A majority of the international terrorist operations and strikes trace their root to the Asian Middle East region, which has become the cauldron of global terrorism. Since over two decades, the Middle East has turned into that most volatile, unstable and surcharged place in world, having seen two major armed conflicts and being home to a number of radical, hardliner and terrorist outfits, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda.
These outfits are collectively responsible for carrying a series of devastating terrorist attacks around the world, including 9/11, Madrid and London bombings, rocket attack on Israel and Mumbai carnage. The problem goes further deeper to reveal a simmering regional and sectarian discontent that further adds to the instability of the region. The common unifying thread among all of these factors is presence of ideological motivation of Islamic Jihad, which has made the entire issue extremely sensitive from political and religious angles.
Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad Both Hamas and Hezbollah have their origin rooted in conflict between Israel and Palestine since creation of Israel in 1948 (Lutz and Lutz, 2004). A majority of Arab and Middle Eastern countries protested Israel’s creation and tried to liquidate the nation through armed intervention To represent the Palestinian cause, Palestine Liberation Organization emerged 1964, striving for liberation and demand of nationhood from Israel.
The organization was formed when all the military and armed strengths of Arab nations was convincingly defeated by Israel in 1948 and 1956 wars and it was felt among radical sections of Palestine that only a guerilla tactics could work against a militarily superior Israel Lutz and Lutz, 2004) . Since its formation PLO worked as an umbrella organization, drawing support from various militant Islamic groups working in the area, chiefly Hamas which aims to create a completely Islamic state in the area.
Unlike PLO, which has, in principal, favored religious tolerance and secularity as policy, Hamas has a clearly stated Islamic agenda, which draws support from other organizations of similar ideological base. Hamas is considered by several Western countries, including USA and Israel as a terrorist organization, and it is responsible for carrying out a series of strikes against Israel since its creation in 1987. Since 2002, Hamas has restructured itself to form a political organization and presently it is controlling the Gaza strip of Palestine’s territory (Morgan, 2005).
Hezbollah is a Lebanon based political-resistance group, formed in 1982 to protest and struggle Israel’s formation and its conflict with Lebanon (Albritton, 2006). Although, the outwardly the organization is involved in a number of social activities, such as running schools, hospitals, farming counseling services, the core characteristics of the organization have remained military. The organization is considered wholly or partly a terrorist outfit by USA and European nations due to its repeated involvement in terrorist attacks in Israel.
Both Hamas and Hezbollah share a strong ideological bond in the concept of Islamic Jihad and they consider themselves committed to this cause. While in the religious terms, Jihad is a personal effort for purity, for all the practical purpose, it has evolved in the concept of Islamic supremacy and dominance over other believer sects. Proponents of Islamic Jihad advocate a sustained campaign, involving ideological and violent means in all degrees of extremity to the cause of complete elimination of non-believers (Morgan, 2005).
The commitment to Islamic Jihad has infused both these organizations with radical elements and extended their involvement to various terrorist outfits, from Middle East to India and Indonesia, all of which justify their violent actions by theory of Jihad (Albritton, 2006; Merrit, Gilbert and Reinhart, 2004). Kurdish Conflict Kurdish conflict is one of the major political causes of disturbance in the Middle East. Kurds are a major ethnic-linguistic group spread across various countries of Middle East, specifically Iraq and Turkey where they form respectively 17 and 20 percent of the total population.
The total Kurdish population is approximately 30 million, making them the fourth largest ethnic group in the region (Merrit, Gilbert and Reinhart, 2004). However, Kurdish community has a deep sense of grievance and resentment against the political framework of the Middle East, as they have been largely side tracked by almost all the political establishments; to aggravate the issue, some countries even tried to break down their sense of identity and forcibly merge them with rest of the population (Morgan, 2005).
Kurd’s persistent demands for identity, recognition and greater zone of influence in politics have brought them regularly in conflict with Middle Eastern political establishment which has tried to suppress repeatedly. Kurds are guided by a strong sense of nationality they view themselves as a distinct nation. In fact, there is a complete sentiment among Kurds, identifying themselves as separate clans with their distinct sense of nationality. This has led to several major Kurdish revolts in both Iraq and Turkey.
Former Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein crushed a series of such revolts ruthlessly in 1980s, resulting in systematic murder of over 5000 Kurds (Lutz and Lutz, 2004). After the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule in second Gulf War of 2003-04, the Kurdish demand for independent homeland has intensified. This demand is supported by the entire Kurdish Diaspora who view a separate homeland as the only lasting and legitimate solution to the centuries of neglect, overlook and ignorance of Kurdish identity and culture by Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
Alarmed at this demand, the radical elements in these countries have collaborated with Islamic terrorist groups and carried out a number of terrorist attacks, that are aimed to wipe out the Kurdish leadership and cause fear in the community. However, the effect of these attacks has been largely opposite as it has led to the feeling among the Kurds that their own nation can be the only guarantee of their safety and security (Teson, 2005). Al Qaeda.
Any mention of religious terrorism is incomplete without discussion on Islamic terrorism and jihad ideology which is widely held as the single most potent challenge to the democratic and free world. The most prominent actor in Islamic terrorism is Al Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden, which has acquired the form of an international organization, recruiting members from all the Islamic nations and using them as against the Western and Asian democracies (Lutz and Lutz, 2004).
Al Qaeda acts as veritable global terrorist organizations, with massive fund raising capabilities, central leadership style, and a network of dedicated sub units which are ready to strike at the behest of the central command. In studying the reach and influence of Al Qaeda, analysts found that the prime motivational force used by Bin Laden and other key terrorists in the organization is religious. The origin of Al Qaeda is traced back to early 1980s when then USSR invaded Afghanistan and Muslims fighters from around the Islamic world poured in Afghanistan to fight a war that was given an instant religious color.
The religious cause did not lose its appeal for the fighters even after the war ended, and they looked for further challenges which, in their opinion, had contaminated the purified and hence medieval perception of Islam they held (Lutz and Lutz, 2004). This search brought them in immediate conflict with the secular world, which is epitomized by USA. In consequence, Al Qaeda network started targeting US military bases in Saudi Arabia, US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam and US warships; the campaign reached its zenith in 9/11 airlines attacks, which was a watershed event in terrorism history (Lutz and Lutz, 2004).
Despite US and British campaign against the Al Qaeda network, the organization continues recruit members from religious sympathizers and attack soft targets, as evidenced against recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. USA has actively engaged itself to eliminate the threat of Al Qaeda, which is logically justifiable, as it’s partially responsible for creation of the terrorist network. Although there has been both international and domestic criticism against USA’s efforts to combat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and its bordering areas, this strategy has paid dividends and it has severely undermined the organization (Teson, 2005).
To completely eliminate the threat of Al Qaeda, a combination of military and political strategies is required where the terrorist network is attacked at its functional, operational and organizational level. USA should ensure the neutralization of Al Qaeda leadership and cadres and simultaneously hold meaningful dialogue with Islamic countries to desist their youths from joining the terror outfit.