On February 1, a suicide bomber killed a security guard and injured three others at the US embassy in Ankara, Turkey in a second terrorist attack on US overseas diplomatic establishments in five months. The attacker also died in the blast. In January, 37 people from different countries were killed in the Algeria hostage crisis. Such outrageous moves in contempt of lives and diplomacy has shocked the international community.
An investigation has been launched on the terrorist attack on the US embassy in Turkey, while the hostage event in Algeria has been regarded as an extension of the Malian unrest, and is closely related to the chaotic situation in Libya. Behind the frequent terrorist attacks in the West Asia and North Africa region lurks the phantoms of terrorism and al-Qaeda. Over the past two years, since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, dramatic changes have taken place in West Asia and North Africa during the people’s revolts against autocratic regimes. Terrorist forces have become more and more active, especially in those countries that were left in a “political vacuum” in the Arab Spring.
At present, West, Central, South and Southeast Asia, as well as North Africa are the most plagued by terrorism. A research institute in Australia reported that terrorist activities have grown rampant in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Somali and Nigeria. The two recent events in Turkey and Algeria have alerted the international community of the emergency to crack down on terrorism.
Radical treatment is better than symptomatic relief. The continuous unrests in West Asia and North Africa are providing a hotbed for terrorism. While it is necessary to support people in the region in their pursuit for change and struggle against autocratic rule, the international community should also uphold the norms governing international relations, promote inclusion and co-existence between different religions and cultures, and safeguard the principle of equality and mutual respect of each other’s sovereignty. Countries in disputes should, with a long-term perspective and courage to face reality, follow the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences to settle the problems left over by history. Besides, the international community should be alert to the spread of terrorism in and beyond the region and take coordinated moves to fight it at the source.
At present, there are two things making it difficult to crack down on terrorist activities in West Asia and North Africa. First, chaos is still rampant in some countries in the region, rendering their governments powerless. Second, terrorism has deeply infiltrated society and achieved wide-spread influence under the pretext of seeking human rights and democracy. Given these conditions, this writer believes that double standards and the mentality of using ideological values to differentiate between enemies and friends should be abandoned in the fight against terrorism. Terrorism is the common enemy of all nations and threatens the safety of the entire human race. Wherever they are and whatever pretexts they use, terrorists should be suppressed with determination and no place should be left for them to hide.
Secondly, the purpose and principle of the UN Charter should be upheld in the fight against terrorism while all nations’ independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected. International co-operation should be conducted on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, and all nations’ wills should be given full attention. Without co-operation from all countries, anti-terrorist campaigns won’t last.
Thirdly, military means alone are not enough for fighting terrorism, which was born from complex political, economic and social reasons. All positive forces should be involved in developing a comprehensive strategy. And, there should be no attempt to associate terrorism exclusively with any country, race or religion. The international community should strive to reach a common understanding on the issue and, through the United Nations and its Security Council, speak with one voice.
A popular point of view among international scholars was that two critical issues were influencing the world’s development, namely the United States’ anti-terrorism endeavor and China’s rise. Some even argued that coping with China’s rise would be the most essential part of the United States’ foreign policy in the 21st century. To these contentions, I would call for abandoning the habit of applying the theory of ideological confrontation to everything. On the Middle East question, for instance, what we should do instead is to respect the facts and find out the true nature of, and the reasons behind, the problems in the region. As human civilization advances and anti-terrorism campaign gets underway, the idea of distinguishing friend from foe by ideology has become outdated. And with the economic globalization and technological development, the Earth we live on has become a “global village”. China has put forward the idea of “all human beings sharing same destiny” and opposes all forms of terrorism, because preventing terrorism from going rampant has become a common task for all nations in the 21st century.
In the contemporary world, no country or region can fare we on their own amid economic globalization and political multi-polarization. Anti-terrorist campaigns should be given top priority in the world’s agenda for healthy and peaceful development. The West Asia and North Africa region, because of its unique position as a geographic hub joining Asia, Africa and Europe, has always been of vital importance in military strategy, involved in various conflicts and frequent wars. No matter how the world’s strategic center shifts between East and West, the region’s strategic importance remains unchanged. It may take a considerably long time for the changes in the region to subside. And they will take on the right path for development only after all political forces have completed a run-in period through friction and collision. And only then can they catch up with the global trend of reform and development.
In this major transition, it is unavoidable for various political forces in the region to engage in intense rivalry. The international community, especially the major powers, should provide assistance on the basis of respecting their rights to self-governance, to avoid violent conflicts and minimize the sufferings the people have to experience in social transformation. Only in this way can we avoid producing opportunities and soil for the growth of terrorist organizations. Using a positive energy to help countries and people in the West Asia and North Africa region to achieve peaceful development is beneficial to them, and is in the interests of the world as well.
Wu Sike is a member on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and member on the Foreign Policy Consulting Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affair.