On 26 October 2019, US Special Forces killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of Daesh. The group was already under pressure: it had lost most of its territory, and many considered it functionally defeated. Losing its leader only reinforced that narrative. Nevertheless, the organisation remains present in Iraq and Syria, and can rely on affiliates around the world. What really then is the significance of Baghdadi’s death for Daesh?
The new decade began inauspiciously with the tragic 2 January crash of a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter carrying the Taiwanese Chief of Staff General Shen Yi-ming, among others. A day later, an American drone strike killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. General Shen was responsible for Taiwan’s efforts to strengthen its air power in the face of China’s rise; Soleimani led the Quds Force, a clandestine unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which specialises in unconventional warfare and sponsors terrorism as part of its operations.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or, as it is more colloquially known, the ‘Iran Deal’, was ratified in July 2015. It was meant to put an end to decades of tensions between the West and Iran, which were caused by Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme. The 2015 deal between Iran, the European Union and the P5+1 (i.e. the United Nations Security Council members, plus Germany) was simple. The P5+1 would lift their sanctions on Iran, and in exchange, Tehran would give up military ambitions for its nuclear programme. Western governments hoped this would prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities, and avertan otherwise possible nuclear arms race in the Middle East. On 8 May 2018, however, US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States of America from the deal, calling it ‘decaying and rotten’. His decision cast significant uncertainties on the agreement. Now that the JCPOA is endangered, a fundamental question remains: will Iran get the bomb? To answer this, we must first consider whether Iran is technically capable of obtaining and using a nuclear weapon.
Since the concept of transformative learning, or transformative education (TE), was conceived in 1978, transformation theory has been the central paradigm of various transformative learning initiatives mainly intended for adult education. Nevertheless, the concept has evolved over the last three decades into a more hybrid context/content-oriented approach to address different issues, including the advocacy of tolerance, human rights, dignity, and peace – not only for adults, but for other age groups too. The main distinction between the earlier TE approach and the hybrid modern one is that the latter focuses on advocating a given principle, like human rights for instance, rather than on the transformation process itself as it is shown in the initial TE works. In the modern method, the same transformation process still takes place but subconsciously, without necessarily having the subject aware of the phases that they may go through. This evolution allows TE to be applied in the broader scope of practical applications, including its potential to serve as an instrument for anti- and de-radicalisation processes aimed at countering extremism and extremist violence.
The threat of female terrorism is not new. In recent years, women have been amongst those caught planning bold attacks across Europe and spotted fighting for Daesh. Yet the tendency of security services to view women as victims, rather than as perpetrators, continues to hinder counterterrorism efforts, particularly in Britain. Britain’s current Prevent strategy aims to stop people becoming or supporting terrorists, but the strategy is ill-equipped to tackle the threat of female terror cells. With the fall of Daesh, the prospect of returning female radicals armed with the knowledge and ideological motivation to attack seems increasingly likely. This reality demands an urgent reassessment of the way we understand and combat female terror cells.