Friday, 22 October 2021
logo
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.
        



dv-header-dday
     |      View our Twitter page at twitter.com/defenceredbox     |     
IRA

Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism (2010), by Martyn Frampton

Reviewed by Dr Robert Crowcroft, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

As recent events have made clear, the political instability that wracked Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles has not been consigned to history. The development of a seemingly tolerable political settlement in 2007, and exemplified by the Ian Paisley-Martin McGuiness 'double act', has not addressed the essential segregation between the Protestant and Catholic communities. Nor does it mean that there are not people on both sides who still prefer resistance to accommodation.

The most obvious of these factions is the dissident Republican movement. And this movement is the subject of Martyn Frampton's new book. In it, he traces the growth within the Republicans of opposition to the strategy developed by Gerry Adams. Beginning in the 1980s, tensions grew as Adams came to increasingly control Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA (PIRA). Gradually, he set the Provos on a new course. His was a masterclass in political leadership and manoeuvring, but Adams was not without internal enemies.

Eventually, this led to schism and the emergence of new Republican groups outside the PIRA/Sinn Fein, such as Republican Sinn Fein, the Real IRA, and the Continuity IRA. Academic work on these groups and what they are up to is sorely lacking, and Frampton does an admirable job of filling in the blanks. What follows is a well-researched analysis of the groups and their activities. The most striking thing is the fact that boundaries between these groups are highly porous; members of one faction will operate in conjunction with those from others. The whole thing is largely ad hoc. The professed purpose is simply to advertise the fact that Northern Ireland is not a 'normal' state and therefore perpetuate the instability; to this end, there is a willingness to co-operate with virtually anyone who will help.

Frampton's book will quickly become the standard work on the dissidents. Given the lack of research into the subject, assembling the book at all is a considerable achievement. Those readers with backgrounds in research will know just how punishing (and exciting) the work can be if one has to play detective and research a topic where no-one has gone before. Importantly, Frampton had access to numerous key dissidents and interviewed them. Their personal perspectives are cited frequently, bringing the mental universe of dissident Irish Republicanism to life.

But a number of problems emerge. Most are definitely not of the author's own making. The reality is that these dissident Republicans are, in a structural sense, largely irrelevant. Reading this account, I felt like I was reading one of those books on a very minor, peripheral left-wing faction. And the truth is that the dissident Republicans are operating very much in the margins. The current level of violence is perfectly sustainable, and there is no appetite whatsoever for a return to the Troubles. Their base of support is tiny. Of course, one cannot guess what will happen in twenty years time, but it is difficult to believe that any contemporary dissidents have futures worth commenting on.

Read more...  

By Sagar Deva

The role played by transnational crime in sustaining assymetrical conflict and terrorist activity is often hidden through complex networks both the licit and illicit economy, and therefore its prominence as a security threat is often underrated. However, it plays a fundamental role in the propagation of assymetrical conflict and dangerous non-state organisations. Whilst fighting the root causes of rebellion and terrorism might reduce the number of individuals who are tempted to join these violent groups, a focus on transnational crime identifies their operational capacity to perpetrate their attacks upon forces which have superior conventional armaments.

Despite the fact that militants usually possess military capabilities inferior to the nation-states they threaten, their operations can tap into considerable resources, both in terms of finance and weaponry, explosives, and network connections. Such organisations can have membership in the hundreds of thousands. Both the Kurdish Peoples Party (PKK) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have access to money estimated in the billions of dollars. The Tamil Tigers possesed anti-aircraft weaponry, nightvision goggles, and high-optic sniper rifles, weaponry that was more advanced than the Sri Lankan Government.

As very few have their own weapons factory or production facilities, they must acquire their resources from outside sources. It is in this capacity that transnational crime becomes an important component in the security threat they pose.

As insurgent groups and global terrorists necessarily operate outside the structures of both domestic and international law, transnational crime naturally appeals to them as a source of funding. This has been particularly true since the end of the Cold War and the drastic reduction in 'state sponsored terrorism'. Resorting to criminal activity or alliance with international criminals has become more than a profitable sideline for transnational terrorists- it has become a necessity.

Al-Qaeda, which reputedly still mantains $113 million dollars in illicit accounts, is known to finance its operations largely through the use of international credit card fraud and in some instances drug trafficking. The FARC in Colombia fund their insurgency almost entirely from the profits of their narco-trafficking . Almost all major terrorist groups have significant network links to transnational criminal organisations, and many major attacks have been attributed to direct funding from international criminals. For example, the bombings of the Indian Parliament in 1993 were directly linked to the powerful global crime syndicate D-unit and its fugitive boss, Dawood Ibrahim.

Transnational crime plays a critical role in two main ways. Firstly, transnational criminal groups can 'ally' with terrorist groups and insurgent , providing them with vital resources or funds, usually in a mutually beneficial exchange. For example, in return for training in insurgency tactics from prominent members of the Irish Republican Army, FARC provided the IRA with cocaine to fund their activities.

Viktor Bout, known as the 'Merchant of Death', owned a fleet of 60 cargo jets via which he supplied insurgents, rogues, and dictators across the Middle East and Africa. Illegal armament traders have an interest in selling arms to anybody with the money and perpetuating conflict maintains demand for arms. At the same time, narcotics traffickers have an interest in supplying insurgents and terrorists and weakening the state as this creates a lawless environment in which their operations can thrive.

Secondly, and even more dangerously, terrorist groups and insurgents begin to 'mutate their own structure' and take on the attributes of terrorist groups. In this capacity, violent groups begin to take on criminal assets themselves, moving into the illicit trade in arms or, more often, the illicit trade in drugs.

The pernicious effect can be seen in many regions. The conflict in Afghanistan is dominated by local warlords, Taliban militants, and other groups feuding with each other and with coalition forces. Large swathes of Burma are occupied by the WSA (Wa State Army) who frequently clash with the Burmese government and are reputed to have 20,000 armed militiamen. The FARC militia consistently commit terrorist attacks against the Colombian state and control a third of Colombian territory.

These dangerous militants share one common factor; their activities are almost entirely financed by the whole scale trade in narcotics. The wholesale trade in opium from the 'Golden Crescent' and 'Golden Triangle' respectively fund insurgent activity in Afghanistan and Burma, and FARC wholesales cocaine to the United States. The rise of Peru to the number one spot in the world cocaine supplies must raise fears that the Shining Path could return with bigger resources. Empirical evidence supports the link between transnational crime and regional instability. In the 9 major drug producing countries, only Thailand has not experienced sustained conflict.

Put simply it is likely that without the assistance of criminal profiteering, most major violent groups would not be able to continue their operations on anything like the present scale. The international community must broaden their attempts to address not only the root causes for recruitment but the criminal networks that allow terrorists and insurgents to arm themselves. Ultimately, it will require increased co-operation between international institutions tackling global crime like Interpol and national security forces. It will also require greater recognition from global leaders of the threat to international security posed by transnational criminals. Whilst large, powerful criminal networks still exist, the threat to peace and security will continue and perhaps grow.

 

Dr Robert Crowcroft

The facts of the latest terrorist plot against the West are still hazy, but what we do know is this: simultaneous attacks have been planned against several European cities, including London and probably sites in France and Germany. These attacks were to be modelled on the effective 'commando raids' in Mumbai in 2008, in which groups of terrorists wreaked havoc with automatic weapons and killed hundreds of people. India has still not recovered. And the plot was led by senior Al-Qaeda figures in Waziristan. The intelligence services think that the plot was in the 'final stages' before being launched, that it would have been a 'spectacular', that British Muslims were once again involved, and that the purpose was an old-fashioned suicidal rampage. The plot seems to have been disrupted by American drone strikes in Pakistan, killing the brains of the plot.

There are two points here. One is the absolute centrality of the United States to any sensible security strategy for Britain. I will try not to even get into what this latest American intervention to protect our citizens says about the perspectives of those like Labour leader Ed Miliband (who wants a more 'independent' foreign policy) and his ally Sadiq Khan (who thinks the US alliance is 'poison' for Britain). All I will say is that I look forward to the day when the likes of Miliband and Khan sign up to defend the country with their lives if the Americans decided a whining ally isn't worth having. As a university teacher, when confronted by anti-American students I routinely stop seminars and pose the question whether they, personally, would be willing to kill in order to defend the realm. The bewildered look on their faces when I do so tells me that they have never contemplated an activity that throughout human history as been the norm for most males. But the fact that people in this country can lead such a sheltered existence is due only to Britain's alliance with the United States and our possession of nuclear weapons. Surely it isn't beyond us as a society not to mess it all up.

The second point is that given the inability of Islamic terrorists to match, or better, the 9/11 atrocities over the past nine years, from their perspective this kind of attack would appear to be the most sensible kind of approach to take. All they need is a few guns and a rampage can be launched. With Mumbai-esque operations there is less of a need to do the kind of things that increase the risk of detection like buying chemicals and cooking explosives in suburban kitchens. The blunt (and frightening) truth is that if I was an Islamic terrorist, settling on a 'commando raid' rampage would now look a far more profitable means of spreading fear and chaos than attempting to stage so-called 'grand' terror attacks.

Will home-grown terrorists head in this direction? If they do, the prospects for social peace in this country will be poor. It is significant that this plot emanated from Pakistan where Islamic extremists are at least familiar with the concept of 'strategy'. We should be grateful that, so far, domestic extremists have proven even more inept at waging an insurgency against Britain than was the IRA and they were shockingly bad, to say the least. Instead those British citizens who turn to terrorism have been more inclined to gesture and feel-good exhibitionism about killing the infidels than with actually getting on and killing then. The 7/7 bombings were the only significant Islamist attack on these shores since 9/11, due to not only the diligence of law-enforcement agencies but also the incompetence of domestic terrorists. If more British Muslims come under the operational sway of those people abroad who actually understand how to run an insurgency, then terror attacks could become a more frequent occurrence.

Take the 2005 attack on the Tube and Tavistock Square. Brutal? Yes. Strategically effective? Absolutely not. The purpose of an insurgency is to win the support of a particular part of the population (in this case, the wider British Muslim community). To do that, they need to be radicalised (here, made not only sympathetic to, but willing to actively assist, the Islamist causes). And to be radicalised, the majority of the population must be persuaded to take repressive measures against them (in other words, turn the non-Muslims against the Muslim minority). From this perspective, 7/7 was a dismal failure. The plotters were glorified exhibitionists. Contrast it with the Chechens who conducted the horrendous Beslan school siege in 2005. Now they had an eye for strategy. And compare it with the Mumbai atrocities as well. The reaction of the British public to rampaging, random attacks against the vulnerable or major national hubs doesn't bear thinking about. At the very least, racial tensions in this country would increase markedly.

The terrorists, therefore, have important decisions to make. If they become more cunning and with a greater eye for strategy, then our stable society will find itself in danger. And so we have important decisions to make too: about whether we will stop rubbishing the relationship with the United States, and what we are going to do to prepare for attacks like Beslan or Mumbai. Because it is almost certain that, sooner or later, they will happen.

Robert Crowcroft is a specialist on British politics and defence.

 
 

Cookies
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Defence Viewpoints website. However, if you would like to, you can modify your browser so that it notifies you when cookies are sent to it or you can refuse cookies altogether. You can also delete cookies that have already been set. You may wish to visit www.aboutcookies.org which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers. Please note that you will lose some features and functionality on this website if you choose to disable cookies. For example, you may not be able to link into our Twitter feed, which gives up to the minute perspectives on defence and security matters.