’ financial footprints can probably thwart attacks, as well as to identify operatives not known to authorities and destroy the logistical and financial support networks. Although these efforts to destroy terrorist support networks seem to be certainly an encouraging and perspective development, the ability to conduct such policies effectively remains unproven. A close look at the data illustrates that terrorists have clearly demonstrated that they can survive the loss of support states in recent years. Furthermore, they showed that they could even internationalize and establish specific diverse funding structures quite effectively. It means that terrorism could also change it face (Nacos, 2011). Moreover, the latest news shows that the citizens of the Great Britain participate in violent murders. It happened due to the Eastern ideology. Taking everything into account, it is possible to conclude that it is necessary to analyze the current situation in all countries of the Middle East according to their history in order to define the future of international relations.

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Nacos, Brigitte. (2011).Terrorism and Counter-terrorism. Boston: Longman. 352.

Schmid, Alex. (2011).The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. New York: Routledge. 718.