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Political Background Discussion with Guido Steinberg

Berlin, December 17, 2009

Guido Steinberg, Research Associate at the Research Unit Middle East and Africa of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, met with members of the German Bundestag as well as with representatives of federal ministries, government agencies and selected think tanks to discuss the main theses of his essay on Germany’s need for a counter-terrorism strategy ("Im Visier von al-Qaida – Deutschland braucht eine Anti-Terror-Strategie"), which was recently published in the "Standpunkte" series of edition Körber-Stiftung.

In the field of domestic counter-terrorist policy, there was a need for a more aggressive kind of human intelligence gathering, said Steinberg. Online searches and similar measures were not sufficient if the aim was to notice the advent of radicalization processes in good time. The German authorities had to be able to spot suspicious individuals, and they also had to be able to understand the exact processes which might lead to their radicalization.

With regard to foreign policy measures which were needed in order to counter the terrorist threat, Steinberg said that Germany, unlike certain other states, had hitherto managed to avoid the kind of over-reaction which simply leads to more radicalization. Nonetheless cooperation with the terrorists’ countries of origin had to be seen in a critical way. Thus there was no reason why the authoritarian stance of the various regimes should receive unconditional support. Internal repression in these states often led to the radicalization of those who sympathized with terrorist groups. What Germany in fact ought to be doing in its dealings with the countries concerned was to create new incentives for cooperation in the area of the rule of law and on the civil society level.

The issue of the right kind of cooperation with the terrorists’ countries of origin was also the subject of the ensuing discussion. There was agreement about the fact that in the final analysis any counter-terrorist strategy is also subject to the constraints of realpolitik. Furthermore, it was important to provide help for so-called failing states immediately and to prevent the rise of organized crime. This would draw the carpet from under the feet of terrorist groups and their recruitment campaigns. However, there was no agreement about a dual-track strategy which combined counter-terrorism and development aid, or about the extent to which it could be applied in the fight against terrorism.

The Political Background Discussion with Guido Steinberg continues Körber Foundation’s focus on current questions of foreign and security policy. This series includes Political Breakfasts and Background Discussions with Stefan Kornelius, foreign editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Turkey and Amir Mohebbian, Member of the Board and Political Editor of Resalat Daily Newspaper.

Körber Foundation regularly invites a small circle of high-ranking actors within Berlin’s foreign policy community to its Political Background Discussions. As in the Bergedorf Round Tables, the discussions take place shielded from the public, so as to enable a confidential, frank, and constructive exchange.

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