Some interesting and provocative discussions during Day 2 of the World Summit on Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel (my Day 1 overview is here). Some of the highlights from the second day of proceedings:
A report released at the conference announced an estimate that the Assad regime in Syria has 1,000 tons of chemical weapons.
Syracuse professor William Banks offered his assessment, in line with one offered the previous day, that while the Syrian regime may have violated international law with the use of chemical weapons (even though they are not a signatory to the chemical weapons convention), the remedies do not include the use of force, much as President Obama is proposing.
Qanta Ahmed warned against the virulence of Islamist ideology, claiming it was more dangerous than nuclear weapons, and stressed the importance of moderate Muslims unmasking the “wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” i.e., so-called “moderate” Islamists.
Undoubtedly the most lively discussion of the day involved Canadian columnist and author Tarek Fatah. During his speech, which you can see in the clip below, he notes that missing from much of the debate over the use of chemical weapons by Syria, and even Iran’s budding nuclear program, is that Pakistan already possesses 100+ nuclear weapons.
Fatah also added that two of the top Islamic partners in the “war on terror,” Turkey and Pakistan, are among the biggest purveyors of the jihadist ideology we are confronting globally (Saudi Arabia could also be added to that list).
Brian Jenkins of RAND Corp noted the diminishing effectiveness of strikes aimed at decapitating terrorist organizations. According to his research, a terrorist group that suffers decapitation in the first year of its existence is 8.5 times more likely to disintegrate than if the leadership continues; after 10 years existence, that rate is cut in half; by 20 years (al-Qaeda would fall in this category) the effect of a leadership decapitation strike is negligible.
Jenkins also added that it appears the West is headed towards a permanent state of war with Islamic terrorism.
King’s College professor Peter Neumann said that the number of foreign jihadist fighters traveling to Syria is higher than any other conflict previously seen, which will pose a considerable threat to Western countries down the road.
Former FBI and Treasury official Matt Levitt talked about his new book on the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. He noted that many Hezbollah plots have a U.S. nexus.
Levitt also predicted that regardless of who comes out on top in Syria (Hezbollah is actively fighting on behalf of the Iranian-backed Assad regime), Hezbollah will come out the loser. Gone is their status as “freedom fighters” now that they are waging widespread warfare outside of their own country, severely damaging their credibility.
Thomas Hegghammer from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment reported that there are 4,000-5,000 foreign fighters now operating in Syria. He also added that despite much of the jihadist activity around the world, the threats to Western countries — including the U.S. — are still primarily coming out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy offered the most provocative thesis of the day, saying that “there has to be a revolution in law and jurisprudence” when it comes to terrorism. In the clip below, he says that rather than having government continuing to run to the courts to see what judges will allow, the process needs to be reversed, with governments telling judges and courts what results are needed and leaving it to the courts to find a way to get there:
I will be traveling to the Syrian border by the Golan Heights tomorrow, missing the last day of the conference. But I’ll be providing a report following that trip.