Mideast Valdai Conference, Session 3. Terrorism in the Middle East and Methods of Combating It
Moscow, Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall
List of speakers

One of the fundamental issues in the Middle East was raised at the third session of the conference - terrorism and the methods of combating it. The panelists began discussing the definition of terrorism and highlighted the two most urgent formulas, mentioned in UNSC Resolution #1566 of 2004 and the US National Security Strategy of 2002.

The problem is in the division of the political groups to terrorist and non-terrorist ones for own sake of the actors. For example, Russia considers militants operating in Syria as terrorists, while the US considers them as freedom fighters. In Syria, there is a fairly big number of actors: ISIS, Hezbollah, foreign countries, as well as various groups acting on the side and against the Syrian government.

Talking about the reason for such a long battle with ISIS, Shlomo Brom, a senior research associate at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, suggested that this is due to insincerity in the positions of the countries involved in the conflict. Russia and Iran, according to him, are more interested in the preservation of the Assad regime in Syria, and the United States - in his overthrow, but not in a direct struggle against Islamic radicals. US chooses its allies, depending on "investment" in militants.

In the absence of ideas to stabilize the situation the fight against ISIS will have very limited success. Even a military victory over the terrorist organization does not guarantee that it will not be reborn again on the basis of instability in the region. The only solution, according to Shlomo Brom, is to develop a common vision for the future of Syria and Iraq. Agreement on Syria reached between the United States and Russia, is one of the steps in this direction, the scholar said.

Arguing what is behind terrorism, Alastair Crooke. director of Conflicts Forum, former EU adviser on security in the Middle East, said that there was no terrorist group without support of a state, pursuing its own geopolitical interests in the region.

Participants also noted that terrorism was characterized by a religious character. There are communities, not necessarily religious, that feed terrorism because of the high level of poverty. Poverty leads to the loss of a man self-esteem and increase feelings of revenge. Government and the army are important factors to fight against terrorism.

Paul J.Saunders, Executive Director, Center for the National Interest, tried to distinguish terrorism and war. Both concepts are similar in terms of violence, but different in scale. Classical war follows the rules, worked out over the centuries, and terrorism is not subject to any rules. Both phenomena are characterized by a high degree of cruelty. The only indisputable distinction between terrorism and the war is the fact that the first has no legitimacy.

Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedu, deputy director and scientific director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, made a comparison of modern terrorism, with its manifestations 20-30 years ago. Modern terrorist organizations have lost their territorial dimension and tend to form a transnational existence as a manifestation of post-globalization development. Modern terrorism has invested significant resources in its operations, hiring professional managers and fighters. The international community has not come to an agreement in considering terrorism in terms of territoriality or the transnationality. Three solutions were proposed, which can put an end to terrorism: cessation of conflicts, solution of social problems and the accumulation of more resources and knowledge to fight terrorism.