Do Not Let IS Attacks Surprise Us

Do Not Let IS Attacks Surprise UsDo Not Let IS Attacks Surprise Us

There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind at the scale of horror that the Islamic State militant group is determined to inflict on any one in order to further the caliphate and repress dissent, so clearly personified by Friday’s horrific attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

There should now be no doubt about the sophistication of IS’s ability to wage war in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. But, I do have some doubt that we are fully prepared for further and highly likely attacks on democracy globally, which the IS hierarchy is undoubtedly planning from Raqqa, Mosul, and franchises around the world.

With the news recently that three British women have been tempted into Syria to join IS from Bradford in the UK, why are we so surprised when allegedly up to 900 British citizens have already followed this path?

Britain is not unique in this, and most European countries have a similar number of their citizens now fighting under the IS banner and franchises, which are growing and terrorizing Africa, the Far East as well as the Middle East and Europe, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon wrote for Al Jazeera.

  Greatest Advantage

But foremost we must not let IS surprise us; as this is its greatest advantage against the international community, just look at Friday’s attacks, 9/11 and 7/7.

To underestimate IS is a fatal error; always assume your enemy is smarter, more resilient, better equipped, has superior intelligence compared to you and has no limits to terror and destruction; this is the starting point to facing IS.

There are three tenants to this terror; the “active shooter” Charlie Hebdo type attack (which also includes suicide bomber, executions, conventional explosives, etc), cyberattack against all things electronic, and irregular or asymmetric attack, predominantly chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, but also anything we have not thought about which will enhance IS’s psychological campaign of terror.

IS has used the first two types many times around the globe to great effect, but at least we are now not overly surprised by them and are starting to put effective mitigation measures in place to provide resilience. The corollary of this resilience will force IS to the third tenant where we are less prepared to defeat.

To date, I have seen one attempt by returning militants to perpetrate a chemical attack and that was in Jakarta where they planted a chlorine bomb in a shopping mall, which fortunately did not properly detonate, but showed a level of sophistication which appeared to be taught by experts rather than just gleaned off the internet.

  Use of Chlorine

Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister, warned that IS is now capable of building chemical weapons in a speech two weeks ago to an anti-chemical weapons group in Australia.

At a meeting in Perth, she said: “Apart from some crude and small scale endeavors, the conventional wisdom has been that the terrorist intention to acquire and weaponize chemical agents has been aspirational. The use of chlorine (by IS) and its recruitment of highly technically trained professionals, including from the West, have revealed far more serious efforts in chemical weapons development.”

Bishop is the first senior politician in a major western power to express so clearly and unequivocally and the Australian government’s concern that IS now has the desire to develop chemical weapons for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria and perhaps beyond.

Is this a wakeup call for the international community to act demonstratively to mitigate this threat or unhelpful scaremongering?

IS militants know how effective chemical weapons can be and were on the receiving end of chlorine barrel bombs in Deir Ezzor in December, which led to their local tactical defeat. It is the ultimate terror weapon, and not unsurprising that they crave it, as they have imbued the people of Iraq with so much terror that in some places, hitherto, they face little resistance.

However, even given this so-called expertise, in my opinion, IS will not any time soon be able to produce deadly nerve agents like Sarin or VX, or fashion its much vaunted uranium in Mosul into any kind of viable nuclear device, though Bishop does suggest they could produce “dirty” bombs or possibly an Improvised Nuclear Device from these isotopes which I believe is possible but unlikely.

  Real Significance

IS will, however, continue to terrorize its attackers in Iraq and Syria with the very much less toxic, but highly effective, improvised chemical weapons such as chlorine. But the real significance to draw from the Australian foreign minister’s comments is that IS does have a chemical weapons or even a chemical-bombing program, although primitive, and is training many recruits to make and plant improvised chemical bombs.

Some of these people will find their way back to their home countries where they may continue the IS butchery, as we have seen with the Lee Rigby murder in London, the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, and many more.

What and where next? IS aims to create terror and inertia globally in order to further its efforts to establish a caliphate and very evidently from Friday’s apparently coordinated attacks across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, nothing is off limits.

But vigilance and effective mitigation strategies, put in place now, can provide resilience to these threats to the capitals of the world, and stiffen the resolve of those who oppose this terror through the will to not allow this psychological terror campaign to daunt us.

Some experts suggest we should not discuss such matters in public so as to encourage these extremists. These experts have evidently never been on the battlefield fighting such terror and completely underestimate these terrorists; but I have and we should not.