Commentary

Terror Attacks Disrupt Ramadan

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

Views from the Region

A number of terror attacks — both successful and thwarted — have disrupted celebrations of the holy month of Ramadan throughout the Muslim world. The violence, either planned or inspired by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, reached Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Kuwait and Lebanon, cumulatively resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. This chaos highlights the fact that IS retains its ability to wreak havoc in the region, and raises questions about the ability of security services across the region to adequately defend civilians. The answers to these questions, unfortunately, are not easy to come by, although some are beginning to suggest that answering violence with violence may not, on its own, be a winning formula.

Iraq suffered its worst terror attack in years, with over 200 Iraqis killed in a suicide truck bomb attack in Baghdad. Numerous reports suggest Iraqi citizens are losing their faith in the Iraqi government, which seems to be unable to provide much-needed security for its citizens. Gulf Today posted a report by AFP that states: “Iraqis are furious at the government's inability to keep residents safe, even as its forces on the battlefield push back IS outside the capital....Bombings in the capital have decreased since Daesh overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in June 2014, with the jihadists apparently tied down by operations elsewhere. But the group has struck back against Iraqi civilians after suffering military setbacks.... Abadi announced a series of security changes after Sunday's bombing, including scrapping the fake detectors. He also ordered the installation of scanning devices at entrances to Baghdad to be speeded up, instructed security personnel to be banned from using mobile phones at checkpoints, and called for increased aerial reconnaissance and coordination among security forces. But soldiers and policemen still carried the fake detectors at some checkpoints in central Baghdad on Monday, saying the order to stop using them had not yet been passed down.”

The current tragic situation in Iraq and the impact insecurity is having on vast swaths of Iraqi society is the subject of a recent Gulf Today editorial, which raises a troubling question: “What can be more agonizing than the merciless killing of several innocent people during the Holy Month of Ramadan by mindless and ruthless terrorists? Just a week after the Iraqi security forces recaptured Fallujah from the dreaded Daesh, a number of people have been killed or wounded in the deadliest single terrorist attack this year in Baghdad. Many of those killed were children....Iraq has been forced to endure endless misery for a long time, ever since a war was imposed on it by Washington based on lies that it possessed weapons of mass destruction. Shockingly, there has been a long list of deadly attacks in Iraq this year....The situation is also worse for children. One out of every five Iraqi children are said to be at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups, according to a new United Nations report.”

Khaleej Times’s Sarakshi Rai draws attention to the lack of proper media coverage and international attention to the most recent terror attacks in Iraq, concluding that the lack of solidarity is proof of a double standard in the West regarding the national origin of terror victims: “It's been more than 24 hours and the world is not reeling - seemingly at all - from the shock of the horrific Baghdad attack that took place in the Iraqi capital on Saturday, which was the worst attack on Iraqi soil in years and left over 200 people dead....But the world doesn't care. But unlike the last two attacks by Daesh in Western Europe, in Paris and Brussels, there are no cries of ‘Je suis Baghdad’ or ‘Je suis Iraqi’, and there are no Facebook flag filters or huge tribute posts on social media. This puts the total number of people killed in attacks since February at 591, with scores more almost surely unaccounted for. But sadly, the world is seemingly quiet where the Baghdad attack is concerned....Why is it that we care less about victims in Baghdad than victims in Paris? How does one explain the selective grief and media coverage through which we view human tragedies? ...Some might argue that because attacks rarely occur in the West, the impact is greater. But such arguments will ring hollow to people in the Middle East and Asia. It doesn't diminish their suffering.”

But Baghdad was not the only target of terror attacks last week, with several Saudi cities coming under ISIS-inspired terror attacks. Reflecting on these developments and the timing of such attacks, Peninsula’s editorial fears we may be witnessing a new stage in the war against terror: “Hundreds of people have been killed and wounded in these attacks – in Orlando in the US, in Istanbul, in Dhaka, in Baghdad and now in Saudi, though the death toll in the Saudi attack is yet to be ascertained. It’s tragically ironic that a vast majority of the victims in these attacks are Muslims though their perpetrators claim to be defenders of the faith....But the attacks in Saudi show that terrorism is entering a new, and its most dangerous, reprehensible phase....Though terrorist attacks have happened in Saudi before, coordinated and multiple attacks are rare, which show that militants have been able to establish a certain network. The Islamic world and the international community must stand in solidarity with Saudi in this time of crisis. The fight against terrorism will be long and difficult, but this is a war that we must win.”

According to a Saudi Gazette report, the terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the holy city of Medina, have drawn the condemnation of a number of prominent religious and political leaders: “The Council of Senior Ulema stressed that the botched terrorist incidents that targeted locations in Jeddah and Al-Qatif and then the Haram Al-Nabawi confirm that these people who have deviated from religion and digressed from the consensus of Muslims and their leader have exceeded all sanctities....The Secretary General and Spokesman of the Higher Judicial Council Sheikh Salman Bin Muhammad Al-Nashwan described the criminal terrorist incidents that occurred in Jeddah, Al-Qatif and Madinah as evil, despicable and destructive terrorist acts....Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman and Egypt strongly condemned the terrorist acts that took place in Madinah and the terrorist blast in Al-Qatif.”

Meanwhile, in an op-ed for Arab News, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim makes an attempt to appeal to members of terrorist sleeping cells in Saudi Arabia, urging them to reconsider the choices they have made: “The attacks were apparently synchronized to disrupt the celebration of Eid in the Kingdom, but minutes after the attacks things were back to normal because the Saudis and the expatriates in the Kingdom now realize that these terrorists are playing a coward game and they are destined to fail. The faith in our government and security forces is getting stronger by the day....It is sad to see young men or women wearing explosive suicide belts heading for their sure death for causes and reasons that are never clear and never known. It is sad to see these young men or women growing up and not becoming valuable assets for their families and countries. Many of the so-called sleeping cells should take a chance to think and think of themselves, their families, their country and return to the path of wisdom and truth. But, at the end of the day the terrorists know that they have not been able to make even a small dent in our country’s unity.”

With news of a foiled terror attack in Kuwait coming in the aftermath of the tragic events in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, it appears that terrorist organizations, and especially the so-called Islamic State, are bent on sowing chaos across the region. This threat necessitates, as the Kuwait Times reports, greater vigilance domestically and deeper cooperation abroad: “National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Ali Al-Ghanem yesterday lauded the security forces, namely Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, for aborting the terrorist scheme that aimed at undermining the country’s security. Speaker Al-Ghanem said in a statement that the Interior Ministry’s announcement about foiling the scheme ‘affirms that the terrorist hand still threatens Kuwait thus there must be cooperation with the Ministry of Interior personnel and abidance by their instructions for sake of safeguarding its security and stability’.”

The Iranian government, long accused of enabling such attacks in an attempt to weaken their regional rival Saudi Arabia, condemned the attacks in Turkey, Iraq, and Bangladesh. According to a Tehran Times report, “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zaif has said, ‘We should not rest until terrorists are defeated.’ ‘We should not and will not rest until those behind terror in Istanbul, Dhaka, and now Baghdad, and their ideology, are defeated,’ Zarif wrote in his Twitter account on Monday....On Friday, gunmen also attacked the people at a restaurant in Dhaka and took hostages and exchanged gunfire with police until police forces moved in and killed the gunmen. Twenty people inside the restaurant were killed, along with two police officers and six terrorists. In another Twitter message on Sunday, Zarif wrote, ‘Latest terror attack in Dhaka, less headline-making in the West, nonetheless shows we must be united in ridding our world of this evil’.”

That terror must be fought is a bygone decision. The question is how and by what means? In a Khaleej Times editorial, the answer to that question doesn’t lay so much in tit for tat measures, but in trying to find a way to roll back the hatred that permeates many of these radicalized youths: “The cycle of violence has spawned a maniacal industry that is bloody and unsparing. What's more scary is that it is relentless. The killers and wannabe death squads never seem to give up. When a person turns suicidal and is unafraid to take his or her own life before blowing up others, what can elite Special Forces do to stop him? How farther should the security perimeter be?...The epicenter of this madness could lie in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, countries in the grip of violent groups spreading their brand of violence on the so-called civilized world by taking it to global capitals. Actions of extremists show they will not give up anytime soon. They are driven after being indoctrinated by some insane idea. Religion is an excuse....A sick ideology that promotes violence. The war on terror is passé. What's needed is a war on hatred.”


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