A Firm International Response to ISIS


A Firm International Response to ISIS

26 Sep 2014

In a week which has seen the international community, centred around the United Nations General Assembly, responding to the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including ISIS, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the main outcomes, focusing on what this means for religious minorities around the world.

The United Nations Security Council met on 24 September 2014 to discuss Resolution 2178 (2014), on the threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. The Council voted unanimously to adopt this resolution, condemned violent extremism and agreed that Member States shall, consistent with international law, prevent the "recruiting, organising, transporting or equipping of individuals who travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning of, or participation in terrorist acts".

A key component of Resolution 2178 (2014) is the specific reference to religious communities; the resolution notes the following:

"Terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilisation"

  • "Emphasising that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilisation";
  • "Recognising that addressing the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters requires comprehensively addressing underlying factors, including by preventing radicalisation to terrorism, stemming recruitment, inhibiting foreign terrorist fighter travel, disrupting financial support to foreign terrorist fighters, countering violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism, countering incitement to terrorist acts motivated by extremism or intolerance, promoting political and religious tolerance, economic development and social cohesion and inclusiveness, ending and resolving armed conflicts, and facilitating reintegration and rehabilitation";
  • "Encourages Member States to engage relevant local communities and non-governmental actors in developing strategies to counter the violent extremist narrative that can incite terrorist acts, address the conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism, including by empowering youth, families, women, religious, cultural and education leaders, and all other concerned groups of civil society and adopt tailored approaches to countering recruitment to this kind of violent extremism and promoting social inclusion and cohesion."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening remark: "In the last year, terrorist attacks have killed, maimed and displaced many thousands of civilians – the vast majority of them Muslims from Afghanistan to Somalia to Nigeria... from Iraq to Libya to Mali. These attacks have been carried out by violent extremists who thrive in conditions of insecurity and injustice, fragility and failed leadership. These groups ruthlessly hijack religion to control territory and vital economic resources. They brutalise women and girls. They target and slaughter minorities. They are the enemies of faith."

United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Too often people have been faced with a false choice between an autocratic and unrepresentative government on the one hand - or a brutal insurgency, with religion misused as its rallying call on the other. To combat this we must support the building blocks of free and open societies." He continued: "The poisonous ideology spewed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has nothing to do with Islam, which is peaceful religion that inspired countless acts of generosity every day. To defeat ideology of extremism, world leaders must deal with all forms of extremism, not just violent extremism."

The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama said: "Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity's future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion. But this is not simply a matter of words. Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment."

Key Points from the Debate
  • The Security Council underscored the "particular and urgent need" to prevent the travel and support for foreign terrorist fighters associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Nusra Front (ANL) and other affiliates or splinter groups of Al-Qaida;
  • Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that more than 13,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 80 Member States had joined ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front as a consequence of the conflict in Syria, he said, citing the estimate of the United Nations Al-Qaeda-Taliban Monitoring Team. 
  • The Secretary General welcomed the Council resolution and its call for strengthening the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Through the Counter-Terrorism Centre, the Organisation was already working with Member States to develop and implement strategies to combat the flow of foreign terrorist fighters. 
  • BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States, said it was only the sixth time in 70 years that the Security Council had met at such a level and it did so to address the most urgent threats to peace and security. The international community was brought together to address the unprecedented flow of foreign fighters to conflicts in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and, more recently, to Iraq and Syria. Around 15,000 people had joined terrorist groups in the region, mainly Al-Nusra Front and ISIL. Terrorists exacerbated conflicts, posed immediate threats and foreign fighters were likely to return to their home countries to carry out attacks. International cooperation had increased, with foreign fighters arrested, plots disrupted and lives saved but more capacity was needed to tackle the issue and prevent fighters from reaching Syria and slipping back over its borders.
  • GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, President of Nigeria, described his horror at the murders committed by the Islamic State and the murder of French tourist Hervé Gourdel which "typified the new face of global terrorism". The Islamic State was not alone in its "despicable campaign against humanity", with several other groups, including Boko Haram in Nigeria, also promoting instability. Foreign fighters added a dangerous dimension to the problem. Nigeria had been confronting threats to stability over the past five years. The most prominent incident was the recent kidnapping of girls from their school. He had mobilised resources to root out terrorism from his nation and was engaged in efforts to improve the situation of the population in Nigeria's north-east. That included fast-tracking infrastructure redevelopment, a victim support fund and a safe school initiative. He said that the Security Governance Initiative that stemmed from the US-Africa Summit would enhance security on the continent. The Security Council needed to capitalise on the determination it was showing to seek more innovative responses to terror, especially "the growing menace of foreign fighters".
  • FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE, President of France, expressed thanks for the sympathy expressed over the beheading of one of his fellow citizens earlier in the day, and said that all terrorism was deeply disturbing. No country was safe from the recruiting activities of groups like ISIL. In response, all countries must take swift national action. His country had been developing legislation that addressed the individual fighters, the networks that got them to conflict areas and the Internet communications that contacted them. A military, economic and political response was also needed — against the travel of fighters, as well as all trafficking and terrorist funding. The root causes of extremism must be addressed. France would play a full role in all those areas.
  • ABDULLAH II IBN AL HUSSEIN, King of Jordan, said that an effective strategy against terrorism must be consistent and worldwide. "It is the fight of our times," requiring a united struggle backed up by resources. Marginalisation, poverty and exclusion must be fought at the same time. Immediate action was needed, as ISIL and other groups were consolidating their gains and their Internet presence. There also had to be a zero tolerance policy for support, financing and arming of terrorist groups. In addition, he stressed that countries must act consistently in speaking out against extremism and intolerance, saying that he had been instrumental in differentiating ISIL from Islam. In the same context, the Israeli/Palestinian crisis needed to be resolved. Calling his country a bulwark of stability in an unstable region, he called for greater international support to its efforts in that regard, including its reception of refugees.
  • DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, described barbaric murders recently committed in the Middle East, which were "medieval" in character. Most shocking was how citizens of other countries had been sucked into the conflict, with around 500 fanatics from the United Kingdom in Syria and Iraq. The shocking murders committed by a fighter with a British accent underlined the sinister and direct nature of the threat. People in his country were sickened that one of their citizens could have killed a fellow Briton who had gone to help. The effects of the threat of terrorism would be around for years because groups like Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Al-Qaida and others were involved elsewhere in the world. He noted new powers granted in the United Kingdom to tackle the movement of foreign fighters.
  • TONY ABBOTT, Prime Minister of Australia, pointed out that citizens from 80 countries were now fighting with ISIL, thus making every country a potential target. There were at least 60 Australians now involved with terrorist organisations in the Middle East and 100 Australians supporting them. Twenty had returned home, "disposed to wreak havoc". Recently, instructed by an operative in Syria, an Australian terrorist had savagely attacked two policemen. The Government was now enacting laws that would ensure foreign fighters returning home could be arrested, prosecuted and gaoled. More than 60 citizens had their passports suspended as well. "We aren't just dealing with potential terrorists at home; we're tackling their inspiration abroad," he stated, emphasising that the goal was not to change people but protect them and not to change Governments, but to combat terrorism.
  • SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, said that his country had long advocated consistent combat against all forms of terrorism, and for that reason had opposed interventions that armed terrorists. Foreign terrorist fighters had increased since the intervention in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. Pointing to a need to comprehensively combat all terrorists, he proposed an international forum that took a holistic view of the problem and addressed long-standing problems such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that helped create a climate conducive to extremism.
  • WANG YI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, described recent terrorist attacks in his country and said that Middle East conflicts drew fighters like magnets. Those individuals then spread violence around the world. The Internet was a particularly troubling conduit for extremist ideas and there was a battle for the minds of young people around the world. The United Nations must take the lead in a multisectoral approach to counter the scourge. Military actions must comply with the United Nations Charter. Double standards must be avoided and terrorism must not be connected with any religious or ethnic group. In addition, information sharing must be increased, terrorist use of the Internet must be obstructed, terrorist financing must be ended and the counter-terrorism activities of Middle East countries must be supported. He pledged his country's support for the global combat against terrorism.
  • HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister of Iraq, said that his country represented the first line against terrorism, with ISIL having slaughtered minorities and other civilians and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. It was not an Iraqi organisation, but created through foreign funding, ideologies of hate, oil smuggling networks and foreign recruitment networks, in addition to including former Ba'ath party members. He expressed gratitude to all the States that had stood beside Iraq in the current fight, and requested enough support be provided to conclusively defeat the terrorists. He also called for an end to purchases of oil from ISIL, blocking their travel and recruitment, ending their use of the Internet and assistance in rebuilding cities destroyed by ISIL. His country would continue to combat the terrorists, he pledged, and he looked forward to closer cooperation with countries that had common interests.
  • RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, President of Turkey, said the region had become a magnet for attracting foreign fighters due to a collapse of State structures. He had warned the international community repeatedly about the threat but had been greeted by "inertia". That prepared the ground for Al-Qaida to re-emerge and grow stronger under the name ISIL. Turkey was leading on developing an approach that would stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, but stressed that the fight had to begin as soon as they left source countries, preventing their entry into Turkey. Cooperation had been insufficient but recently more information was being shared. As a result, 3,600 people were included on a no-entry list, with many since deported. Turkey had suffered from terrorism for years so was well placed to understand the pain that it entailed. In 2011 the Global Counter-Terror Forum was established in Turkey and all legal measures had been taken against ISIL. There was huge pressure on Turkey's border caused by refugees, including more than 140,000 Syrian Kurds and 70,000 Yezidis from Iraq. He had not received the international support expected and had been the target of unjust criticism.
  • UHURU KENYATTA, President of Kenya, noted that last week, his country had commemorated the attack on the Westgate mall that had left 67 people from 13 nationalities dead. Half the terrorists in that attack had been foreigners who had come to fight alongside Al-Shabaab. The fragile security environment in Somalia required regional cooperation. In that regard, he underscored that sufficient support to those ongoing operations was integral to securing stability in Somalia and the region and denying such fighters any operational space, and he urged expanded support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) towards that end.
  • SARTAJ AZIZ, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Pakistan, said his country had "paid a heavy price in blood and resources in the war against terrorism". To oppose the "hydra-headed monster", quick, commensurate responses were needed that complied with international law. Foreign terror fighters had no stake in the peace and security of regions where they were active. Instead, they were the core around which radical extremism often flourished. It was essential to resolve the conflicts that bred those fighters. While military action against terrorists was necessary, it was also important to focus on a political approach to stem the growth of terror groups. All States needed to take stringent countermeasures and help build capacities of other affected States.
  • RAMTANE LAMAMRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said the issue of foreign terrorist fighters was not new to his country. It had confronted it steadfastly in the 1990s and had initiated the call for an international comprehensive approach to tackle it. His country had recently welcomed the safe return of two of its diplomats who had been held for almost three years after having been kidnapped in Gao, Mali. Committed to fighting the scourge of terrorism, Algeria had co-sponsored the related draft resolution that sets the political, legal and operational aspects of the appropriate international response. Addressing terrorism meant bearing in mind "all other tentacles of that behemoth phenomenon", he said, while cautioning that the Middle East conflict would remain a persistent disruption to world peace if the international community did not address the question of illegal occupation, continuous and violent injustice and the denial of the right to self-determination and freedom.
  • BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria) said his country had been the first to denounce groups, such as ISIL, and communicate the dangers they posed. His country was also the first to confront ISIL on the ground. "Those terrorists have run riot in Syria", he said, but they couldn't have done so without the support from Member States which gave them financial, technical and diplomatic support. Furthermore, the presence of Israel in the coalition undermined efforts to fight terrorism, pointing to that country's shooting down of a Syrian plane that was only doing its national duty. The United Nations was the main forum for bolstering efforts to combat terrorism, but success meant that there had to be a distancing from politicisation and finding pretext for combating terrorism. There could be no "moderate" terrorism as compared to "extreme" terrorism or "good" terrorist and "bad" terrorism. "Terrorism is terrorism", he stated, pointing to Member States such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia being included as part of the effort to combat those groups when they were supporting them.
  • VINOD KUMAR (India) noted that while the current focus on foreign terrorist fighters was recent, the threat had existed for some time and was part of the broader challenge of international terrorism. Commending the Security Council for establishing a framework to tackle the phenomenon, he stressed that the supply chain of terror was global. The economic and operational infrastructure of terrorist networks needed to be dismantled. Endless debate was not a luxury afforded to the international community in responding to the issue and the price paid for procrastination was human lives. Calling for an international convention on the matter, he stressed the importance of cooperation, particularly on information sharing, financing, recruitment and travel. States also needed to ensure that their territories were not used to recruit and train terrorists.
  • AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) underlined the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin. He said the revolutions in his region had taken on a religious dimension, and Egypt had often called for a general strategy to deal with the issue. Appeals were made to young people, calling for them to fight, encouraging them to take action in the name of religion. Young people were being told lies and Egypt was taking measures to combat that issue. His country's Criminal Code defined terrorism and contained provisions for its penalisation. In talking about combating terrorism in the Middle East, it was important that the approach was comprehensive. The issue went beyond the Islamic State as terror had to be dealt with wherever it was found, Syria or elsewhere.

This article summarises an external report, and is not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. 


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