Any sober-minded person will put the terrorist threat to the existing world order – no matter how imperfect it may be – in the category of the biggest challenges and threats in the current century. Fighting it is an international priority for the states conscious of their responsibility for their own fate and the future of humankind. Their efforts are aimed at inducing a uniform understanding of the essence of the terrorist evil, this 21st-century plague, and formulating common approaches to antiterrorism.
Preferably, the threat should be addressed at an early stage and on the far approaches. The notorious double standards practiced by the United States and a number of its allies, for whom “their son of a bitch” is always better than someone else’s can only reinforce the terrorists and doom the world community to fighting terror with the “spread fingers” rather than a powerful fist.
The unimpressive achievements of the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq and the doubtful efficiency of the pro-Saudi “Islamic coalition” in Yemen are reflections of disunity on the fronts of the antiterrorist war. The key to overcoming this disunity, regardless of how it is explained or interpreted, is to establish a universal antiterrorist coalition, something that was suggested by President Vladimir Putin at the anniversary session of the UN General Assembly. Russia’s anti-ISIS cooperation with Iran and Turkey in Syria has proved the viability of Russian approaches and views as declared at the UN General Assembly.
That international cooperation in the fight against terrorism is both necessary and possible was confirmed, in the early years of this century, by the efficient and versatile Russia-US Working Group on Counterterrorism that was co-chaired by first deputy foreign ministers and formed on a broad interagency basis, including as it did a range of state organizations from secret services to finance ministries. At that stage in history (unlike the present day), the US administration displayed a positive political will with regard to antiterrorist unity, a will that had sprung up on the ruins of the Twin Towers in New York in September 2001 and persisted into the early stage of the US and coalition operations in Afghanistan.
The antiterrorist lessons of the last few years include a standoff with ISIS, a terrorist quasi-state obsessed with the idea of creating an infidel-free caliphate in the territory of Islamic countries. Its political and religious philosophy and terrorist methods practiced in territories under its control, as well as intimidation directed against residents and authorities in far-off countries, are unequivocal evidence of this aggressive terrorist entity’s anti-Muslim character.
It is natural to think that traditional Islam should head the struggle, primarily ideological struggle, against ISIS, its military and spiritual sponsors, its recruiters and recruits. We can and must welcome an armed defeat of ISIS by Muslim states operating on the basis of the UN Charter and guided by international law. But an all-Islamic basis of any coalition fighting under the green flag of the traditional Muslim faith against ISIS with their black flags is no guarantee against internal differences and splits, nor Sunni-Shiite infighting, unless these differences are neutralized within a coalition based on principles other than religious. A positive example of this is the Russian-Iranian-Turkish cooperation I mentioned earlier.
The recent Riyadh meeting of defense ministers of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition declared an intention to step up the fight against terrorism. This could be welcomed if the coalition avoided a focus on combating Iran-supported Shiite Hezbollah, which the US and Israel have put on the list of terrorist organizations. At the same time the Sunni terrorists, who have used chemical weapons in Syria, must remain on the periphery of coalition hostilities.
Renouncing double standards shared by very influential forces in Saudi Arabia and Qatar would certainly help to consolidate the UN Security Council’s strategic course for creating a comprehensive antiterrorist coalition. Russia’s lead in implementing this strategy can hardly be called into doubt, given the actual defeat of ISIS forces in Syria, an event of major international importance in the outgoing year.