The United Kingdom is facing an “unprecedented” terrorism threat that will not subside until the Syrian civil war ends, the head of British foreign intelligence service MI6 said Thursday.
In his first major public speech since winning the top job at the Secret Intelligence Service in 2014, MI6 chief Alex Younger said Islamic State operatives are using the turmoil sown by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bombing in Syria to plot attacks against the U.K. and its allies. He said Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad were effectively hindering the West’s efforts to defeat the jihadi group.
“As I speak, the highly organized external attack planning structures within Daesh [Islamic State], even as they face military threat, are plotting ways to project violence against the U.K. and our allies without ever having to leave Syria,” Younger said at MI6’s Vauxhall Cross headquarters in central London.
Younger cast Putin’s intervention on the side of Assad as a crude tactical ploy that aligned Russia with the minority Alawites, whose members are viewed with suspicion among the majority Sunnis.
“In defining as a terrorist anyone who opposes a brutal government, they alienate precisely that group that has to be on side if the extremists are to be defeated,” he said. “Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make a desert and call it peace.”
Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011, has become a theater for competing global powers, with Russia and Iran supporting Assad, and the United States, Gulf Arab and European powers such as Britain backing the rebels who want to depose him.
Younger said the civil war in Syria was resulting in a major threat of terrorism in the United Kingdom, including 12 foiled plots since June 2013.
Younger said he had been repeatedly asked about the future of intelligence cooperation with the U.S. and EU powers since June’s Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.
“My answer is that I will aim for, and expect, continuity,” Younger said. “The need for the deepest cooperation can only grow. And I am determined that MI6 remains a ready and highly effective partner.”
Younger, one of the West’s most powerful spies, said Britain was facing “hybrid warfare” from unidentified hostile states through cyber attacks, propaganda and the subversion of the democratic process.
By inviting selected journalists to MI6’s headquarters for the first public speech by a serving chief, Younger sought to cast one of the most secretive organizations on the planet as a diverse and dynamic intelligence service that hires the best.
Source: /Israel Hayom