Islamic “Ideological Terror” Is a Fresh Trial for the West

Did Omar Mateen act on orders from a “foreign terror organization” when he murdered 49 people and injured 53 others at the Orlando gay club in the predawn hours of June 12?
FBI director James Comay asserted that he did not.
Did he belong to a terror network? No.
Was he an Islamic terrorist? Absolutely.
Therefore, the Orlando massacre stands apart from previous jihadi attacks, such as the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood and the December 2015 assault in San Bernardino – and not just because of its extreme lethality.
Indeed, this outrage will go down in history as an event that changed the face of terror and how it is fought.
Security officials and opinion shapers in the US and other victimized countries are finally forced to admit that they misconceived the nature of the enemy and have been left with their tardy counter-measures far behind the action. They are beginning to appreciate that the Islamic State is waging a war on the West and will have to be eradicated root and branch before it is over.
The difficulty thrown in their faces in Orlando was the emergence of the “ideological terrorist,” who steps forward to volunteer his services and lay down his life under the inspiration of the shining words and feats painted pervasively by ISIS propagandists.
Mateen solemnly dedicated his dreadful act to the “caliph”, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, without waiting for orders.
He was not the first Islamic terrorist to act reflexively on extremist inspiration or ideological motivation: On June 20, 2015, on a much smaller scale, Yassin Salhi, a French lorry driver, acted on his own initiative when he cut off his boss’s head before slamming a vehicle into a US-owned chemical plant near Lyon.
Like Salhi, Mateen became hooked on jihadist terrorism by the vision of the army of Allah marching to victory against the unfaithful.
The FBI never rated him as a security threat worth watching, even though he was interviewed three times, especially after his link with an American Palestinian suicide bomber who went to Syria came to light, because that link was judged “minimal.”
For a while, the large-scale terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in April of this year overshadowed the emergence of the individual jihadist and created the illusion that the contemporary wave of terror continued to be the work of the same organized networks which operated on 9/11 and during its aftermath.
But the massacre in Orlando clearly shocked the entire Western counterterrorism community into a heated debate over roots, motives and dynamics. Security and intelligence agencies were shown up as woefully wanting in remedies for thwarting the new breed of terrorist.
It is a fact that no existing intelligence or security service is capable of keeping millions of disaffected young Muslims under surveillance, or pick up on their clandestine affinity for the ISIS leader al-Baghdadi when his Islamic caliphate is seen as an utopian model compared with their lives in the West. Thus, when Western leaders, led by US President Barack Obama, say that the terrorists who “pervert” a major world religion pose a threat to Western life and values, they are merely confirming many thousands of these youths in the belief that the likes of Yassin Salhi and Omar Mateen were martyrs to a hallowed cause and worthy of emulation.
Picking up fast on this sea change, al-Baghdadi has started pandering adroitly to the new breed of self-dedicated jihadist. He ordered the ISIS propaganda machine boosted and told the heads of Amaq News, a Syrian agency which acts as one of the group’s mouthpieces, to take responsibility for any significant terrorist attack staged around the world which he approved post factum.
In this way, the ISIS leader grants legitimacy and kudos to the “ideological Islamist terrorists” and wins free publicity for his organization without the expenditure of effort, logistics or resources.
To fight the expanding army of ideological terrorists, the West needs to go back and rediscover the methods first attempted in the early 2000s after the 9/11 attacks on America, when US intelligence tried planting undercover agents in mosques, madressas, Muslim schools, youth and sports groups and countless other religious organizations for recruiting informers.
Those methods were never fully effective and eventually abandoned after hardly any Arab intelligence services managed to recruit enough informers.
Advanced surveillance and wiretapping technologies, including social networks, were also found to be ineffective for two reasons: no intelligence-gathering organization in the West is capable of covering this huge mass of electronic and other messages and filter them by topic. Individual terrorists furthermore began avoiding social networks so as not to betray their plans.
Newt Gingrich, a US Republican Party stalwart, who has been short-listed as Donald Trump’s running mate, was the first to float the idea of interning Muslim suspects in camps, as US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did to Nazi supporters and US citizens of German and Japanese extraction during World War II.
The idea is not far from Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration from countries with a record of terrorism against the US and its allies until proper screening procedures are in place to cull prospective terrorists.
Neither of these ideas is readily feasible without major adjustments. But, as we have stressed in a separate article, no tactic so far tried by the West, including a military campaign against ISIS strongholds, has effectively stemmed the rising tide of Islamist terror.

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