ATA 61GA | Conference News Wrap-up

News wrap-up

Brussels, 19 November 2015 (Agenzia Nova) − Cooperative Security and non-military threats were the main topics of the international conference organized by the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) on November 19 in Brussels. ATA President Fabrizio W. Luciolli opened the proceedings by calling for a minute of silence as a sign of respect to the victims of the terrorist attacks on November 13 in Paris. The new terrorist threat has unprecedented features requiring the development of more effective counter-measures. “Emblematic of the new dimensions of the fight against terrorism is the increasing number of homegrown terrorists and foreign fighters”, Pres. Luciolli said. The foreign fighters are sometimes mistaken for “freedom fighters”, but in reality their purpose is “destroying the fundamental freedoms of our civil societies and our cultural heritage.”

Terrorism is spreading on a large scale throughout the world and “is increasingly interconnected through the web”, where recruitment and training take place. “It is time to act, reacting is not enough – Luciolli noted – and we have to adopt both a cooperative approach to security and an effective strategic vision, capable to address all the dimensions of terrorism”. Luciolli also stressed that international organizations and the member states should renew their commitment to enhance cooperative security in non-military areas too.

“In Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East − Luciolli stated − we need a new vision, a proactive approach, a comprehensive strategy to address the multiple challenges and threats to security, which are increasingly coming from Africa and Asia, as well as the Euro-Atlantic and the Mediterranean area.” The ATA President also announced that in 2016 ATA will draft and promote a “new report on non-military cooperation”, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Report of the Committee of Three. Indeed, terrorism, instability and humanitarian crises are also caused by non-military factors such as cultural, socio-economic and environmental challenges, including radicalization, unemployment, food insecurity, water scarcity and climate change.

“The report – Luciolli declared – will take up the concepts and recommendations made in 1956 under the chairmanship of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gaetano Martino, and it will give them a renewed interpretation reflecting the current security challenges”. “The drafting process of this report − affirmed Luciolli – will be coordinated by ATA in close cooperation with experts from NATO countries and partners.”

In his remarks Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department for Foreign Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, advocated for an agreement with the Prime Minister of Iraq to ensure a stronger support of the Federal Government to the Peshmerga fighters. “We have not closed the door to Baghdad and we hope that the Prime Minister will be able to rebuild a dialogue, Minister Bakir said. He also reminded that the “Kurds have been engaged in combat for months”, declaring himself “proud that the Peshmerga have not only fought back the Islamic state (IS). They have regained territories, although with a cost of human lives.” The fight against IS does not involve only militaries, Bakir affirmed, “but it is ideological as well” and it requires conspicuous financial resources “because logistical support is not enough for the Peshmerga.”

The speech given by the former security Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammed Dahlan, was very straightforward. He called the EU and NATO to recognize the mistakes of the past in the Middle East. According to Dahlan, the current crisis is the consequences of the wrong attitude of the Western countries, since the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Dahlan called for greater co-ordination “with regional actors to work together to tackle the crisis.” NATO and the EU in fact carry on their shoulders “the responsibility of the destabilization” of the Middle East, from Libya to Iraq to the Palestinian territories, and must contribute to solving the crisis. Dahlan also stressed that “there is not such a thing as good terrorism and bad terrorism,” adding that “the Islamic state (IS) is just the new version al Qaeda. The true Islam has nothing to do with IS”, he concluded.

The former President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, focused his remarks on how Africa can contribute to solve the most urgent problems of the Euro-Atlantic area. The international community must stop thinking of Africa as a problem, as many African countries can help solve many of the current global challenges. “Africa has an enormous unlocked potential − explained President Vall − being a young continent with a broad and growing domestic market.” However, Africa is fraught with corruption, which often “paves the way to radical propaganda, especially among the youth.” We must therefore address these issues jointly, by working together in a NATO-EU framework.

 

Maj. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Deputy Chief of Staff for NATO operations and intelligence, pointed out that “the best way to counter terrorist threats is to prevent them. The main lesson we have learned from Afghanistan is that military solutions alone are not enough.” Guastella added that NATO will continue to work hard on relevant issues such as collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.

Ted Whiteside, Acting Assistant Secretary General for NATO Public Diplomacy Division, said that now more than ever EU and NATO must work jointly and collaborate with other international institutions to combat terrorism. He also pointed out that “technology makes the defeat of terrorism even more difficult.” Mr. Whiteside emphasized how the violation of international law is also accompanied by “a disinformation on NATO”, largely taking place on the web. This misinformation, concluded Whiteside, contributes in pushing many young men to fight in Syria.

Dr. Ebtesam Al Ketbi, Chairperson of the Emirates Policy Center highlighted the importance of the media. She emphasized the role of the social media and “call them to assume responsibilities”, as it is evident that many terrorist groups, like the Islamic State (IS), use them as the main tool to recruit fighters. However, Dr. Al Ketbi reminded that we should not focus only on the media. The radicalization process has deeper roots in socio-economic conditions and that even youth unemployment and the consequent frustration play a key role in it. Dr. Al Kebti did not limit her analysis to Sunni terrorism, but focused also on Shiite terrorism funded by the old Khomeinist regime. The “policy of Iran − according to Al Ketbi − does not help stabilize the region”. “President Obama is wrong in focusing only on the nuclear side of the deal with Iran”, while she stressed that “no actions have been undertaken against Turkey, a NATO member country, from where numerous terrorist groups originates”. Dr. Al Ketbi called for the drafting of a unique list of terrorist groups, which is an indispensable tool to tackle this issue.

During the proceedings, the speakers concurred on the necessity of a cooperative approach to ensure security within NATO among allies and with partner countries too. Social media and the internet were also addressed, as priority fields of intervention for countering terrorism and radicalization.

In his concluding remarks, ATA President Fabrizio Luciolli stressed the fact that “no country alone can counter the new threat of terrorism”. Therefore, it is necessary “a new strategy combining three levels of security: international cooperation, decisive action of national governments and a new security culture in the civil society.”