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Al Qaeda

By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Over the past few years American and European counterterrorism officials have grown increasingly wary of the threat posed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). EUROPOL's 2008 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report said that France, Italy, Spain and Portugal all considered AQIM as a threat to their national security. Because of its proximity to the Maghreb Italy believes it is a particularly attractive transit route for AQIM into Europe. Despite initially limiting its activities to North Africa AQIM has declared that all Western states are targets. The increasing confidence of AQIM will require a robust counter-terror response on both a global and regional level. Yet recent regional initiatives appear to be compromised by an imbalance of appropriate tools and geopolitical rivalry.

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By Scott Stewart

In the wake of the botched May 1 Times Square attack, some observers have begun to characterize Faisal Shahzad and the threat he posed as some sort of new or different approach to terrorism in the United States. Indeed, one media story on Sunday quoted terrorism experts who claimed that recent cases such as those involving Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi indicate that jihadists in the United States are "moving toward the "British model." This model was described in the story as that of a Muslim who immigrates to the United Kingdom for an education, builds a life there and, after being radicalized, travels to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and then returns to the United Kingdom to launch an attack.

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By Scott Stewart

On April 25, The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) posted a statement on the Internet confirming that two of its top leaders, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri, had been killed April 18 in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation in Salahuddin province. Al-Baghdadi (an Iraqi also known as Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi), was the head of the ISI, an al Qaeda-led jihadist alliance in Iraq, and went by the title "Leader of the Faithful." Al-Masri (an Egyptian national also known as Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir), was the military leader of the ISI and head of the group's military wing, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

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By Lana Jarsdell

Arabs are a proud people, and as one would thus expect, a very stubborn people. We've lived following the same rules and practices for over 1400 years, and no matter how much one criticises, no one outside is going to understand... it's an Arab thing.

When the Western media speak of Arab culture, it is implied there is a single united society. In fact, there are many differences between the Arab countries, differences so diverse that Arabs from one country can be entirely alien to the customs, traditions and dialects of another. It is more appropriate to speak of Arab cultures, shaped by the individual political histories of each country. Obviously there is a common heritage. The Arab Muslim civilisation of past derived from the most advanced empire of its time and laid the foundations for subsequent civilisations (including much that was absorbed by Western/Christian societies). But the modern history of the entire region has been plagued with conflict that unites the states against a perceived shared adversary.

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By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

In 1951, theUnited Kingdom renewed its treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with the Sultanate of Oman. The new treaty replaced a version signed in 1939 and reinforced a commitment to Oman that can be traced back to 1891. The treaty in particular guaranteed 'most favoured nation' status regarding commercial matters. As a result of such close ties Oman has occasionally looked to the United Kingdom to help safeguard its territorial integrity. In 1954, for example, the Imam of Oman led a rebellion against the Sultan's efforts to extend government control into the interior. With British assistance, the rebellion was eventually defeated in 1959.

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Viewpoints' recent article on the use of chemical, biological and radiological (CBRN) weapons by terrorists could not have been timelier. On Monday three separate reviews of the United Kingdom's ability to prevent a major terrorist attack were published. The Government published an update to the National Security Strategy, the annual report on the CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy and a third report concerning Britain's strategies for countering the CBRN threat. The findings of these reports can be summarised accordingly:

-          The UK continues to face a serious and sustained threat from terrorism. Networks and individuals that pose a terrorist threat also continue to share an ambition to cause large numbers of casualties without warning.

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By Scott Stewart

Last week, rumours that Adam Gadahn had been arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, quickly swept through the global media. When the dust settled, it turned out that the rumours were incorrect; the person arrested was not the American-born al Qaeda spokesman. The excitement generated by the rumours overshadowed a message from Gadahn that the al Qaeda media arm as Sahab had released on March 7, the same day as the reported arrest. While many of the messages from al Qaeda figures that as Sahab has released over the past several years have been repetitive and quite unremarkable, after watching Gadahn's March 7 message, we believe that it is a message too interesting to ignore.

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By Lana Jarsdell

Just as Catholics are famous for their burden of guilt; so it is with Muslims and their burden of responsibility for the Ummah. From a very young age, one is taught that the plight of Muslims the world over is a single battle, one in which we are all a part.

Having been brought up in the UK, my own opinion as well as that of many of my counterparts has been shaped by the fortunate opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Living in a liberal society one is allowed to experience all aspects of life and culture, whilst at the same time maintain one's own religious and moral beliefs. My friends and I have managed to form strong relationships with those around us, openly discussing all aspects of our lives: All aspects that is apart from one.

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By George Friedman

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has decided that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried in federal court in New York. Holder's decision was driven by the need for the U.S. government to decide how to dispose of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. Naval base outside the boundaries of the United States selected as the camp in which to hold suspected al Qaeda members.

We very carefully use the word "camp" rather than prison or prisoner of war camp. This is because of an ongoing and profound ambiguity not only in U.S. government perceptions of how to define those held there, but also due to uncertainties in international law, particularly with regard to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Were the U.S. facility at Guantanamo a prison, then its residents would be criminals. If it were a POW camp, then they would be enemy soldiers being held under the rules of war. It has never really been decided which these men are, and therefore their legal standing has remained unclear.

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By Ben West and Fred Burton

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Nov. 13 that the U.S. Justice Department had decided to try five suspected terrorists currently being held at Guantanamo Bay in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, located in lower Manhattan. The five suspects — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi — are all accused of being involved in the 9/11 plot, with Mohammed describing himself as the mastermind in a 2003 confession.

The announcement follows from U.S. President Barack Obama's first executive order, which he signed on Jan. 22, to close the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and another executive order to suspend the military tribunals set up under the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists. Holder's decision has generated much debate and highlighted the legal murkiness concerning the status of Guantanamo detainees and how best to bring them to justice.

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By Scott Stewart

On Oct. 8, 2009, French police and agents from the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (known by its French acronym, DCRI) arrested French particle physicist Adlene Hicheur and his brother, Halim, who has a Ph.D. in physiology and biomechanics. French authorities arrested the brothers at their family home in Vienne, France, and also seized an assortment of computers and electronic media. After being questioned, Adlene Hicheur was kept in custody and charged on Oct. 12 with criminal association with a terrorist enterprise for allegedly helping al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) plan terrorist attacks in France. Halim Hicheur was released and denies that the brothers were involved in any wrongdoing.

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By Scott Stewart

On the evening of Aug. 28, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister — and the man in charge of the kingdom's counterterrorism efforts — was receiving members of the public in connection with the celebration of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. As part of the Ramadan celebration, it is customary for members of the Saudi royal family to hold public gatherings where citizens can seek to settle disputes or offer Ramadan greetings.

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By Dr Robert Crowcroft

By far the biggest fiction in international affairs is the alleged centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian problem to achieving 'world peace' (which itself surely rates as the second biggest fraud). There is a widespread assumption in the West that resolving the disputes between the Israeli state and the Palestinian people who live on its border carries great importance. Indeed the peace process is usually seen as a key component – if not the key component – of winning the battle against Islamism by discrediting its narrative. The argument goes that the sight of Muslims being oppressed by non-Muslims (not oppressed per se, you will note) deeply antagonises the Islamic world; Muslims feel the need to take up arms, not only against Israel but the rest of us too. British government documentation appears to buy in to this. 'The pursuit of a final settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict remains a top priority for the Foreign Secretary and the Government', David Miliband stated when at the FCO. And of course we are all familiar with the vision for 'two states, living side by side in peace and security'. Thus, peace between Israel and the Palestinians will allegedly give a huge boost to stability across the Middle East; Muslims around the world will be less sympathetic to 'extremism'; and we will all be on the road to peace.

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