Thursday, November 5, 2015

More Than Lone Wolves

The recent crash of Kogalymavia Flight 9268, a Russian commercial airliner, in Sinai, Egypt, has increasingly been designated a credible act of terrorism by various international intelligence agencies, notably by British Intelligence.  

UK Prime Minister David Cameron's Office made a direct address regarding the recent tragedy, which would be a common procedure had there been British victims - which there weren't. It's probable that the British lead is strong, with the Telegraph having reported that it was MI6 spies who uncovered an "ISIL bomb plot". 

The internet has also been awash with reports of the Islamic State having posted video of them shooting down the Russian plane. As with all cases, these claims have to be investigated and vetted alongside the ongoing forensic investigation. 

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, remarked the likelihood that the Islamic State was responsible. The question now remaining is how the group was able to breach the several layers of security in place at airports and plant a bomb on a commercial jet. 

As expected, this revelation was followed by an immediate tightening of security around Sharm el-Sheikh, the airport from which the flight departed. After any such breach, the reaction security-wise is not national, not regional, rather it is international. 

Awaiting the current investigation, we can expect the response to be stringent and discernible through an increased security and intelligence presence at and around international airports. We can expect major international airports to be the most vociferous in this regard, especially major airports in the Middle East. 

Pundits have been split on how much of a risk the Islamic State poses. Matthew Olsen, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center remarked that ISIS constitutes a lesser threat to the United States than Al Qaeda. 

Perhaps the fact that the Islamic State, who in his view is dangerous because of its ability to galvanize "lone wolf" attacks, will now be viewed as a far more serious international threat than it naively was formerly. 

France has been targeted time and again by these attacks. While hardly on the scale of 9/11, which changed not America but the world, the fact such attacks are recurring shows that intelligence agencies are failing to act in time and need to develop new strategies to discern who sympathizers are and what their course of action in the future will be.  

At this point, we must ask ourselves, "why is there an elaborate system of international intelligence agencies if they cannot act in time to stop mass murders from taking place?" The train attack foiled by three brave Americans was foiled by passengers on a train instead of the intelligence services. While it is a clear show of bravery, it's also a show of a lack of governmental coordination. 

When a nation becomes embroiled in a multifaceted conflict such as the one in Syria, they must be wary of the consequences. We are witnessing firsthand the consequences when people are beheaded in the streets in Europe, not just in the deserts of Syria. Consequently, let us begin to demand a response by intelligence that does not simply discern but stops these attacks from happening. 

While there is very much to say about the intelligence services of the world, which right now resembles a line of ducks crossing a highway, we must endeavor a discussion about what response the eventual findings will warrant. 

The fact that the Islamic State was responsible for this attack is a fact, but the public will have to wait for conclusive evidence nonetheless. What happens next is the big question. 

Russia is already fighting a full-fledged war in Syria. So is Iran. The conflict itself is three-sided with supporters of the regime, Islamic terrorists and anti-regime rebels all fighting one another. With so many competing sides, all armed, the conflict is as bloody as it gets. 

The fragmentation of this conflict is eerily similar to the features of Iraq with the many competing interests that were at stake during the rule of Saddam. That was what experts warned the Bush administration would plunge the nation into an abyss of violence. They were right. We are still looking at scenes of bloodshed 12 years after the US-led invasion. 

The United States is now in a position where it can't idly stand by. While it was claimed during the lead up to the Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda had collaborated, and that the Iraqis had an arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the truth couldn't have been further. 

The situation in Syria is akin because a dictator like Bashar Al-Assad, by no means a valiant mediator for human rights, has until recently maintained peace in Syria. 

What happens now is the question. Will America join the fight in a more discernible way and will this be in coordination with a revisited presence in Iraq? Dealing with the Islamic State will obviously require an approach across boarders. What the future may hold in store is a more clearly defined effort by Iran and Russia to eradicate this group in Syria, and a more evident US bearing in Iraq to finish the job it started a very, very long time ago. 

What is it we should take away from how the West has tried to deal with terrorism? It cannot be eradicated. Just like a cancer of the human body, groups galvanize around new figures and ideas when the old ones are gone. And it's probable we will find a cure to cancer before we find a way to eradicate the fundamentalism that is feeding terrorism.