A critical element of counterterrorism strategy is the role of intelligence. A panel of experts discussed important questions at a recent seminar, including: What is the price for democratic concerns, including issues such as metadata, detention, interrogation, renditions, prosecutions, and punishment?  Can less liberty equal more security? What is the cost to international cooperation in combating terrorism in light of the NSA revelations? Can counterterrorism policies strike a balance between security and freedom?

Professor Yonah Alexander, Director, Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies; and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, moderated the event.  The panel included Ambassador Javier Ruperez,  Former Ambassador of Spain to the United States, and Assistant Secretary-General and Director of Counterterrorism at the United Nations Security Council; Marc Norman, Director for Africa, Europe and the Americas, Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State; Dr. Wayne H. Zaideman,  Former FBI Legal Attaché in the Middle East; Peter Roudik,  Assistant Director of Legal Research and Chief, Eastern Law Division at the Law Library of Congress; and Margarita Assenova,  Director of Programs for the Balkans, Caucasus & Central Asia, The Jamestown Foundation.

Several organizations co-sponsored the event:  The Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies; the International Center for Terrorism Studies, at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies; the Inter-University Center for Legal Studies, at the International Law Institute; and the Center for National Security Law, University of Virginia School of Law.


Security issues relating to chemical weapons and military nuclear capability were the main topics at a recent seminar on "Reassessing the WMD Challenges:  The Next Phase?"

A panel of experts looked at the foremost security concerns in the Middle East and beyond, which  are the future outlook for the dismantlement of Syria’s chemical weapons and preventing Iran from obtaining military nuclear capability.  The panel and the audience examined whether the issues can be resolved peacefully; the panel also assessed tactical and strategic perspectives for the coming months.

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies co-sponsored the event with the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies; the International Center for Terrorism Studies, at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies; the Inter-University Center for Legal Studies, at the International Law Institute; and the Center for National Security Law, University of Virginia School of Law.

The seminar can be viewed here.

Canada's experience with homegrown "foreign affinity" terrorism, namely threats with international connections, is expanding.  In 2013, for example, Canadian citizens inspired by Al-Qa’ida's ideology, plotted to bomb the British Columbia legislature in Victoria as well as derail a New York City-Montreal train filled with innocent passengers.  And it has been reported that Canadian nationals have joined the al-Shabaab terrorist group that attacked a mall in Nairobi (Kenya) and others have participated in operations elsewhere, including Algeria, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan.    

The report on “Canada and Terrorism: Selected Perpetrators” (published in September 2013) provides a context for understanding the challenge of radicalization, extremism and violence in Canada that is rooted in regional, ethnic and political conflicts at home and abroad.  Selected profiles of Canadian citizens as well as foreigners residing in Canada personify the ugly face of the terrorist challenges.

The research for this study initially began in 2006 and was completed in Spring 2013.  A larger study on "Canada and Terrorism: Threats and Responses" is expected to be completed in 2014.  This work is undertaken by the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies (administered by both the International Center for Terrorism Studies at Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and the Inter-University Center for Legal Studies at the International Law Institute).  Professor Edgar  H. Brenner, the late co-director of the Inter-University Center for Legal Studies and Professor Yonah Alexander, director of the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies are the principal investigators of the study.  Academic support is provided by Professor Don Wallace Jr., Chairman, International Law Institute; Bill Mays, International Law Institute; and Marie-Aude Ferrière, Université Paris II Pantheon Assas- France.  

For further information, please contact the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 901 North Stuart Street, Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22203, Tel.: 703-525-0770 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ICTS@ potomacinstitute.org

Refugeeism: Humanitarian and Strategic Challenges

The problem of developing workable, effective policies to deal with refugees and refugee camps is, unfortunately not a new one. The problem has, however, climbed back into the spotlight as the ongoing civil war in Syria, the fighting in Mali and other violence abroad have created significant refugee flows in already volatile parts of the world. To that end, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies hosted an event on April 19, 2013 titled “Refugeeism: Humanitarian and Strategic Challenges”.

Professor Yonah Alexander, Director of the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies and Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute, opened the proceedings by providing a brief overview of the situation and then introducing the four panelists; Dr. Stephen J. Morris of Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Ralph Nurnberger of Georgetown University, Mark Krikorian, Executive Director at the Center for Immigration studies and Lavinia Limón, President and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

As the European Union debates classifying Hizballah as a terrorist organization in light of recent events in Bulgaria and Cyprus, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies hosted an event titled “Combating Hizballah’s Global Network.” Led by Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies Director, Professor Yonah Alexander, and Potomac Institute CEO Mike Swetnam, a panel of experts discussed various aspects of the Hizballah threat, as well as the steps the international community can take to mitigate it. The three-person panel consisted of Dr. Matt Levitt from the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Professor Amit Kumar of Georgetown University and Dan Mariaschin, Executive Vice President at B’nai B’rith International. After their individual presentations, the panelists then answered questions from the audience.

The event was opened by Mr. Swetnam and Prof. Alexander, who introduced the panel, provided some background information and then turned the floor over to the first speaker, Dr. Levitt. Dr. Levitt, author of the forthcoming book “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God,” covered many topics in his speech but focused on the complex relationship between Hizballah and Iran as well as the current debate in the EU on whether or not to classify Hizballah as a terrorist organization. Dr. Levitt stressed that the relationship between Iran and Hizballah is more complicated than many would make it seem; Hizballah is much more than Iran’s proxy, and has numerous activities and interests, outside of those it shares with Iran. Furthermore, Dr. Levitt warned against giving Hizballah a “get out of jail free card,” by refusing to punish it for its illegal activities – such as the Burgas bus bombing – simply because of all the good and legitimate things it does. This unwillingness to punish Hizballah is manifested in debates like the one going on in the EU right now; and while Dr. Levitt acknowledges that the Europeans’ hesitance is largely based on genuine concern that designating Hizballah would destabilize Lebanon, he argued that such a stance ignores the single most destabilizing force in modern Lebanon – Hizballah itself.

Professor Kumar followed Dr. Levitt’s comments with an extended discussion about Hizballah’s finances, particularly as they relate to South American criminal networks and the North American banking system. Examples of Hizballah’s penetration into North American financial markets included the recent Lebanese Canadian Bank case as well as various other money-laundering schemes that have been discovered over the years, ranging from cigarette to used car-smuggling rings. Also stressed was the importance of working with Latin American governments to help mitigate the threat posed by Hizballah’s links with criminal groups ranging from Mexico to Colombia and especially in the Tri-Border Region. Prof. Kumar noted, though, regardless of the origin of Hizballah’s funds, the funds’ destination is the global banking system and he pushed for the development of a “multi-front, concerted strategy” that would make it much harder for Hizballah to move and spend the money it raises both legally and illegally.

Building on the South American theme, Dan Mariaschin focused on the 1992 and 1994 Hizballah-linked bombings in Argentina. In the experience of Argentina, Mr. Mariaschin found a cautionary tale for Europe regarding how it decides to respond to the Burgas bombing and the arrest, and subsequent trial, of an admitted Hizballah operative in Cyprus. The initial Argentine investigations were fraught with mismanagement, but still turned up ample evidence against Islamic Jihad, Iran and Hizballah. Various Iranian officials – including the current defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi – have been implicated in the bombing and have issued arrest warrants issued for them by Argentina, as well as Interpol. Disconcertingly, though, Argentina recently signed an agreement with Iran to establish a joint “Truth Commission” to investigate the 1994 AMIA bombing – a Truth Commission that Mr. Mariaschin said would be anything but. Thus, as Argentina moves in the wrong direction, vis-à-vis dealing with Hizballah’s terrorist threat, Mr. Mariaschin argued that it is even more important for Europe to set the tone for how countries in every hemisphere respond to Hizballah’s terrorist actions.


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The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science and technology issues facing our society. From these discussions and forums, we develop meaningful science and technology policy options and ensure their implementation at the intersection of business and government.

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