With the current unrest in the Middle East it appeared that, all of a sudden, everybody seemed to have forgotten about what President George W. Bush once described as “the biggest threat to civilisation itself”. Yet, with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda has again taken centre stage in global politics and media coverage. The question that remains is: What is left of Al-Qaeda? Contrary to the popular assumptions, Al-Qaeda never fitted the description of an organisation because it lacks the very one element in order to be defined as such: structure.
Two men, one dream: justice, peace and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Both dedicated their lives to this dream and both ultimately had theirs taken in its pursuit. April has been a tragic month for all who fight for reason, dialogue and humanity in the face of injustice and oppression. On 4 April, Juliano Mer-Khamis - an Arab-Israeli political activist, director and actor - was brutally gunned down in Jenin. Ten days later, Vittorio Arrigoni - an Italian journalist and peace activist affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) - was abducted and later executed by a fringe group of Salafi militants in Gaza City.
The Arab Spring has forever changed the course of politics in the Middle East. The ongoing developments are forcing experts to discard former strategic analyses and re-evaluate short and mid-term strategic forecasts of the region. In less than three months, circumstances in both Libya and Bahrain resulted in foreign power military interventions with noticeable consequences. On one hand, the gains of Libya’s pro Gaddafi forces seem to have weakened the NATO alliance, which was also harmed by the increasingly diverging strategies amongst its member states.
Few will have heard of Beragh, County Tyrone. It is a small village of just over five hundred inhabitants, only eight miles east of Omagh, the site of the worst terrorist atrocity of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. However on 6 April, Beragh was the site of one of the most symbolic gatherings in modern Irish history as hundreds of people from across the country’s political divide came to pay their respects to PC Ronan Kerr of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
In August 1995, when Gerry Adams, one of the two most prominent Irish Republican politicians of the last twenty years, said to a sympathetic crowd, “They have not gone away you know”. He was referring to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), a terrorist group which appeared about to be consigned to the history books with the establishment of a viable peace in Northern Ireland. Many thought that with decommissioning and the ceasefire, the men of violence would step away into obscurity, leaving the people of Northern Ireland to enjoy the benefits of a peaceful coexistence.
Pauline Neville-Jones, Security Minister in the British coalition government, gave a speech on 28 February 2011, in which she discussed the future of the Government’s counter-terrorist strategy, known as Contest. She affirmed that the main driver behind Contest remains the assurance of public safety while protecting human rights, and a commitment to “restore public confidence in counter-terrorism powers” by reducing the length of pre-charge detention and the abolition of control orders, among other measures. In defining the threat facing the UK, she referred to the potency of international terrorism and the danger faced from those who are influenced by the Al Qaeda narrative to use violence. This is what the British National Security Council (B-NSC) now calls the Tier I threat.
It is possible that at some point in the next 15-18 months Israel’s policy-makers and military officials will need to decide whether or not to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. That would certainly be one of the most complicated decisions since the establishment of the State of Israel. What political considerations would influence it? And, what short-term strategic developments would be set in motion either by a nuclear-ready Iran or by an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations?