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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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5

Interests in the Middle East and Beyond

The main front against international terrorism is no longer in Afghanistan, where the United States is losing momentum. A fair solution to the Palestinian issue beyond a roadmap, and with a true Palestinian-Israeli compromise, is necessary. As to the Middle East Quartet, its mission must be broader. Participants should include participation of regional leaders and also China and India.

– Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, during an NAS-RAS dialogue in Moscow, 2009.

Jihadists are probably fewer than 100,000 in number, with annual budgets totaling less than $10 million. Western governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, in combating jihadists, and it is difficult to identify our successes. What are we doing wrong?

– Comment at a workshop in Paris organized by the NAS, RAS, and French National Center for Scientific Research, 2017

International attention is focusing on steps that were promptly taken by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to limit access to dangerous weapons in New Zealand following the attack on Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch in 2019. These steps have set a positive tone for bringing together policy makers, scientists, and the general public at home and abroad.

– Joint statement of participants in the NAS-RAS workshop in Abu Dhabi 2 weeks after the attack, 2019

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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POLITICAL AND SECURITY CONTEXT

As highlighted in previous chapters, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) cooperated extensively during the early 2000s with its partners in Russia, primarily the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), and with government agencies and foundations in the United States in supporting, analyzing, and implementing programs and projects clarifying the spread of violence and terrorism. By the end of the first decade, the Russian government and many analytical and research institutions in Moscow recognized the importance of sustained collaboration involving Russia and the United States in addressing a wide range of global problems, including security issues. In Washington, the Department of State and the leadership of the NAS also considered that continuing exchange of views on security-related issues was important.

At the same time, the leaders of Russia seemed determined to rely less than in years past on analytical approaches that were driven in significant measure by Western visions of the future. These leaders were committed to promoting Russia’s aspirations. They were prepared to work with other governments, including the U.S. government when appropriate, while being very active in developing the contours of the global future in many forums.

Outside the borders of Russia, the other successor states of the former Soviet Union had become arenas for conflicting U.S. and Russian interests and actions affecting both internal and external policies and programs of some of these states. U.S.-Russian collaboration in dealing with challenges confronting the governments of these states had become difficult. At the same time, the future of several nations in the Middle East beyond the boundaries of the former Soviet Union was of increasing concern to both governments. The contribution of informal dialogue to improve understanding of developments in the Middle East and beyond is addressed in this chapter.

In 2009, President Barack Obama announced new engagement of the United States in promoting peace in the Middle East during a speech in Washington as the Arab Spring began to emerge, initially in Tunisia and Egypt and then spreading to other countries. He announced that the United States would establish a new fund for support of technological development in Muslim-majority countries that would help transfer ideas in the laboratories to products in the marketplace and thereby create more jobs. New centers of scientific excellence would be supported in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. New American science envoys would stimulate programs to help develop more reliable sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, provide clean water, and grow new crops. These promises

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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raised considerable attention within U.S. science-oriented institutions, including the NAS.1

Meanwhile in Moscow, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had retired from his governmental position and had become a leading scholar within one of the well-respected RAS institutes. He and his team focused considerable attention on the future of the Middle East, an area that had been at the top of his personal interests for decades. At the same time, Thomas Pickering, a former undersecretary of state with considerable experience in the Middle East, had become an active NAS interlocutor of nongovernmental meetings on many topics of interest to Russia. Thus, it was not surprising that the RAS quickly accepted an NAS proposal to initiate an inter-academy dialogue on common interests in the Middle East led by Primakov and Pickering, including concern over acts of terrorism in the region. The general view of leaders of both academies seemed to be the following: Perhaps the academies of the two countries could help assess old and new approaches to reduce growing animosities within and between countries located in the Middle East.

Box 5-1 lists the series of NAS-RAS activities during the past decade related to this recognition of mutual interests in some of the security issues in the Middle East, and at times spreading out beyond the Middle East. It includes dialogues focused on the Middle East led by Primakov and Pickering. Then it concludes with views on violence and security in a wider variety of countries expressed at a series of NAS-RAS workshops in several countries.

INTER-ACADEMY DIALOGUES UNDER CO-CHAIRMANSHIP OF FORMER PRIME MINISTER YEVGENY PRIMAKOV AND FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE THOMAS PICKERING2

Three bilateral dialogues, each extended over 3 days, involved a total of 50 participants selected by the NAS and the RAS. During each dialogue, about 15 participants presented their observations on developments in various countries/regions in the greater Middle East extending from North Africa to Afghanistan. Discussions by participants about the themes of the individual presentations followed. An important objective of each dialogue was to create a foundation for follow-up communications between American and Russian analysts with common interests. The participants also kept the two governments apprised of commonalities and differences among nongovernmental colleagues in viewing the situation in the Middle East from different vantage points.

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

During each dialogue, representatives of the Russian and U.S. governments provided comments about the interests and concerns of their governments with the expectation of feedback from the participants that would be of particular interest.

At the outset, participants agreed that there would not be formal reports on the content of the dialogues, but at the same time the NAS and the RAS could provide interested parties on the content of the discussions. Indeed, they considered informing others of the content of the dialogues a good idea, since the concept of the dialogues was to encourage future discussions of both old and new ideas to reduce uncertainties about the reasons for hostilities. Therefore, a few comments during each of the dialogues, based on informal notes prepared by the NAS participants and staff, are summarized below.

Dialogue 1 – December 2009, Moscow

John Beyrle, U S. ambassador to Russia, underscored the importance of cooperation in dealing with problems of mutual interest, emphasizing the need for patience and perseverance in addressing a wide range of issues throughout the Middle East. He reported that the U.S. president was seeking a comprehensive regional solution to the area’s many problems, including the conflicting aspirations of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. The ambassador welcomed Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlements. He emphasized that stabilization of Afghanistan and resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict are clearly among the most vexing problems facing the world. The ambassador expressed appreciation for Russian support for the international coalition in Afghanistan (e.g., facilitation of international cargoes and prevention of narcotics trafficking). He concluded with a call for coordination between the two governments, noting the importance of transparency during unofficial but important U.S.-Russian discussions of policy adjustments as problems continued to arise in these and additional areas of concern.

Yevgeni Primakov, former prime minister of Russia, underscored that the Israeli cabinet clearly planned to maintain the political status quo while continuing to build settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. He observed that President Obama apparently abandoned his initial search for peace due to political pressure at home. Regarding the policy of the Palestinians, a schism within the movement crippled their negotiating position. A possible approach to move forward would be to expand the Middle East Quartet to include China and India, to exchange small pieces of territory

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

that would reduce travel limitations, and to establish East Jerusalem as a partition of the city of Jerusalem. Finally, he urged that the concept of the right of return should be accepted; but the difficulties in implementing the concept should be recognized by all and should not prevent consideration of new opportunities for progress in resolving other issues.

Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and to Israel and then undersecretary of state, focused on ending U.S. military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, promoting peace and stability in Pakistan, and diffusing advanced weaponry throughout the Middle East, including the access by radicals to powerful weapons. He suggested that suppression of increased violence throughout the region might result from a coordinated U.S.-Russian response. Regarding Iraq, the primary concern was that after a U.S. exodus from Iran, rule by the majority, minority rights, and fair distribution of oil earnings would be maintained and not displaced by a civil war. As to Pakistan, it was not difficult to imagine disintegration of the country as well as the potential use of nuclear weapons in confrontations with India. Finally, it was clear that in discussing approaches of the United States and Russia in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the interests of the two Asian-oriented countries must be considered as interwoven.

Alexei Vasiliev, director of the Institute for African Studies in Moscow, commented on the “tsunami” of Arab revolutions. Focusing on the northern tier of African states, he underscored that revolutions had spread to these countries not because of their extreme poverty, nor had they spread because of hunger or economic stagnation. They had spread because of the actions of Egypt’s and Tunisia’s regimes that were among the most tyrannical and oppressive in the world. The youth bulge was also a significant aspect of the crisis, with a surge in youth unemployment having a particularly destabilizing effect. The young people soon possessed a new powerful tool of organizations and leadership (without leaders), namely information technology. Libyan Colonel Muammar Gadafi’s regime had enough of a social base to survive without confronting the military might of NATO. The masses were able to use internet technology in many ways in these and other developing countries, as well as in developed countries.

These four keynote presentations were then followed by many hours of comments by the presenters and others on a wide variety of issues of considerable importance to the two governments. Throughout the workshop, issues were addressed from different directions. Almost all interventions recognized that while the two governments may disagree on the roots and resolutions of animosities that plagued the region, the United States and Russia had

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

common interests in reducing the armed conflicts that are underway in the region or were on the horizon.

Dialogue 2 – February 2011, Washington, D.C.

Dialogue 2 was held in the wake of a U.S.-Russian nongovernmental conference in Malta 1 month earlier that had considered some of the topics on this dialogue’s agenda.

Several of the conclusions of the Malta conference, which were also highlighted by the participants during the dialogue, included the following:

  • Since the bilateral track between Israel and the Palestinians had been blocked, it was time to relaunch more multilateral negotiations, bringing in regional actors such as Turkey and Iran. An international conference in Moscow could run parallel to the intergovernmental proximity talks, which the U.S. envoy George Mitchell was promoting with the Israelis and the Palestinians.
  • A less ambitious idea was to hold an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet to develop specific proposals for a resolution of the conflict with a time line for implementation. China and India should be included.
  • Another urgent need was to develop practical ideas for creation of a Middle East security system, which would not only provide security for Israel but also build a regional security system for all.

Against this background and other recent developments, the dialogue continued with discussions of three overriding regional concerns: ensuring a peaceful transition in Egypt, preventing coups in Jordan and Syria, and avoiding the worsening of the situation in Lebanon. The discussion then turned to the Israeli-Palestinian situation and to documents released by Al Jazeera that indicated the closeness of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement under Israel’s Ehud Olmert government.

After extended conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian challenges, attention focused on Egypt, including common U.S.-Russian concerns such as spread of terrorism, development of weapons of mass destruction, changes in the price of energy resources, and Islamist extremism. Discussion also focused on whether interventions by moderate Islamists such as those in Turkey should be tolerated. There was considerable concern about economic issues that fomented turmoil in Egypt. Many of the participants

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

urged that economic recovery be considered paramount. However, there was considerable disagreement as to whether “color revolutions” were an appropriate analogy for events in Egypt.

The participants discussed many other issues throughout the Middle East, including poverty and frustration among the people. They focused on practical issues that could improve the lives of the people, starting with health and water issues. They explored many practical measures that could be taken by governments and nongovernmental organizations to start improvement in relations between hostile groups on the ground from a technical perspective.

Several participants underscored that there were political challenges in every area, but most were convinced that animosities could be reduced to clarify the benefit of all. The participants welcomed the suggestion that the U.S. and Russian academies consider on-the-ground actions they could take for health and water issues, which were to be discussed in more detail at the next dialogue.

The concluding session focused on developments in Iran. The Russian experts suggested that a joint effort on Afghanistan might be an approach to engage the Iranians. They noted that Iran was embargoing oil being sent to Afghanistan to complicate shipments of U.S. military supplies to the region. At the same time, illegal immigration into Iran from Afghanistan was increasing, while Russian relations with Afghanistan were improving.

According to the Russian experts, a regional security system could include Iran. They then posed a question as to whether the United States could join with Russia in providing security for nuclear facilities that the Iranians were constructing. The American participants responded that they were very concerned about the safety of these facilities, but the United States had difficulties in engaging Iran.

The American participants noted that Israel was also very concerned about any type of attack on Iran, and the United States was cooperating with Israel in developing a missile shield. Several American discussants underscored the need for Iranian transparency. A Russian participant responded that the Iranians would be more cooperative if no one was threatening them.

In conclusion, the participants discussed the topics for engaging the Iranians in addressing developments in the Caspian Sea—fishing, pollution, oil development, and environmental conservation, for example. An American expert noted that perhaps future discussions could involve representatives of all of the littoral states of the Caspian Sea.

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

Dialogue 3 – November 2011, Moscow

This dialogue focused primarily on the Arab Spring, the Israel-Palestine confrontation as a continuing major concern, developments in Syria, and the importance of addressing regional health and water issues. Regarding the Arab Spring, the following ramifications were among the many that were highlighted in the discussions:

  • Protest movements and the demise of regimes occurring in several countries in the Arab East created prerequisites for political approaches to be redefined.
  • Arab economic policies were reactive in nature and prevented ruling elites from taking any types of peaceful measures that were urgently required.
  • Social rebellions led to the reduction of economic performance, wage arrears, and disruption of internal economic relations.
  • An on-rushing financial crisis throughout the region created long-term economic destabilization.
  • It was not possible to foresee any changes in modification of the economic or social structures of Arab countries.
  • The new elite throughout the region may draw lessons from the past and even go as far as adopting more complicated low-budget, monetary schemes implemented through the use of force.

Turning to the perpetual crisis in Israel, Russian experts presented their views on the following developments:

  • The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had promoted a reconciliation with Hamas and international recognition of the PLO as substitutes for the negotiation process.
  • Israel had imposed its own precondition for negotiations—acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. This clearly reflected an Israeli lack of interest in peace negotiations that might lead to defining the border or dealing with Jerusalem.
  • The Middle East Quartet had been unable to reach agreement on anything more substantive than a call for multilateral talks.
  • In response to dynamic developments throughout the region, Israel would probably turn to a buildup of self-reliance forces and military solutions to problems.
Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

The dialogue then turned to a focus on Israel-Turkey negotiations, beginning with resumption of peace talks, which were portrayed as an indirect path toward peace that had been established. However, this effort came to a close with the start of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which destroyed an industrial zone that was under construction with Turkish support. It seemed clear that Turkey could no longer keep a neutral position that was essential for a moderator. This development also affected the prospect of future Israeli-Syrian negotiations by erecting additional hurdles in the way of Turkey returning to negotiations involving Syria.

Focusing on the West Bank, the Russian team did not include a medical specialist in the delegation, despite a commitment to discuss collaboration on mutual health interests on the West Bank. An American expert reported on the success of the activities of the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation in providing the financial resources and medical skills for a child-vaccination program involving tens of thousands of children on the West Bank. At the same time, the experts who led that program quickly challenged the priority being given by Palestinian scientists to their attempt to develop advanced health medications in competition with Western pharmaceutical companies. These experts had urged that available resources for improving health on the West Bank be given to reducing common diseases that could be handled by well-trained nurses who were in short supply.

Finally, regarding the shortage and appropriation of locally available water, the participants in the dialogue quickly agreed that water issues should be handled on a track separate from other aspects of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. If water is not considered as a separate issue, disagreements over water sharing will block meaningful negotiations on almost all other issues.

An abbreviated summary of the important discussion about water availability and allocation during the dialogue is as follows. It was unlikely that the Israelis and Palestinians would be able to reach a permanent status water agreement if their negotiations focused only on the issues of water rights and allocation of the natural water resources of the Jordan River basin. In the past, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian negotiators had discussed the need to consider working together—and with the international donor community—to develop additional water resources. Seawater desalination had been the main technology discussed in many forums for generating additional fresh water. Improvements to existing water infrastructure and implementation of improved water management policies would help make use of existing resources more equitable. The construction of new infrastructure, especially for the Palestinians, would be needed to make best use

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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of any additional fresh water that might become available. But the water availability and allocation issues have defied and will probably continue to defy resolution for decades.

THE ROOTS AND TRAJECTORIES OF VIOLENT EXTREMISM

This segment of the chapter presents a few of the highlights of five workshops on violent extremism carried out under the auspices of the NAS and the RAS from 2016 to 2019. The first workshop in 2016 was primarily an exploratory workshop in Moscow that set the stage for activities that would follow. The Russian organizer published a few of the highlights of the exploratory workshop. They included presentations about foreign fighters traveling from Dagestan to the Middle East, activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the historical context forthe emergence of ISIS, ways to counter extremism and radicalization, recent developments in Iraq and Syria, and open source data for tracing worldwide terrorism patterns.3 More expansive reports (proceedings-in-brief) for the other four workshops were distributed and posted on the NAS website.4

Each of the workshops addressed on-the-ground developments in areas in turmoil while considering research and analytical efforts based on reports about on-the-ground challenges being faced by researchers in many countries. On the first day of the second workshop in Paris in 2017, terrorists using explosive devices disrupted activities on the Champs-Élysées, thus adding a sense of urgency to the inter-academy deliberations in Paris that began 2 hours after the explosion. Following the fourth workshop in Abu Dhabi, a Russian participant immediately traveled to the United Arab Emirates border with Yemen in response to a request by his government to address violence in the region, again highlighting the relevance of the workshop discussions to current events. A sixth NAS-RAS workshop has been postponed from 2020 to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather than reviewing the presentations and findings for each workshop, this summary consolidates discussion points of particular interest throughout the workshops under several headings. Workshops 4 and 5 were on the general topic of violent extremism and radiological security. The science and technological aspects of radiological security are summarized in Chapter 3, which is devoted to radiological terrorism. The discussion in this chapter highlights the commentaries about violence and extremism presented at the workshops, but it does not address technical aspects of radiological terrorism, which were considered in Chapter 3.

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

All of the workshops were designed to bring to the table a variety of perspectives on violent extremism—in its formative stages, its manifestations, and responses by the affected locales, governments, and populations to recent incidents and perceived future threats. Activities before, during, and after incidents in a variety of countries were considered—with particular emphasis on developments within Muslim-majority countries. While government officials of the countries where the workshops were held were well informed about many aspects of the deliberations, they were not asked to provide governmental perspectives on the topics under discussion.

As noted, some of the presentations were based on personal observations of participants who had carried out research or conducted assessments in strife-torn areas, particularly in the Middle East but also to a limited extent in North Africa and Europe. Of special interest were personal observations by workshop participants who had engaged in research and related activities in Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, and Dagestan. Also, the workshop discussions recognized the changing political landscapes throughout the entire Arab world. An important emphasis was on new and evolving approaches to cause havoc. The enhanced capabilities of the international community to articulate the threats and to detect and resist these threats were also highlighted. For example, access to the internet had both helped and hindered terrorist operations, while recruitment of technologically oriented scientists and engineers to join jihad movements posed new types of concerns.5

A few examples of other views expressed during the workshops are as follows:

Overarching Challenges:

  • There are profound differences between conflict and terrorism. Such differences exist in (a) describing the political, economic, and social frameworks before, during, and after violence; (b) addressing rehabilitation and reconstruction; (c) considering technical and/or financial assistance to be provided by governments or local communities to resist or respond to attacks; and (d) recognizing shortcomings of existing institutions in understanding current trends concerning the causes and long-term impacts of terrorism.
  • Managers, researchers, and teachers are not police officers, and reporting to the police about dangerous incidents that may happen should occasionally be taken only after considering other options.
Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • Being on the scene of potential turmoil every day provides many opportunities for law enforcement officials, who should be consulted by academic researchers and analysts, to understand the details of what is happening, the motivations of all sides of confrontations, and the options for steps to prevent escalation of conflicts.

Activities of Far-Right Groups:

  • It is essential to avoid simplistic responses to far-right extremism that fuels Islamist extremism.
  • The radicalization process of far-right groups may be similar to radicalization of more traditional extremists even though the content of radicalization is different.
  • Islamists and far-right extremists at times have used violence to provoke one another and thereby highlight their competition in recruiting new members.
  • Far-right extremists have at times built local and transnational alliances based on common narratives about anti-Semitism, anti-liberalism, and anti-government.

Radicalization:

  • There have been opportunities to interview thousands of prisoners in Syria and Iraq and thereby improve understanding of the radicalization and de-radicalization processes.
  • Four common pieces of the puzzle in understanding radicalization are (a) the basis for grievances, (b) the ideology of the radicalized groups, (c) the relevant social and economic networks, and (d) the enabling environments that may be replete with guns, political rhetoric, interactional social media, ungoverned spaces, and/or training camps.
  • Increased research on identity formation that highlights activities at an early age is needed.

Rehabilitation:

  • There is a widespread need to understand the entire process of human rehabilitation, including special attention to traumatized people.
Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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  • The media should report on the details of rehabilitation activities so that the public knows they are underway.
  • Failure to deal with the entire rehabilitation landscape, such as preventing access to drugs and involvements in street crime, is likely to perpetuate difficulties.

Topics for Future Inter-Academy Cooperation

Given the many organizations throughout the world that are interested in improved understanding of the dimensions of preventing and responding to violent extremism in different geographic settings, this segment of the chapter focuses on two challenges that were repeatedly raised by the participants in the NAS-RAS workshops. They are the (a) role of research and (b) future opportunities for international collaboration, including but far beyond NAS-RAS interactions.

The following research topics were highlighted as particularly important in looking forward:

  • The Role of Religion: Doctrines and fundamental concepts among religious and seculars scholars, including comparison of religious tolerance, Koranic tolerance, and Islamic tolerance; understanding of the theology of jihad; and the roles of mosques as producers of jihad or as defenders against jihad.
  • The World of the Post-Islamist State and the Future Direction of ISIS: Will different groups come together where possible, and where will local dynamics prevent linkages? Is there a possibility of regeneration of a terrorist structure that could become an analog of ISIS?
  • Counterterrorism Policies: Interesting topics are comparative studies of practices in different countries, overcoming competing definitions, and encouraging greater self-reflection in responding to terrorism. How does ISIS view its adversaries? Do the actions of adversaries reinforce the core beliefs of ISIS?
  • Returnees–Particularly Women: Priority should be given to country studies on the return of foreign fighters, attitudes of local societies, growth in right-wing reactions and retribution upon their return, and linkages among broad studies of migration from and to countries in turmoil.
  • Other Topics of Interest: It is important to understand the impacts of local conditions and local circumstances on radicalization. The
Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×
  • psychology of suicide bombers remains an important field for research despite the many efforts in this area. The effectiveness of state institutions in maintaining order is a continuing issue. How important are mercenaries who engage in terrorism simply because of financial rewards?

Regarding areas for immediate international cooperation—including but well beyond NAS-RAS cooperation—the following themes were among the many topics that were proposed:

  • Emphasis on drug control, periodic assessments of the nexus of drugs and violent extremism, and a focus on smuggling in Asia.
  • Greater attention to transforming recommendations into policy, without losing the credibility of the academic underpinnings of such transformations.
  • Future meetings involving both academics and practitioners in field assessments and control activities to help limit violent extremism, including officials associated with police activities and emergency social services personnel.
  • Increased scrutiny of the many operational documents prepared by extremist groups that have become available and provide fresh insights of the motivations for and the methods of terrorism. (These documents are clarifying the approaches used on the internet and other media platforms for spreading messages of all types across large geographic areas.)
  • Information warfare that will grow in importance but will go both ways, for example, countering propaganda from extremists about bombings and civilian casualties with success stories about effective cross-national cooperation.

In short, the list of topics that were considered during intensive discussions of violent extremism as viewed in different geographical settings with involvement of local experts has been impressive. Some of these topics have been discussed at other forums over many years and indeed decades.

However, few of the problems that have been cited have been completely understood; and many will persist for the foreseeable future.

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
×

THE PATHWAY AHEAD

Extremism, violence, and terrorism will continue to be on the list of challenges facing governments and populations throughout the world in the decades ahead. Scientists from the United States and Russia can contribute to the carrying out of analyses on methods to reduce the roots and blunting the trajectories of destructive acts. The NAS and the RAS have contributed to such efforts and are well positioned to continue to play a significant role of interest to the governments of the two countries.

Four of this report’s appendixes are particularly important in future assessments of continuing challenges in combating deadly chaos in the years ahead.

  • Appendix G: Far-Right Domestic Extremism
  • Appendix H: Psychology of Transnational Terrorism
  • Appendix I: Recent Trends and Future Concerns in Worldwide Terrorism
  • Appendix J: Labor Migration and Radicalism

NOTES

1. Schweitzer, G. E. 2013. Containing Russia’s Nuclear Firebirds: Harmony and Change at the International Science and Technology Center. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, p. 148.

2. This section is based on the record of discussions prepared during the dialogues and distributed to the participants.

3. Stepanova, E. 2017. Addressing Terrorism: Violent Extremism and Radicalization Perspectives from the United States and Russia. Moscow: Institute for the World Economy and International Relations. This publication includes papers prepared by participants in the first workshop that summarized their presentations.

4. NASEM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine). 2017. Improving Understanding of the Roots andTrajectories of Violent Extremism: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
NASEM. 2019. The Convergence of Violent Extremism and Radiological Security, Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
NASEM. 2019. Developments in Violent Extremism in the Middle East and Beyond: Proceedings of aWorkshopin Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
NASEM. 2020. Scientific Aspects of Violent Extremism, Terrorism, and Radiological Security: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

5. Gambetta, D., and S. Hertog. 2018. Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Image
The Arab region in figures.
Source: Vitaly Naumkin, presentation June 20, 2017, Paris, France. Based on the work of A. Aksenenok, V. Kuznetsov, V. Naumkin, N. Soukhov, I. Zvyagelskaya. The Middle East: Darkness Before the Dawn? Regional Conflicts and the Future of the Global Community. The Valdai Club. Moscow, June 2017. The data were provided by the United Nations Development Program.
Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Interests in the Middle East and Beyond." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism: A Cooperative Program of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences (1995-2020). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26281.
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During the past 25 years, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences, have carried out a wide variety of activities to improve understanding of the challenges in containing and reducing ethnic conflicts, violent extremism, and terrorism. Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism and Terrorism provides an overview of this cross-ocean program, which has involved American and Russian scientists, engineers, and medical professionals from a large number of government agencies, leading research institutions, think tanks, educational institutions, analytical centers, and consulting and commercial firms in the two countries. This report highlights challenges addressed by the academies over many years that remain of current interest as the U.S., Russian, and other governments continue to cope with old and new forms of aggression that threaten the livelihood of populations at home and abroad.

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