Currently, al-Qaeda and their affiliates are pouring into Syria in the hopes that if Assad falls, an organized Sunni State can rise from the ashes. We are on the eve of the next dangerous wave that will come out of the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria.
By Aaron Marcus | September 11, 2013
Dr. Boaz Ganor, founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, IDC, Herzliya, gives opening remarks.
HERZLIYA, Israel – The 13th annual World Summit on Counter-Terrorism ran Sunday through Wednesday, September 8-11, and was hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. Sponsored by the IDC’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) founded in 1996 by Dr. Boaz Ganor, the Summit is now a must event for the growing counter-terrorism community. The Summit is held the week of 9/11 to commemorate the victims of the biggest terrorist atrocity ever to occur and marks the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York by Islamist terrorists.
Interviewed on IDC International Radio prior to the start of the World Summit, Dr. Ganor proclaimed, “It takes a network to defeat a network,” a reference to the most dangerous “Globalist Jihadi Network,” whose “epicenter is al-Qaeda.” The four day conference attracts such counter-terrorism experts as “decision makers, scholars, heads of security services from all over the world,” including the private sector’s consulting and technology firms.
According to Dr. Ganor, this year the Counter-Terrorism Summit would involve in-depth discussions of: 1) the status of al-Qaeda; 2) the implications of the Arab Spring on the terrorism arena; 3) the Israeli-Palestinian discussions; and, 4) the implications of the Muslim world’s age-old Sunni-Shiia rift. He said the most important aspect of the conference is to provide a platform for experts to build a counter-terrorism community.
As the Summit convened, the Syrian civil war was the main concern among participants, especially with a possible U.S. led offensive against Bashar al Assad’s regime, in the words of President Obama, to hold it “accountable for their use of chemical weapons.” While panelists seem split on if and how the U.S. should intervene in the conflict, there appears to be a general consensus that no matter how Obama acts it will set a precedent in the region for the foreseeable future.
The prevailing question at the conference is what happens after an American offensive or even if one doesn’t occur? If the Assad regime falls, it will be seen as a victory for al-Qeada in what has become a religious war against the Shiia Allawites of the Assad regime. While Assad has acted ruthlessly in actions against his own people, the “rebels” leading the charge against him are comprised of Islamist Sunni and Salafist Jihadists. If an American strike weakens Assad, it will be the first block to fall on the domino board legitimizing al-Qaeda. If Syria falls, experts fear Lebanon and Jordan will be next and not just because of their more lenient approach toward Islam, but because both countries have sizeable Christian populations. First, these terrorists want to cleanse Islam of the impure within their own religion, then they will focus on other religious minorities like Christians and Jews. Al-Qaeda affiliated groups have already vowed to slaughter Christians after their “liberation” of Syria.
After 9/11, when counter-terrorism experts said that al-Qaeda sought a global Islamic caliphate, the left cried Islamaphobia. However, they failed to comprehend that the vast majority of al-Qaeda’s victims are Muslims. Qanta Ahmad and Tarek Fatah said that one of the greatest obstacles to defeating al-Qaeda is the irrational cries of Islamaphobia directed at those who seek to destroy it. “Al-Qeada is no longer considered a Western construct,” explains Adam Dolnik, a Professor of Counter-terrorism at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany. “To villagers in Nigeria and Pakistan, al-Qaeda is a real threat,” he continued. While the left announced that al-Qaeda is defeated, Dolnik claims they have just become less centralized, and instead more dispersed having added new affiliate groups with different names.
As terrorist organizations like Iran’s Lebanon-based Shiia proxy Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch Hamas increasingly gain legitimacy among international institutions, al-Qaeda is taking a page out of their book in what Dr. Ganor characterizes as the “hybrid terrorist organization.” He describes one leg as terrorist and the other as political, religious, welfare and doctrinaire making them a much more dangerous organization as they take over a country. Dolnik claims their “humanitarian activities” have come in the form of giving out water, food and even hosting ‘family days’ in Syria as they attempt to become more “main-stream.” Consequently, earlier this year the EU once again refused to recognize Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, claiming only their military wing was a terror group, as if the two could be separated. “As far as the State of Israel is concerned, Hezbollah is one organization, the arms of which are indistinguishable,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time.
Currently, al-Qaeda and their affiliates are pouring into Syria in the hopes that if Assad falls, an organized Sunni State can rise from the ashes. Although the rebels aren’t explicitly calling for death to America or the West, they also aren’t calling for alliances and shared interests. Islamist movements around the world have learned to shelter their intentions until they come to power, and it is unlikely that new Islamist states will experience U.S. intervention after they are hijacked. Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, addressed the summit Monday night and highlighted the “ignorance, naiveté, wishful thinking” that should go along with calls for democracy in the Arab world. In a region, where the rule of law and constitutionalism are the exception and not the rule, democracy is a delusion and can never flourish.
Syria maintains the largest world arsenal of biological and chemical capabilities. The real danger arises in the use and spread of these lethal weapons not unlike the dissemination of lesser weapons that occurred after the fall of Gadaffi in Libya. If Assad prevails, Hezbollah will undoubtedly have access to these weapons. If the rebels win, al-Qaeda and its affiliates will have access. Dr. Ganor warns just as with the Mujahedeen victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan led to 9/11, we are on the “eve of the next dangerous wave that will come out of that dangerous process which is called Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria. And we will see the bad implications of that in say 3 to 5, a little more, years from now.”
This extraordinary annual World Summit on Counter-Terrorism closed with a Memorial Ceremony to commemorate the victims of 9/11 and terrorist victims worldwide.
Aaron Marcus, a graduate of Rutgers University, is an MA candidate in Government, Counterterrorism and Homeland Security at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya, in Israel. Mr. Marcus is also foreign correspondent for SFPPR News & Analysis.