Terror Arrests in London

The arrest today of two men at a suspected bomb-making factory in East London is a chilling reminder of the continuing threat to Britain from Islamic extremists. The security services have said that these arrests were not in relation to last summer’s attacks but to a new set of plots thought to involve the use of chemicals. ...

608440_Ambulance5.jpg
608440_Ambulance5.jpg

The arrest today of two men at a suspected bomb-making factory in East London is a chilling reminder of the continuing threat to Britain from Islamic extremists. The security services have said that these arrests were not in relation to last summer’s attacks but to a new set of plots thought to involve the use of chemicals.

The nature of the terrorist threat in Britain is very different from what America faces. The primary threat against the United States comes from foreign terrorists. It seems reasonable to speculate that part of the reason there has been no attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 is that al Qaeda are determined to go further than their previous effort. In Britain, by contrast, the principal threat comes from home-grown terrorists like the 7/7 bombers waging low-scale bombing campaigns. (There is no suggestion that the two men of Bengali/Pakistani descent detained today are foreigners.) Britain’s predicament makes getting the balance between civil liberties and security much more difficult, as the measures have to take place inside the country rather than at points of entry.

The arrest today of two men at a suspected bomb-making factory in East London is a chilling reminder of the continuing threat to Britain from Islamic extremists. The security services have said that these arrests were not in relation to last summer’s attacks but to a new set of plots thought to involve the use of chemicals.

The nature of the terrorist threat in Britain is very different from what America faces. The primary threat against the United States comes from foreign terrorists. It seems reasonable to speculate that part of the reason there has been no attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 is that al Qaeda are determined to go further than their previous effort. In Britain, by contrast, the principal threat comes from home-grown terrorists like the 7/7 bombers waging low-scale bombing campaigns. (There is no suggestion that the two men of Bengali/Pakistani descent detained today are foreigners.) Britain’s predicament makes getting the balance between civil liberties and security much more difficult, as the measures have to take place inside the country rather than at points of entry.

The nature of the problem also raises all sorts of issues about community cohesion, integration, and how to stop the surging far-right from exploiting the situation. On that front, the decision of 20 local Asian men to protest the police’s use of force was far from helpful.

The two things I’m most interested to find out about this raid are how large the planned attacks were—the setting up of an air exclusion zone over the area suggests that the analysis above might be off-base—and the size of the network. These two factors will likely determine the public’s response to today’s raid.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.