950208 Remarks before the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council Omni Shoreham Hotel (by Philp C. Wilcox, JR.)  Return to: Index of "Arms Control, Counter-terrorism and Military Affairs || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

FEBRUARY 8, 1995

              Remarks by Philip C. Wilcox, Jr.
              Coordinator for Counterterrorism
                         before the
    National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council
                     Omni Shoreham Hotel
                      February 8, 1995

Terrorism has been a threat to civil society since time
immemorial, and it is very much in the headlines today.
Though terrorists are a tiny, deviant minority, their brutal
attacks against innocent civilians take a heavy toll on
security and well being around the world.  The vivid images
of terrorism in the media make the horror of terrorism all
the more shocking and real.

This morning I want to review the threat from terrorism
today and the danger it poses to the Middle East peace
process.  I will also offer some thoughts on terrorism and
Islam, and explain U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

One reason for our deep concern about terrorism is that for
decades Americans have been targeted abroad.  Today, we know
that international terrorists can also strike here at home,
as we learned from the World Trade Center bombing in 1993,
and the related case of a conspiracy to bomb other targets
in New York, which is now being tried.

The other reason why terrorism is such a high priority for
us is the danger it poses to our friends abroad and our
foreign policy interests, for example, to the Middle East
peace process, which is once again a prime terrorist target.

First, let's look at the global situation, where the picture
is mixed.  The good news is that acts of international
terrorism in 1994 were at their lowest point in 23 years:
there were 321 incidents, compared to 665 at the high point
in 1987.

What are the reasons for this decline?

--  There is a growing consensus among nations that
terrorism is beyond the pale and must be stopped, and there
is increasing international cooperation to this end.
     --  Our policy of success in identifying states which
sponsor terrorism, isolating them and bringing sanctions to
bear has also paid off.

--  The fall of the old Soviet Union, and the communist
states of Eastern Europe, which gave aid and comfort to many
terrorist groups, is another reason for this positive trend.

     --  South Africa's decision to choose reconciliation
     over confrontation, and the move away from violence
     toward accommodation in Northern Ireland, other signs
     of change
     --  Finally, the historic shift in the Middle East
toward peace between Arabs and Israelis, and the decision of
the PLO to forswear violence and negotiate with Israel, has
started a process of reconciliation between former enemies.

Nevertheless, other newer groups are fighting a vicious rear
guard actions to defeat the peace process, and this recent
upsurge of terror, primarily by the Islamic extremist groups
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hizballah, against
Israeli and Jewish targets is one of the major negative
factors in the global terrorism scene.

--  Examples of this campaign to undermine the peace process

--  The World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the
related conspiracy now being tried, involved Islamic
extremists implacably opposed to Israel and the United
States to thwart the peace process;

--  The suicide bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural
center in Buenos Aires in July, 1994, apparently by
Hizballah, which had claimed responsibility for an almost
identical bombing of the Israeli Embassy there in 1992;

--  The bombing of a Panamanian commuter aircraft in
July 1994, killing 21, of whom three were American citizens
and eleven were Jewish;

--  Attacks on the Israeli Consulate and a building housing
Jewish organizations in London; and

--  A series of terrorist acts in Israel and in the West
Bank and Gaza, including the attack on Palestinians in
Hebron last February, and a wave of terrorist attacks and
bombings against Israelis, the horrific bombing in Natanya
January 22, which killed 21 Israelis was the most recent
example of this vicious campaign.

These attacks are a desperate effort to reverse the historic
decision by the Israeli government and the PLO to make
peace.  They are also an effort by religious extremists to
turn the Arab-Israeli dispute into a religious war.

We must not underestimate the damage of terrorism to
security and to confidence in the peace process.  But there
is a strong determination among Israelis and Palestinian
leaders to redouble their efforts toward peace and to
marginalize the terrorists.

As Secretary Christopher has said, the terrorists who oppose
the peace process are waging a "rear guard action designed
to return the Middle East to a tragic path of fear and
conflict"  President Clinton has made clear on many
occasions that these groups are a vestige of the past and
cannot be allowed to succeed.

So the answer to the terrorists is not to surrender to their
demands and curtail the peace process.  The answer is for
the parties and those who support peace to work more closely
and cooperatively:  a better efforts by the Palestinian
Authority in dealing with those engaged in and planning
terror; the demonstrated commitment by Israel and the PLO to
the Oslo process; and the importance in promoting assistance
to the Palestinians and economic development in Gaza and the
West Bank.  Showing the fruits of peace is a powerful weapon
against its enemies.  As Secretary Christopher has said, "a
peace that is just and secure for all the peoples of the
Middle East is the best answer to the terrorists."

Terrorism by Islamic extremists threatens, not only the
peace process, but society and governments elsewhere; for
example in Algeria, where the Armed Islamic group has waged
a campaign of violence, and in Egypt where the Gamaat al
Islammiya has attacked government officials and foreign

It is important to distinguish between these extremists
groups who use violence and terror in the name of Islam to
pursue their ambitions for power, and the great majority of
Muslims who abhor violence.  Fortunately, most Americans
reject the old false stereotype which linked Islam with
violence and terror.  The basic tenets of Islam, like
Judaism and Christianity, teach peace and non-violence.

We should also dismiss the scare scenario, advanced by some,
of a looming confrontation between a militant, united
Islamic world, hostile to the U.S., Israel and the secular
West.  There is no doubt that political Islam is a growing
phenomenon today.  But the Islamic world, stretching from
Senegal to Indonesia, is infinitely varied.  It has secular,
reformist and fundamentalist adherents, moderates,
militants, democrats and autocrats.

There is no doubt that many Muslims in some countries who
feel alienated and frustrated by poverty and the failure of
governments to meet their expectations, are attracted by the
appeal of political Islam.  Yet Islamic extremist groups who
have attempted to impose their will have largely failed.
Iran and Sudan the only two countries where militant
islamists have seized power, have few friends in the Islamic
world and are hardly viewed as the wave of the future.

We are confident, in any case, that terrorists who fly the
flag of Islam are a small minority.  We oppose the zealots
who oppose peace, and we are confident they will fail.  And
we do not view Islam as the next "ism" confronting the West.

Let me turn, now to what the Clinton administration and
other nations are doing to combat terrorism - and I can
assure you we are doing a lot.

The Executive order number 12947 banning funding from U. S.
sources of groups which threaten the Middle East peace
process, and the draft Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995,
which the President will soon submit to the Congress, are
recent examples of the high priority of counterterrorism on
our foreign policy agenda.

There are three main tenets of U. S. counterterrorism

--   The first is to identify those states which give
direction, support, or refuge to terrorists, to impose
sanctions against them, and to mobilize other governments to
join in these efforts.

--   Iran, the most active state sponsor today, continues to
assassinate dissidents and to provide direction and support
to terrorist groups to undermine the peace process.  Iranian
terror has been curbed by sanctions, but it remains a
threat, especially through its direction and support for the
Lebanese Hizballah and its support for Hamas and the
Palestinians for Islamic Jihad.

--  Libyan terrorism has been sharply reduced by sanctions
imposed by the UN Security  Council, as a result of the
bombings of Pan Am 103 and UTA 722.  But Libya still defies
its obligation to hand over the perpetrators of these
crimes, and we will not rest until they are brought to

--  Iraqi terror has also been limited by international
sanctions, although Saddam Hussein has continued to murder
dissidents and to attack foreign relief personnel in
Northern Iraq.

--  Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are the other
nations we have designated as state sponsors.  Syria is now
engaged in peace negotiations with Israel, and Damascus has
not been directly involved in acts of terrorism since 1986.
But Syria continues to allow terrorist groups, like the
Palestinian Islamic Jihad which committed the bombings in
Israel on January 22, a presence in Damascus.  And until
this problem is resolved, Syria will remain on our list.

--   The second principle of our policy is to refuse to make
deals with terrorists.  Past experience, for example, the
ultimate release of our hostages in Lebanon shows the
success of that policy.

The third tenet of our policy is to reinforce the rule of
law, and to support law enforcement cooperation among
governments against terrorist crimes.  Real progress has
been made in this area.  For example, there are also eleven
international treaties and conventions on international
cooperation to prosecute various terrorist crimes, whereas
in 1985, there were only five such agreements.

The U.S. government is deeply involved in an active program
of consultations with diplomats, law enforcement and
intelligence officials of other governments who share our
concern about terrorism.  Since terrorism is a global
phenomenon, these cooperative links are critical.

The Department of State has provided counterterrorism
training to over 18,000 officials in fifty nations over the
last decade through our Anti-Terrorism Assistance program.

The U.S. also has an excellent program of counterterrorism
research and development, in which we cooperate with the UK,
Canada and Israel.

Growing international cooperation against terrorism has
manifested itself in other ways as well.

--   The UN General Assembly passed a strong resolution last
year condemning terrorism in all its forms and state support
for terrorists.

--   The Organization of American States, at the recent
Summit of the Americas, launched a Plan of Action against
Terrorism and called for a hemispheric conference on the

--   And the Organization of the Islamic Conference,
representing the States in the Islamic world adopted a
resolution condemning terrorism at its annual meeting last

These effort by the U.S. and other nations have done much to
curb international terrorism.  But terrorists continue to
strike at innocent civilians around the world, and their
campaign against the Middle East peace process is a
particular danger.  If history is any guide, terrorists will
persist, with new techniques and targets, even as the
majority of the world's people reject terrorism and
strengthen their defenses.  A strong, vigilant, resourceful
counterterrorism effort by the U.S. and other nations is
critical to combat this menace, and let me assure you again
that this will continue to be among the highest priorities
of the Clinton Administration.


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