The [self-proclaimed] Islamic State terror group and similar violent [fake] jihadist movements are an even greater threat to world order than communism was during the Cold War, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said.
In a speech to the Sydney Institute on Monday night, Ms Bishop said the so-called Islamic State and the ideology behind it tore up the rules of nation-states that had helped moderate international conflicts for centuries.
Ms Bishop suggested the ideology of the Islamic State – also known as ISIL and Da’esh – was the worst the world had seen since the Nazis. She said the virulent new form of international terrorism that the group represented posed a “real threat to the … system of the nation-state”.
It was “the most significant threat to the global, rules-based order to emerge in the past 70 years”, she said, adding that this included “the rise of communism and the Cold War”.
“Over the past two years we have seen the emergence of a terrorist organisation backed by an ideology the likes of which we have not seen since World War II,” she said.
This borderless group was building “increasingly sophisticated transnational networks that would rival a multinational corporation” and used the most modern technology and weapons while also using social media and the internet with “all the dexterity and understanding of an enterprising entrepreneur”.
As such, it was a threat to the Westphalian system of nation-states, which was created nearly 400 years ago in Europe at the end of the Thirty Years’ War and established the principle that each country had sovereignty over its territory and affairs.
This international system had been the “foundation of humanity’s efforts to build peaceful, safe and prosperous societies”, Ms Bishop said.
Ms Bishop said the self-proclaimed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s declaration of a Caliphate for all the world’s Muslims in the territory held by his group – which spans parts of Syria and Iraq with no regard for the border between them – had served as a rallying call for other extremists.
The brutal Boko Haram in Nigeria had followed suit and declared a Caliphate, she said. The Islamic State was also reaching out to the extremist elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Ms Bishop notably cited views she heard during a visit to Iran last week, saying there was a danger that, left unchecked, the Islamic State’s apocalyptic creed could spread further.
“Iran’s President [Hassan] Rouhani described Da’esh as a cancer that could metastasise across northern and central Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and into South East Asia,” she said.
Tehran had warned that the Islamic State would win a massive boost should it capture capital cities such as Baghdad in Iraq or Damascus in Syria.
Ms Bishop’s assessment of the Islamic State as a bigger threat than the nuclear-armed communist bloc of the Cold War is a significant declaration given that the risk of nuclear holocaust that hung over that period.
However the mutual threat of annihilation between Soviet-led communist nations and Western liberal democracies did produce a carefully calibrated stability.
Ms Bishop said French intelligence officials had told her that in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre the terrorism threat in their country had increased and it was “only a matter of time before the next attack occurred”.