Recent terrorist activities and their strategic repercussions

December 2015

Strategic and Security Studies Division الدراسات

Center for Strategic Studies

University of Jordan

The past weeks witnessed a quantum leap in the activities of terrorist groups (Al-Qaeda, ISIS), which went beyond the Middle East to reach Europe, Africa and other regions. This was clearly demonstrated through some significant terrorist operations, the most important of which are:

The        downing of the Russian plane in Sinai on October 31, 2015 . Which was claimed by the “ISIS” organization and was carried out by a bomb placed on its board and led to the death of all its passengers.

The        Paris process And that was on November 13, 2015, and led to the killing of (140) people, along with the perpetrators (5 people), and the attacks included (Bataklon Arts Center + 3 restaurants and the Stade de France sports stadium).

·        Mali process . It took place on November 20, 2015 at the “Radisson” Hotel in the capital, Bamko, and resulted in the killing of 22 people, and was adopted by the “Al-Mourabitoun” group affiliated with “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”

The        operation of targeting a bus transporting presidential guard recruits in Tunisia.  which took place   on 24/11/2015  and resulted in the killing of (15) people, and it was claimed by the “ISIS” organization. 

·        Aden process . Which took place on 6/12/2015 and resulted in the  killing of the governor of Aden and a number of his companions. It was claimed by the “ISIS” organization, and three days before it had adopted attacks on army barracks in Hadramout.

·        Control of the city “Sirte” Libya ‘s announcement and the capital of Daesh  .  This took place on December 1, 2015, and the organization’s leaders had issued instructions to direct the new fighters to Libya instead of Syria and Iraq, according to reliable reports.

·        California process An armed attack was carried out in California / San Bernardino on December 4, 2015 that killed 14 people, in addition to the two assailants who were killed by the police. They are a couple of Pakistani origin who were supporters of the organization. The police confirmed that they are dealing with a terrorist incident.

The position of the organization in Syria

Fighting erupts from time to time between “ISIS” and Kurdish forces, during which the organization lost several towns, and is subjected to harsh Russian air operations, during which it lost a large number of cadres and leaders. It also fought a large-scale fight with the Syrian army in southern Aleppo, where the organization’s fighters withdrew from large areas and Strategic towns without a fight  .


*      The downing of the Russian civilian plane in the Sinai in particular poses a threat to international air traffic.  With all the consequent threat to world peace, forcing a large number of countries to reconsider the security measures applied at their airports.  

*      The Paris process led to the crystallization of popular and elite pressure to change the strategies of the major countries in combating terrorism.   And what prompted both Germany and Britain to involve their air forces in the war on terror after France.

* The      military setbacks of ISIS in Syria and Iraq prompted the organization to opt for isolated terrorist operations abroad (the distant enemy) This was clearly demonstrated in the countryside of Aleppo and the destruction of the oil facilities that the organization controlled.

*      The Paris operation is a major indicator of ISIS’s adoption of the “far enemy” theory.  Which was promoted and adopted by Al-Qaeda, and stipulates “giving priority to fighting external enemies,” which are mostly Western countries and later Russia, knowing that the organization was preoccupied with the near enemy (Syria and Iraq) before it ended with the current military impasse, which increased the impact of the destruction of a large part of its sources Oil by the Russian Air Force.

* The      conflict over oil resources has become a major factor in directing the hotbeds of terrorist activity,   including (Al-Qaeda and ISIS), as it appeared in southern Yemen and recently in Libya after controlling “Sirte” and declaring it the capital of the organization, noting that the Russian Ministry of Defense (statement 12/2/2). 2015) estimated the income of ISIS from oil at about (3) million dollars per day.

* The      recent military operations in Syria reflected a clear weakness in the performance of ISIS and Al-Qaeda fighters . It also showed their unwillingness to fight, which led to a relative decline in the influence of the myth of “horror and savagery” on which the organization had previously relied to cause collapses that are employed to facilitate its subsequent operations.

Significant Strategic

The return to the “distant enemy” theory represents an inevitable trend for ISIS, not an optional one. It comes  in an integrated context whose indicators are crystallizing successively as the expectations indicate, the most important of which are:

A regression inward and a decline in the desire to hold on to the territory that the organization had previously controlled in Syria and Iraq.

Depriving the organization of the “geographical base” necessary to achieve its strategic goal of practicing “empowerment” policies and plans for the Caliphate State.

· Organization will lose successively strategic positions in the region ( ( , Strategic Spots  starting in “tenderness”, which will be paid to the “” distant qualitative terrorism option.

The hotbeds of conflict in Syria and Iraq will witness a decrease in the flow of foreign terrorists, and the return of a large number of them to their (foreign) countries  , whether   individually or collectively, in order to devote themselves to terrorist activities.

Recent operations have shown that the decision to organize is a central decision,  yet the decisions are coordinated with the elements of the organization residing in the country concerned; In contrast to the Al-Qaeda organization, which used to function as a title (Title), it is granted by a central decision to local organizations that prove their worth through specific terrorist acts.

ISIS has succeeded in establishing  an “ independent terrorist body ” that operates outside regional accounts and is run away from the considerations of regional allies, and this was confirmed by the Paris operation.     

The declaration of “Sirte” as the capital of ISIS  is tantamount to acknowledging the fact  that “leaving Raqqa has become a matter of time  ”, which implies different strategic importance and dimensions, in terms of:

The huge Libyan oil resources and provide a wide scope for export across the Mediterranean.

A strategic threat to southern Europe and Italy in particular.

The focus of  “occupation and depletion ” of Egypt with its armed forces, security services and economy.

A regional center for terrorism in North Africa, as well as a center (recruitment, training and experience) for terrorists worldwide.

international position

The international community has not shown a firm stance in the face of the terrorist threat , in a way that seems to suggest that there are obstructive forces working to empty any relevant international resolutions of their actual contents, by (indulging in details, avoiding any binding clauses, in  addition to deceiving by playing with terrorist organizations from back windows .

The recent decisions issued by the last G20 summit in Turkey calling for (reducing the movement of terrorists, confronting electronic incitement, enhancing air security and financial prosecution), as well as the Security Council resolution dated (11/11/2015) which calls on countries to take measures, redouble efforts and coordinate initiatives To prevent and stop the “terrorist acts” of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, they are, in their entirety, devoid of any binding provisions .

The American reading of the war on terrorism  is characterized by hesitation and lack of clarity, and is based on the following broad lines:

Betting on isolating Russia and obstructing any effort to expand the Russian alliance to fight terrorism, and working to involve Russia in a long war of attrition.

An ambiguous position on the survival or overthrow of President al-Assad as a condition for resolving the Syrian crisis.

The exclusion of making any extra effort towards the Syrian file.

On the other hand, the Russian leadership, despite its economic burdens (12 percent inflation and 4 percent decline in GDP), still believes that it has enough ingredients for success, primarily the active allies on the ground (Syria, Iran and Hezbollah), as well as the “Syrian ground forces.” “Able to capitalize on the results of Russian air operations.


* The loss of regional allies and the necessity of some of them to repudiate the relationship with “ISIS” may push the organization to adopt the options of “Al-Zarqawi” in practicing specific terrorism in the countries of the region and abroad.

* The accident of the Russian plane represents a new stage in terms of its threat to travel and air transport, and it is subject to development due to the availability of its tools, especially shoulder-guided missiles and others.

* Civil aircraft are considered among the “easy and painful” targets, and there is a great difficulty in securing them.

* There are loopholes in international legislation related to confronting the terrorist threat in terms of methods of dealing and prosecuting terrorists, security and legal, in addition to neglecting security standards when drafting agreements related to coordinating and facilitating the movement of citizens and goods. 

* The current coordination mechanisms between states and security services are no longer feasible in light of the electronic capabilities used by terrorists, which requires bypassing traditional frameworks and adopting participatory work (Integrated Systems), which includes information and communication bases and networks.

In sum, all indicators lead to the belief that the war on terrorism will be long and costly, and regional conflicts may erupt on the sidelines that threaten international security and stability, which requires a responsible international position that is developed into an effective and sustainable approach to confronting the terrorist threat, and not just manifestations of terrorism. The interest and momentum that some terrorist operations arouse, and then fades with the passage of time