IMAN Foundation dinner

Founder & Chairman of IMAN Foundation, Ribal Al-Assad, gave a fascinating overview covering the last few years to promote dialogue, challenge extremism and bring change to the Middle East and North Africa in particular.

 

Text of speech:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen …

… it is an honour to be here among so many distinguished guests.

 

Just a month ago, we were all given a terrifying reminder that Islamist terrorism is not just something that happens in places like Iraq and Syria.

 

It also strikes at the heart of Western democracies like France …

 

… as well as the UK and of course the USA.

 

The death toll of the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris was bad enough …

 

… but even more shocking was the way the attackers simply burst into an ordinary workplace in a peaceful European capital city …

 

… and murdered their victims in cold blood.

 

It was an event that would have seemed surreal had it not been so horrific …

 

… but sadly, the threat of terrorism is all too real ….

 

… and can strike anywhere in the world.

 

Not only in Aleppo but in London …

 

… not only in Borno but in Boston …

 

… not only in Peshawar but in Paris …

 

… and at any time.

 

 

The Home Secretary Theresa May announced in November that no fewer than 40 terror plots have been foiled in the UK since the 7/7 attack …

 

… and the security services are to be commended …

 

… but it only takes one terror plot to slip through the net for innocent lives to be lost.

 

 

I have been warning for many years that such attacks will become more frequent if the international community does not come together to stop the menace of Islamism …

 

… not only by foiling terror plots once they're in motion …

 

… but by rooting out those who promote Islamist ideology and incite people to carry out such attacks.

 

 

I hope that the world will wake up to the nature of the threat …

 

… and begin to understand the new sophistication of terrorism …

 

… and the complex relationship between Islamist groups, their sponsors ...

 

… and certain states that are supposed to be our allies.

 

 

In October, US Vice-President Joe Biden told students at Harvard University, ‘Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria’ …

 

… and explained that they had effectively started a ‘proxy Sunni-Shia war’ in their determination to bring down the Syrian regime.

 

 

It was later reported that the vice president subsequently apologised even for raising the issue ...

 

… but it is ridiculous that the most powerful country in the world should be apologising for telling the truth.

 

 

As I will explain, too many of our so-called allies have blood on their hands …

 

… and in the age of mass media and the internet, the facts cannot be covered up …

 

… so we cannot afford to be hypocritical …

 

… and must be much more robust in condemning these countries in the strongest language, publicly so the world understands.

 

 

The same red lines must apply to all, with no special treatment for so-called allies who sponsor terror …

 

… because there is no difference between terrorism sponsored by allies and terrorism sponsored by non-allies (!)

 

And we cannot advocate democracy and freedom in some regions …

 

… while accepting the opposite in others.

 

 

Returning to the most recent atrocity in the West, it has been reported that two of the Paris killers, the Kouachi brothers, received weapons training in Yemen in 2011 …

 

… and the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the attack …

 

… but the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has claimed that they also trained in Syria.

 

 

Certainly, the third killer, Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman and four people in a kosher grocery store …

 

… was earlier filmed declaring allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State.

 

 

But to understand why these men did what they did, it is not enough to trace their connections to particular terror groups …

 

… we must also understand who is really behind the rise of such groups …

 

… and sustaining them with money and TV stations broadcasting jihadist propaganda to recruit new members.

 

 

Sadly, there are rich and powerful states and individuals in the Islamic world who channel billions of dollars to these groups …

 

… so I am encouraged by the efforts of the bi-partisan congressional group pushing for the publication of material from the congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks …

 

… which could prove the long-suspected financial link between certain supposed US allies and the attackers.

 

 

Even the Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, which is intended as a charitable contribution to good causes …

 

… has long been siphoned off to fund terrorism.

 

And throughout the world, some Islamic charities are being used to raise funds for the same purpose …

 

… so the challenge for the international community is considerable.

 

 

It is not enough simply to defeat groups like Islamic State militarily …

 

… nor even to cut off sources of funding to particular groups …

 

… because Islamic State, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are no more than brand names.

                                                                                                   

 

As long as the ideology of Islamism is allowed to flourish …

 

… and encouraged by wealthy states …

 

… new sources of funding will spring up …

 

… and new terror groups will emerge with new names …

 

… and that same perverted ideology.

 

 

The recent death of King Abdullah focused the world’s attention on Saudi Arabia …

 

… which had itself been the target of a terrorist attack early in January.

 

Islamic State militants from Iraq attacked a Saudi border post, killing three soldiers, including Brigadier General Awdah al-Balawi, the commander of the country’s northern border forces …

 

… which suggests the attack was carefully planned.

 

 

This raised fears of further attacks from both Iraq and Yemen …

 

… but the threat to Saudi Arabia stems not just from its geographical location …

 

… not even the fact that its wealthy leaders, with lavish lifestyles at odds with Islamist ideology, are despised by extremists.

 

 

More important is the fact that the legitimacy of the regime is based on its adherence to Salafi Wahhabism …

 

… an ideology in many ways indistinguishable from that of the terrorists …

 

… which is why they are responsible for backing terrorist groups.

 

 

While King Abdullah condemned terrorism in general and the Islamic State in particular …

 

… and his successor King Salman can be expected to do the same …

 

… the religious ideology of Saudi Arabia endorses the oppression of women …

 

… and hatred of Shias and other Muslim sects, Christians and Jews …

 

… as well as strict punishments like limb amputations.

 

How is this any different from the Sharia practised by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq? (!)

 

 

In recent weeks, a Saudi blogger has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes …

 

… and a woman publicly beheaded in the holy city of Mecca.

 

This suggests there will be no let-off after last-year’s five year high of 83 such beheadings.

 

So, we should hardly be surprised by reports that thousands of Saudi nationals have been recruited to the ranks of the Islamic State …

 

… and other groups currently carrying out beheadings and worse in Syria and Iraq.

 

 

As recently as 2013, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia publicly endorsed the Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s call for Sunnis to wage jihad or holy war …

 

… on the so-called infidel Shias and Alawites in Syria.

 

Ironically, he more recently described al-Qaeda and Islamic State as the ‘number one enemy’ of genuine Islam …

 

… indicating that like many other senior Saudi figures, he is wary of ‘blowback’ from the country’s support for radical Islamism outside its borders.

 

 

Indeed, that support has not been merely ideological.

 

Bernard Squarcini, a previous Head of France's counter-espionage and counter-terrorism Intelligence agency, has pointed to Saudi Intelligence supporting extremist groups from Afghanistan to Lebanon …

 

… and Syria to Egypt to Mali…

 

… and the former Head of French Interior Intelligence, Yves Bonnet has accused both Qatar and Saudi Arabia of funding extremist Islamist networks in France.

 

 

It is clear that vast amounts of money and arms make their way from a variety of Saudi sources to Islamist terrorists, especially in Syria and Iraq.

 

 

Saudi-backed Salafi and Wahhabi factions in these countries are vying for dominance against the Turkish and Qatari-backed Muslim Brotherhood and the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front …

 

… with more funds and weapons arriving to fan the flames as the situation escalates.

 

But the strategy certain Gulf States have adopted of “exporting” jihad to preserve their own legitimacy is in danger of backfiring.

 

 

Before he died, King Abdullah issued a royal decree prohibiting Saudi soldiers from fighting in conflicts abroad, and threatening arrest for those who do …

 

… but we must ask how it had been possible for soldiers to have done so before without orders from their superiors (!)

 

 

The king also formally designated the Islamic State, the Nusra Front and the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organisations …

 

… and described their perversion of Islam as fitna, the greatest sin for Muslims.

 

I welcomed these moves …

 

… but the fact is that Islamist ideology is just as bad within the borders of Saudi Arabia itself.

 

 

In fact, there is something of a Culture War being waged …

 

… with some Saudis arguing for liberal and democratic reform …

 

… but, if anything, the religious extremists are only digging their heels in to resist change.

 

 

For example, when the Saudi writer Abdullah bin Bakhit claimed in December that there is no verse in the holy Qur’an that actually forbids alcohol …

 

… he was roundly and harshly condemned on social media …

 

… and when the cleric Sheikh Ahmed Al Ghamedi appeared on television with his unveiled wife, in a challenge to strict religious tradition …

 

… he was personally condemned by the Grand Mufti himself.

 

 

Indeed, the position of women in the kingdom shows no sign of improving …

 

… and two women were recently imprisoned for defying edicts that prohibit women from driving …

 

… and put on trial on charges of terrorism.

 

Perhaps that explains why the courts are too busy to try people who actually carry out acts of terror (!)

 

 

The Grand Mufti has also recently affirmed that there is no limit in Islamic law to the age at which fathers can marry off their daughters …

 

… so that even girls ‘in the cradle’ can be married to grown men.

 

 

And of course there is no freedom of religion.

 

The Saudi government has recently passed a law imposing the death penalty on anyone caught smuggling Christian Bibles into the country …

 

… and in 2012, the Grand Mufti notoriously called on Muslims to burn down churches throughout the Middle East.

 

 

In fact, he condemns even Muslims who celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad …

 

… which he describes as “evil and corrupt”, since it is not endorsed by the strict Salafist interpretation of Islam.

 

 

Again, we must ask, how is this any different from the ideology of the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban? (!)

 

And why do our governments not speak out against it?

 

 

At least the Austrian government has recently shown the way …

 

… by threatening to close a controversial Saudi-sponsored "religious dialogue centre" that failed to condemn the flogging of the Saudi human rights blogger …

 

… and other governments should so the same for the sake of their own national security.

 

 

Prince Charles has recently spoken of his alarm at the radicalisation of British Muslims and his "deep concern" for the suffering of Christian churches in the Middle East …

 

… and it is to be hoped that he will raise these issues, as well as the plight of the blogger, when he meets King Salman this week.

 

 

It is incredibly naïve to imagine that the persecution of Christians in Saudi Arabia is not taken by Islamists here in the West as a green light to kill non-Muslims.

 

 

The political influence of this kind of Islamic extremism in Saudi Arabia was revealed last November …

 

… when the Information Minister Abdulaziz Khoja closed down a satellite TV station that was inciting sectarian hatred and violence.

 

Instead of being commended, he was promptly sacked …

 

… and the extremist TV station was reopened (!)

 

 

This is despite the fact that the minister would never have shut down the station in the first place without the approval of the King …

 

… which shows that even King Abdullah did not have the political clout to deal effectively with the problem …

 

… and there is little reason to believe King Salman will do any better.

 

 

Of course, it is not just Saudi Arabia we should be concerned about.

 

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, has rightly pointed to Qatar's role in promoting terrorism …

 

… and said they 'must choose their friends or live with the consequences'.

 

 

Kuwait is another dubious ally.

 

Last year, its justice and Islamic affairs minister Nayef al-Ajmi was exposed by US Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen as a prominent fundraiser for terrorist groups in Syria …

 

… but rather than being prosecuted, he was allowed to quietly resign, citing health reasons …

 

… so we must take a harder line with these countries.

 

 

Moreover, given the thoroughly backward and illiberal nature of the Saudi regime, we should be very wary of its influence on international politics.

 

It is clear that Saudi Arabia is keeping its oil flowing in a deliberate effort to keep oil prices down globally …

 

… partly to punish Iran and Russia for their support for the Syrian regime …

 

… and, with US backing, partly to put pressure on Russia regarding Ukraine and on Iran over nuclear talks

 

 

In retaliation, Iran is backing Shia Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabia’s doorstep in Yemen …

 

… and in fact, the rise of Islamic extremism means minorities throughout the region now look to Iran as a potential saviour …

 

… including Shia Muslims in eastern Saudi Arabia itself.

 

 

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are already sectarian proxy wars …

 

… with Iran backing both regimes and Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states and Turkey supporting the Islamist insurgents.

 

 

I will return to Turkey a little later …

 

… but first I want to explain that the conflict is not just regional, but global …

 

… with both Russia and China joining Iran in siding with the Syrian and Iraqi regimes …

 

… and it is reported that Russia is about to supply Iran as well as Syria with its long-promised S-300 air defence system.

 

 

In fact, Russia and China themselves have increasingly close bilateral ties.

 

China is directly challenging the NATO powers’ policy of cutting off credit to Russia, by pledging to extend financial aid to Moscow.

 

The two countries have also been boosting cooperation in the military, financial and energy sectors …

 

… increasingly switching to settlements in yuan, which will reduce the influence of the dollar on the world financial and energy markets.

 

 

Moreover, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoiguhas announced in November that the two countries are intent on forming a “collective regional security system” …

 

… and planning joint naval drills not only in the Pacific, but even in the Mediterranean.

 

Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan has spoken of the ever-closer military-to-military relations between the two countries …

 

…  including “high-level visits, joint exercises and professional communication.”

 

 

They have been pushed together because the Russians are worried about Western interference in Ukraine …

 

… and the Chinese feel threatened by what they perceive as a US policy of 'encirclement' ….

 

… and these concerns inform their entire foreign policy, including relations with the Middle East …

 

… which they don't see as a separate matter.

 

 

Inevitably, many Western observers will see Russian-Chinese military ties as a threat …

 

… but it is imperative that we are not drawn further into a proxy war in the Middle East.

 

Islamic extremism is the greatest threat the world has faced since the Nazis …

 

… but the enemy is active not only in the Middle East, but within the borders of every country I have mentioned.

 

We have a clear common interest in uniting to defeat it.

 

 

Unfortunately, our interventions have sometimes been counter-productive. 

 

Certainly, the Western powers badly mishandled the so-called 'Arab Spring’.

 

Last December, Russia’s Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov told a meeting of foreign military attaches in Moscow …

 

… that without the financial and technical assistance provided by the US and its allies to rebels fighting the Syrian government …

 

… the rapid growth of Islamic State would not have been possible.

 

 

Sadly, this is perfectly true …

 

… and it is not only Russian observers who understand the risks of well-intended intervention fanning the flames.

 

US General Lloyd Austin III said in 2013 that, "The conflict in Syria cannot and will not be resolved militarily" …

 

… and warned that, "left unchecked, the spread of violence and terrorist activity emanating from Syria could result in a long, drawn out conflict …

 

… that extends from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Yemen.”

 

 

Indeed, many of the arms now in the hands of Islamist extremists like Islamic State and Al-Nusra were supplied by the West to supposedly ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria …

 

… like the Hazm Brigades, who simply surrendered their weapons, while many even joined the extremists…

 

… because they actually share the same ideology.

 

(And of course, the Islamists have also helped themselves to US weaponry supplied to Iraq in the territory they now control.)

 

 

In reality there were no moderate rebels in Syria ...

 

… only various strands of Islamists.

 

Mr Pinheiro, the head of the UN investigation into Syria, said none of the rebel groups were fighting 'in the cause of democracy' …

 

… and US General Dempsey said none of the rebel groups share ‘our’ interests.

 

 

The New York Times reported in 2013 that nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of …

 

… and US Secretary of Justice, Eric Holder, confirmed that the Free Syrian Army is dominated by the al Qaeda ideology.

 

 

I warned at the time that arming any of the groups fighting in Syria would be a grave mistake.

 

Of course, the regime is tyrannical and does not represent the Syrian people …

 

… but that never meant that every self-styled rebel group stood for democracy and liberal values …

 

… and very soon it was the most extreme groups that dominated the opposition to the regime.

 

 

The fundamental problem was that the West did not intervene politically early on, before the conflict became militarised …

 

… which left other countries to take the lead.

 

 

Certain Gulf states that were worried about the domino effect of the Arab Spring, and who wanted to counter the influence of Syria's ally Iran …

 

… made sure that those extremist elements dominated the opposition …

 

… and used jihadist television stations to foment sectarian war.

 

 

Saudi Arabia and Qatar channelled billions of dollars and later arms to Islamist groups, while the democratic world stood by.

 

 

The Muslim Brotherhood initially held talks with the Syrian regime …

 

… before changing tactics with the help of Turkey, which assembled the Syrian National Council in Istanbul …

 

… stacked from the very beginning with members of the Muslim Brotherhood …

 

… a close ally of Turkey’s supposedly ‘moderate’ Islamist government.

 

 

With help from Qatar as well as Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood effectively hijacked the revolution from outside Syria itself …

 

… again, as the West stood by.

 

Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with other Western countries, even recognised the Syrian National Council …

 

… apparently not noticing it was overwhelmingly populated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood …

 

… and it took Mrs Clinton 18 months to realise it did not represent the Syrian people.

 

 

As late as September 2013, new Secretary of State John Kerry claimed at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting that there was “no” al-Qaeda presence in Syria …

 

… long after its presence had been established beyond doubt

 

Just a month before, Michael Morell, the outgoing Deputy Director of the CIA, had said the situation in Syria is the single biggest threat to US National Security …

 

… and as Europe is much closer, we know the threat must be even higher here …

 

… so why did it take nine months for the UK and other European governments to respond to his warning?

 

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder is right to stress the importance of a broad counterterrorism strategy …

 

… to earlier identify radicalised individuals who are traveling to the region and returning home as trained terrorists.

 

China's special envoy for the Middle East, Wu Sike, has spoken of the same danger, arguing that …

 

… "After being immersed in extremist ideas, when they return home they will pose a severe challenge and security risk".

 

He suggests that all the countries threatened by such terrorism should form "a closely knit community of shared interests"

 

 

We have seen how real the danger is …

 

… not only from extremists returning from the Middle East …

 

… but from lone-wolf attacks all over the world …

 

… most recently in Paris, but before that in Ottowa, in Boston …

 

… in Belgium, Russia, western China …

 

… and of course here in London.

 

 

The terrorist threat is global …

 

… and this fact is reflected on the ground throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

 

British MP Khaled Mahmoud said last year there are 2,000 British fighters …

 

… while a German security official estimates there 1,800 Germans …

 

… far more than previous estimates of a few hundred, which Western governments have preferred to stick to in order to prevent panic.

 

The CIA and UN estimate is that there are a total of 15,000 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

 

But US Attorney General Eric Holder has said there are around 7,000 fighters from the West alone …

 

… which would leave only 8,000 from other Arab and Muslim countries!

 

Logically, though, there must be far more fighters from Arab and Muslim countries than Western ones.

 

The population is poorer, the governments have less sophisticated surveillance technology and infrastructure …

 

… and there are a lot more mosques and clerics who are funded by some of our allies in the Gulf countries to recruit people.

 

So the number of fighters from the Middle East must be at least ten times higher than the number from Europe.

                                                                                                                

 

Indeed, a Syrian report estimates that in total there are not just 15,000 but almost 54,000 foreign combatants from 87 different countries …

 

… and given the international character of those involved, there is a clear danger of yet more attacks beyond the region.

 

 

Most of these foreign fighters enter Syria from Turkey, which remains an important player.

 

Turkey has also trained and armed al-Nusra …

 

… so it is little wonder that despite being a NATO member it refused to sign up to the coalition against the Islamic State.

 

 

In fact, last year’s ISIS attacks on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani were launched from Turkey …

 

… and it was reported that senior Turkish intelligence officials even had talks with the ISIS leaders …

 

… because they see the Kurds as a threat to Turkey and want to see them weakened.

 

 

Turkey’s motives for supporting the Islamists are different from those of the Gulf States.

 

It sees Syria as the natural place to extend its influence south into the Arab world …

 

… cutting off Iran and sealing Turkey's own role as the champion of the Sunnis throughout the Middle East…

 

… effectively rebuilding the Ottoman Empire.

 

 

When the Muslim Brotherhood's Youssef al-Qaradawi talked a few years ago of Islam's 'peaceful conquest' of the West, Turkey's prospective EU membership was the vehicle he had in mind …

 

… but with that rejected, Turkey now has a new focus …

 

… and that is why it now has no interest in the EU.

 

 

In December, President Erdogan responded to EU criticisms of its crackdown on opposition media by declaring …

 

… "When taking such a step we don't care what the EU might say …

 

… or if the EU is going to accept us."

 

 

Instead, it is happy to let Islamist forces gain as much territory as possible in Syria and Iraq …

 

… until the international community is forced to allow the Turkish army to move in and impose order …

 

… checking the influence of Iran in the process.

 

 

The West let Turkey set the agenda in Syria once before …

 

… and we have seen the consequences …

 

… so it is vital that we do not make the same mistake twice.

 

 

Indeed, just like Saudi Arabia, Turkey itself is likely to suffer the consequences of its own actions …

 

… as we saw just a few weeks ago, when a pregnant teenage girl carried out a suicide attack in Istanbul.

 

 

Equally, the recent barbaric burning alive of a Jordanian pilot was in part the consequence of that country's support for terrorist groups …

 

… many of whom have been allowed to enter Syria from Jordan.

 

 

That is why the international community must form a united front against Islamic terrorism and its various sponsors.

 

Countries like China and Russia may not be natural allies for the democracies of the West …

 

… but they are at least rational actors in international relations, who understand their own interests …

 

… and most importantly, understand the threat of Islamic terrorism …

 

… one they face in common with the West.

 

 

The end of the Cold War means there is no need to sustain hostilities and alliances formed in the shadow of war with the Soviet Union …

 

… when those very alliances threaten global stability more than the East-West tensions they are unnecessarily fuelling.

 

 

We must also be more sophisticated in our approach to the problem, and avoid repeating the naiveté we showed in the wake of the war in Iraq.

 

There, the occupying force adopted a policy of de-Baathification, removing former members of the regime from the military and civil service …

 

… which they thought would help the country move on …

 

… but this was a mistake.

 

 

You see, most of those people happened to be members of the Sunni minority, so hundreds of thousands of Sunnis were left without a stake in the new Iraq …

 

… leading to further sectarian division.

 

 

You see, people in most of the Arab world do not understand democracy in terms of equality of all under the rule of law regardless of religion, ethnic group, sect and gender ….

 

… but simply as the majority group or sect ruling over everyone else.

 

So even though the new Iraqi government was not sectarian in character, it was seen that way by many Sunnis.

 

 

To avoid the same kind of sectarian problem emerging in Syria, it is vital that the West does not make the same mistake …

 

… by excluding any group from an eventual settlement.

 

Instead any settlement must be fully inclusive as well as fully democratic

 

 

This blunder in Iraq explains why ISIS was able to make such rapid gains in the north of the country last summer …

 

… and establish itself as the Islamic State …

 

… not because of its inherent strength, but because it enjoyed the support - or at least compliance - of the local people.

 

In fact, as I have explained before, ISIS was actually set up by former members of Iraq’s Baathist regime …

 

… led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former top military commander and vice president in the Saddam government.

 

 

The Baathists strategy was to terrify the international community by showing them the most extreme possible manifestation of Islamist terror …

 

… with foreign fighters filming themselves beheading Western journalists as well as slaughtering minorities …

 

… so that the Baathists themselves, under a new guise, can later pose as the ‘moderate’ alternative and achieve their own goals …

 

… not a Caliphate, but a state of their own, or at least representation in a future Iraqi government.

 

Former General Muzhir al Qaisi told the BBC last summer that the Baathists are much stronger than the 'barbarians' of IS …

 

… and said they could easily defeat them if they needed to.

 

Clearly, they are waiting for an incentive to do so.

 

Just like the Turkish regime …

 

… and like certain Gulf states …

 

… the Iraqi Baathists used Islamist terror to further their own agenda …

 

… and the international community failed to recognise what was going on …

 

… and to act to prevent it.

 

That is why I say we should be willing to talk to all other nations that are threatened by such terrorism …

 

… and form pragmatic alliances with the simple aim of defeating it.

 

We must not allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who seek, in the words of President Putin, ‘to use extremism as a geopolitical instrument’ …

 

… playing one power off against another for their own ends, while the terrorists they sponsor run riot.

 

Instead, we must match the new sophistication of terrorism with a new sophistication of our own.

 

Of course, we must take on the terrorists militarily, as President Obama has promised to do.

 

But that will take a seriouscommitment of a kind we have not yet seen.

 

For example, during the 2003 Iraq war, the US and its allies conducted 800 airstrikes a day …

 

… but in the current conflict, there have been less than 2,000 in six months!

 

No wonder they have had little impact.

 

But we must also make the effort to trace the financial and political lifelines that sustain the terrorists …

 

… and to cut them off at source.

 

For example, the Russian president was right to note that "Extremist ideology is gaining momentum in the virtual sphere …

 

… through which extremist organisations are trying to recruit followers".

 

 

So we must shut down jihadist websites …

 

… along with any other media that promote religious hatred …

 

… and incite murderous violence.

 

We must stop pretending that the countries that tolerate and even encourage Islamic extremism are our allies …

 

… and we must ensure instead that they face the consequences of their actions.

 

And of course, we must do as much as we can to promote economic development and political freedom throughout the Islamic world and beyond …

 

… so that young people there can face the future with hope …

 

… instead of the despair in which extremism thrives.

 

 

This will not happen overnight.

 

It took Europe hundreds of years to put sectarian and religious wars behind it …

 

… and to develop stable and secure democratic societies …

 

… but we can help the rest of the world learn from that experience, even if it takesmany years of careful cultural diplomacy …

 

… and investment in education, development and promoting civil society.

 

What we can do right now is to recognise the extent and severity of the problem …

 

… and to resolve to tackle it with renewed vigour …

 

… while holding to liberal and democratic values.

 

Because only they will ultimately ensure the defeat of Islamism.

 

Thank you.