Threat of Terrorism in Germany: A Push for Policy Change

Analytics | Rafaa Chehoudi | 4-08-2016, 17:55

Threat of Terrorism in Germany: A Push for Policy ChangeEurope is left again in a state of shock and distress when Germany was hit by a surprising attack leaving 9 people dead and many more wounded. The attack on the Olympia shopping centre in Munich, three days after another attack on board a  train executed  by an Afghan refugee and followed by an explosion in a small town of Ansbach, seems to be politically motivated violence rather than ideologically prompted criminal act. Given that ISIS hasn’t claimed its responsibility for the Munich attack or any other subsequent attacks yet, the most probable target of these attacks is elevated  from a mere attempt to disseminate fear in Germany and Europe, to an endeavour to ultimately change the German stance on the Middle East crisis. Accordingly, an immediate revision of the definition of terrorism has become inevitable, stressing on its politicized feature deeply rooted in long-term strategic and geopolitical goals. These aspired political goals range from regime change to territorial change and finally policy change, each according to the spatial element and temporal coherence.


Neither territorial nor regime changes are applicable in the German case, given that ISIS is too weak to bring about any significant changes in Europe. According to the IHS Conflict Monitor, ISIS is currently undergoing huge losses on the ground, the territory controlled by its forces having been shrunk to  68,300 square kilometers of both Iraq and Syria compared to 80,000 in previous years. Therefore, the hypothesis of policy change must beto some extent true. Since the uprising in Syria in 2011 followed by the dramatic increase of the ISIS’s influence  in the  region of Middle East and North Africa, Germany has distanced itself from the ongoing crisis.


Notwithstanding its participation in the international coalition against ISIS led by the US, Germany’s contribution is not as effective as many hoped. According to a report published on the 13th April 2016 by Congressional Research Service, Germany is contributing to the coalition with roughly 150 personnel in Iraq for mere training and advising missions. A media note on the 21st July 2016 by the US Department of State brought into light that almost half billion dollars are expected to be donated by Germany along with other international actors to help Iraqi citizens in the form of humanitarian assistance. So, it is almost clear that Germany has no willingness to commit to deeper involvement in the Middle Eastern  conflict, as confirmed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who stated in Germany’s Bild that “What we shouldn’t do now is to inflame the situation further with loud saber-rattling and warmongering”.


One of the major terrorist strategies that may help them to achieve desired policy changes is the focus on the element of uncertainty, associated with a certain mood of dissent. German uncertainty is best expressed in its inability to clearly identify what other states in the coalition are fighting for. First, German uncertainty reflects its concern overthe challenges of practical peace-building in the region, particularly the potential unconventional threats caused by ISIS after  losing territories in Syria and Iraq. A loss on the ground may trigger  externalization of terrorist activities to Europe, a serious danger that Germany has already kept an eye on since the Paris attacks last November. Secondly, German uncertainty underlines the real intentions of participating states. For example, many German observers deem that Turkey is more concerned with the Kurdish danger than effective contribution to eradicating  ISIS. More importantly, it seems that a certain degree of disagreement exists between Germany and NATO over Russia’s increasing incursion in the Middle East, especially Syria. While NATO and its allies aim to impose a harsher attitude to Russia, Germany is almost adopting an opposite perception, causing frustration and discontent among the coalition participating states.


If all attacks on Germany are officially regarded as isolated assaults with no direct tangible proof of ISIS being responsible , the hypothesis that an attempt, either internal or external, to alter  the course of the German policy will be worth noting.Refusing to relate any of these attacks to ISIS or to any extremist group means that Germany is not willing to directly declare war on ISIS and more importantly not willing to engage in the regional crisis, particularly Syria, in any form. Germany insists to adopt a “zero-enemy” approach by taking a neutral stance  and avoiding any possible diplomatic or military clashes. But the puzzling question is what will happenin case one of the attacks is proved to be associated with the ISIS activities. Then, Germany will be forced to change at least its detached attitude and most probably reconcider its policies concerning refugee crisis which is already generating political fearmongering in Germany by the right wing extremists. Germany will probably send more military assistance to  Syria and Iraq, especially in the wakeof the Mosul campaign in Iraq for the next few months. 


While uncertainty about power and policies on the ground to inaugurate sustained peace process in the region is the driving force to violence, communication is undoubtedly the key to trust. Hardly anyone  can deny the failure of the US-led coalition to attain these goals, given the weekly terrorist attacks now threatening  international peace and stability. Airstrikes and training missions are not adequate to eradicate the terrorist danger without a comprehensive approach targeted, firstly, to work on a resolution package for the MENA regional crisis and, secondly, to implement equally and effectively functional strategies to protect international peace. The potential threat of terrorism is likely to increase unless authentic cooperation is carried out on the ground.


About the author:

Rafaa Chehoudi

Published news by Author