In a discussion with American and European legislators, as well as with counterterrorism experts from the Arab world, I suggested the formation of an "Anti-Terror Joint Force" as an appropriate response to the expansion of terror organizations, both al-Qaida- and Iranian-backed, throughout the region.
Over the past few years, I have given briefings to the anti-terror caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as to several defense agencies on how such an initiative can start among Arab governments and expand later to Muslim countries.
These countries in the Arab world are already fighting terrorism in general and al-Qaida in particular: Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, and several Gulf states.
They are already confronting al-Qaida and jihadi Takfiris in their homelands and in some cases they are fighting networks backed by the Iranian regime, as is the case in Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Hence an Arab leadership on counterterrorism is the best idea to put all these resources together.
The creation of an Arab special forces corps would benefit all countries involved and would be backed by many Western countries.
An Arab joint effort against terrorism is not only beneficial on military and security levels but also and mainly on ideological levels. For Arab intellectuals and NGOs, when approached and supported seriously, can be efficient in countering radicalization and indoctrination by jihadi Salafis and Khomeinists.
Furthermore, such a trans-Arab effort against terrorism would enhance the image of Arab countries and societies in the West and on the international stage. After 9/11, connections were made between the jihadists and entire Arab societies.
With the rise of a common anti-terror Arab force, these connections will be reversed as the international public opinion would then see these important efforts on behalf of several countries coming together to defeat a common enemy, al-Qaida, and resist a global threat: terrorism.
The new Iraq particularly, if successful in resisting al-Qaida and Iranian penetration, can become a leading regional force against terrorism. This is a country which is attacked every week by al-Qaida and constantly infiltrated by Iranian networks.
In a sense, Iraq is at the forefront of the war with the terrorists, particularly the jihadi Salafists and the Khomeinists. Hence as U.S. and coalition forces are withdrawing, Iraq must be enabled to defend itself and resist future attacks.
If such a regional Arab force against terror is established, Iraqi forces from all ethnic groups should take center stage in the missions to come. For Iraqi society and armed forces have been battling this menace on a daily basis for many years now.
Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. www.walidphares.com
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