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Germano Dottori: The fight on terror? Not only foreign fighters but also homegrown terrorism

"There is widespread concern over the possible actions of foreign fighters upon their return to Europe, even though preventive measures have been activated on the ground prior to their return. However, homegrown terrorists and the repercussions of the bitter clash between Saudis and Qataris are reason for greater concerns.” The fight on terror – said Germano Dottori in this interview with SIR – encompasses the new, complex balance of the Middle Eastern region

“There is nothing new about it”, and “given the low level of complexity of the attack, I tend to exclude significant geopolitical dynamics.” Germano Dottori, Professor of Strategic Studies at Luiss-Guido Carli University, scientific advisor of Limes magazine, gave a clear-cut answer to the possibility of speculations on last week’s attack in New York.  He prefers to focus on the ongoing complexities pertaining to evolving balances in the Middle East and their repercussions in Europe and in the United States.

A rented van that crashes into a crowd, deaths, images broadcast worldwide and finally Daesh claiming responsibility for it. Do you truly believe there is a planned strategy behind this?

Experts on Jihadi strategies have identified two typical modes of action. On the one side there is an “open-front” jihad, which is what Daesh did before being defeated. On the other, we find the so-called “widespread defensive jihad” that calls upon all the members of the Ummah to honour the religious duty to defend Muslims under attack, wherever they are. This is not something that came up in the last months, it’s an approach adopted for several years already. It should be noted that Muslims are mobilized to react to offenses purportedly carried out against them. It’s an evident reversal of our narrative, which explains our confusion.

We think they are attacking us to subjugate us, while they believe that they are responding to the violence we perpetrate against the members of their faith communities.

Would you agree that Daesh – by sending out lonely wolves – is showing increasing weakness? 
The Islamic State is in great difficulties. This is due to the fact that it no longer enjoys the support of decisive actors, and because Trump’s United States have adopted a new counter-terrorist strategy, marked by reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and by making Riyadh the cornerstone of a transformation of the entire Middle East. The US President considers the Israeli-Palestinian peace process critical to the stability of the Middle East. And the Saudis have now been tasked with promoting it. We are witnessing new developments, such as a Saudi heir to the throne that proposes to Netanyahu the recognition of the State of Israel by the Al Saud, in exchange for the acceptance of a Palestinian State. And, as if by magic, Hamas broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood.

After the fall of Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS, is the fight on terrorism in Europe and in the United States bound to change? What should we expect? As far as you know, are intelligence agencies on an even higher alert?

There is widespread concern over the possible actions of foreign fighters upon their return to Europe, even though preventive measures have been activated on the ground prior to their return. However, homegrown terrorists and the repercussions of the bitter clash between Saudis and Qataris are reason for greater concerns.”

If Doha does not surrender in the short term, we cannot exclude attacks from the terrorist groups that feel closer to either of the two, aimed at conditioning our States’ choice of alliances. This could have been the case of the attack in Barcelona past August 17. This is the real problem, for it partly nullifies the assumptions underling the development of Italian counter-terrorism, that was careful not to openly antagonize the complex world of political Islam, which is being monitored today.

Eight dead in New York hit the headlines for days, while 300 victims of the attack in Mogadishu on October 15 went almost unnoticed in the Western world. What is the link between terrorism and media perception, and how do Deash and Boko Haram or the al-Shabab movement use it to reach their goals? 
In my opinion the attacks in Mogadishu are to be viewed against the backdrop of the open confrontation among Middle Eastern countries to determine which one will act as the major regional player. There is a geopolitical root. The Turks set up a military base in Somalia, their second one abroad after the one in Qatar, yet theirs is also a ubiquitous presence. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near or distant future we were told that personalities that interpreted the security interests of Saudi Arabia in their own ways, motivated by concerns for a non-friendly military presence, were behind these attacks.

Such indifference was unexpected also because the European Union is present in Somalia with a military contingent, that includes 120 Italians.

Moreover, it’s evident that attacks in globalized cities like New York, London or Paris will have great media coverage, incomparable to any event occurring in world peripheries.

What should we expect for the future? How high is the risk of an attack in Italy?

At this stage it would be rash to make forecasts

Constantly strengthened prevention measures –reflecting growing concerns – testify to public authorities’ fears of an attack. But most of all, I fear an attack aimed at influencing the results of the upcoming elections, going so far as to bring about a radical change in the measures adopted with regard to the two powers confronting each other in the Arabic peninsula. However, I am seeing ongoing diplomatic activity on the part of Italy, with a clear attempt to reassess her role. I consider it the appropriate response, and I sincerely hope that it will be enough to protect us.

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