Islamic radicalism in its most extreme and violent form has left its mark in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. It first erupted in Lebanon following the 1979 revolution in Iran and Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Terrorists backed by Iran and vowing to eliminate un-Islamic governments and pro-Western influences were responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in Lebanon, including the Marine Barracks bombing in October 1983 (241 Marines killed), and the taking of more than 20 Westerners hostage (including a dozen Americans). Most of the hostages were Americans who had lived in Lebanon for years; two of them-William Buckley and Richard Higgins-were killed because of their government and military service. Islamic militants portrayed the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Lebanon as a great victory for Islam. Islamist terrorists have operated in Turkey and Jordan, but there have been few incidents against Americans. In the intervening years, as the region's Islamist organizations matured and developed infrastructure, roots, and sponsors, many of their members have moved away from confronta- tional and exclusionary tactics to espousing a politics of inclusion in the state. Government specialists and scholars debated the nature of this change and its potential impact on regional regimes and U.S. interests at INSS in May 1996. The scholars were more optimistic than the government specialists, believing that participation in "normal" political life transforms the attitudes and actions of once militant Islamists from confrontation to accommodation.
Strategic Forum no.104 (February 1997)