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Terrorism in the nineties: issues and problems.


Major Issues

What is terrorism?

The spectrum of terrorism

Terrorism in context

Terrorists or legitimate actors?

Terrorism in the nineties

The nightmare scenarios: nuclear, biological and chemical

(NBC) terrorism

Strategic approaches to terrorism

Prevention of terrorism

Responding to terrorism

Negotiating with terrorists: pros and cons

Conclusions: terrorism as a strategic problem

Annex A



Annex B:

Some instances of politically motivated violence in Australia

Major Issues

Terrorism has become ever more prominent as a security issue throughout the present century, and in the post Cold War environment looms as a major problem into the next.

One reason for this development has been the emergence of "terrorist- friendly" technologies - relatively cheap and easy to deploy - such as plastic explosives, timing devices and remote control units. Likewise, the recent experience of Japan with gas attacks shows that a competent chemist can manufacture lethal substances for terrorist purposes and successfully use them.

More serious threats may exist if terrorists can gain access to nuclear weapons (eg, from the ex- Soviet arsenal), to dangerous radioactive substances or to nuclear power or waste management installations. Less likely but equally disturbing would be terrorist use of biological warfare techniques.

Terrorism defies many of the accepted strategic guidelines. In particular, it tends to require responses from authorities massively disproportionate to the effort the terrorists themselves put in. The Japanese, for instance, have deployed tens of thousands of police in their search for Supreme Truth sect members. Moreover, where terrorists are willing to die to achieve their ends, most feasible security measures will find it hard to prevent, eg, a suicide bomber reaching his or her target. Further, some terrorists appear to have no concrete demands which might be negotiated, but simply seek to inflict maximum damage.

The problem of dealing with terrorism is complicated by the fact that one person's "terrorist" may be another's "freedom fighter", and further complicated by the historical willingness of Governments, for whatever reasons, to negotiate with and even recognise movements which employed terrorist tactics. The success of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the post World War I period is paralleled by that of the African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in more recent times and, most recently, by the cautious moves of the British Government to negotiate with Sinn Fein. History thus shows the terrorist that success is far from impossible.

There is no single strategic formula or approach applicable to terrorism. Because the threat is so diverse and malleable, simple counter- terrorist recipes are inadequate. Draconian measures may work in one situation but fail completely in another. Negotiation may be necessary in some cases, and (as some examples show) offers the prospect of an end to particular terrorist threats, but in other cases it may serve only to legitimise and publicise terrorists with no real interest in non- violent outcomes. All this goes to show that management of the terrorist threat remains a difficult, even intractable, task and that more often than not authorities will spend as much time and effort in picking up the pieces as in successful prevention.

What is terrorism?

Terrorism, according the definition used by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is:

The use or threatened use of violence for political ends, or any use or threatened use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear.

Terrorism has long been a phenomenon in national and international affairs. Anarchists of the Narodnia Volia (Peoples' Will) organisation assassinated Russian Czar Alexander II with a well- planned bomb attack in 1881. The murder by an alleged Serb terrorist of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 was the proximate cause of World War I; the shooting by a Jew of a German diplomat in Paris in 1938 was the excuse for the Nazis' notorious anti- Jewish pogrom, the kristallnacht (night of the broken glass). But terrorism was a growth industry of the seventies and eighties as various organisations, notably several associated with the Palestinian cause in the Middle East, discovered that there was at least publicity to be gained by the perpetration of terrorist acts - the hijacking of aircraft, bombing or "shooting- up" of public places, assassinations, and so on. The Italian Red Brigades, the Japanese Red Army, the Catholic and Protestant Ulster paramilitaries and the Tamil Tigers each provide instances of post- war terrorism.

The spectrum of terrorism

Notwithstanding the broad ADF definition given above, terrorism can be of various kinds: at one end of the spectrum it shades imperceptibly into irregular or guerrilla warfare; at the other, into outright criminality for no better purpose than financial gain or the satisfaction of warped emotional needs. A group which threatens, eg, to poison food in city supermarkets, may be simply demanding money or, on the other hand, may have an elaborate set of political demands it wants publicised or met. The notorious Colombian drug cartels, organised crime at its height, practise terror tactics, as did Al Capone in his reign over Chicago, yet few would call them terrorists. 1

It might be tempting to classify terrorists by what they do, rather than why it is done. This, however, neglects the fundamental distinction between the common criminal and the terrorist. The former perpetrates atrocities for profit, or personal vengeance, whereas the latter does the same thing for what he or she believes to be a higher cause - eg, liberation from perceived oppression, reform of an allegedly unfair political or economic system, and so on.

The distinction is important because it affects the behaviour of terrorists as opposed to criminals. Criminals - unless mentally unsound - will rarely be prepared to sacrifice their own lives: they are fundamentally self- interested cowards. As such, when cornered by authority they are more likely to give up than is a terrorist, who may be only too happy to take a few of the "enemy" along in a final exchange of fire, or to die in order to achieve an important objective. Thus, the Tamil Tiger assassin of Rajiv Gandhi blew herself up so as to take the Indian leader with her, and several Palestinian militants operated suicide car bombs that killed over two hundred US Marines and over fifty French soldiers in Beirut in 1983.

Terrorism in context

Terrorism, then, is not mere criminality practised for profit, even though terrorist methods may be used by criminals. It is in fact a subset of warfare as classically defined by the German theorist Karl von Clausewitz:

We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. 2

Terrorism is an act of political violence intended to compel an opponent to respond in a way desired by the terrorist. In Ireland, Michael Collins' Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) 1919- 21 terror campaign against the British relied principally on killing police and military personnel; it was not intended to drive the British out but to provoke them into reprisals which would render Britain increasingly unpopular in Ireland, so supporting the political objective of achieving Irish independence. Essentially, this terrorist strategy worked.

Much the same can be said of the PLO's strategy in the Arab- Israeli conflict. Though the situation in this region was (and is) far more complex than that in Collins' Ireland, essentially the PLO practised terror for political reasons. It is noteworthy that when terrorist methods no longer supported PLO political aspirations, it was abandoned and even denounced.

Terrorists or legitimate actors?

Because terrorism is politically directed violence, Governments tend almost by reflex to say that they will not negotiate with terrorists or meet terrorist demands. Nevertheless, as with many political concepts, that of terrorism can be flexible, and very much in the eye of the beholder: often one person's "terrorist" is another person's "freedom fighter". Further, historically Governments have shown a willingness - if only under the threat of continued losses - to negotiate with so- called "terrorists" and even to establish more or less normal and amicable relations with them under some circumstances. Today's terrorist can be tomorrow's negotiating adversary and the next day's respected head of a new government; today's terrorist organisation can be tomorrow's legitimate government.

The twentieth century shows some striking instances of this phenomenon. The attitude of the British Government to the IRB is an example. The immediate British response was to describe the IRB as "murderers" and at one point, claiming success, Prime Minister Lloyd George asserted that Britain had "murder by the throat" in Ireland. Nevertheless, the IRB terror campaign was so effective that the British - having attempted to crush it by a strategy of reprisals - saw no way of ending it by force short of full scale war and military occupation of the whole country by large numbers of British troops. Unwilling to do this, the British agreed to talk to Irish delegates, including Collins, on the basis of a truce - not, it might be noted, the surrender of weapons and renunciation of their future use, but a cessation of violence for a specified period, both sides keeping their weapons, in order to facilitate talks. Eventually - though not without civil war in southern Ireland - these talks resulted in a Treaty which created the Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland, and the Six Counties of Ulster which remained in the UK. 3

More recently a similar (though not identical) phenomenon has been evident in the Arab- Israeli dispute. Yasser Arafat's PLO was for years denounced by Israel as a terrorist organisation - and, indeed, it had used terror methods extensively inside and outside Israel in pursuit of its political objectives - and it was an offence for Israelis even to speak to PLO members. Nevertheless, with the process resulting in the 1993 Middle East accord, however shaky, the Israelis not only negotiated with PLO officials but, in the end, signed an agreement with them. Prime Minister Rabin and Yasser Arafat even shook hands publicly - albeit with understandable coolness - at the signing ceremony in Washington hosted by US President Clinton. Arafat, the former terrorist, is now an acknowledged and legitimate (albeit none too secure) leader. 4

A similar process took place in South Africa where the allegedly "communist" and "terrorist" African National Congress and its leader Nelson Mandela were eventually legitimised, given a role in negotiations and, as is well known, eventually won democratic elections. Mandela, the former "terrorist" leader, is now President of his country.

Finally, the British are now moving - with great and understandable caution - to open direct talks with the Irish Sinn Fein organisation which for so long they have accused of being the political wing of the Provisional IRA, the main nationalist terrorist body in Northern Ireland. And Sinn Fein's leader Gerry Adams has already been President Clinton's guest at an official function in the White House.

All of these cases show that the practice of terrorism, however abhorrent, does not necessarily permanently disqualify individuals or organisations from broad political acceptance at some later date.

Terrorism in the nineties

In June 1994 a large number of people were affected by a "mystery gas" in the Japanese city of Matsumoto, and eight died. The gas was later shown to be the World War II chemical weapon, sarin, developed by the Germans but never used in operations. More information about sarin is at Annex A.

In March 1995 sarin was released on the crowded Tokyo urban underground railway, with spectacular results. Japanese authorities subsequently arrested many members of an extremist religious sect, the Supreme Truth, and have charged its leader with several counts of murder and attempted murder in the Matsumoto and Tokyo outrages. In April, a gas (a non- lethal compound) was released in a Tokyo underground station, and in May an attempt was made to gas an underground station with a lethal cyanide compound. Apparently, these latter incidents were intended to demonstrate that a repeat of the earlier attacks with lethal substances was still possible.

It now appears that some Supreme Truth members came to Australia and used a farm in Western Australia to develop and test their sarin preparation technique on sheep, and there are reports of visits by sect members to Russia, where they allegedly acquired gas detection devices capable of identifying the presence of sarin. 5 This highlights how terrorist activity can ramify around the world and remain almost impossible to detect in advance of action.

Also in April, a huge car bomb - apparently made from cheap, readily available materials - largely demolished a US Government building in Oklahoma City, causing numerous fatalities and injuries. Though American authorities initially suspected external regimes believed to have terrorist links, such as Iran, Iraq or Libya, the investigation speedily resulted in the arrest of members of an extreme right- wing militarist organisation, the Michigan Militia, though the organisation itself has not been accused of complicity. This atrocity followed the bombing by Middle East extremists of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993. The Lockerbie bombing is another well- known incident.

These events show why terrorism is one of the most intractable security problems of the twentieth century. Armed with weapons ranging from the simplest of home- made explosive devices all the way up though timed and remote- controlled bombs and chemical devices, terrorists can strike at unprotected targets and frequently escape unscathed. The power of the terrorist is implicit in the name: it is the fear of random strikes at uninvolved civilians in a supposedly peaceful time and place which gives terrorism its impact. Difficult to frustrate and hard to apprehend, terrorists can move through free societies like Australia, taking advantage of their liberties, and set up opportunities for attacks which - as the US event showed - can have the most horrendous consequences and a global impact. All the capabilities of the world's greatest military power cannot prevent such outrages, not even in its heartland. "Terrorism" is a major post Cold War security issue.

Bombings like that in Oklahoma are a particularly difficult form of terrorism. Like the Lockerbie incident of 1988, the perpetrators made no public statement. Not even the name of the organisation which perpetrated the Lockerbie bombing is known; no- one credibly claimed responsibility or made demands. This is characteristic of some extremist terrorist organisations or individuals: they make their attacks but offer no way, even via unrealistic demands, of preventing further atrocities.

The nightmare scenarios: nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) terrorism

This century has seen the proliferation of several terrorist- friendly technologies - plastic explosives and remote control devices are obvious examples. But without doubt some of the most potentially dangerous technologies are those associated with nuclear, biological and chemical means of warfare.

Chemical terrorism has recently been practised, albeit on a relatively small scale, in Japan. The extreme lethality of some chemical weapons has led to their classification as weapons of mass destruction, and as such they make excellent items for the terrorist armoury.

Biological terrorism is more difficult, but not impossible. It requires the terrorist to have adequate expertise and access to equipment to develop the biological weapon. In some ways, biological weaponry is more likely to be used by terrorists than by states, because the latter might fear that the weapon will run amok, killing its own citizens and not just the enemy. Terrorists, especially when they do not care whether they live or die, might not be deterred by such considerations. Fortunately the expertise and resources needed to develop biological weaponry, though not impossible to acquire, are still beyond the "backyard" level. It should be noted, however, that Japanese Supreme Truth cultists have reportedly been conducting "bacterial research" on one of the sect's Japanese properties, research allegedly directed by a member with experience at the Kyoto University Graduate School Medical Research School. 6

The worst scenarios, however, are those where terrorists achieve control over nuclear facilities, material or even weapons. Until recently, the latter at least was an exceptionally remote contingency. All the resources of a state are still required to develop a nuclear weapon and the idea of the "backyard atomic bomb" is properly the domain of fiction writers. But since the collapse of the former USSR there are concerns as to the security of its large stock of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands of warheads are involved, and it would take only a very few to end up in the wrong hands for a serious situation to arise. This being so, it is essential to ensure that all nuclear weapons and materials are properly accounted for and protected from terrorist acquisition or use. In this context persistent (though persistently denied) reports of nuclear material or even weapons being sold on the black market by corrupt ex- Soviet military or nuclear industry figures sound a warning of the risk. 7

One particularly difficult problem regarding nuclear weapons in terrorist hands is that of credibility. Anyone can pick up a telephone and make demands, threatening to destroy a city with a nuclear weapon if the demands are not met. But authorities will need to be convinced that the threat is real. This may mean that the terrorists will require two bombs; one to demonstrate the capability, the other to enforce the threat. This of course doubles the difficulty for the terrorists in preparation of a nuclear attack, but likewise implies that authorities might have to face up to a nuclear explosion as the terrorists' means getting official attention.

But possession of functional nuclear weapons is not necessary to pose serious security threats to civilian populations. Highly radioactive material of any sort will suffice to contaminate large areas if a means of distribution can be found. Terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities (eg, reactors, high- level waste dumps) could cause large numbers of casualties and render some areas uninhabitable. The disaster at Chernobyl was an accident; the deliberate destruction of an operating reactor's containment could have equally catastrophic consequences.

Strategic approaches to terrorism

Like any other threat to security, terrorism needs to be dealt with in the context of broad strategic policy. Ad hoc approaches cobbled together in the face of some spectacular incident are unlikely to be useful, except by accident.

The terrorist threat contradicts a general principle governing most other threats to national security: that the more menacing the contingency, the less probable it is. For example, it is more probable (though actually still very unlikely) that Australia might be subjected to low- level military harassment by a foreign power than that a foreign power will attempt to invade and conquer the country. This is so because low- level harassment requires less resources and preparation than invasion.

Terrorist contingencies do not always conform to this principle. It takes little effort to prepare a massive car bomb and place it, and little more to prepare dangerous gas devices, but the impact can be quite disproportionate to the effort. This indeed is one of the principal advantages of terrorism as a strategy - it can achieve disproportionate impacts and, moreover, can require disproportionate effort in response. Unlike preparations for conventional armed conflict, those for many terrorist activities can be cheap and inconspicuous, involving very few individuals and not requiring the facilities or backing of a sovereign state. All the power of a sovereign state, however, may be valueless in preventing the execution of such a terrorist act.

It also needs to be understood that terrorists often, though not always, have a significant supporter base. In Northern Ireland or the Middle East, for example, the Provisional IRA and the radical Hammas have supporters among the Catholic community of Ulster and the Palestinian population of the Israeli Occupied Territories, respectively. Moreover, both groups have a wider potential support base among (respectively) Irish Catholic populations in many Western states and pro- Palestinian groups in both the Islamic and non- Islamic world. Importantly, these support bases provide not only funds and political backup but recruits to the actual terrorist organisations themselves. As both the British and Israelis have learned, while bodies with such support bases can be contained, they are extremely difficult to defeat. But terrorists lacking such a base, while still capable of making serious attacks, generally lack the staying power of their better- supported compatriots. 8

Prevention of terrorism

Prevention can be difficult or even impossible. While there is an obvious requirement for good national and international counter- terrorist intelligence, such will not guarantee early detection. It is true, however, that the public record contains few cases of terrorist attempts successfully nipped in the bud: for obvious reasons, intelligence services do not as a rule include in their Annual Reports (where such are published) statements on, say, the number of times Ministers or other public figures were saved from assassination.

Prevention is rendered even more difficult where terrorists are prepared to die in order to achieve a goal. The case of Rajiv Gandhi's Tamil Tiger assassin has already been mentioned. In democratic countries, practical public security measures are likely to be very permeable to the individual who does not care if he or she returns, so long as the bomb goes off or the target is shot.

Responding to terrorism

In some cases, such as the recent Oklahoma and Japanese cases, the perpetrators do not appear to have any motive other than striking out at societies of which they disapprove. No demands were made, no agenda published. The only response to terrorism of this type can be the pursuit and (hopefully) apprehension and trial of those responsible. This will at least prevent those individuals from attempting further attacks and help maintain public confidence.

But sometimes terrorists have very carefully considered agendas and are only too willing to make demands - eg, for money, for the release of other terrorists held in prison, for publicity to be given to their views, for political changes, and so on. Terrorists of this type usually seize a site or person, or commit a public outrage, and threaten further attacks unless their demands are met.

Scenarios of this nature can be of two kinds; where the terrorists are on- site and contained by security forces, and where, eg, a bomb has exploded and more are threatened. With on- site terrorists there exists a large body of experience in law enforcement and other agencies as to how to negotiate with, manipulate the psychology of, and generally weaken the resolve of besieged individuals probably holding hostages. There is also much experience in last- resort assaults in such circumstances. But it is another matter entirely where bombs go off, or people are killed, and the terrorist demands are then phoned or faxed to the authorities while the perpetrators remain at large and capable of further action. In this case, even the wisdom of negotiation with terrorists is open to debate.

Finally, there is the question faced (and ultimately answered in the affirmative) by Lloyd George's UK, de Klerk's South Africa and Rabin's Israel: whether it is better to negotiate than to continue a struggle in which the terrorist foe cannot be defeated, no matter how many troops are put into place or what other restrictive measures are taken.

Negotiating with terrorists: pros and cons

If the history cited above implies anything, it is that it is unwise to set down hard- and- fast rules for dealing with a problem of terrorism. In the end, the British, the Israelis and President de Klerk found it better to negotiate with people and organisations that had used terrorist methods than to continue struggles which were bloody, costly and unlikely to produce a peaceful outcome. Given the flexibility of terrorism as a concept, and its fundamentally political nature, rigid rules are unlikely to be helpful.

It is possible, though, to set out relevant considerations which would need to be addressed when confronted with a terrorist problem or demands. The decision to be made in each situation would need to be on the merits - political, economic, security - of the case.

(a) situations where negotiating with terrorists might be necessary

There are a number of reasons why it might, in certain circumstances, be advisable to negotiate with terrorists.

To ascertain what the terrorists really want: anyone who has ever had to negotiate, even in a relatively peaceful context - eg, Australian industrial relations - will know that first demands are not always representative of real bottom- line positions. But in a terrorist situation it is often important to establish quickly just what the bottom line is.

To buy time: either in the immediate tactical or the strategic political sense, it may be useful to negotiate in order to gain time. This type of negotiation, of course, would probably not be in good faith, but designed to allow the authorities to take other action (eg, bring up specialist assault units, pursue forensic means of locating terrorists threatening a second bombing or killing).

Because the terrorists can continue to inflict unacceptable damage and losses and effective countermeasures are also unacceptable: this was essentially Lloyd George's calculation when he decided to negotiate with the IRB. There was never any doubt that Britain could, if need be, hold Ireland down by military occupation and main force. But then the IRB, with a substantial support base, would have continued its terror campaign, and Britain would have been portrayed as a militarist oppressor of a small neighbouring nation. 9 Lloyd George calculated that if negotiations could achieve peace without Britain's vital security interests being damaged, then the temporary odium of negotiating with people one had labelled "terrorists", "murderers" and the like only a few weeks earlier was an acceptable cost.

Because the terrorists have weapons of mass destruction: this is really a subset of the preceding point, but is listed separately because the level of potential damage and loss involved is orders of magnitude above other terrorist options. If ever a terrorist group obtains a nuclear weapon and credibly threatens to destroy a major city, and tactical measures to seize the bomb are not possible, the alternative to negotiation might be the nuclear destruction of a city. This is something no Government could contemplate with equanimity.

Because the terrorists have powerful de facto international supporters capable of influencing one's decision- making: this, indeed, could be argued as an underlying reason for both the Israeli and South African decisions. Racist South Africa was under heavy and sustained international pressure to abandon apartheid and certainly to most of the world Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter, not a terrorist. The suasion of US and other business and financial interests worked powerfully on the de Klerk regime and convinced it that the costs of maintaining apartheid were simply insupportable. Similarly, US pressure on Israel to negotiate with the PLO after the latter had renounced violence was steadily increasing.

(b) reasons for not negotiating with terrorists

Considerations which work against entering into negotiations with terrorists include the following:

Legitimisation: by negotiating with terrorists, one necessarily confers on them a degree of legitimacy, regardless of the outcome of the talks. This was no doubt one reason why the Israelis and South Africans so long resisted pressure to negotiate with the PLO and ANC, respectively, and why the present UK Government is so cautious about direct talks with Sinn Fein.

Because the terrorists cannot be trusted: this is a particular problem with extreme or fanatical terrorists. Negotiations can be opened and the negotiator seized - as happened to the Anglican cleric Terry Waite in Lebanon - or agreements made can be dishonoured. In such cases one can be worse off after "negotiations" than before.

Because further incidents and demands will follow: the conclusion of an agreement with terrorists may well encourage the organisation (or other organisations) to perpetrate further incidents and make new demands. This argument basically says that negotiating with terrorists, like paying criminal blackmail, will only supply incentives to further terrorism.

Because one's international friends and allies will not welcome the move: a friend of the United States, for example, may be asked by Washington not to negotiate with terrorists because this would damage US (or western) security interests. This is especially an issue if it is believed that particular terrorist activities are being supported or sponsored by another state.

Because negotiations are unacceptable to the mass of the people: this is particularly relevant in countries where Governments have to face electorates. Neither President de Klerk nor PM Rabin could have opened talks with opponents they had for years called terrorists without some kind of mandate from their constituencies. In Israel this was achieved by the election of the Rabin Government on a pro- peace platform; in South Africa, by referendum of the white minority. If such support is unlikely to be forthcoming, a democratic regime that negotiates with terrorists may well be ejected from office.

Conclusions: terrorism as a strategic problem

Terrorism and Australia

The alleged use as a trials and proving ground of Australian territory by Japanese Supreme Truth members preparing their poison gas cocktails highlights the ubiquitous nature of the terrorist menace. But it is actually only one of a number of cases in which terrorist activity has impinged on Australia. Perhaps the best known was the 1978 Sydney Hilton Hotel incident when a bomb, apparently intended for a visiting international figure, killed or injured a number of workers and security personnel, but other instances are also on record. Most of these involve the use of Australia as a preparation or staging ground for terrorist activities elsewhere, as with anti- Yugoslav Australians caught training for guerrilla operations in the Balkans. This last resulted in the passage of special legislation, the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978. 10 In 1992 security around the Iranian Embassy in Canberra failed to the extent that a mob invaded the premises and assaulted a number of diplomatic staff. Annex B reproduces a list of politically motivated violent incidents in Australia in the period between 1970 and 1992.

Australia has a well- developed security and counter- terrorist establishment, including elements of the Defence Forces, the civilian police and the intelligence comm

unity. The latter includes the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO - for domestic intelligence), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS - for external intelligence collection) as well as police special branch units.

There is a National Anti- Terrorist Plan, developed as a Federal- State cooperative document, which is constantly reviewed and updated in the light of developments and changing conditions. But a review conducted in 1992, in the wake of the Iranian Embassy incident, commented that the emphasis in Australian planning is on the response to terrorist incidents. The review identified "serious weaknesses in Australia's plans and arrangements at the Commonwealth level in the period prior to the commencement of an incident - that is to say, in the area of prevention." 11 This report was acted on by the Government, which announced in March 1994 that the "critical elements" of Mr Codd's recommendations had been implemented. In future there would be improved inter- agency coordination and communication, and future editions of the Anti- Terrorist Plan would place greater emphasis on prevention of terrorism. 12

Terrorism as a strategic problem

Military threats to security are relatively straightforward in the nature of the responses which might be developed. This is not so in the case of terrorism.

Terrorism is a complex phenomenon in which many of the advantages lie with the perpetrators and relatively few with the society under terrorist threat. Because a terrorist attack can require little preparation and effort relative to the response needed to deal with it, or the effort required to detect and prevent it, it can be an attractive bottom- end option for groups and organisations, including states, which do not wish or cannot afford to undertake military operations. It is rendered all the more dangerous by the fact that many terrorists are highly motivated people - probably considering themselves idealists - who are prepared to die if necessary to achieve a successful mission. In a peacetime environment this willingness can confer an immense tactical advantage over those seeking to prevent terrorist incidents.

Likewise, the ambiguity which can surround terrorism works to the terrorists' advantage. Is this person truly a terrorist, or a freedom fighter using regrettable but necessary methods? Are terrorist methods justified against a repressive regime or an unjust social system? These questions, naturally, will be answered differently in different cases and by different people, but the effect is to create division and uncertainty of a kind much less prevalent if one nation finds itself at war with another, when the impulse is to "rally round the flag" and worry about the fine print later. Terrorism's relativism hinders the development of a broad consensus against it, and can even provide pockets of covert support.

In the twentieth century terrorism has reached the status of a distinct form of conflict. Governments have been forced to deal with terrorist organisations and terrorists over negotiating tables; they have even had to accept the elevation of terrorists to the status of world political figures and national leaders. The precedents thereby set are sufficient in number and validity to encourage others to adopt a terrorist strategic approach to the achievement of their political goals, in the knowledge (or at least very plausible belief) that what the IRB, PLO and ANC achieved may be possible for them as well.

There are good reasons for and against negotiations with terrorist individuals and organisations, but the principal conclusion of this paper is that hard- and- fast rules should not be developed. In some cases, with some terrorists, in some conditions, negotiation (and even compliance) may be advisable or - in nuclear urban terrorism - absolutely necessary. In others, negotiation may be no more than a ruse to buy a little time, or may be out of the question.

It is noteworthy also that many terrorist strategies rely on the limitations which accepted norms of behaviour impose on their opponents. As noted, the British could in theory have crushed Irish terrorism in the post World War I period by main force and extreme measures of repression (as, for instance, Stalin crushed the kulaks, private farmers, in the thirties by simply starving several million of them to death). Such actions, however, were unacceptable to the British Government and population, which was already uneasy about British reprisals such as the burning of the city of Cork. In other words, terrorists, though largely uninhibited by civilised norms, can still exploit them.

One should therefore be wary of counter- terrorist strategies which seek to create tightly- defined models or recipes for dealing with a threat which, as has been shown above, can be multi- faceted and varies widely from instance to instance. Thus there is unlikely to be much profit from proposals which elevate to the status of law, or unbreakable practice, assertions such as: "never negotiate with terrorists" or "it is always better to negotiate than to take action in terrorist situations". Terrorism is a difficult security issue made more so in recent years by the proliferation of terrorist- friendly technologies such as Cemtex plastic explosive; as with all complex issues, simple rules rarely offer viable solutions. A case- by- case approach founded in a flexible and practicable anti- terrorist policy framework offers more hope of favourable outcomes. Nevertheless, though prevention is undoubtedly superior to response as a means of dealing with terrorism, the nature of the beast makes it likely that authorities will find prevention very difficult and the need for developed strategies by way of response as great as ever.



Sarin (also known as GB) is a nerve gas. It was developed in Germany from work originally intended by the Wuppertal- Elberfeld (Bayer) branch of IG Farbenindustrie to create potent new insecticides. It is an organophosporous compound containing fluorine: its chemical name is isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate. The Nazis commenced a sarin production facility which was overrun by the Soviets in 1945 before completion. They produced perhaps no more than 500 kilograms of sarin before their final defeat. Contrary to some reports, they did not use sarin in combat. Postwar, both the United States and Soviet Union put sarin into large- scale production: some tens of thousands of tons are believed to have been manufactured during the Cold War. Since then, Russia and the US have for some time been destroying much of their chemical weapons stocks. Sarin was also one of the chemical agents produced by Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War; its stocks have been destroyed.

Sarin is volatile (it evaporates from the liquid form at room temperatures) and is extremely toxic to all mammals, including humans. Fifty percent of unprotected humans breathing the gas will die if there is a dose of 75 milligrams per minute per cubic metre of air. That is, exposure to 1 mg of sarin per cubic metre of air for 75 minutes will kill half those exposed, as would 75mg of the gas per cubic metre of air for just one minute. It also acts, in somewhat larger doses, on contact with skin.

Symptoms of sarin poisoning include breathing difficulties, eye irritation, convulsions, nausea and vomiting, as well as (for survivors) long- term damage to the respiratory and digestive systems.



21.10.70 Bombing - Yugoslav Consulate- General, Melbourne

04.04.71 Bombing - Serbian Orthodox Church, Melbourne

12.09.71 Attempted arson - Serbian Orthodox Church, Melbourne

19.12.71 Bombing - Theatre in Sydney

11.01.72 Bombing - Serbian Orthodox Church, Canberra

14.02.72 Armed Assault - Yugoslav Consulate, Perth

16.02.72 Bombing - Offices of two Yugoslav tourist agencies, Sydney

26.04.72 Bombings - Residence of pro- Yugoslav political figure, Melbourne

25.09.72 Five Black September Organisation letter bombs, addressed to Israeli diplomates in Sydney and Canberra, were detected in post offices in Australia

03.10.72 Two letter bombs, addressed to Israeli officials in Sydney, were detected by the postal service

02.11.72 A letter bomb was sent to a prominent member of the Jewish community in Australia

08.12.72 Bombing - Serbian Orthodox Church, Brisbane

24.01.73 A letter bomb, addressed to a Jewish businessman in NSW, was intercepted at a post office

09.04.73 Arson - premises of Editor of Croatian Newspaper, Melbourne

24.12.74 Firebombs - Pan Am ticket office, Sydney

25.05.75 Bombing - Sunny Adriatic Trade and Tourist Centre (Yugoslav), Melbourne

19.11.75 Letter bombs addressed to the Prime Minister and Queensland Premier

29.08.77 Arson - Indian High Commission, Canberra

31.08.77 Arson - Australia Atomic Energy Commission, Sydney

15.09.77 Kidnapping and wounding - Indian defence Attache and wife, Canberra

19.10.77 Armed Assault - Air India employee, Melbourne

04.12.77 Bombing - Yugoslav Airlines Office, Melbourne

24.12.77 Bombing - Statue of Yugoslav General Mihailovic, Canberra

13.02.78 Bombing - Outside Hilton Hotel, Sydney

25.03.78 Bomb found in India High Commissioner's residence, Canberra

02.09.78 Arrest of Croatians involved in military training at Eden, NSW. Planning for armed incursion into Yugoslavia (previous armed incursions involving Australian Croats occurred in 1963 and 1972)

13.11.78 Poisoned sweets served to delegates at Assyrian Congress, Sydney

08.02.79 Conspiracy to bomb Yugoslav targets and water pipelines discovered, Sydney

17.12.80 Assassination - Turkish Consul- General and his bodyguard, Sydney - Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide (JCAG) claimed responsibility

23.12.82 Bombing of Israeli Consulate, Sydney

23.12.82 Bombing of Hakoah Club, Sydney

12.11.83 Gelignite and ammonium nitrate bomb found and defused in Lucas Heights Research Establishment, Sydney

13.07.85 Two shots fired at Vietnamese Embassy, Canberra

23.11.86 Bomb explosion at Turkish Consulate- General, Melbourne. One member of JCAG killed when device exploded prematurely

22.03.88 Two petrol bombs thrown at diplomatic residence in Canberra

10.04.88 South African diplomat's vehicle destroyed by fire, Canberra. Believed to be linked with 22 March incident

05.88 to Six firebomb attacks against Chinese restaurants, Perth


02.07.88 Firebombing of Yugoslav Club, Adelaide

18.07.88 US Defence Attache's vehicle firebombed, Canberra. Believed to be linked with incidents of 22 March and 10 April

16.11.88 Necklacing outside home of anti- apartheid activist, Sydney

27.11.88 Shooting of Croatian youth demonstrating outside Yugoslav Consulate- General, Sydney

27.01.89 Shotgun attack on home of African National Congress representative, Sydney

21.05.89 Arson attack on Abbey's Bookshop, Sydney, selling Salman Rushdie's novel, "The Satanic Verses"

23.01.91 Firebombing of Rooty Hill Islamic Centre, Sydney

25.01.91 Firebombing of Jewish Kindergarten, Melbourne

25.01.91 Lebanese- Australian arrested for planning to hijack an aircraft to Iraq, Sydney

06.02.91 Lebanese- Australian apprehended near Iraqi Embassy and in vicinity of PM's Lodge with rifle in his possession, Canberra. Possible volunteer to the Iraqis

20.02.91 Firebombing of American Australian Association, Sydney

26.02.91 Firebombing of Sephardi Synagogue, Sydney

05.03.91 Firebombing of Bankstown and District War Memorial Synagogue, Sydney

05.03.91 Firebombing of Airforce/Navy Club, Sydney

12.03.91 Attempted firebombing of North Shore Synagogue and Masada College, Sydney

28.03.91 Firebombing of Illawarra Synagogue, Sydney

3/4.08.91 Attempted petrol bombing of Serbian church, Melbourne

12/13.09.91 Shotgun blast in window of Indonesian Consulate, Darwin

15.09.91 Molotov cocktails thrown at the premises where a Serbian function was in progress, Melbourne

15.09.91 Firebombing of the home of a politically involved Croatian family, Melbourne

23.09.91 Six molotov cocktails (three exploded) thrown at Serbian Community Centre, Melbourne

11.01.92 Unsuccessful arson attack on US Consulate in Brisbane; minor damage

06.04.92 Attack on Iranian Embassy, Canberra; extensive damage and a number of personnel injured.

Source: M. H. Codd, Review of Plans and Arrangements in Relation to Counter- Terrorism, AGPS, May 1992.


True, there is now reference in the literature to so- called "narco- terrorism" in connection with these and other major drug distribution rackets but, aside from being an ugly piece of jargon, this term is misleading in that it elevates organised crime to the status of a political movement, whereas the Colombian drug lords are interested only in profit, with political action subordinate to this objective.


Karl von Clausewitz, On War, (translated by Anatol Rapoport), Penguin 1968, Chapter 1, para 24.


Calton Younger, Ireland's Civil War, London 1968.


It is also relevant to note that a number of respected Israeli leaders had themselves been branded "terrorists" by the British during the period of British rule in Palestine.

5 Akira Kato et al, "Sarin Detectors, Helicopters and...?", Shukan Bunshun(newspaper), 6 April 1995, FBIS- EAS- 95- 096, 18 May 1995, pp.10- 15.


"Signs of ABC Weapons", Shukan Bunshun(newspaper), 30 April 1995, FBIS- EAS- 95- 096, 18 May 1995, p.15.


In late 1994 authorities in the Czech Republic seized three kilos of 87.5% Uranium- 235, a fissionable material capable of use in nuclear weapons. This is almost weapons grade (95%). In March 1995 Ukrainian authorities seized six kilos of Uranium (degree of enrichment unknown) stored in the apartment of two former Russian soldiers. David Hughes, "Uranium seizures heighten terrorist concerns", Aviation Week and Space Technology, 3 April 1995, pp.63- 4.


Hardline Irish Republicans who fought moderate Irish nationalists against the 1921 Treaty with the British (considering it insufficient and a "sellout") were defeated in the end, and admitted that a prime reason for their defeat was lack of popular support. Robert Kee, Ireland: A Television History, "Civil War".


This would have been politically damaging for the UK at that time, having just fought World War I with a heavy propaganda line in favour of the rights of small nations everywhere - a reference to the German aggression against Belgium.


The Act makes it an offence to recruit people, or to train and organise in Australia, for armed incursions or operations on foreign soil. Exceptions (eg, recruiting for the Papua New Guinea Defence Forces in Australia) are allowed only under specified conditions.


M. H. Codd, Review of Plans and Arrangements in Relation to Counter- Terrorism, May 1992, para 19.


Hansard (House), 24 March 1994, p.2123.