The British Government must extend and deepen its relationship with Gulf states in order to tackle the root causes of extremism and terrorism, according to a new report published on Tuesday by The Henry Jackson Society.
The report argues that Britain must go beyond intelligence and information sharing by creating more joint initiatives with the private sector and civil society in the states of the Gulf Co-operation Council. A step change of this kind would achieve better outcomes against terrorism, as well as strengthening Britain’s global influence as she leaves the European Union.
“Terror Overseas: Understanding the GCC counter-extremism and counter-terrorism trends”, authored by Najah Al-Otaibi, Research Fellow at the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at The Henry Jackson Society, argues that:
- The UK must provide backing for modernisation projects taking place in the Gulf such as the Saudis’ ‘Vision 2030’, encouraging the development of a moderate Islamic narrative which integrates liberal values – challenging the ideological origins of extremism in the region.
- The West should consider funding civil society initiatives in Gulf states, going beyond surface-level intelligence sharing and tackling the fundamental problems which cause extremism and terrorism at their roots.
- The UK should consider the creation of international centres of excellence to counter extremism. These would enhance existing anti-terrorism programmes and mean that the UK was being proactive rather than reactive in tackling radicalisation.
- Technology companies must address the use of their platforms to spread extremist messages and engage on this with the Gulf States, establishing a joint effort to counter the increasingly sophisticated and pervasive reach of jihadist recruitment.
The report also sounds a warning: while Gulf states are doing positive work to fight extremism, some are also using anti-terror legislation to prosecute and even execute vocal critics. The UK must play a greater role in calling out these flagrant breaches of human rights and freedom of speech, which undermine international efforts to combat radicalisation.
Summarising her findings, Najah Al-Otaibi said:
“The UK should increase its anti-terrorism cooperation with the GCC, beyond intelligence and security information sharing, by creating more joint initiatives and collaborative programmes to prevent radicalisation.
By getting involved with more civil society initiatives – addressing the root causes and threats of terrorism, and thereby challenging ISIS’s own propaganda machine – the West can have a greater impact and lessen the need for clumsy GCC legislation which so often stifles legitimate political opposition.”