“Counter Terrorism” as a Legitimizing Factor of the War

Nine days after the September 11 attack, “war on terror” strategy to made public by US President George W. Bush has justified the battle against Iraq on the pretext of the “preventive strike” doctrine and has expanded or soften the sense of military intervention.[1] The perception of terrorism as a threat directed to all human beings has led to the belief that the globalization is also targeted and therefore anti-terrorism policies must also be in a global extent. In this sense, an increasingly globalizing idea and active opposition against terrorism has been established.[2]

Globalization has primarily brought about the spread and subsequntly the use of terrorism by the state, and then risen the urgent need for global struggle aiming the prevention of terrorism. That the state-sponsored terrorism and the global struggle against terrorism continue simultaniously eventually pave the way for the compartmentation of the counter terrorism. In other words, the search for global struggle against terrorism has become increasingly localized due to the debate over the definition of terrorism and therefore the notion who is a terrorist, or has degraded to regional level in the context of the overlapping national interests of countries. The debate on the notion “who is a terrorist” turn into the fight occuring over the question of  “who is this terrorist?” States’ ideological, material, military and operational support for terrorist organizations in line with their national interests and the tolerance or sponsorship of terrorist organizations[3] prevent the development of a global struggle against terrorist organizations. Moreover, regional and global actors come together for the “struggle against terrorism” against the supporters of the relevant terrorist organization in accordance with their interest, establish alliances and consolidate the latter through the anti-terrorism rhetoric.

In the military alliance developed against the countries giving support to the terrorism; member states are putting the given state on the target board by using rhetoric such as “counter terrorism” and even “the terrorist state” (as seen in Trump’s definition for Iran), and hereby the counter terrorism is increasingly becoming the legitimizing factor of the war. For example, it is stated that the Trump administration is in contact with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for the establishment of an Arab military alliance (Arab NATO) against Iran.[4] It is also stated that this alliance will constitute a wide range of Islamic NATO afterwards the attendance of the countries such as Pakistan and Turkey. As a matter of fact, the establishment of “Islamic Alliance Against Terrorism” or “Islamic Army Coalition” with the 34 countries including Turkey, which is under the leadership of Saudi Arabia on December 16, 2015 stands for the best example of this situation.

In addition, the decisions allowing for the accusations against Iran, taken after the 28th Arab League Summit held in the Dead Sea region of Jordan on 29 March 2017 were interpreted as footsteps of the recent rise of the new Islamic NATO. In the the decision taken in the Summit, Iran was accused of interfering with the internal affairs of the Arab countries and was invited to adhere to international agreements and respect to the sovereignty of the countries. Besides, the King of Saudi Arabia, Selman  and  the King of Jordan, Abdullah II held a bilateral meeting in the Summit and after the talks, Saudi Arabia and Jordan accused Iran for promoting sectarianism and supporting terrorism.[5] Pakistan, on the other hand, has told Iran that Islamabad is a part of the alliance against terrorism and it will not be a part of an anti-Iran alliance. Iran, on the other, voiced that they were going to follow the course of the alliance and worried about it.[6] Military alliances or coalitions formalize the purpose and the scope of the settlement over the counter terrorism and embark on a quest of sending a message or limiting relevant country targeting their proxy terrorist organizations. As a result, the alliance gradually stands by a military vigilance and on the alert of war against the related state.

For example, the Decimal Coalition established on March 26, 2015 under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and comprised of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, BAE, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan started to launch air strike against Yemen with the name of “Operation Decisive Storm”. The coalition under the Saudi leadership launches the operations against the Houthis and simultaneously accuses Iran of supporting these groups. Thus, Iran is placed on the target board by the respective coalition countries. The concept of combating terrorism is increasingly becoming an argument that legitimizes war. To convert counter terrorism into a real mobilization in global context, we should follow:

  • State-sponsored terrorism, which has led to the emergence of the “My terrorist” and “Your terrorist” distinctions, must be dissolved. A new international agreement, aimed at preventing state-sponsored terrorism and foreseeing sanctions against it, must be drafted, and also set conditions that all countries which are a members of the UN should be a member of the given agreement.
  • But it is very difficult to terminate the state-sponsored terrorism because of the global power struggle occurring over the proxies. For this reason, a national awareness campaign to prevent state-sponsored terrorism should be introduced, conferences should be organized and various platforms should be set up for this purpose. In this way, it could be ensured that the state-supported terrorism would reduced as much as possible.

“War on terror” strategy putting forward by Bush has turned into a new global warfare scheme that moves through “counter-terrorism” in the second quarter of 2000s. States, in the new global warfare order, identifies its enemy through “Your terrorist” definition, places the relevant terrorist supporter in the target and comes to realize the destructive war practice through the regional alliances he creates. New security paradigms in the global politics are shaped by the concept of  “counter terrorism” and this concept is increasingly constituting the main legitimizing subject of war.


[1] Oyan, E. (2007). Kapitalizm ve ABD “Politikaları” Bağlamında “Terörizme Karşı Savaş” Stratejisi. Yayınlanmamış Doktora Tezi, Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, 128. Daha fazla bilgi için bkz. Mueller, K. P., Castillo, J. J. ve diğerleri. (2006). Striking First-Preemptive and Preventive Attack in U.S. National Security Policy. RAND Corporation.

[2] Balcı, M. (2003). Savaş ve Terör. Genç Hukukçular Hukuk Okumaları-Birikimler 1. 653.

[3] Taşdemir, F. (2006). Uluslararası Terörizme Karşı Devletlerin Kuvvet Başvurma Yetkisi. Ankara: USAK Yayınları, 46-57.

[4] İnternet: ‘Ortadoğu’da İran’a karşı Arap NATO’su doğuyor’. (2017). Web: https://tr.sputniknews.com/ortadogu/201703011027439582-die-welt-ortadogu-iran-arap-nato/ adresinden 31 Mart 2017 tarihinde alınmıştır.

[5] İnternet: İran mezhepçiliği körüklüyor.(2017). Web: http://www.yenisafak.com/dunya/iran-mezhepciligi-korukluyor-2635488 adresinden 31 Mart 2017 tarihinde alınmıştır.

[6] İnternet: Islamabad will not become part of any anti-Tehran agenda: Pak officials. (2017).  Web: http://www.iran-daily.com/News/190009.html adresinden 1 Nisan 2017 tarihinde alınmıştır.