Terrorism in 2019: Real agony, even if slow


The year 2018 abounded with many political, economic and security events. However, the issue of terrorism, with its manifestations and repercussions, is still of great concern worldwide. It remains headline news in newspapers and on social networking sites. No country is safe or free from terrorism, as terrorism is not limited to a country or a region. It has become the most dangerous phenomenon in the world and shedding of blood has become the eternal anthem of the earth.

It is possible to say that 2018 witnessed the significant decline of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS), as it retreated to the narrowest domains, both in Syria and in Iraq. This occurred following intensified air attacks from the International Alliance on its strongholds. However, the organization, due to security constraints and its inability to expand its activities, shifted its strategy to decentralization, so that it became a cross-border idea, an “ideological umbrella” that was embraced by its loyal advocates, even if they were not affiliated to it.

In recent years, operations in Europe, Asia and the United States have been carried out remotely through the Internet and via encrypted applications through which new members have been trained. This is what Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security affairs analyst, described as “mobilizing sources of jihad”, meaning that followers are mobilized via media messages being sent to sympathizers within these countries to carry out attacks, even if they do not belong to the organization.

One theorist on militant hardliner groups, Abu Musab Al-Soury, put forward in his book titled “Call for Global Islamic Resistance” the idea of “single wolves” or “individual wolves”, which are in fact a part of a wider map of what is known as “sleeping cells”. Those familiar with the history of jihadist movements look back on 2001 as the beginning of the emergence of the “individual wolves” tactic. Perhaps the clearest example of the single-wolf strategy is the Orlando attack, the worst attack on US land since the September 11 attacks of 2001, at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June, 2016, in which scores of innocent civilians were killed and injured. Omar Mateen, an American of Afghani origin who carried out the shooting attack, acted alone in planning the massacre, in spite of his loyalty to Daesh. He was not a member of the organization and did not receive directives from it, but rather he planned and executed the attack of his own accord; he was pushed to do so under the influence of the organization’s propaganda.

The danger in this transformation in the phenomenon of terrorism lies in the difficulty of security due to the lack of information, because the ideology is playing a role in attracting these wolves and it is difficult for the security apparatus, and also because most of the people involved are unknown to the security authorities.

I think that 2019 will be the year when terrorism on the battlefield will begin to die, but the biggest challenge lies in how to limit the expansion of the phenomenon of “individual wolves”, which has become a real threat. This can only be achieved by enhancing intelligence cooperation between countries by intensifying security surveillance on returnees from Syria and Iraq.

Moreover, it should be done electronically by monitoring the electronic content and calls by terrorists to recruit or give birth to “individual wolves”. The extremist terrorist ideology is no longer limited to a particular country; it has become a cross-border and cross-continental phenomenon, which calls for international mobilization and serious action to combat and besiege it on all fronts.

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Ibrahim.othaimin@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin