10 Dec 2017

Trump: Accidental Nuclear Genius?

Love him or hate him, when it comes to North Korea, Trump just may be frustratingly suited for nuclear negotiations. Unpredictability, emotional outbursts, irrationality, and other descriptors that have been applied to the sitting president are likely qualities a president should not have in general. According to Cold War-era nuclear deterrence theories, however, they may be an ideal foreign policy tool for nuclear negotiations. Where Are We and How Did We Get Here? Over 25 years have passed since the end of the Cold War, when the international order changed from a bipolar system to a unipolar one. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fundamental questions facing the US and international security scholars underwent a seismic shift as the world reoriented itself to a new international order under US hegemony. While this shift was necessary to reflect new realities, some important Cold War-era questions were discarded as relics of the previous era. Among these forgotten topics, mountains of scholarship applied on the question of nuclear strategy were left to gather dust in libraries and archives. New questions of proliferation have since replaced the older questions of nuclear strategy between superpowers. Now that North Korea has developed nuclear weapons along with the missile technology capable of reaching Washington DC, however, some of the lessons from the 60s and 70s are worth dusting off and reintegrating into our understanding of nuclear diplomacy. And as we wonder what on earth the president is thinking vis-à-vis North Korea, some of his actions seem to come straight from Cold War nuclear strategy, either intentionally or unintentionally (or, more likely, both). Strategy in the Nuclear Age “War is the continuation of policy by other means,” goes the old adage by the father of modern military strategy Carl von Clausewitz. This placement of war at the end of a spectrum of policy tools remains constant to this day. What have changed drastically, however, are two conceptions that comprise military strategy in the nuclear age. The first is the nature of strategy itself. Until 1945, military strategy was typically understood in the context of a zero-sum game in which a clear winner imposes its will on the loser. With the introduction of nuclear weapons and corresponding developments in game theory, military strategy ceased to be a simple question of winning and losing. Instead, nuclear weapons required more careful bargaining and the balancing of potential outcomes that are better or worse for both sides. The second changed conception is the consequence of nuclear weapons’ ability to devastate entire cities and populations without a state first having to defeat enemy armies or even achieve air superiority. With these two changes, military maneuvering was replaced by nuclear threatening, posturing, signaling, alliance making, brinkmanship, line-drawing, and related activities. Most will recognize these activities as the defining characteristics of the Cold War. While the application of nuclear strategy must certainly be different for North Korea than for the Soviet Union of the Cold War era, this analysis focuses on the role of executive leadership in escalatory nuclear conflicts. Incentive for Irrational Leadership Thomas Schelling, perhaps the best known nuclear deterrence theorist of the Cold War era (and ironically enough, also a 2005 Nobel Prize Laureate for his work’s application to the field of economics), wrote, “It is a paradox of deterrence that in threatening to hurt somebody if he misbehaves, it need not make a critical difference how much it would hurt you too –if you can make him believe the threat.” To make this threat believable, it is another paradox of deterrence “that it does not always help to be,

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11 Oct 2016

Inside ISIS’s English-Language Magazine

With the slow but steady recovery ISIS-held lands across Iraq and Syria, analysts are warning of a surge in ISIS-inspired attacks across Europe and the US as the terrorist group changes tactics. The latest magazine from Al Hayat Media Center, the ISIS media wing, confirms this shift in emphasis with an explicit charge to target “businessman riding to work in a taxicab, the young adults (post-pubescent “children”) engaged in sports activities in the park, and the old man waiting in line to buy a sandwich…Indeed, even the blood of the kafir street vendor selling flowers to those passing by is halal to shed – and striking terror into the hearts of all disbelievers is a Muslim’s duty.” Rumiyah (Rome) Magazine published its first issue in September and, unlike most ISIS propaganda, was published in English, French, German, Indonesian, Turkish, and Russian in addition to Arabic. The magazine’s forward begins with a eulogy for a fallen ISIS commander and a reminder to the “faithful” that the death of any one man is irrelevant to the preservation of the muwahidden. “…Those fools do not realize that Allah preserves His religion however He wills, and this religion will remain established and will not be damaged by the death of any person…” After the forward, the 38-page publication is divided into 7 articles and a summary of recent ISIS operations, including those of affiliates in Somalia, the Philippines, and Russia (“As the soldiers of the Khilafah continue waging war on the forces of kufr, we take a glimpse at a number of recent operations conducted by the mujahidin of the Islamic State that have succeeded in expanding the territory of the Khilafah, or terrorizing, massacring, and humiliating the enemies of Allah.”) Articles: The Religion of Islam and the Jama’ah [“body” or “worldwide community”] of the Muslims – a summary of various core ISIS doctrines with heavy exegesis from the Quran Interview with the Amir of the Central Office for Investigating Grievances Among the Believers are Men: Abu Mansur al-Muhajir – a eulogy for recently killed ISIS militant and recruiter from Australia who spent four-and-a-half years in prison for a plot to detonate a bomb in a stadium during an Australian Football match. He died outside of Aleppo when “a piece of shrapnel struck him and tore his chest open, bringing him what he had long awaited – shahadah in the path of Allah.” O Women, Give Charity – a charge to women, who are “excused” from fighting, to do their part by waging jihad with their “wealth, souls, and tongues.” The Wicked Scholars are Cursed – an explanation of the necessity of violent jihad within ISIS theology and a repudiation of all other Muslim scholars who reject it The Virtue of the 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah and the Acts of Worship Therein – an explanation on the observances for Dhul-Hijjah, the “best ten days of the year according to Allah.” The Kafir’s Blood is Halal for You: So Shed It – the final article in the publication and subject of concentrated western attention. “The Kafir’s Blood is Halal for You: So Shed It” The most immediately relevant for Western readers, this article declares “anyone who is neither a Muslim nor a dhimmi kafir [a non-Muslim who pays a special tax, subjects themselves to special laws, and deserves regular “humiliation”] is a hostile tyrant deserving aggression.” It continues its internal line of reasoning with additional interpretations of Hadith and other

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11 Sep 2015

Burundi Conflict: Current Unrest is Not an Ethnic Conflict

Before late-Spring of this year, few internationally-minded Americans would have been able to say anything of consequence about Burundi, perhaps beyond that it is in Africa. The country is small, resource-poor, and relatively politically insignificant, both regionally and internationally. In May, however, an election-related political conflict escalated into a military coup. The coup quickly failed but violence between the ruling party and opposition groups has continued. The strife sent journalists and international correspondents around the world scurrying for information on a country they knew little about. Many of these writers have been quick to reference the long and bloody civil war that plagued the country from 1993-2005. This conflict was, like the parallel conflict in Rwanda, fought largely along the divide of the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi ethnic groups, divisions that were largely a carry-over of Belgian colonial policy. Overall, however, recent conversations about Burundi have failed to produce meaningful discourse over the deep-rooted changes that have occurred over the past 10 years that have shifted the post-war political and social landscapes. Central to these changes are 10 years of realpolitik and power consolidation by President Nkurunziza, who transitioned from rebel leader to president in 2005, and whose refusal to step down after two terms is the root of the current violence and unrest. Changes during the first 10 years of his presidency have transformed the political divide from ethnic-based, to party and power based. 2005-2015 Rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza emerged as president from the 2005 peace negotiations and subsequent drafting of the current Burundian constitution, a process that marked the end of the civil war. A key aspect of both the constitution and the peace agreements included power-sharing quotas between the Hutus and Tutsis within the government, army, and police. An integrated government coupled with the fresh, vivid memory of the bloody ethnic conflict defined the new political and social culture that developed in the post-war era. President Nkurunziza began working to consolidate power and rebuild the country’s infrastructure that had crumbled into complete disrepair during the war. Ten years later, however, Nkurunziza has succeeded in securing an iron grip on the country, but the resource-poor country still has the lowest development rating given by the UNDP. To further illustrate the desolate situation of the nation, nearly 90% of the population relies on subsistence farming, average life expectancy is 54 years, and the country was ranked the world’s hungriest in a 2014 food supply index. Many industries are nationalized and over 40% of the government’s budget came from foreign aid in 2014. By maintaining control over the economy and the country’s police and army, Nkurunziza is able to assert power through both financial influence and violent intimidation. Additionally, Burundi remains in the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world as measured by Transparency International, ranking more corrupt than both Syria and Zimbabwe. This corruption enables the ruling party to control not only who has permission to do business in the country, but also of the cost of doing business in the country. Today In this context, President Nkurinziza’s ruling party holds a de facto monopoly on power and control, both politically and economically. And, with the ethnic integration of political parties, the military, and law enforcement, the defining features of Burundian political and economic life have shifted from an ethnic paradigm to a party-driven one. Like in Rwanda, asking whether a Burundian is a Hutu or a Tutsi is a serious cultural faux pas. One opposition leader summarized the difference in the current unrest, saying, “People are killing each other based on political orientation. If a guy

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13 Jun 2014

Russia’s Economic Powerplay: The EaEU

On May 29th, Russia signed an economic treaty with Belarus and Kazakhstan that if successfully expanded, could significantly alter the balance of regional power in favor of Russia. Through free trade blocs and common programs, the Eurasian Economic Union (EaEU) also promises to reinvigorate economies that never successfully transitioned into market economies after the dissolution of the USSR. The union, however, must overcome a series of internal and external hurdles before realizing long-term success. Until then, possible outcomes sit on a wide range in between complete collapse à la USSR or growth into an economic bloc capable of challenging US, EU, and Asian interests in the region. Although the EaEU is an explicitly economic organization, if the EU has taught the world anything, it is that common economic programs entail heavy political involvement and there is no reason to believe that a similar Eurasian Union with Russia at the helm would avoid the example. Additional political consequences of a successful union include increased cooperation between the authoritarian governments of former Soviet states, increased Russian political influence in the region, and a more influential Russian voice on international economic issues. This influence would grow as the union adds additional members. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have already made integration plans for 2015 while Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have also expressed interest in quick accession. Under Putin, Russia has pursued the concept of an economic bloc since 2000 when it established a Eurasian Economic Community with Belarus and Kazakhstan. In 2011, the countries established a Customs Union that eliminated customs borders between the countries in 2011. Since then, a special commission has spearheaded further integration, moving towards the goal of an official Eurasian Economic Union set to begin January 1, 2015 after each countries’ parliaments approve the recent treaty. From the beginning, Putin has touted the EaEU as the EU equivalent for post-Soviet states, describing it as a “powerful supranational association capable of becoming one of the poles in the modern world.” In 2011, Putin described the operational aspects for the EaEU, writing: “It is crucial that the Common Economic Space is rooted in coordinated action in key institutional areas such as: macroeconomics, ensuring competition, technical regulations, agricultural subsidies, transport, and natural monopolies tariffs. Later, this framework will also include common visa and migration policies, allowing border controls between our states to be lifted…we will no longer have to equip the 7,000 kilometre-long Russian-Kazakh border…For the general public, the lifting of migration, border and other barriers, including what are known as labour quotas, will mean that they have a free choice about where to live, study, or work. Incidentally, the Soviet Union with its system of registered domicile did not offer anything like this complete freedom.” In short, Putin’s EaEU bloc is to be an updated Soviet Union rebuilt on market economy principles in order to enjoy the same economic benefits as the EU. And, although Putin says that the lessons of the EU’s failures will allow the EaEU to avoid “mistakes and unnecessary bureaucratic superstructures,” it will still deal with these basic dangers and others that are far more ominous; its member countries will introduce their own myriad weaknesses into the new organization, namely rampant corruption, cronyism, organized crime, and authoritarian control. Former Soviet states have grappled with these problems with little success and remain some of the most corrupt governments in the world. These weaknesses alone threaten to cripple the internal effectiveness of the union. There is a chance, however, that these weaknesses can be successfully incorporated into the union. If they are successfully integrated into the common policy, the regional influence of

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22 Apr 2014

The American Redoubt and Homeland Security

Introduction Although terrorism in the 21st century has become nearly synonymous with Islamist extremism, the United States has suffered from many non-Islamist domestic terrorist attacks over recent decades. In fact, over two-thirds of terrorist attacks in the US since 1980 have been carried out by non-Islamic extremists. These attacks have been the ferment of extremist ideologies on both the far left and far right of the political spectrum and have been carried out by religiously affiliated and non-affiliated individuals alike. Until September 11th, the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil was the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, an attack that still claims the highest death toll among “home-grown” terror attacks. According to the FBI, there were a total of 482 terrorist incidents, suspected terrorist incidents, and prevented terrorist incidents in the US between 1980 and 2001. Of these, 164 were “International,” 130 were “Left-Wing,” 85 “Right-Wing,” and 81 “Special Interest.” Noteworthy individuals and groups include the Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski), the Jewish Defense League, and the Earth Liberation Front. For a more comprehensive look at key terms and a history of militant extremists in the US, see this Council of Foreign Relations publication. Although differing ideologically, these domestic attacks, from Ted Kaczynski to Timothy McVeih, originated from the same source; they grew out of intense political frustrations and despair. The frustrations developed from perceived lack of progress in their movements; the despair from the realization that their goals would or could never be reached by following standard tactics for political change. In response, they jettisoned accepted political tactics and took up the extreme tactics of terrorist violence. With this recipe for domestic terrorism, it is of the utmost importance to identify, study, and analyze movements within the US that pose the risk of radicalization through the combination of political ideology, political frustration, and despair. The aim of this study is to analyze the American Redoubt Movement in these terms and ask this question: to what extent is the movement capable of producing one or more disaffected followers with sufficient political frustration and activist’s despair to induce radicalization and militant extremism? The American Redoubt The word redoubt has largely passed out of the American lexicon but refers to an “enclosed military work,” often the defensive earthworks surrounding a central defensive fortress. Etymologically, it grew out of words for “place of refuge,” and “point of retreat.” National redoubts, the area to where a nation’s military, government, or people nation could retreat following a military defeat or capture of the capital, were once common in defensive military strategies even as late as World War II. It is this concept of a “national redoubt,” and specifically the Swiss National Redoubt, that lays the conceptual foundation for the American Redoubt. The American Redoubt is both a physical location and a political movement founded in 2011 by survivalist author James Wesley Rawles. It encourages conservative Christians, Orthodox Jews, and others with similar moral beliefs to relocate to a specified region within the northwestern United States to create a safe zone in the aftermath of a predicted economic and political collapse. With the collapse of banks, the power grid, and the declaration of martial law, Rowles argues that “there will be a veritable vacuum of law enforcement. In such times, with few exceptions, it will only be the God-fearing that will continue to be law-abiding. Choose your neighborhood wisely.” The movement is outspokenly Libertarian, anti-racist, pro-second amendment, pro-Israel, and encouraging of self-sufficient living. Rawles and Patriots The Redoubt founder James Rawles has been the most outspoken and widest published writer on Redoubt

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06 Feb 2014

Sochi 2014 Threat Overview

Fear Before the March of Flames Even as the flames of the Olympic torch approach their destination in Sochi, Russia, security officials race to respond to emerging threats by non-state actors. Multiple terrorist organizations have issued ominous threats against the games while reports of other threats, both credible and doubtful, continually emerge. The games have, in a sense, become a testing ground for a new reality in security. Will over 100,000 security officers and soldiers succeed in defending an entire city from asymmetrical attacks by a small handful of committed terrorists? 57% of Americans think they will fail. However, if Russia concludes the closing ceremony unscathed, the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that high-profile events can be successfully policed, especially important as the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil approaches. In Brief: Sochi by the Numbers 2,000 athletes representing 88 countries. 213,000 spectators. 10,000 US citizens expected. 40,000 Russian police officers 70,000 Russian soldiers patrolling the southern border with Georgia. 700km between Sochi and the recent suicide bombings in Volgograd that killed 34. 5 private aircraft on standby for the US Ski and Snowboard team. 2 US Navy vessels in the Black Sea for emergency response. Threats Aside from protests against certain Russian social policies by various social groups, the highest profile threat comes from Islamist militants fighting for an Islamic state in the North Caucuses, a few hundred miles from Sochi. The alliance of militant groups form the Imarat Kavkaz (or the Caucasus Emirate) and has been designated a terrorist organization by both the US and Russia. Its founder Doku Umarov, known to some as “Russia’s Bin Laden,” issued a statement encouraging militants to “do their utmost to derail” the Olympic games, which he described as “satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.” Reportedly responsible for three bombings in Moscow between 2009 and 2011 that claimed over 100 lives, Umarov’s threats against cities far away from the Caucuses are credible. Fortunately, on January 17, 2014, reports surfaced that he was killed in a raid by Russian special forces, thereby limiting the threat from Chechen rebels as they find a new leader. Unfortunately, the terrorist leader’s body has not been recovered and claims of his death have not been verified. The most immediate concerns for the games stem from the December 29 and 30 bomb attacks in Volgograd that killed 34 and wounded over 100. In a recent video claiming credit for the attack, Chechen rebels (members of the terrorist cell Vilayat Dagestan that operates under the auspices of the Imarat Kavkaz) promise a “present” in retaliation for the “innocent Muslim blood spilled all around the world: in Afghanistan, Somalia, and in Syria,” adding, “for the tourists who come, there will be a special present too.” Since the bombing, Russian security forces have killed or arrested many in the supporting network, including its alleged mastermind. Officials hope that these police successes will deter any attacks the ring may have had planned for Sochi. One of the most chilling bomb threats comes from three possible black widow bombers who may already be within the city limits. Detailed descriptions, reports, and photographs of these suspects and others have been issued to all security personnel at the games. Besides explicit terrorist threats, there have been many vague or discredited threats against many countries and athletes. On Tuesday, reports surfaced of an abduction threat against two Austrian competitors. On Wednesday, two days before the opening ceremonies, the US Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to Sochi-bound airlines about threats

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11 Dec 2013

Radioactive Thefts and Dirty Bomb Threats

The recent theft of a truckload of highly radioactive material in Mexico unearthed a series of panicked questions about the homeland security threat of dirty bombs. “What are they?”, “what can they do?”, “who has them?”, and “who could have them?” were questions the media found themselves mostly unprepared to answer. Before long, however, the geopolitical, historical, and scientific answers slowly made their way into the updates and the immediate scare was diminished. Just two days after the theft, the materials were recovered and any immediate danger from the incident ended, apart from the continued danger the thieves themselves face due to radioactive exposure. Though the threat is over the story persists, recalling an old homeland security concern that has been buried from attention under newer threats. In many ways, the threat of dirty bombs is much greater now than it was at the height of the Cold War. The threat of nuclear and radioactive materials proliferation skyrocketed with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nuclear technology and materials passed from a structured, unified program into the hands of new and unstable governments. Like the proliferation of arms from former Soviet states to conflict zones across the world, hazardous materials disappeared from silos and reappeared far away from their intended research facilities, factories, or disposal centers. This already volatile scenario has been further exacerbated by 21st century manufacturing and technological demands, which has translated to massive logistical dilemmas involving the movement, storage, and disposal of these materials globally. Subsequently, these raw materials are now widely available for purchase and vulnerable to theft. Since September 11, the nexus between dirty bombs and terrorism has been well documented and policed. Cases and instances range from the highly publicized case against US citizen José Padilla (Abdullah al-Muhajir) in 2002 to the life sentencing of a British national in 2006 for a dirty bomb plot he himself described as designed to “cause injury, fear, terror, and chaos.” In 2004, British authorities arrested Salahuddin Amin and a small ring of others involved in a plot to purchase materials for a dirty bomb from the Russian mafia in Belgium. Fortunately, due to the effective monitoring of both terrorism and radioactive materials, no dirty bomb plots against US targets have succeeded. But even in spite of recent victories in prevention, the danger still persists, in a large part due to the ubiquity of radioactive materials. Whereas the complexity of nuclear weapons technology renders nuclear attacks by non-state actors essentially impossible, dirty bombs are altogether a separate matter. They are simple in definition and comparatively straightforward in design, a crude example of a “radiological dispersal device” (RDD). By combining radioactive material with conventional explosives, they can potentially create a hazardous radioactive zone that can have effects well beyond the blast radius of the explosion. Fortunately, the physical danger posed by radioactive materials in such a device is much lower than the traditional explosive itself. While the lethal fallout from nuclear bombs can stretch across hundreds of square miles, the fallout from a dirty bomb would most likely be limited to an area equivalent to a few city blocks. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “It is very difficult to design an RDD that would deliver radiation doses high enough to cause immediate health effects or fatalities in a large number of people.” The DHS posit that a dirty bomb would most likely be used to contaminate and disrupt specific areas and wreak mental havoc and anxiety in exposed persons. That said, the potential impact of a dirty bomb varies widely depending on the type of radioactive material

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02 Oct 2013

Football and the Illusive Stability of Coalition Governments in the MENA States

An Arab Spring political cycle is emerging. Single-party domination gives way to multi-party democracy which crumbles back into single-party domination. Football: An Introductory Anecdote Sitting with a group of western-educated, politically active Tunisians at a restaurant in Tunis, I commented on my surprise at the absence of soccer-playing children. I had been there for ten days and had travelled through most of the major cities and many small villages both inland and on the coast. I had yet to see a single soccer ball being kicked around, typically a common sight. Their answer was unexpected. They explained that before the 2011 Revolution, soccer clubs were one of the few permissible private organizations in the country. Everybody played soccer and the sport became a way to vent public frustration. After the revolution, however, government monitoring and suppression disappeared. Civic clubs, student groups, and a host of other citizen-driven networks appeared and flourished. Scouting for both boys and girls was present in Tunisia before the revolution but has since grown into one of the largest organizations by population in the entire country. Soccer, therefore, was still popular but had growing competition from dozens of political, athletic, and other social alternatives. Unfortunately, their answer was not a complete one. Although the given explanation is true to an extent, it is also true that soccer in Tunisia became increasingly politicized in the later years of the Ben Ali administration. After the revolution, it became even more violent and politicized until fans were finally banned from all Tunisian league matches in April of 2011, only months after the Revolution. Since then, the trouble has only continued. In late September of 2013, the Tunisian sports minister formally requested of FIFA, Football’s international governing body, to dissolve the Tunisian Football Federation, potentially leading to its suspension from important international matches and tournaments. This and other post-revolution difficulties are sensitive issues for political activists who want to highlight the successes and positive changes brought about from the revolution. They also highlight a larger cultural problem that has massive political implications. Thirty Year Rulers The Arab Spring toppled rulers that had been in power for decades. In Tunisia, there had been only two presidents between the country’s independence in 1956 and 2011. Habib Bourguiba led the country for a full thirty years, followed by Ben Ali who ruled for fourteen until he was overthrown in 2011. In Syria, Hafez al-Assad also ruled for a full thirty years until his death in 2000, at which time his son Bashir ascended unopposed to the presidency to which he continues to cling amidst a bloody civil war. Egypt’s timeline of rulers is similar. Gamal Nasser served as President of Egypt for fourteen years. He was followed by Anwar Sadat who ruled for eleven years until his assassination in 1981. Following the assassination, then Vice President Hosni Mubarak rose to the Presidency and ruled from 1981 until 2011, when he resigned during the Egyptian Revolution during the 2011 Arab Spring. Libya and Yemen also lost rulers in the Arab Spring. Libya’s Gaddafi ruled for forty-three years, Yemen’s Saleh for thirty-three. Analysis The implications of these durations are great. In all three countries, there are no precedents within fifty years of a true multi-party democratic system. The theme of the pre-Arab Spring rulers was to consolidate power and either silence or placate opposition. During these tenures of these autocrats, nearly every country suffered through violent putdowns of uprisings or reasonable protests by either minority or majority groups. The most notable among these are perhaps the

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19 Sep 2013

The Growing Threat of Maritime Terrorism

Introduction The 21st century has seen large-scale, well-organized terrorist attacks by Islamist terrorists on nearly every continent. These same terrorists and terrorist organizations have leveraged the cyber domain to support recruitment, training, and attacks. The maritime frontier, however, is perhaps the one that has continued comparatively untouched throughout the history of modern Islamist terrorism. Attacks on maritime targets currently account for less than 1% of all terrorist attacks. Since al-Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole in 2000, there have been few significant asymmetric terrorist attacks against maritime targets. Although piracy is a continuing threat in this domain, especially in highly-trafficked strategic choke points like the strait of Malacca, there are no well-documented cases of pirates colluding with Islamist terror organizations to carry out a maritime attack. Emerging evidence suggests that these relationships are being developed and that a sharp increase in terrorist attacks on maritime targets is possible. Such attacks have the potential both to inflict heavy casualties and cause widespread economic havoc. Background, Ideology, and the Illusive Pirate-Terrorist Nexus When the Arab invaders swept through and established themselves in North Africa during the seventh and eighth centuries, they moved or established the regional capitals away from the coast. Modern-day Egypt’s capital shifted from coastal Alexandria to inland Cairo. Medieval Tunisia (Ifriqiya) was centered around the inland city of Kairouan until the 13th century. Fes was the capital of Muslim Morocco for over a thousand years until the French Protectorate Administration moved it to Rabat in the early 20th century. These inland placements were intentional and strategic. The Arab conquerors were not seafaring people. For them, coastal capitals were severe liabilities, too easily accessible to preying states and pirates. Inland capitals, however, nullified maritime disadvantages and forced would-be invaders to travel inland where the Arab conquerors and their Berber allies held strategic dominance. This land-based culture continues on in most regions of the Muslim conquests. Radical Islamist geopolitics is another factor that may encourage the prioritization land-based attacks while de-emphasizing maritime equivalents. To al-Qaeda and similar groups, the world is divided into the Houses of War and of Islam (Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam), terms that have been in use since the first Muslim invasions. Moderate Muslims have more peaceful and nuanced conceptions of these terms. These radical group’s conceptions, however, are black and white, focusing on governments, land, and people. These groups exist to fight until all territory and persons are within the dar al-Islam and under the rule of the restored caliphate. Because these goals are land-centric, the world’s seas and oceans are merely alternate paths to their goals, of varying strategic value but of little importance in and of themselves. Modern Islamist terrorists in the Middle East are heirs to these cultural and geographical realities. The vast majority of attacks occur inland on land-based targets. The maritime side of volatile Karachi, whose shipping processes 95% of Pakistan’s foreign trade, enjoys comparative peace in contrast to the city’s sectarian violence that has already claimed between 1,700-2,500 lives in the first half of 2013. Available evidence suggests that even the sky is more trafficked by terrorists than the oceans. Reports dating back to 2008 have already linked al-Qaeda to large-scale criminal aviation networks. Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations in Africa have made connections with pirate groups but these connections have been more financial than operational. Somali pirates ransom funds often find their way into the coffers of al-Shabaab but al-Shabaab has never colluded with the pirates to execute a terrorist attack on a maritime target. Al-Shabaab, like other terrorist organizations, is concerned primarily with land territory. Although

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11 Feb 2013

West Africa: Terrorism’s New Front Yard

Introduction There is a new front in the global fight against terrorism and terrorists. Ethnic, religious, and political tensions in West Africa, simmering for the past few years, have boiled over into widespread violence and coordinated military efforts throughout the region. A recent attack at an oil facility in Algeria has highlighted the wealth of knowledge, funding, and motivation available to opponents of the current African regimes and the West. This West African situation raises many questions about the nature and origin of military efforts there and the possibility of US involvement. The answers to these questions help define what the outlook and implications are for West Africa during this period of turmoil. Although many doubt the possibility of stability in West Africa, it is unlikely that the region will mirror the situation in the Middle East – fracturing into various terrorist strongholds. The unique characteristics of the West African region are sufficiently distinctive from the Middle East to offer it a promising future if the current issues are handled properly. Background Africa is a massive continent; West Africa itself surpasses the area of the continental US. This continent hosts diverse ethnicities, cultures, and governments. Only one hundred years ago, the entire region was still under the formal control of European colonial powers. Imperialist France controlled a majority of present-day Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Guinea. In many French colonies, direct imperialism continued into the late 1960s and early 1970s. Britain controlled Nigeria, Ghana, and a number of smaller states (the majority of their African empire fell on the Eastern and Central side of Africa, from Egypt to South Africa). Portugal, Spain, and Germany also had minor colonial holdings in the area. Cultural elements of these colonial powers still remain in their West African countries today. Colonial governing habits continue to shape the policies and, more importantly, the attitudes of West Africans. The French severely restricted the self-government of their colonies. As a result, decolonization for most French colonies was violent and difficult. Following independence, these former colonies often followed in the totalitarian precedent set by the French. The British typically empowered local leaders to rule for them; in tribal cultures this often resulted in greater oppression for the numerous other tribes within the colonial bounds demarcated by European colonists. These borders, defined by powers in Europe, were and still are some of the worst carryovers from the colonial period. The borders on the maps rarely conformed to cultural and geographical realities. Colonial borders separated common people groups and coerced warring tribes into close living situations. Most of these colonial borders still define West Africa. In countries like Nigeria, Libya, and Algeria, these arbitrary national borders have created tribal, religious, and ethnic differences that continuously result in violence and political turmoil. Conflicts: Ethnic and Ideological The Tuareg The Tuareg people of the Sahara and Sahel deserts best showcase the connection between colonialism, post-colonial West African governments, and the contemporary violence and terrorism that plagues the region. Their territory is not reflected by the political borders of West Africa, stretching across Northern Mali, southeastern Algeria, southwestern Libya, and western Niger. Tuareg territory also extends into Burkina Faso, Morocco, and Tunisia. When France pushed into Tuareg territory, the Berber people resisted but were eventually overpowered. Because of their nomadic tendencies, they rarely interacted with the colonial governments. When they did, it was generally violent with many massacres occurring on both sides. Due to the national borders carved by France, the Tuareg were split up and denied self-rule following decolonization. Since then, every country with a Tuareg population has faced irredentist violence.

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