Hungary among countries black-listed by Islamic fundamentalists

A recent television message, believed to have been delivered by the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, called for organised action against Hungary. We spoke to the Director of the Institute of Transitional Democracy and International Security, Sebestyen Gorka, to find out whether Hungary should be taking the warning seriously.

"The fact that Hungary, as a NATO member and a country that contributed to the preparations of the invasion, provided training facilities for the United States and also contributes a unit to the coalition forces in Iraq, shows that we are affected and we are theoretically in danger. However this statement is in itself somewhat self-contradictory. It mentions countries such as France, which actually opposed the invasion, as also a potential target. So, one has to take it with a pinch of salt and be at least a little bit sceptical."

What should Hungary do then?

"You have to understand all of such Al Qaeda statements in terms of their primary focus or aim, which is to make people and countries afraid. This is one of the most important elements of terrorism and one of the purposes of such a statement. Nevertheless, despite this propaganda element, it is important for the national security services in cooperation with the allies the United States, the UK and elsewhere, to examine the ramifications of the statement and also to make concrete analysis of whether a greater danger is posed to the country as the result of such a statement. So, there is work to be done."

Could Hungarian state politics be influenced by it. For example, result in the early withdrawal of Hungarian troops from Iraq?

"Perhaps not directly. I think it will have some kind of an effect but I think far more influential, for example, would be if there was a third attack against the Hungarian unit in Iraq, if there were more injuries and casualties. This would have a far more immediate effect. But think in any case, by the time the mandate expires at the end of the year, it will be difficult for the government to extend it as easily as may have been the case before this statement."

"It would to a certain degree but one cannot forget the fact that we are talking about a relatively small contribution. Hungary at the moment provides logistical support and three hundred soldiers to the Polish district of Iraq. The withdrawal of this amount of support would not be very serious in terms of practical consequences. It would rather have to be dealt with in political terms."

Do you think that such gestures on behalf of the Hungarian government, as in providing treatment for Iraqi children and more such gestures would apparently reach the Al Qaeda?

"I don't think so. I think their reign is a little bit more strategic than that. We know since 1991 that Osama bin Laden has been declaring a total war against all of western civilisation and this includes Hungary as well. Contributions on the sideline really would not make that much of a difference in my opinion."