Terrorism is as old as the world’s history. It has been used throughout history by various groups and countries. To some people it is a strategy, crime, holy duty or tactic depending on which side one looks at it from. Some say terrorism is necessary as a reaction to repression while others see it as an abomination. In a conflict, the weaker side often results to terrorism to instill fear into an opposing side. It gives them coercive power and they enjoy similar advantages as those of a military force but at a very low cost. Perpetrators of terrorism are very secretive and organized into small organizations that are very hard to detect and trace. This gives them an advantage over their opponents who are not able to defend themselves or deter the operations of terrorists.
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Terrorists carry out their activities and sometimes disguise them as criminal activities this makes it difficult to determine the extent of terrorism threat as well as define terrorism. Terrorism is defined as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological ” (What is Terrorism, para. 2). The main aim of terrorism is to draw attention of the local population, state and the entire world to the cause of terrorists. The attacks are planned in such a way that they get the greatest possible publicity and often attack things or people that “symbolize what they oppose” (What is Terrorism, para. 4). Effectiveness of terrorism does not lie in the terrorist acts, but in the reaction by the state and the public. This paper will look at three cases of terrorism- ideological, nationalist and religious. Main body
Ideological terrorism takes place when a group tries to impose its wishes on others. In Germany, the Red Army Faction (RAF) also called Baader-Meinhof unleashed ideological terrorism. This group was among the most violent terrorist groups in that country after Second World War. It started in 1970 and operated until 1998. The group had three sub groups during its lifetime. Rote Armee Franktion was the first sub group; this sub group was the first generation and included Baader and other associates. The second generation operated from mid to the late 1970s when members of the Socialist Patients Collective came into the group. The last generation lasted from 1980s to 1998. The group leant towards the left wing and identified itself as a communist group that was opposed to imperialism. Thus, the group engaged in guerrilla war to oppose the state as they considered it fascist- authoritarian and radical. Many university students were involved in the organization and the members perpetrated acts of terror against the people in authority. This was done to show their displeasure with the government. The group had the objective of making Germany a multiparty as fascism supported a one party democracy. The group enjoyed support from the German population as they unleashed terror on those they opposed and records show the group murdered thirty-four people (Katz 12). They robbed banks to finance their operations. The state responded to the activities of the group by discharging police to arrest members. Many were arrested and this led to very high-level trials in German’s history. Some of the members committed suicide for instance
Nationalist terrorism is promoted by nationalism. Nationalist seek to gain autonomy or establish an independent state through separatism. Nationalist terrorists oppose imperial powers, which they consider illegitimate. Nationalist terrorists operate in groups affiliated to things like religion, national borders or ethnicity. Members in such groups feel oppressed and denied rights that privileged groups enjoy. Therefore, the groups organize themselves to fight for freedom. They also fight against immigration as immigrants are seen as a threat to the development of the local people. However, a question on what constitutes an illegitimate government is not easy to define (Bjorgo 125- 130).
Tamil Tigers of Sri-Lanka is an example of a nationalist terrorist group. The group was started in 1976. It began a violent campaign to create a sovereign Tamil state. This campaign led to Sri Lankan Civil War that was the longest conflict in Asia and “perhaps the most ruthless and bloody suicide campaign in modern history” (Linden 79). During their operation, they were a well-organized militia and recruited children into the army. The children were used to carry out massacres, suicide bombings as well as assassinations of top Sri Lankan officials and politicians from India. The child soldiers killed Rajiv Gandhi an Indian Prime Minister and Ranasinghe Premadasa the Sri Lankan President. In addition, women were used to perpetrate suicide attacks.
The Sri Lankan authorities responded to the violent attacks using the Sri Lankan military. Fierce confrontations took place between the military and the Tamil Tigers. During this conflict, the military and the terrorists exchanged control of the territory in northeast Sri Lanka. The authorities also involved the Tamil Tigers in peace talks during four different times to try to end the war but all the talks were unsuccessful. When the last peace talks failed in 2006, the authorities launched a major offensive against the Tamil Tigers and too control of the entire country. This saw the defeat of the Tamil Tigers and victory was declared in May 2009 (Linden 89-93).
Religious terrorism is motivated by faith or religious character. Throughout history, different religions have used terrorism against people who had different beliefs. In the 21st century, religious terrorism has been on the increase. It has become one of the greatest threats of national security, as people are willing to kill in the name of God. Religion has become important to terrorists as Stephen Weinberg says, “for good people to do evil things, that takes religion” (Juergensmeyer 6). On the contrary, other people say religion s only one of the incidental factors because religious terrorism is geopolitical. Hoffman gives religious terrorism three traits. One, it uses religious scriptures to justify violent acts. Two, clericals are included in the leadership of the terrorists organizations and lastly the perpetrators see destruction as a necessity in the religious war (90). An example of religious terrorism is the alleged Iranian state sponsored terrorism. Iran is alleged to support many terrorists groups for instance the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Lebanese Hezbollah and HAMAS.
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These groups undermine the peace negotiations in the Middle East using terrorism. Iran provides the groups with shelter, protection and weapons to the terrorists groups. In 2000, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) together with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) were “involved in the planning and execution of terrorist acts and continued to support a variety of groups that use terrorism to pursue their goals” (State- Sponsored Terrorism, Iran, para.1). The groups the state supports are opposed to the state of Israel and peace negotiations between Israel and her neighbors. The Iran religious leaders who are also in political leadership have shown their hostility towards Israel, Supreme leader Khamenei called Israel a “cancerous tumor” that must be destroyed while the Expediency Council Secretary Rezai said, “Iran will continue its campaign against Zionism until Israel is completely eradicated” (State- Sponsored Terrorism, Iran, para.2). Authorities in Iran have reacted to religious conflict by supporting the terrorist groups in and out of Iran; they have also declared countries that support Israel enemies. Authorities outside Iran have responded to this state sponsored terrorism by placing sanctions against Iran. The USA has been very vocal about the issue and this has led to a sour relationship between the two countries.
Different process led to terrorism activities of the three cases identified above. In Baader-Meinhof’s case, terrorist attacks began when Hanns Schleyer was hijacked and later killed in 1977(Katz 18). The group developed from student movements and most of the members were middle-class. They were fighting against a “West German Capitalist establishment” (Baader- Meinhof Gang 1). The gang had support from about a quarter of youthful West Germans but they opposed their tactics. When the police killed an activist during a protect against the visit of an Iran Shah in 1967 the founder of the group Andreas Baader concluded that the ruling regime was worse than the post war one and vowed to a violent campaign against the state. He detonated two homemade bombs in department stores in Frankfurt and he was arrested.
In 1970, he was able to escape from prison through the help of a left-wing journalist. This event made the gang to become engrained in the public mind. The gang members received training with the assistance of Palestinian Liberation Organization and staged many bank robberies and building bombings. Later Baader went back to prison following an arrest with his accomplices. The militants in the group carried bloody attacks to demand the release of the leaders. Many top ranking government officials were assassinated. The government stayed put and did not release the detained leaders and the gangs’ effort to have them released failed and Bader committed suicide while in prison. Baader-Meinhof became increasingly isolated and thus become weakened and their attacks in the 1980s did not produce desired results. Finally, after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 the group weakened immensely “on 20 April 1998, the group announced its dissolution” (Baader- Meinhof Gang 1). The government ordered the “arrest of the RAF hierarchy” (Katz 19).
The process that led to the formation of Tamil Tigers was to refurbish the old group into a new group that would carry out the objectives ruthlessly and using professional fighting force. (Hoffman 139). The group trained its members and ensured that they kept discipline. Many Tamil youths were attracted to the group and enrolled for training. They carried out attacks against government officials, politicians and the police to draw attention to their cause. In 1983, the group killed 13 soldiers during an ambush on the Sri Lankan army troop. This led to riots and many Tamil youths joined the group to fight against the government. India got involved in the conflict due to an influx of refugees into its state by giving food parcels to people in Jaffna Sri Lanka. This led to negotiations and that resulted in an accord between Sri Lanka and India. Members of Tamil Tigers were asked to hand in their arms but the disbarment did not succeed due to opposition form other terrorist groups. This led to more conflicts and politicians in both India and Sri Lanka were assassinated in bomb attacks. Tamil Tigers continued to grow in strength and resistance of the government. More soldiers met their death in different attacks. On the other hand, conflicts and divisions arose within the terrorist groups and this led to breakaways. Due to the dissent in the organization of the groups, talks with the government did not prevail and the government decided on military action. The government killed many leaders of the organization and in May 2009 Tamil Tigers were defeated ending a long conflict (Linden 176-9).
The reason for Iran’s state sponsored terrorism is to influence politics of other countries indirectly. The phenomenon of state sponsored terrorism started around the mid-1970s and picked during the 1980s. Iran used groups or ‘surrogates’ to attack other nations (Zalman 1). Lebanese Hezbollah is an example of a surrogate used by Iran. This started following the creation of IRGC to promote the goals of a revolution. The spirit of revolution was sold to Lebanon through the training of Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. The IRGC supplies arms to Shiite militias who undermine Iraq. Hezbollah started in 1982 after Israel invaded Lebanon to uproot the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Iran sent members of IRGC to help in the war against Israel. The group got support from Iran which supplied intelligence on “Israel targets and manning and firing missiles” (Zalman 1). The other terrorist groups that Iran sponsors in other countries are to influence the politics of those countries. This has led to the crisis witnessed in the Middle East for a long time because the terrorist groups undermine any peace negotiations under the indirect influence of Iran, which seeks to achieve its target of retaliation against Israel as well as promote its states interests.
The three cases of terrorism can be analyzed using the relative deprivation hypothesis. Relative deprivation occurs when “where individuals or groups subjectively perceive themselves as unfairly disadvantaged over others perceived as having similar attributes and deserving similar rewards” (Young 1). These feelings of deprivation lead to radical politics, social uprisings, religious revolution and plethora crime (Beiner 1). In the Baader-Meinhof people resulted to terrorism to oppose a capitalist West Germany which had leaders of the Nazi regime in power (Katz 10). They felt the capitalist regime was depriving people of economic opportunity because in capitalism wealth is distributed among few individuals and the rest of the population may languish in poverty. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka felt oppressed by the ruling regime. They also felt deprived of their rights by the imperial government thus staged violent attacks to fight for freedom and development for the locals who were being deprived by the immigrants. In the last case, Iran resulted to terrorism because it feels deprived of a role as the leader and the most powerful country in the Middle East. The attacks through terrorists groups are to dismantle peace talks in the region so that Iran does not lose its relevance. This hypothesis is useful in understanding the cause of terrorism in the three regions.
Finally, terrorism is a difficult issue that continues to threaten the stability of the world especially in the wake of non-conventional terrorism such as biological, chemical and nuclear weapons that terrorist groups may be considering to use due to the nature of destruction such non-conventional weapons may cause. This danger is more real with the case of state sponsored terrorism like in Iran because the state has resources to fund such ventures. Solutions to problems in countries should not be solved by staging violent attacks on civilians rather by dialogue. Terrorist groups and governments should be willing to negotiate for peace to save innocent civilians from suffering due to acts of terrorists.
Beiner, Ronald. Theories and Causes of Terrorism. 2009. Web.
Bjorgo, Tore. Root causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and Ways Forward. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.
Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: the Global rise of Religious Violence. California: University of California Press, 2003.
Katz, Samuel M. Raging within: ideological Terrorism. Colorado: Twenty-First Century Books, 2003.
Linden, Edward V. Focus on Terrorism. New York: Nova Publishers, 2003.
Overview of State- Sponsored Terrorism. 2000. Web.
What is Terrorism? 2009. Web.
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Who were the Baader- Meinhof Gang? 2007. Web.
Young, Jock. Relative Deprivation. 2009. Web.
Zalman, Amy. Iran and Terrorism- State Sponsored Terrorism in Iran. 2009. Web.