Facing up to ISIS terror
The terror attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia and France betray dangerous new patterns.
Whether directly coordinated or not, the attacks show an ability to strike various targets at the same time and to recruit young operatives with no known criminal record.
The attacks resulted in more than 60 people killed on three continents. Beside death and destruction, the acts of terror were timed to cause maximum shock and horror around the world — and especially in the Muslim world, which is celebrating the holy month of Ramadan.
Let there be no doubt: This global enemy is dangerous. Based on the collective intelligence of its multinational membership, it is able to identify the vulnerabilities of Arab countries and those of the West as well.
The attack on Sousse, Tunisia, seemed designed to push Tunisia towards economic failure and chaos, as part of the blueprint by the Islamic State (ISIS) (and al-Qaeda before it) to create the right environment for the establishment of the sharia-ruled “caliphate”.
Tunisia likely will have to withstand more acts of terror, as its successful democratic experiment makes it an even more appealing target to jihadists who want to prove that democracy is not the answer. Libya’s security vacuum provides terrorists with a nearby launching pad for their activities in Tunisia, at the same time that Tunisian jihadists are exacerbating civil strife in Libya.
More perniciously, terrorists are trying to drive a wedge between Arabs and the West. The murder of 38 European tourists in the North African beach resort and the attack near Lyon are meant to tell Westerners they are not welcome in the Muslim world and not safe at home. Despite the understandable grief and fear caused by the killings, the Arab world and the West should not let the jihadists drive them apart.
Neither should the attack on Kuwait, one of the most open societies in the Arab world, be allowed to fuel sectarian animosity. For centuries, Shias and other religious and ethnic minorities have lived in peace in North Africa and the Middle East. Terrorists should not be allowed to change that.
The most urgent task in the Arab and Muslim world is to face up to the jihadist narrative that has proven lethally attractive to a segment of the region’s youth population, which has come to disparage the values of modernity and proximity to the West. A counter-narrative that places value on life and promotes the true meaning of Islam is yet to be developed.
Furthermore, the shortcomings of socio-economic systems, the fraying of the family structure and the lack of vision by Western and Arab politicians alike have created the current mass system failures of MENA.
The stakes are high, for both the Arab world and the West, and there are no simple solutions. Terror will not go away any time soon. But there is still time to build the foundations of a terror-free future. The missing elements are will and determination.