Phase III in the War on Terrorism? Challenges and Opportunities

Following the shock of the September 2001 terror attacks, the U.S.-led “war on terrorism” has occasioned the most sweeping changes in American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. In the first phase, the United States toppled the Taliban regime and eradicated Osama bin Laden’s headquarters in Afghanistan, while leading a worldwide police effort against al Qaeda. Most recently, the Bush Administration overturned the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, in part to eliminate Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Given the recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, it seems clear that the campaign against terrorism is far from over. So what can we expect in the “third phase” in this new conflict? The Saban Center’s May 14 symposium sought to address this question, bringing together prominent analysts and scholars to discuss the main foreign policy challenges facing the United States in its anti-terror campaign.

In the first panel, terrorism experts Steven Simon, Daniel Byman, and Boaz Ganor provided their analyses of how to deal with the most prominent terror organizations with “global reach”: al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas. As respondent, respected journalist Hisham Melhem was on hand to provide a historical and Arab perspective on the issue. Next, four regional specialists assessed U.S. policy toward states that sponsor or are otherwise implicated in terror: Mark Gasiorowski on Iran, Flynt Leverett on Syria, Stephen Cohen on Pakistan, and Gregory Gause on Saudi Arabia. In the third and final panel, Francis Fukuyama, James Steinberg, and William Kristol offered their views on how the war on terrorism fits into U.S. foreign policy as a whole, and how policymakers should go about integrating it into their wider goals.

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