Seven days into the deadliest bombing in the United Kingdom since 2005 July bombings in London, Manchester, a vibrant multicultural city in England is flooded with law enforcement officers, armed police and bomb disposal teams to reaffirm the public about safety through their constant patrols. The Manchester bombing carried out by a British citizen of Libyan origin has restarted a public debate with questions of terrorism, immigration, Muslim identities... all thrown out in the back drop of a divisive election campaign in the United Kingdom.
Twenty years ago, the Britons voted for hope and change when they brought into power a new political movement championed by a charismatic political leader by the name of Tony Blair. Blair’s new labour movement, which was called the third way of the British political spectrum won heavily and its success was very much in cities such as Manchester. Tony Blair’s political career and his party 20 years or both, seem at a sorry state. Blair once a giant in democratic politics globally, a scion of hope, progress and the voice of the anti terror war, is neither venerated nor remembered as the leader British public thought would guide them to prosperity coming in the new millennia.
Twenty years on, the labour party is fighting to stay relevant and unified amidst internal turmoil, the far left maverick’s leader Corbyn’s struggles amidst constant challenges to his leadership. The Conservative party has moved very much to the right since the departure of David Cameron and under the leadership of Theresa May is assured victory in the upcoming general elections but at a terrible social and political cost. The inclusive, liberalist plural Britain is clearly in decline, Britain has entered a phase of significant transformation in its political culture and its post Brexit strategic posture is yet to be ascertained
Ten years into the new labour government in 2007, the global financial crises struck London and all other financial nerve centres in Britain, London and Edinburgh taking the worst hits with the financial and banking sector catching fire like a pack of cards falling apart. Twenty years on, since new labour’s victory, British political landscape is going through some notable changes and it seems that warnings from British Intelligence when Tony Blair joined the war on terror seems to be coming to light.
The Chilcot report, the lengthy British investigation into the circumstances leading to the Iraqi invasion in 2003, was re-released last year.
The report outlines the warning given by the Joint Intelligence Committee, the main advisory arm of the British PM, raising concerns of Britain joining the invasion of Iraq. The committee warned of severe repercussions that the United Kingdom will face with a deep involvement in America’s war on terror. The report clearly hinted that the British society will be vulnerable to domestic terrorism emerging from revenge attacks and radicalization
The recent Manchester bombing carried out by a 22 year old young British born to Libyan parents who themselves were refugees, bodes well with what the intelligence community was trying to warn Blair nearly 15 years ago. It also demonstrates a level of strategic foresight that the Islamic State (IS) has achieved in its recent campaigns. While it has consistently lost ground both In Iraq and Syria, still the organization has managed to decentralize widely and expanded its strike radius backed by recruitment machinery that is second to none in the militant universe.
Bombing triggers public debate with questions of terrorism, immigration, Muslim identities
Britain warned of severe repercussions after Iraq invasion
Attacks from Nice to Manchester are part of an ISIL strategy of dividing Europe
Twenty years ago, the Britons voted for hope and change
Twenty years on, the labour party is fighting to stay relevant and unified amidst internal turmoil
The recent Manchester bombing carried out by a 22 year old young British born to Libyan parents
Manchester bombing was clearly not a one off; it had a deliberate political connotation. In times of a major election campaign with clear advantage to the more right wing conservative party led by Theresa May, what stands between her victory and a landslide defeat of labour are the successful multicultural British cosmopolitan hubs. Manchester clearly represents a critical node and is a hub of defiance against populism.
Islamic State’s intentions are clear, it wants to break the back of this defiance, create rifts in such open and cohesive societies to enable right wing politics to come into the fore. Whole of Europe, with the exception of France and Germany, are buckling to such pressures even France and Germany are not totally immune to such social fractures. Thus attacks from Nice in France to Manchester are part of an Islamic State strategy of dividing Europe further and taking it back to the configuration of early 16th century, where Europe was fragmented by sectarian violence and divisive politics making it the weakest link in global politics prior to the great divergence.
From its siege in Mindanao in the Philippines to attacks in Indonesia and Egypt - all in one week, Islamic State and its affiliates are clearly taking advantage in a time where the global order and leadership shows no real direction of coherent action. The most symbolic of this current situation is the outcome of Donald Trump’s first foreign tour starting from Saudi Arabia and ending in Brussels.
Trump’s message to Iran even in the aftermath of a democratic election and opting to side with Saudi Arabia will not help bringing the Islamic world into a concert. Trump’s remarks in his Riyadh speech, which read as ‘‘From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fuelled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.” Immediately gave a moral high ground to Sunni Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, a few weeks ago, managed to successfully block in the UN Security Council an attempt by the United States to add Saudi affiliates of the Islamic State into the UN terror list. Thus Trump’s aggression towards Iran is found as unreasonable and without strategic insight which may harm American interest in the long run within the region and in its security implementations.
"Ten years into the new labour government in 2007, the global financial crises struck London and all other financial nerve centres in Britain, London and Edinburgh taking the worst hits with the financial and banking sector catching fire like a pack of cards falling apart"
The European and American experience in the aftermath of any terrorist attack or lone wolf attacks were intense information sharing and multiple collaborations in every possible front. Yet, the Manchester bombings exposed the growing rift among the intelligence communities of the West with the Trump administration. While the hunt for further suspects and potential bomb making sites in Manchester, American media reported sensitive media reports of the ongoing counter-terror operation in Manchester infuriating the British intelligence community.
Thus the leaks were blamed on the dysfunctional operations in the Trump White House, plagued by leaks and infighting among factions and Trump’s reluctance to create a coherent chain of command and his willingness to fire officials more than hire them has resulted in an unprecedented amount of leaks coming from the White House and from all levels of governance.
Former Spanish Defence Minister Ana Palacio writing in an opinion piece last week claimed, ‘Indeed, the true risk of Trump’s presidency lies not in the dangerous conditions of the next four years, but in the emergence, in the long term, of a directionless – and thus highly unstable – world order.’ Similar fears have been echoed by a number of scholars and policy makers. If the world order is broken, the inability for states likes the US to respond would encourage more attacks by Islamic State. Such attacks would put further pressure on the international system when states realize that there is no help coming to them from global mechanisms., Thus ISIL is attempting to drive states into a vicious cycle of embracing a hardened security mentality open a panoply of options to alienate communities globally, especially, the Muslims and make them recruits for the Islamic State. Thus the seizing up of the global governance mechanisms need to be averted and restored as pure military actions by any country ranging from USA, Russia to Philippines will never break this vicious cycle of violence.
The writer is the Director, Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS)