HOMEAFFAIRS BRIEFING: EU States Must Do More to Counter Iranian Activities in Europe
The HOMEAFFAIRS Briefing is a regular specialised digest of the wider discussion on internal security policy.This time, we look at Iran, and continue with approaches to migration policy.
EU States Must Do More to Counter Iranian Activities in Europe
- The rise and decline of the Islamic State hardened the simplified perception that Europe is facing a security threat from Islamic extremists of the Sunni variety. This is true, but other forms of Islamic extremism must not be overlooked, particularly when backed by nation states. This applies most clearly to the activities of Iran.
- The Iranian regime conducts hostile foreign influence operations in the EU. Iranian spies were arrested in recent months for planning political assassinations and activities to strengthen their country’s missile programme. Tehran also appears to be active in influencing Shia Muslim populations in the EU via local Islamist groups. Furthermore, Iranian proxies continue to pose a significant security threat for EU states and their allies. Just recently, the Czech counter-intelligence service uncovered a hacking operation by Hezbollah with servers in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in the EU.
- Recognising the threat of Iranian hostile activities is the first step towards addressing them. Not all Islamic extremists are violent Salafi-Jihadis; many are non-violent and even non-political. At the same time, Islamic extremism is not exclusive to the Sunni world.
- Once recognised, the hostile activities of the Iranian regime must be contained and minimised. The EU’s security community has done well in uncovering the recent plots. Their work must be complemented with a sober assessment of Shia-oriented Islamist groups in the EU and their links to Tehran.
In every issue, our team crafts internal security policy recommendations that incorporate handpicked publications from respected research organisations and experts in Europe and elsewhere.
On Migration, the Commission Must Change the Narrative to Cooperation
- Recent developments show that forcing EU Member States into welcoming irregular migrants does not work. Rather, states such as Poland, Hungary and even Italy feel betrayed and increasingly focus on safeguarding their national sovereignty.
- At the same time, the issue of mass irregular migration remains a larger problem than can be resolved by a single EU Member State.
- The European Commission must shift away from the unproductive approach of pushing for mandatory relocation and offering Member States an option to buy themselves out of the scheme. On a national level, such positioning may be interpreted as a forced choice between social experimentation and blackmail.
- Instead, the Commission should adopt a voluntary approach and allow Member States to cooperate in resolving the issue. Voluntary participation in a common solution may include:
- Financial aid to absorb the costs of refugee integration for those states which accept refugees
- Investment in the EU Trust Fund for Africa to tackle root causes of migration
- Deployment of personnel, e.g. for border protection
- Central and Eastern European states see the benefit of a well-functioning EU as a whole but are sensitive to being lectured about social and cultural changes. The Commission must be wary of this and offer solutions which enable the EU to tackle common problems together rather than be divided by them.
Do Not Use the Misleading Term “Lone Wolves”
- In his latest article for the Journal of Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, David C. Hofmann reopens the case against the widely misused term “lone wolves”.
- Even when they commit the act of terror on their own, the perpetrators hardly ever radicalize, plan and execute their plans in isolation.
- Neither the comparison with wolves is accurate. While the animals are wolves by nature, terrorists are simply not born as terrorists. What precedes their brutal actions is the process of radicalization, which is closely connected to communication, coordination and cooperation with like-minded individuals, whether in person or online.
- This particularly applies to the current surge of jihadist terrorism and the ideology of Islamic extremism, the importance of which is muddled by the unhelpful term “lone wolves”. Correctly recognising the threat of Islamic extremism is not possible without abandoning the abovementioned phrase.
- Terms such as “lone actor” are preferable to describe instances of terrorism. However, even these must be used with the recognition that the radicalisation process, which precedes acts of terror, is social act that always involves more than one person.
Political Representatives Must Not Give Islamic Extremists a Platform
- From time to time, Islamic extremist actors receive invitations to speak at high-level political events with leading European figures.
- Historical cases include the infamous promotion of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi by the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone in 2004. More recently, the Labour party invited Shakeel Begg, an extremist Islamist preacher, to speak alongside two of its MPs at an anti-racism event.
- Such events are deeply concerning, as they serve to legitimise malignant ideas that are contrary to the values of democracy and respect of human rights and civil liberties. By giving the proponents of such ideas a floor, political representatives provide them with the opportunity to attract more followers and undermine liberal democracy.
- Political representatives must be wary of this danger and avoid giving Islamic extremists a platform. Political meetings and public lectures can be turned into a platform that amplifies and magnifies the reach of Islamic extremist actors. The only way to prevent that from happening is not to invite them and not to accept invitations from them.
- EU States Must Do More to Counter Iranian Activities in Europe
- EU States Must Do More to Counter Extremism in the Western Balkans
- EU States Must Regulate Internet Companies to Reduce Online Extremism
- Stop Using the Term “Islamophobia” When Describing Anti-Muslim Hatred
- Every EU State Should Have a Counter-Extremism Coordinator