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Still, embassy targeting is a very common practice used by terrorists as well. Despite the fact that they should be considered one of the most important institutions of a state abroad they are not exempted from threats such as terrorist acts. Moreover, the security level such a facility would imply does not detract terrorists and does not limit their actions.
Thirdly, it must be taken into account the fact that bombings are not the only means used by terrorists in their activities. Also, apart from attacking targets through bombs, they also use fire attacks, arms, and even kidnapping techniques to follow their goals. However, apart from these physical techniques, terrorists also use advanced technology to communicate and even inflict harm. They use different internet websites, such as various fundamentalist Islamic sites where proponents of terrorist action try to rally support for their cause against western civil and military targets. Also, the use of emails and different other means of communication represent as well a new and rather dangerous type of techniques used to influence political attitudes.
Finally, in terms of regional placement of terrorist acts, there are spread around the world. According to the American National Security Policy, Latin America is the most active region in terms of terrorist attacks against the U.S. However, they are not significant in terms of victims or casualties; their importance resides in the frequency of the attacks. The Middle East is as well an important region to be taken into account from this point-of-view as anti-American attacks are conducted regularly against U.S. facilities. Also, even Eurasia and Western Europe are regarded as regions where terrorist acts against the U.S. can occur. Therefore it can be said that terrorism and especially actions addressing U.S. targets is a widespread phenomenon and is not limited to a particular region of the world.
Having in mind these ideas, in order to try to prevent events such as the Embassy bombings in Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, or Greece, it is important to consider possible solutions for reducing the vulnerability of American sites, particularly of embassies, with due regard to the ideas mentioned above.
First and foremost, an increased attention should be given to the environment in which embassies are located. Indeed, each state, in order to conduct its political affairs, economic interests, and cultural ones, as well as to ensure a proper diplomatic protection for its citizens residing in the respective country, must develop good diplomatic ties with all the states in the world. Embassies are one of the best means and most frequently used tools for developing foreign relations. However, these should not be done at the expense of the security of diplomats and the staff serving the respective embassy. From this point-of-view, before opening a diplomatic mission it is important to take into account the security environment in finest detail, from an overall general assessment of the region, to the actual abilities of the local police to ensure protection of the building and the surrounding site. The provisions of international law consider an obligation of the receiving state to offer the diplomatic mission an adequate protection against possible acts of vandalism or even terrorist attacks. Despite this however, it is hard to ascertain ahead the actual possible threats an embassy may face in a given country; still, due to the complexity of the security threats facing nowadays the entire world, it is important that local police consider measures strong enough to deter attacks or violent act against the embassy.
Secondly, any possible security offered by local police or the security department in the ministry of internal affairs in a state notwithstanding, the embassy in itself must take the necessary precautionary actions to ensure the protection of their own staff, especially high ranked officers. In this sense, the U.S. Embassy should have in mind the increased personal protection of the embassy's staff to prevent possible attacks to their personal integrity. Indeed, these would require additional costs from the part of the American state; however, such an initiative may reduce the degree of insecurity of the embassy's overall staff. However, even in these situations, any additional security forces should be carefully and thoroughly checked before entering in the service of private diplomatic protection because, otherwise, their very existence near the U.S. diplomats may represent a vulnerable point in the security of the embassy staff.
Thirdly, the 1961 Vienna Convention concerning diplomatic relations identifies the three categories of staff working inside an embassy. According to the document, there are three types of staff: the diplomatic agents, the technical and administrative staff, and the members of the service staff. Therefore, due to the variety of categories, there must be particular rules of procedure applicable to each of them. In this sense, the diplomatic staff is rarely put into question because they are the representatives of the sending state and therefore they have no interest of jeopardizing the security of their own mission.
On the other hand, the technical and administrative staff is most of the times recruited from the nationals of the receiving country. Therefore, it is possible that in countries such as Iraq, China, North Korea or other sensitive regions in the world, members of the administrative staff to be in connection with different terrorist organizations which may use the inside information provided by the embassy's members of the staff to conduct subversive actions against the embassy. Similarly, increased attention should be given to the members of the service staff who are the least involved in the diplomatic activity but can be, in a certain situation, worthy sources of information for different interest groups outside the embassy. From this point-of-view, in order to exclude the staff from the list of vulnerabilities, it is important that a thorough control be conducted on their background, affiliations, and political convictions before actually hiring them. In a sensitive matter such as diplomatic security it is important to consider and exclude any possible source of vulnerability because, in the end, it is not a matter of personal security, and more of national security, taking into consideration the importance of the information filtered and used in the embassy.
Fourthly, although the delimitations of the role of the embassy are very well established through the various conventions tackling this issue, it is important that the embassy, especially the U.S. embassy, consider the entire range of activities it can conduct on the territory of the receiving state. More precisely, the informative role of the mission as it is stated in the Vienna Convention should be unofficially extended in such a manner as to be able to undergo a more thorough activity of information in regard to any possible security distresses taking place in the country. In this sense, should there be enough discretion about such ongoing processes the U.S. would be better informed about the actual security environment in the country and the eventual threats facing both the embassies and the U.S. nationals. Otherwise, as most of the bombing attacks have shown, the U.S. is often taken by surprise and in fortunate ones, casualties du not occur, but, as the case in Lebanon, victims are registered. Therefore, a more vivid information activity from the embassies on the ground should reduce this vulnerability given by the lack of information.
Another important measure the U.S. could take in order to reduce the vulnerable state of the embassies throughout the world is to increase the visibility of the trials faced by terrorist attackers in the embassy bombing cases. The attacks in Sharm al-Sheikh are followed by a trial which may prove an important step in the overall image the U.S. must create to terrorists in terms of the possible punishment of terrorist acts. These types of trials can help to make public both the impact of terror and the legal responses the state should have in terms of retaliation and bringing them to justice. At the same time, it may be considered as a model of punishment and as a means of deterrence for any terrorist initiative. However, if these actions are not made public enough, they may not the needed attention.
Finally, probably one of the most important methods to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. embassies abroad would be to reduce their number. More precisely, although it is important to have diplomatic representation in most countries in the world, it may be that the U.S. cannot fully have control over the security issues affecting diplomatic missions. In this sense, for instance, while for the U.S. It is essential that it maintain an embassy in Iraq, the security challenges are very big and there is a lack of ability to manage such security issues. Therefore, a relocation of the embassy in a safer area of the Middle East would be more appropriate for the security level of the embassy. However, on the other side, the relocation of the embassy outside Iraq would represent an acknowledgement of the power of terrorist pressure and it would be…[continue]
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