US decision on ETIM will set back global anti-terror cause

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/8 20:53:57

Photo: IC

In a notice in the Federal Register, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that he had revoked the designation of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a "terrorist organization." 

This group, which has close links with international terrorist organizations, perpetrated a great number of terrorist attacks aimed at separating the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region from China. ETIM has been designated as a terrorist organization by the UN since 2002. 

This is not the first time that the US has shifted its stance toward the status of this terrorist group. Washington in 2002 designated ETIM as a foreign terrorist organization, but removed it from the list of international terrorist organizations in 2004. The US government in 2016 redesignated ETIM as a terrorist organization, but four years later, the administration of US President Donald Trump again revoked the designation.

As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday, the US "has flip-flopped on the designation of ETIM as a terrorist organization, once again exposing the current US administration's double standard on counter-terrorism and its repulsive practice of condoning terrorist groups as it sees fit."

When Washington designated ETIM as a foreign terrorist organization in 2002, it had not fully recovered from the terrible 9/11 attacks. At that time, the US regarded terrorism as its top threat, and was eager to engage in cooperation with China in terms of counter-terrorism. 

However, with China's rapid rise in recent years, the US has labeled China as its main strategic competitor, repeatedly cracking down on China. Many US political elites argue that China's fast-growing technological and military capability make it a bigger threat to the US than terrorism. Washington is checking and balancing China in almost all domains. Against this backdrop, the decision over whether to designate ETIM as a terrorist organization seems to become an anchor to suppress China. Yang Xiyu, senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday that the US' recent move toward this group is intended to display its hard-line stance toward China.

What the US' decision about ETIM threatens is international security. Anti-terrorism cannot be achieved by one or two countries; it needs the cooperation of the entire international community. The premise of international cooperation against terrorism is that all countries remain on the same page on terrorism-related issues, rather than implement double standards or exploit it as a vehicle to contain another country. Yang said that the Trump administration's decision on the terrorist group will cultivate arrogance in all international terrorist organizations including ETIM and inspire them to launch more rampant terrorist activities.

The US is at a critical moment as the leadership change takes place. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to emphasize multilateral cooperation in areas including counterterrorism. Yet as the new US government's China policy remains unclear, it is difficult to predict whether it will amend the designation on ETIM.

However, as a victim of terrorism which suffered huge losses from the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the US should be clearly aware that the terrorism is the common enemy of humankind. There are still terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East. In recent weeks, terrorist attacks gravely hit Austria and France. The alarm bell of the terrorist threat is once again sounded. In response, the UK's terror threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe," which means a terrorist attack is judged as "highly likely." 

These reflect that the cause of international counterterrorism remains arduous and requires all countries to put aside their prejudices and positively respond to the joint threat. The rash move by the Trump administration toward ETIM undoubtedly impairs the international community's joint efforts in fighting terrorism.

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