The persistence of international terrorism is dramatically demonstrated by the doleful events of 11 September 2001, whose damaging consequences are without precedent, even though their dynamics - as evidenced by an attentive historical-analytical examination - reflect the adoption, adaptation, and harmonization of techniques either time-tested or already conceived but failed or frustrated.
By definition, international terror-
ism involves citizens or territory of two or more countries. While the forces that drive this phenomenon are multiple, two patterns tower over the rest in the contemporary world. The first is represented by the so-called combatant Communist parties, today considerably weakened. The second is represented by Islamic radicalism, today in full vigor.
With respect to other driving forces, whose international manifestations are actually more akin to spasms than patterns, the greater incidence of the two patterns under consideration is ostensibly due to their capacity to attract and aggregate human resources, express ideals, aspirations, and resentments, and exploit contingent societal factors.
Considering and comparing these two patterns is useful in order to examine the scope of international terrorism not merely as an occasional phenomenon of a tactical nature, but as a systematic one having strategic designs. From this comparison it is possible, moreover, to draw useful indications regarding the danger posed by international terrorism as a political manifestation, on one hand, and as a politico-religious manifestation, on the other.
2.Combatant Communist Partiesn
LThe combatant Communist parties, highly dynamic in the 1970s and 1980s and in decline since the 1990s, draw their inspiration from Marxism-Lenin-ism contemporaneously conceived as an all-encompassing ideology and an instrument in the struggle against Fascism, at the domestic level, and imperialism, at the international level. Terrorist groups such as the Brigate Rosse (BR) in Italy, the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF) in Germany, Action Directe (AD) in France, the Cellules Communistes Combattantes (CCC) in Belgium, and the Grupo de Resistencia Antifascista Primero de Octubre (GRAPO) in Spain, resorted to the armed struggle while interacting at the same time with the broader subversive Movement, which, in turn, included such aggregations as Autonomia, Guerrilla Difusa, and Gauche Prolétarienne, to cite the most prominent ones, and conducted agitation tactics as a pre-revolutionary step. The shared and stated objective of the Movement and of the combatant Communist parties is the effacement of the alleged injustices inbred in bourgeois society.
At both levels - subversive agitation and terrorism - these aggregations operate predominantly in an autonomous manner within individual states, while they are fully convinced to be an integral part of proletarian internationalism without frontiers. The groups that fall within this milieu, which embraces the Movement as well as the combatant Communist parties, are multiple and many of them appear and disappear from the scene or become absorbed, thanks to operational or even occasional contacts, by organizations or formations more stably entrenched.
Although, in general, the dynamics of these groups entail domestic subversive and terrorist actions, internationalism is a significant component of their rhetoric and mindset. While the Movement and the combatant Communist parties arise in reaction to the alleged conversion of the orthodox Communist parties to social democracy, equally firm is their faith in the principles that inspired in the past the Comintern, the Cominform, and the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This spirit of belonging to the working class and commitment to the internationalist struggle has produced meetings, liaison, forms of mutual support, planning, and, less frequently, joint actions.
Elements of the Movement have repeatedly met in Europe and Latin America to strengthen their ideological ties, sometimes with the participation of North American representatives. Liaison structures among kindred groups at the intercontinental level arose in various European countries. At the same time multi-national organisms for training, technical support and other services stand out, including Brigada Europea Jose Martì, Aide et Amitié, Junta de Coordinación Revolucionaria, Hyperion, and International Red Aid.
The combatant Communist parties have repeatedly called for the construction of the Combatant Anti-Imperialist Front at the international level. To that end, there are numerous cases of logistical cooperation, for example, between the BR and RAF and between AD and CCC. From a joint operational stand- point, a series of Euroterrorist attacks took place in Germany, France, the Benelux countries, and the Iberian Peninsula in the 1980s. The nature of the targets, the time frame, the modus operandi, and the wording of the concomitant responsibility claims lead to the conclusion that these attacks were part of a coordinated plan subsequently executed individually by the RAF, AD, CCC, and GRAPO. Further terrorist attacks - including the ones signed jointly by RAF-AD and RAF-BR and others claimed by combat units bearing the name of comrades of different nationalities fallen for the common cause - substantially reflect ideological solidarity.
Elements belonging to the RAF or similar German groups have also conducted joint operations with Palestinian organizations, particularly the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) created in 1967 to give an anti-imperialist dimension to the Palestinian question in Marxist-Leninist terms. This particular milieu included the notorious Venezuelan revolutionary Carlos, who managed a European network embracing Middle Eastern an European militants. Among their joint operations, it is worth recalling the seizure of the OPEC ministers in Vienna, the hijackings terminated in Entebbe and Mogadishu, and the attack on Maison de France in West Berlin. Moreover, the Japanese Red Army committed terrorist actions in the interest of the Palestinian cause in both the Middle East and Europe, while the BR joined the Lebanese Armed Rev-olutionary Faction in the responsibility claim for the attack on the director general of the Multinational Force and Observers.
In addition, one should not overlook the relations entertained by the combatant Communist parties with members of the now defunct Warsaw Pact and with Middle Eastern powers. For example, the historical record reflects asylum and other forms of support granted by Czechoslovakia to the BR and by East Germany to the RAF, as well as the recurring presence of the Carlos apparat in those two countries and in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. Lebanon, subject to Syrian military presence, has likewise been a training area and a locale for lateral contacts among certain combatant Communist parties and Third World national liberation movements.
3. Radical Islamic Organizations
CAs a movement for the establishment of Muslim governance, Islamic rad-icalism was born in the 1920s with the creation of an organization of Egyptian origin known as the Muslim Brother-
hood. From the outset, Islamic radical-
ism opposed not only colonialism, but also Western modernism and non-Islamic Arab governments. The radicalization process intensified with the formation of the State of Israel and the movement itself gradually internationalized, facilitated by the emergence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Gulf War, to the point of reaching its current dynamism.
Individually considered, the aggregations of greater relevance today are Hizballah or Party of God, Shia, Egyptian, and pro-Iranian, operational since the 1980s; Hamas or Islamic Resistance Movement and Palestine Islamic Jihad, both Sunni, operating in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank since the late 1980s the former and since the late 1970s the latter; the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Sunni and Algerian, in existence since the early 1990s, and it spin-off, Salafi Group for Call and Combat; al-Jihad or Holy War and al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya or Islamic Group, both Sunni and Egyptian, formed in the late 1970s; the Abu Sayyaf Group, Sunni and southern Filipino, a spin-off of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front since 1991; Harakat ul-Mujahidin or Movement of Islamic Fighters, Jaish-e-Mohammed or Army of Mohamed, and Lashkar-e-Tayyba or Army of the Righteous, all three Sunni, Pakistani and active primarily in the Kashmir area claimed by both Pakistan and India; and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a coalition of Islamic militants from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states.
Besides aiming at the creation of an Islamic theocratic government in their own country or even in their geopolitical area, all of the above-listed aggregations share one or more of the following char-acteristics: a dual structure, overt, on the one hand, for political action, religious ministry, proselytizing, fundraising, and social assistance, and covert, on the other hand, for terrorist initiatives; hatred for Israel; the presence of representative organs abroad; terrorist action beyond their own national boundaries; and holy war without quarter against the infidel at the universal level.
Some of these groups have enjoyed or still enjoy to this day forms of support from sponsor states governed by either theocratic or secular regimes. Iran has been supporting Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad and is accused by Egypt of supporting also Holy War and the Islamic Group. According to press sources, Libya has paid ransom to the Abu Sayyaf Group, thus encouraging it to commit further abductions of West-ern citizens. Sudan has granted asylum to Holy War, the Islamic Group, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad, which exploit-ed it as an operational base. Moreover, Algeria has charged Sudan with support-ing the GIA. Syria has been assisting on its own territory Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad and allows them, as well as Hizballah, to use the Bekaa Valley in Lebanese territory. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan avails itself of the Iranian radio system to broadcast propaganda. India accuses Pakistan of assisting Islamic terrorist organizations that operate in Kashmir(1).
Other forms of assistance, primarily financial, issue from private benefactors aware or unaware of supporting domestic and international terrorism, given the dual structure utilized by several of these groups, which, thanks precisely to their dual structure, respond to a socio-economic void unfilled by government or society in many Third World countries. This aspect increases popular following and the relative danger posed by Islamic radicalism.
The most radical Islamic activists, in order to wage holy war against the infidel, have given birth to an internation-al network, not to be confused with the mild concept of ummah that unites the Muslim faithful in the conviction of belonging all to one nation, that is, the nation of Islam. The internationalization of Islamic radicalism draws its origins from the Afghani resistance against the Soviet Union, followed by a further resistance conceived as a struggle against the American and Western occupation of the holiest places of Islam and against West-ern polluting of the Islamic world, nefariously allowed by local regimes viewed as corrupt.
In this context, a series of well known events has taken place: the constitution in the late 1980s of al-Qaida, or The Base, as an umbrella for coordinating, training and supporting various subordinate, semi-autonomous, and autonomous organizations dedicated to holy war at the global level(2); the training in Afghanistan of approximately 11,000 militants, who subsequently either fought in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, and Dagestan or returned to their respective countries to conduct an internal struggle or took up residence in the West to set up operational and logistical cells; the issuance of numerous anti-Western fat-was or religious decrees, among which stands out the one of February 1998 undersigned by representatives of al-Qaida, Holy War (Egypt), Islamic Group (Egypt), Jamat-ul-Ulema (Pakistan), and Jihad Movement (Bangladesh), in which all Muslims are called upon to kill Americans and their allies, civilians as well as military, wherever possible; the creation of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders; the fine tuning, until the recent Western military intervention in Afghanistan, of a triad consisting of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan; and about twenty anti-Western terrorist attacks that culminated in the destruction of the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon.
The purposes and the objectives of Islamic radicalism are clearly defined in a document found in England in May 2000 and titled Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants, which states in part: The main mission … is the overthrow of the godless regimes and their replacement with an Islamic regime. Other missions consist of the following:
1. Gathering information about the enemy (...);
2. Seizing enemy personnel, documents, secrets, and arms;
3. Assassinating enemy personnel as well as foreign tourists;
4. Freeing the brothers who are captured by the enemy;
5. Spreading rumors and writing state-ments that instigate people against the enemy;
6. Blasting and destroying the places of amusement, immorality, and sin;
7. Blasting and destroying the embassies and attacking vital economic centers;
8. Blasting and destroying bridges leading into and out of the cities(3).
4. Final Considerations
ABoth the combatant Communist parties and Islamic radicalism allege to stand for values: political and secular ones in the first case and political and religious ones in the second. In both cases, dedication to the pursuit of their respective values is absolute, while in-significant are the rights of those who do not share those values. Further mutual characteristics include exploitation of societal conditions; support drawn from individual citizens, private organizations, and state sponsors; various forms of propa-ganda and proselytizing; and internationalist aims and structures.
At the same time, Islamic radical-ism, in so far as motivated by a combination of religiously-based idealism and fanaticism, possesses a greater capacity than the combatant Communist parties to produce symbols and to attract followers. It suffices to recall that the figure of Osama bin Laden, however inflated by his admirers and detractors, greatly out-distances such personalities as Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Carlos, and Abu Nidal. Moreover, within the logic of total war, Islamic radicalism is decidedly more indis-criminate in its targeting, as evidenced on 11 September 2001, and therefore endea-vors not only to change the legal and social order, but also to destroy whom-ever belongs to a different socio-political culture without even being an official or substantive flag bearer thereof.
(1) For additional details on state sponsorship, which is challenged by the interested parties, see U.S. Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000, Washington, D.C., April 2001 and previous annual editions.
(2) Immediately prior to Western intervention in Afghanistan, al-Qaida reportedly included an advisory council, four committees (respectively concerned with military affairs, religious affairs, finance, and media), 5500 armed men, and cells in at least 50 countries. See Il Foglio, 13 September 2001, p.1.
(3) Text drawn from International Herald Tribune, 29 October 2001, p.1.