NEW YORK (Dec. 14)
Unless the United States follows a coherent anti-terrorism policy, this nation’s long-term strategic security interests will be threatened abroad and lives may be lost at home, according to three authorities on counter-terrorism.
Appearing at a news conference sponsored by the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the State University of New York Institute for Studies in International Terrorism, they said that recent disclosures concerning U.S. dealings with Iran could deal a setback to world-wide counter-terrorism policy.
The authorities were Dr. Yonah Alexander, director of the Institute and a senior research member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC; Joel Lisker, chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, and Bernard Stewart, director of the counter-terrorism program of the Science Applications International Corporation in McLean, VA, Kenneth Jacobson, assistant director of the ADL’s International Affairs Division, presided.
WARNINGS BY THE EXPERTS
The panel members asserted that the U.S. is vulnerable to terrorist attacks within this country, prospects for successfully countering terrorism in 1987 are “bleak” because of the well-financed and international terrorism network; the U.S. must consider the possibility that terrorists in the future may use biological, chemical and nuclear weapons; the Soviet Union is training terrorists to undermine the West; and terrorism has become more “brutal,” as witness the recent killing of Indian bus passengers and the bombing of a synagogue in Istanbul.
Alexander praised as “sound” the evolving American anti-terrorism policy of taking diplomatic, economic and military action — if necessary — against countries that support terrorism.
But, questioning the “implementation and interpretation” of that policy, Alexander asserted the United States must not “sacrifice its long-term strategic interests for the short-term benefits involving the lives of one two or five hostages — even though these are so important to us.” Otherwise, he added, the “price we pay for terrorism in the future may be much greater.”
If there is no adequate response to terrorism, he added, “the United States could be driven out of the Middle East. Unless we have a coherent policy, both unilaterally and multilaterally with our allies, we will be seen as caving in to terrorism. The United States must not be perceived as a paper tiger.”
Referring to the Iran controversy, he cited what he called “psychological and political costs for the United States in dealing with terrorism, as well as loss of confidence in the ability of this government to help protect its people.”
Alexander also told the news conference that on the basis of preliminary statistics throughout September of this year, 1986 could be “the bloodiest year yet” But beyond the statistics, he added, “what is probably more important is the political cost of terrorism.” Stewart asserted that terrorism is a “low risk, highly successful” method of damaging America’s strategic position in the world. Terrorists, he said, forced the United States to withdraw its military presence from Lebanon and are trying to eliminate U.S. bases from the Philippines.
Not only are American strategic interests threatened, Stewart said, but American business dealings abroad are in jeopardy. “We could lose our power in the world from a few terrorists going around blowing up things,” he said.
Declaring that the U.S. must examine the long-term objectives of Iran, Libya, Syria and the Soviet Union in connection with worldwide terrorism, Stewart said Moscow reportedly is training an estimated 600 terrorists a year.
U.S. IS ‘MOST VULNERABLE TO TERROR’
At home, Stewart said, the U.S. is “most vulnerable to terror” — particularly America’s communications and transportation networks.
Although he did not predict imminent terrorist incidents in this country, he warned that the United States is “absolutely not prepared to deal with the threat of domestic terror.”
Lisker said that the United States “has no policy on counter-terrorism as shown by recent events. It is developed on an ad hoc and random basis.” The arms dealings with Iran, he said, constituted a “blunder,” adding that American reactions to the holding of American hostages was “emotional and was not steeped in strategic considerations and logic.”