On 30 July 2013, the Center for the Study of Democracy organized a round table discussion on the financing of terrorism and violence in the Middle East. The keynote presenter at the event was Mr. Brian Jenkins, Senior Adviser to the President of the RAND Corporation and author of numerous books, reports, and articles on terrorism-related topics.
Mr. Jenkins started his presentation on terrorism focusing on the creation and rise of Al-Qaeda back in the times of the retreat of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. He outlined the differences in the milieu of the jihadists and the western countries, which are the major impediment in our understanding and effective countering of terrorism. He also elaborated on the Al-Qaeda strategy to identify and exploit local conflicts to further their goals, instead of merely trying to create conflicts themselves. The presentation proceeded with Mr. Jenkins' assessment of the current situation and possible scenarios for Egypt, Syria, and Lybia.
Mr. Jenkins argued that the financing of terrorism is usually a low-cost activity and a single terrorist act could cost a few thousand dollars. The sources of financing of terrorist groups included the use of extortion and ransoms (estimated at 500 million per year at the height of Colombia’s FARC), drugs trafficking and counterfeit medicines. He also touched on the sensitive issue about the state financing of certain terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
The discussion following the presentation benefited from the input of Ambassador Robert S. Gelbard, a career diplomat and former advisor on foreign policy issues to the President of the United States, and questions from participants from the intelligence community and academia. The questions discussed included:
- the possible effects of the blacklisting of the military wing of Hezbollah on EU countries and Bulgaria in particular;
- the present day importance of Al-Qaeda threats in EU and Bulgaria;
- the possible motivation of Hezbollah behind the Burgas bombing;
- the existing strategies for countering radicalization and home-grown terrorism;
- the ‘self-radicalization’ and ‘leaderless jihad’ as the new threats.
Experts of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior, the Intelligence Service and the State Agency for National Security, as well as representatives of diplomatic missions were also present at the Round Table.