herald

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Terror threat is unlikely to affect your flight, the real danger is returning radicals

THIS week's threat alert that AQAP - or al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula - is developing explosive substances that can avoid detection by airport authorities is going to be another headache for those flying to the US.

From London, that is. The Dublin Airport Authority has already stated that despite being a direct link between Europe and the US, the airport will not be adding any additional delays or layers to their security screening.

Why is this? After all, is a determined bomber not just as likely to try embarking at Dublin as London, to wreak havoc in the name of Allah?

Well there are a number of factors that explain the differing reactions either side of the Irish Sea to this latest development in terrorist response.

One of these is that the battle to protect airliners from terrorist attack begins long before you start emptying your pockets of change and taking your shoes off in those laborious security lines.

In fact many intelligence and security practitioners will quietly admit that these checks are largely for cosmetic political reasons.

monitoring

The real heavy lifting takes place well outside the airports, with intelligence monitoring of likely suspects and eavesdropping on the electronic and other 'chatter' within the more extreme fraternities of the Islamic world.

There is a constant gathering and sifting of this intelligence, and it's also coordinated and shared between friendly states.

This coordination can lead to patterns being established and timely analysis allowing for the identification of threats, long before the queues for security check-in.

Another factor to be taken into account in light of this week's alert is whether AQAP and their allies in Syria, Jabhat al-Nursa, really have developed such capability.

Sometimes the intelligence community will disseminate something of this nature, something so vague that the only real value it has is to concentrate civil society's collective mindset on the issue.

This can lead to an upsurge in useful nuggets of information trickling into the intelligence community.

However, this cuts both ways. The current new kid on the block in terms of Islamic extremism is the Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant - ISIS.

Isis is cut from the same ideological cloth as AQAP and Jabhat al-Nursa. Their recent success in taking control of large chunks of Iraq have emboldened the Islamic fundamentalist world.

Isis have shown their ability to organise and fight. This ability has been honed on the battleground in Syria and perfected with financial aid from wealthy Saudi and other Arab business people in thrall to the extreme W'habbi thinking that influenced Bin Laden.

The bottom line is this. The Isis gains in Iraq and this week's news about supposed new explosive threats are an indication of a re-emerged and confident al-Qaida, under a new management.

This was always going to happen, unless the root causes for its attractiveness to a certain type of Muslim were addressed.

holidaymakers

Separately, and on a positive note, while Irish holidaymakers may have to queue for longer in some instances, Irish troops serving with the UN mission in the Golan Heights on the Syrian-Israeli border are not likely to be under any greater threat then they already are.

The past 'baddies' in the Syrian conflict, the government regime, hold the most ground in that area. It is not in their interest to go attacking UN forces at this point.

However if there is an emerging threat to Ireland, it is the same one facing all of Western Europe.

That is the radicalisation of young Muslims with European passports who have gone off to fight in Syria and Iraq under an Isis flag.

Whatever their motivation in going off to fight, no one can predict their outlook to their European 'homelands' on their return.

With these young men Isis and Syria may yet give Europe a bigger headache than lengthy airport queues.

Declan Power is a former career soldier who works as an independent security and defence analyst. He has worked in Africa and the Middle East for the UN

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