By Alon Ben-David
Despite the string of terror attacks in Europe over the recent years, and despite the surge of migrants flooding it with potential terrorists, the continent has not yet taken the basic steps required in the face of the threat...
Translated by Viktoria Lymar
Edited by Steven Stenzler
15 November 2015
One who wants to fight established terrorism can’t hunker down in their house and be content with enhanced protection -- he must take the offensive. Hollande is going to keep threatening; however, he won’t do what needs to be done to stop Daesh.
This weekend, ISIS [Daesh] positioned itself as world’s leading terrorist organization. Not merely an Islamic caliphate that has taken hold of Syria and Iraq’s territories, but instead, an organization that operates on several continents -- and within one month, downs a Russian passenger airliner and lands on France the worst blow of terror it has experienced on its soil.
Like al Qaeda at the time, ISIS wants global media resonance. It’s just that unlike al Qaeda, which existed under the auspices of the Taliban state in Afghanistan, ISIS is an organization and a country as well. Al Qaeda erred when it launched the 9/11 attacks. It crossed the tolerance limit of the West, brought upon itself the wrath of the American superpower, that went out to war against the former -- and almost wiped it out completely.
Has ISIS also made a mistake with the 11/13 attacks in Paris? Did it also cross the line, and the terrorist acts in Paris are to be the turning point in Europe’s attitude towards terrorism and the beginning of the end for ISIS? At the moment, it does not look so.
The Paris raid was well planned and organized. Although not everything worked as planned: apparently, the terrorists planned to blow up three explosives inside the Stade de France stadium, and their failure to get in prevented an even more serious disaster. But the fact that they assaulted in several locations, with a number of explosive devices and weapons, demonstrates operational capability and quite a bit of preparation and intelligence gathering prior to the attacks.
It stands to reason that these terrorist attacks were engineered by a jihadi personality who had recently returned from Syria with a lot of experience. It is already clear that most of the perpetrators are French and familiar with the places where they acted. It is also likely that, as in the case of the kosher supermarket [1/9/2015], the French intelligence services had had some warning -- and just as then, this time they did not act on it either.
Even more troubling news is that on the operational level, the French have learned nothing. The critical capacity to deal with terrorism is rapid intervention forces that would arrive at the attack site within minutes. In the absence of a quick response, there’s no ability to influence the outcome of a terrorist attack. Like at the kosher grocery, also at the Bataclan concert hall, the reaction of the French security forces was awfully slow and ended with tragic results.
Despite the string of terror attacks in Europe over the recent years, and despite the surge of migrants flooding it with potential terrorists, the continent has not yet taken the basic steps requisite in the face of the threat: setting up a joint intelligence war room* for Western European countries, surveillance and intrusive [intelligence] collection, including on their nationals who pose a risk -- and a system of border control that would prevent the smuggling of arms and weaponry. For indeed, all European countries are currently exposed to the same threat, and the next terrorist attack is only a matter of ability and opportunity.
The big question mark surrounding these attacks is why exactly France? After all, France is not a leader of the anti-ISIS coalition, its impact there is almost negligible. What is the rationale of the Islamic State, which suffered setbacks in recent days by the Kurds and Syrians, to open another front in Europe? One could have expected that ISIS would rather focus on consolidating its grip on the terrain in Syria and defending its borders than looking for additional adventures.
But perhaps precisely because of those defeats it had suffered on the ground, this entity, pointless without a media spotlight, felt like it had to instill the spirit of pride and success among its fighters and launched the onslaught in Europe. France was chosen as a target simply because ISIS was able to operate there. In Germany and the UK, intelligence services and security arrangements are stricter. France, with its millions of Muslims, is a much more convenient field for action.
Someone who is willing to fight established terror cannot close himself up in his house and be satisfied with increased protection -- he must go on the offensive. But in order to fight ISIS effectively, one should be on the ground. Air strikes are not enough. The President of the Republic François Hollande tried to sound firm yesterday, but besides the words, it’s hard to imagine France mounting an offensive against the Islamic State. Hollande will continue to threaten, perhaps, will order stepped up air raids, but will not do what needs to be done to halt ISIS. It is doubtful whether he can also curb the right wing leader Marine Le Pen, who yesterday added millions of potential voters.
If the West was capable of mustering the courage and sending a few divisions to Syria, they would severely beat ISIS. But when the wind of laxity is blowing from Washington, it’s difficult to expect the Europeans to find their own bravery and fight back. Mentally, France was befallen by its 9/11, but it is not enough to make it do what’s necessary. Like London and Madrid in their time -- Paris too is going to bury the dead, shake off the dust, and resume chewing baguette with Camembert. Until the next act of terror.
The author is the senior military analyst for Israel’s Channel 10
*In Hebrew sounds more like ‘war room for intelligence and thwarting’
Original Hebrew article: