Why we should expect further attacks after the slaughter in Nice
Annihilation. This is the sensation today on 15 July 2016 following the latest attack in France. A vile and symbolic massacre, a barbaric act striking predictably at the soft targets that for some time US intelligence has identified as the latest objectives of Islamic State terrorism. Let’s not kid ourselves; this will not be the last attack, unless some decisions, hitherto considered too unpopular, are taken.
- Friday, 15 July 2016
Fear. We are all afraid. You can see it, you can feel it, and you can sense it from people’s glances and from their behaviour. If the aim was to change our lives, they have succeeded and some. On a personal level, it affects my own way of life. Every time I pass through an airport, be it in Washington or Reykjavik, I always try to get through the security checks as quickly as possible. I also avoid the airports in Europe’s largest capital cities. The same is true for train stations, which are generally less closely guarded. I try to arrive at the last minute, even risking missing my train. I avoid taking the underground. If possible, I walk. I know that such behaviour is stupid, and sometimes remind myself of this when I consider that there’s a greater probability of being killed crossing the road, but it is a kind of conditioned reflex. It happens to all of us. We have all modified our habits. We repeat to ourselves that our lives must go on, in a mantra in which we have little faith, but it is what we have to do: live with the fear, the fear created by terror. Many of us have had to live with it and we will have to live with it still for a long time. There’s no avoiding it, unless, of course, we decide to move to Alaska.
War, a word that is being increasingly used to describe the scenario. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls used it, as have many international observers. The president of COPASIR, Giacomo Stucchi, has not ruled out the introduction of a special system in Italy, involving armed forces on the streets of the peninsular in order to make people feel safer. But as we have already highlighted many times in these pages, the real war is within Islamic radicalism. IS and Al-Qaeda continue to fight it out for supremacy. Europe is the preferred battleground, so vulnerable because it is open to integration and so symbolic too.
Hate. Let’s count the dead and let’s cry for them. Let’s be alert but let’s not forget that fear is just one side of the coin. The other is hatred of those who are different, in this case, Muslims. Glancing through social media, from Facebook to Twitter, in recent hours has been chilling. The rage has been overwhelming and even moderates have been spewing bile. This is what both IS and Al-Qaeda want: to bring about a clash of religions, cultivating this idea in the minds of Europeans by instigating attacks of great cruelty. Obscurantism, social conflict, clashes between faiths and cultures risk ushering in a new dark age.
Expectation. We must expect further attacks. There’s no point ducking the issue. British and US intelligence services had warned European governments about the latest tactics of IS. The sensitive targets are many, too many. From lorries such as that used in Nice to fuel tankers, to non-conventional weapons, the final evolution prior to a conflict with IS probably on a global scale.
Fatigue. Yes, we are all tired. I am tired of writing these words and you are tired of reading them. I wrote similar ones on 23 March following the attacks in Brussels. Just as I wrote at that time, it is still necessary to intensify the relationships between the different national intelligence agencies in order to improve the sharing of relevant information. We must also take into account that a scenario of zero risk does not exist and will not exist. The soft targets are, and will remain, vulnerable at least unless huge financial resources are deployed and significant civil liberties sacrificed. Not everybody is willing for this to happen. But together, through intelligence work, it is necessary to do something that has not been done so far. It is necessary to cut off the funding for IS and Al-Qaeda. Can this be done? Yes, because it has been evident since 2013 that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been flirting with IS more or less indirectly. Reports from RAND and the Combatting Terrorism Centre (CTC) at West Point have openly described how IS is financed.
In May CTC published an analysis of how Islamic State raises funds through micro-financing techniques involving foreign fighters in the European Union (https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/microfinancing-the-caliphate-how-the-islamic-state-is-unlocking-the-assets-of-european-recruits). The names are known, as are the methods. Too little is being done: ignoring these channels and some of the Gulf countries’ ties to terrorism means waiting helplessly for the next attack to take place, just as we have done before.