Another 9/11 Anniversary has come and gone, but the pain and horror of that tragic day in the USA’s proud history will never be erased from our memory banks.
On this note, credit must be afforded to various satellite television channels that, each year, broadcast documentaries focused around what happened in New York and Washington back in 2001. Although the sights, sounds and stories told are deeply shocking and unpleasant, these programmes serve as a timely – and extremely necessary – reminder that terrorism is no respecter of national boundaries, physical and cyber perimeters or even the most substantial world powers. In short, we must always be ‘on alert’.
As if to prove the point, here we are in September 2014 and the threat landscape is not only evolving but, at the same time, escalating to greater and even more worrying heights. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has seen fit to raise the UK’s threat level in relation to the prospect of international terrorism impacting home shores, with Home Secretary Theresa May confirming this now stands at ‘Severe’. It’s the first time in three years, in fact, that a ‘Severe’ status has been declared.
In short, this means that some form of terrorist attack in the UK is highly likely (although the authorities are presently at pains to point out there’s no intelligence available to suggest an assault of any kind is imminent).
That upscaling reflects recent developments in both Syria and Iraq where there’s an apparent ambition to nurture an extremist caliphate and plot attacks on Western democracies. Further, David Cameron believes that “at least” 500 individuals have travelled from Britain to fight in Syria and – possibly – Iraq.
The barbaric murder of American journalist James Foley provided ample evidence that foreign conflicts thousands of miles distant from these shores are not ones that we can (or indeed should) ignore.
“The root cause of this threat to our security is quite clear,” asserted the Prime Minister in a forceful statement to the media. “It’s a poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism that is condemned by all faiths and all faith leaders. It believes in using the most brutal forms of terrorism to force people to accept a warped world view and live in an almost medieval state. A state in which its own citizens would suffer unimaginable brutality.” Add to this the potential for ‘terrorism export’. A serious issue.
As the Prime Minister has rightly pointed out, what we now face in Iraq with ISIL represents a “greater and deeper threat” than we have ever known. Our Government believes ISIL has designs on expanding into Jordan and the Lebanon and on again to the Turkish border. On that basis, we could be forced to confront a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The threats posed absolutely demand an intelligent political response. The ideology of Islamist extremism has to be tackled at its roots.
Received wisdom suggests we must challenge extremist ideologue thought, identify those groups resident in Britain who peddle an insidious extremist agenda and – according to David Cameron – “counter them by empowering the overwhelming majority who believe in the British values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for minorities.”
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK