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There was no “Intelligence Failure” in Paris

January 10, 2015

The smoke has barely cleared from the fifty-four hours of terror around Paris that captured the horrified attention of the world. The seventeen victims are journalists, police officers, average people shopping at a Jewish grocery. One terrorist remains at large at this hour, while three are dead, including the Kouachi brothers who were the centerpiece of this murderous mayhem.

That these self-styled mujahidin, native born French citizens all, went out in a blaze of glory was easily predictable — indeed I did predict it on the day this story broke, when I also pointed out that murdering “those who insult the Prophet” isn’t exactly news in Europe, while jihadists returning home from foreign wars to cause war in France in the name of Islam … well, that’s been going on for nearly twenty years, when the heavily armed Roubaix Gang went down shooting just as this new cadre of killers has just done.

That something like what has just happened was inevitable in France also did not require clairvoyance, and back in June, after Mehdi Nemmouche murdered three innocents in Brussels, I told you that more domestic terrorism was coming. Despite the fact that Nemmouche was a known radical who had spent over a year in Syria, waging jihad, and French intelligence had a thick file on him, Paris, which is simply overwhelmed by the number of potential terrorists now, lost track of the killer. As I stated a few months ago:

If French intelligence and police can lose track of a high-interest possible terrorist even when allies are helping, one has to wonder how much more terrorism is coming. It’s clear that Paris is simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of its citizens going to Syria and returning home even more radical. In response to the failure of France’s counterterrorism efforts yet again, emulating the Merah case, Bernard Squarcini, the former DCRI director, demanded “ambitious reforms” of the intelligence system to meet this rising threat, adding that “the umpteenth intelligence reform led by [Interior Minister] Manuel Valls has clearly changed nothing, since there are still some glaring shortcomings in the detection of jihadis.” There is not much time left to repair the system. Three dead in Brussels ought to be enough. If major changes are not implemented soon, more innocent people will die.

The above-mentioned Valls, now France’s prime minister, surveying the latest outburst of savagery in Paris, has told the public of “a clear failing” with “cracks” in the security apparatus. This, however, is one of those phrases tossed off by worried politicians seeking to shift blame, and is essentially meaningless.

Many are now asking how France, which is no slouch in the intelligence game, possessing competent security services and police, could have “missed” this monstrosity. The answer to that question will be unedifying to the public, which has been conditioned to expect magical performance from spies and cops, who are mere mortals overburdened by potential threats. What happened in the Nemmouche case should illustrate how imperfect French intelligence is on counterterrorism, despite its solid HUMINT, SIGINT, and collaboration with partners:

On his return, the DGSE [General Directorate of External Security, i.e. French foreign intelligence] which is supposed to track our French jihadis in Syria, apparently missed him. It was German customs that detected him in March 2013, intrigued by his meandering route home, via Malaysia, Bangkok, and Istanbul. Germany reported his crossing to Paris, and there, officially, the DCRI [Central Directorate of Domestic Intelligence, i.e. French domestic intelligence], listed him as someone that should be kept under surveillance. In other words a suspect recorded on a so-called “S” file. From March to May 30, the day of his chance arrest, so for over two months, Nemmouche completely disappeared off the radar.  Meanwhile he is suspected of having perpetrated the shooting in Brussels on May 24.

The case of Mohammed Merah, the killer of seven innocents, four of them Jewish children, in the south of France in March 2012 — before he, too, went down amid shouts of jihad — provided an unheeded warning of sorts, since it turned out that French intelligence had been a good deal more informed about the twenty-three year-old jihadist than they let on at first. His travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan got Merah branded a “special target” by the secret services, but they lost track of him too.

By the fall of 2013, French intelligence was warning the public that the staggering and unprecedented numbers of French nationals traveling to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad, most of whom were likely to return home angrier and more lethal, represented a serious threat that the secret services were hard-pressed to counter, thanks to inadequate resources.

By the late summer of 2014, it was apparent that French intelligence was simply overwhelmed by the numbers of potential terrorist targets — furious young men (and women) eager to wage jihad at home. As a seasoned counterterrorism magistrate complained, French intelligence and police were finding themselves “disarmed” in the face of this new threat, while the lack of legal “teeth” meant that there was not much that the secret services could actually do about the many potential terrorists in the country. Likely trouble-makers could be arrested upon returning from jihad abroad, but they could not be kept in custody for long, and many were being released angrier than they were before, creating an explosive situation.

That, exactly, is the rub. France’s intelligence apparatus is good at what they do. The Kouachi brothers were on relevant watch-lists, their files with the secret services were surely thick and well annotated, and I have no doubt that many Western intelligence services, at some point, had tracked their goings and doings to some extent — and it’s likely much of that information was shared with foreign partners, as it’s supposed to be.

In terms of profile, these jihadist murderers fit it perfectly, to an almost comical extent: angry young losers, drug users with criminal records, coming from broken families, known unpleasantly in their community as violent troublemakers. There was even the obligatory aspiring rap artist cliche. These are essentially spree killers seeking an ideology to justify their murderous urges, and in Salafi jihadism they found it: that being the hate-based worldview of choice for many would-be terrorists these days, anywhere. When travel to foreign jihad was added to the Kouachi dossier, the French intelligence services had something to work with, but not enough to keep them off the streets for long. It was inevitable that the security apparatus — which can only track so many targets in “real time” or something close to it, and resources are always finite — placed other, more dangerous-looking jihadists higher on the list to be watched than the Paris killers.

That was a mistake, albeit one that every security service makes all the time; only on rare occasion are the consequences of such routine bad calls public and horrific. As a former spook myself, I am sympathetic to those who have to make tough calls based on invariably imperfect information. Two key points must be made. First, movies and the Snowden Operation, both of which are based in lies and fantasy, have created the impression that Western intelligence enacts 24/7 or “total” surveillance with ease. This is simply not true. Even with excellent SIGINT, as France possesses, all the information in the world — which, let it be remembered, must be analyzed by someone, looking for nuggets amid countless hours of mundane conversation by low-IQ jihadists about TV, rap artists, and problems with parents and girlfriends — only matters when action can be taken.

I suspect that the Paris outrage will turn out a lot like the 9/11 debacle in the United States, said to be an “intelligence failure” when it was really nothing of the sort. Oh, there were missed pieces of the puzzle, to be sure, dots not connected as the 9/11 Commission investigators so liked to put it, but the painful reality is that, in the run-up to what al-Qa’ida called its Planes Operation, U.S. intelligence worked pretty much as it was supposed to under the legal norms established in the 1970’s. There was only as much information sharing as the law allowed, and besides what would the FBI actually have done anyway?

I am confident that what French intelligence knew about the Kouachi brothers and their friends in the months and years before they took Paris by storm will shock the innocent and uninformed, as it will paint them correctly as violent cretins with murder on their warped minds. But that contingent is not as small in France as the public would like to think and French security simply didn’t know what to do with them. To be absolutely clear: What now looks like the obvious choice — arrest them and keep them off the streets — was never a realistic option.

To provide a relevant example, a few years ago I was discussing these sorts of things with intelligence officials from a friendly Muslim country, which like all of them possesses an extremism problem. Their solution is a deradicalization program to divert would-be troublemakers back to some sort of normal life before they kill. I am skeptical of all such deradicalization programs, since most sound too good to be true, but I listened carefully to the details of this rather well-thought out initiative.

In the first place, these spooks don’t have to worry much about civil liberties, so they track online activities carefully, and they have all potentially worrisome mosques wired too. Hence they find young men, usually maladjusted late teenagers, talking like potential jihadists and they arrest them. They are packed off to a tennis prison, a pleasant place without high walls, where for several months they get counseling from imams who gently explain that Islam is not about decapitating “apostates,” that real Muslims should improve spiritually, and they need to be law-abiding citizens. The young men receive vocational training and career counseling, plus help with job placement, with the aim of returning them soon to a normal life.

After a few months of this program, most of the inmates are released; nearly ninety percent after six months of deradicalization are assessed as fit to rejoin society. The spies track them, and at a year after release, nearly ninety percent of the “graduates” are considered to be no sort of threat. These are very impressive numbers, so, being my skeptical self, I asked the obvious question: “What about the ones who don’t deradicalize?”

Without batting an eye, the senior intelligence official responded, “Oh, we just keep them.”

There it is: would-be jihadists considered a threat to the public are kept in custody until they “get better” or forever, whichever comes first. This is a wise response, in my view, but let’s be honest here, it’s also nothing any Western law-based democracy is going to enact in 2015.

Western intelligence services since 9/11 have become very proficient at counterterrorism, with impressive collaboration in all disciplines, and France’s services rank among the best anywhere. If there was an “intelligence failure” here, and we can be sure that embarrassed Paris politicos will be looking for one, it was small-scale. The real problem is that French politicians, as in all Western countries, have absolutely no idea what to do with the burgeoning numbers of aspiring jihadist killers in their midst.

That is a political, not security, issue, that no amount of funds or personnel devoted to intelligence work can ameliorate. Besides, I sense no desire for France to become an East German-like counterintelligence state where one-third of the population is secretly reporting on the other two-thirds, including friends and family, to the secret police. Hence a political solution is required to Europe’s mounting crisis with homegrown Islamism, since there is no security solution at hand, and that knotty issue will be the subject of my next commentary.

 

 

44 Comments
  1. Martin Sattler permalink

    “The real problem is that French politicians, as in all Western countries, have absolutely no idea what to do with the burgeoning numbers of aspiring jihadist killers in their midst.” Well, maybe but if these politicians would listen to their own people, they might get some ideas. For starters, the French could dramatically increase the prison terms for these extremists, in line with those found in the US. Then, the no-go zones and the capitulationist mind-set they represent could become go zones. And, maybe the police need better weapons than night sticks.

    And when you write about all Western countries, you also mean the US where the current Admin has trouble with Gitmo but no problem with lethal drones; has trouble associating the two words “Islamic” and “terrorism”; and cannot associate the open borders in the south with infiltration routes for terrorists. The pressure on our intel and law enforcement agencies must be immense in the face of such politically-correct squeamishness.

  2. Interesting Algierian connection probably covering Boumedienne and Coulibaly.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11335132/Paris-Charlie-Hebdo-attack-how-police-finally-closed-in-on-the-killers.html

    Last paragraph shows note from Algieria on 6 Jan

  3. davidbfpo permalink

    John,

    It is far too early to conclude what the French agencies did or did not. We an make observations and you are better qualified than others to do so.

    Somehow I do not expect the French state to be as open as the USA in dissecting publicly what happened.

    There is value in looking at the British experience, regarding the duo who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby @ Woolwich – they too were known to the agencies. The official review by the Parliamentary Intelligence & Security Committee when fulyl read revealed a record of missed opportunities and bureaucratic incompetence – best shown in this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11254324/Lee-Rigby-report-the-missed-opportunities.html

    Yes we face a knotty problem with ‘aspiring jihadist killers’ and more generally those who today can kill many with so little, as school shootings alas illustrate in the USA for example.

    We know – from press reports here – that amongst the hundreds who have gone to Syria there are a good number who have “seen the light” and seek to return home to the UK for example. ICSR @ Kings College London reported in 2014 at least three hundred had returned to the UK. How many of them have been repulsed by what they saw and no longer are ‘aspiring jihadist killers’? What better antidote to aspirations than a veteran speaking?

    Here is a surprise for those who watch the violent jihad; it is a comment on Facebook after the Peshawar Army School attack (where 132 pupils were killed, in December 2014):

    ‘It is time to stop this cycle of uncontrolled rage and internecine violence that will only drive us to the pits of hell. Incessant calls for revenge each time need to be tempered with reflections on the consequences of what that means. There are no winners in this’.

    Who was this? Moazzam Begg a man with a long history of being a radical and suspected by many to have been more active. Try Wiki for some background: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moazzam_Begg

    There is more on his FB comment on his local newspaper: http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/news/regional-affairs/guantanamo-bay-detainee-moazzam-begg-8344595

    • Thanks. 1. FR intel is pretty tight-lipped but I have a pretty good idea, based on following many FR CT cases and my friends in Paris. 2. 5-10% percent of returning muj getting into terrorism at home, directly, is a pretty consistent trend going back to Bosnia 20 years ago.

  4. AIM9 permalink

    “I am skeptical of all such deradicalization programs … “

    Fairly early XXCommittee, I dipped into your archives seeking a specific post. That it turned out to so *closely fit* what we’ve “come to know[?]” this week … well, allow me just to say I gave you all the credit where any hint of prescience was concerned.

    (Figuring if you XXCommittee, were asked you’d reply rhetorically something like, “Haven’t any of you been paying attention?”)

    ____________

    “For starters, the French could dramatically increase the prison terms for these extremists, in line with those found in the US.”

    Yes Mr. Sattler, I suppose the French could do that.

    https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/lifg-revisions-posing-critical-challenge-to-al-qaida

  5. Jack permalink

    Reblogged this on The Missal.

  6. There are always 2 ways. One – you reduce the potential for getting terrorists. Two – you go after the clients, which are interested in radical environments.

    The second point will be critical amongst the corrupt elites in France. So the problems in Germany around security is best shown with the troubles around the Verfassungsschutz (constitutional service of security), which can’t never work effectively, while sabotaged from political sites, which have also connected tight bonds with Moscow, which means in fact an official infiltration of the whole society.

    But it’s clear, that the core, of the current aggressions, lies in the beginning of the banking regulations from 2008. Without the banking regulations you hadn’t the fight in Ukraine. Which is for me, as a Ukrainian, rather a aching fact from a certain point of view.

  7. Chris G permalink

    I wonder if Western nations could start revoking citizenships of jihadists by classifying them as having joined a foreign military? If their passport is no longer valid it would make reentry and starting trouble in their home countries much more difficult.

    • All for it

      • YAG permalink

        Really? I mean, wasn’t the other (main) aim of deradicalization programs to avoid further radicalization, not so much of locals not yet gone to jihadi conflict lands, but of the bad guys who’d already gone and fought? Not letting the witch’s cauldron brew any longer, nor the bad guys getting worse? I was under the impression that it was a notable part of the Saudi thinking on ‘deradicalization’ after ’05.
        Conversely, wouldn’t that be a way to make the pill easier to swallow for Western democracies? As in: ‘dear disillusionned national jihadis, you’re welcome to come back now that you mostly recanted -so you say, right?-, but you’re gonna be nice kids and go to unboot and debuff camps, and thank the nurse who’s pinning a tracker on you.’ You could spin that as disease control rather than infrigement on civil liberties. Isn’t that what the Danes are doing (not the tracker part)? Given their per capita jihadi rate, I can’t think they didn’t carefully weigh pros and cons.
        Anyway, eager to read your next post.

      • Merci! Yes, the Danes are trying something rather like that,with a much smaller problem set…let’s see if it works!

  8. Reblogged this on mrmeangenes and commented:
    I’m a bit confused : Wasn’t there a prior XX post suggesting there HAD been an intelligence failure ?
    Did I mis-read ?

    • No doubt there were small intel failures here — issue is how much does it matter compared to far greater political failures: that is the rel issue at hand, IMO.

  9. what if there was an academic metric or classification device like that used for mental disorders to quantify and qualify propensities for terrorist related violence. There’s legal precedent for arresting and then keeping an arrested suspect if proven psychologically unstable. A law could be passed allowing for intelligence and/or police forces to make more permanent accommodations based on psychiatric profiles assessed by established civil courts. This seems to me to be a fancier more long winded version of the less legally-bound society mentioned above but it also sounds like a decent solution. All we need now is consensus. sigh.

  10. S Roche permalink

    Internment. During times of war it is the normal practice in the West to intern suspected supporters of the enemy for the duration.

  11. Indonesia seems to have more success in prevention and de-radicalisation. Is it because they lock them up? http://khabarsoutheastasia.com/en_GB/articles/apwi/articles/features/2014/08/12/feature-01

  12. But as you once said, “What if everything you know about terrorism is wrong”?
    Was one of them a French Asset?
    https://petedavo.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/what-if-everything-you-know-about-terrorism-is-wrong/

  13. DMonigatti permalink

    “There was no “Intelligence Failure” in Paris”

    Yes, but > Also Saturday, L’Express magazine reported that the Kouachi brothers had been under watch by the French, but despite red flags, authorities lost interest in them.

    So, that can be!

    Citizen must work with police especially if treated under pressure from others!
    Close to the apartment of the brothers, they terrorized the others there!
    > 1th people need to go to Police if serious doubt!

  14. want2no permalink

    “But that contingent is not as small in France as the public would like to think and French security simply didn’t know what to do with them.”

    We often hear that extremists are a tiny minority of France’s Muslim population. I can accept that, but it offers little comfort. Based on recent population estimates, France has nearly 5 million Muslims. If we assume that 95% of them are law abiding and non-extremist, that leaves a pool of potentially 250,000 from which extremists might recruit. This represents a significant challenge for France, for the West and for the non-extremist majority of French Muslims.

    “No doubt there were small intel failures here — issue is how much does it matter compared to far greater political failures: that is the rel issue at hand, IMO.”

    For many years, it seems that French policy on this was based on two objectives–pursue policies–in France and in the middle east, that pacified France’s Muslims while, from a domestic standpoint, ignoring them as much as possible. One has can go back to the 1980’s and 90’s to find examples of how extremist attacks in Paris succeeded in forcing France to change or reversed a number of its specific policies. Only in the post 9-11 period has the pacify/ignore policy begun to fall apart–in France and in Europe as a whole.

  15. Rose Marie Varga permalink

    Well written and quite a few salient points. I do happen to believe that a robust “re-education” (here I am referring to a more standardized version of literature that is currently available” along with vocational training can effect change in various countries. Providing alternatives in terms of possibilities and learning. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching comparative Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Witnessing the sheer amount of change that occurred in a short 12 weeks was amazing. My university also offered “Eastern religions” and comparative mythology. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding and qualified instructors these programs have been cut.

  16. Andraz permalink

    Thanks for the informative article. I would like to add an observation and ask you one question.
    The unsuccessful cases from the deradicalization program might end up on an asylum ticket in Europe as victims of oppression in their home countries (e.g. KSA, Egypt – I think they both have such programs) thus receiving a chance to continue their work, and – what is even worse – doing it undisturbed due to the pervasive political correctness where policies of ‘positive discrimination’ of certain groups overrides the equality of the rule of law, meaning the lenient reaction of politicians and authorities in cases when a favourable political minority does it. This creates two problems in Europe, the jihadi threat and the extreme political threat of various ‘Le Pens’ who win votes when people feel they have nowhere else to turn to, after mainstream politics fails to address them – how do you think an average French felt when two cars rammed into the crowds during Christmas however the politicians treated it as a mild dispute between two onion sellers? As you have been mentioning Europe will have to tackle both problems.
    I would be very glad for your opinion on this question: we talk about returning jihadis from Syria but how widespread do you think is the threat of quiet groups who for now have been dissuaded from coming out openly living their ordinary lives inconspicuously however indoctrinated through various sources in their micro-communities considering there are areas in the EU cities where even police rarely enters. Syrian fighters are probably easier to control with their boasting around but a few quiet Ahmeds rather less so. To what extent do you think this might represent a danger since even half a percent of French minority would mean a huge number, just remember the public school cases in Britain, sharia policing examples, no-go zones, and a new phenomena of the last year – open salafi marches.

    Thank you. With regards.

    Andraz

    • Lot to chew on there; briefly: there already have been asylum seekers to EU claiming “oppression” from home country derad programs, it’s happening. Muj returning from Syria are a very serious threat, but only one among many. At least they can be tracked to an extent. Others, less visible, worry me greatly.

  17. Alex permalink

    I’m not sure what Dr. Schindler thinks of Yossef Bodansky (not sure what I think either–I have read most of his books attentively, but I think he is a Putin-flak), but he provides an interesting tidbit in his article about the Cgarlie Hebdo massacre: the Mayor of Paris in April of 2014 approved plans to finance a Muslim Brotherhood mosque as the largest mosque in Europe:
    http://www..com/2015/01/09/special-report-ready-not-paris-jihad-begun-will-widen/

  18. Ryan permalink

    9/11 was a sharing failure.

    We were not inundated with threats, we just didn’t share.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfreda_Frances_Bikowsky#Blocking_intelligence_sharing_before_September_11.2C_2001

  19. jetstream permalink

    By Walid Shoebat (Shoebat Exclusive):
    The Muslim Terrorists Who Murdered 12 In France Were Major Hired Assassins Trained By ISIS And Belonged To A Ring That Assassinated Major Politicians

    http://shoebat.com/2015/01/08/just-came-muslim-terrorists-murdered-12-france-major-hired-assassins-trained-isis-belonged-ring-assassinated-major-politicians/

  20. Christopher permalink

    Thank you for your coverage on these tragic events.

    It is really the key question how Western societies can deal with “suspect terrorists”.

    You cant lock them away in a modern democracy and you cant watch a lot of them 24/7(there are a very few public cases in Germany where this is done, not on terrorist suspects, but on former inmates with a sexual abuse background. And these cases already show that the police is totally overburdened and not fit for this – no police bashing here, they are just underfunded and understaffed, but that is a different topic).

    From my view the revocation of travel documents is a first step forward and already under discussion in Germany (http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/innenminister-treffen-radikalen-islamisten-soll-ausweis-entzogen-werden-1.2178742). Should be an easy first step to sort out the low-motivated “jihadist tourists” and to free the resources for the real bad guys (who will try to travel anyway).

  21. MarqueG permalink

    Not to quibble, but it sounds to me as if you’re not saying that “intelligence failure” wasn’t the problem, but that the “intelligence failure” instant analysis is for all intents and purposes useless. It’s a more specific variant of some random post hoc review committee determining that the blame for a disaster was “human error.” Certainly the details of the review provide some useful suggestions for changing processes and procedures, but it isn’t as destined to succeed in a bureaucracy as it is in industrial manufacturing processes, such as after an airline disaster deemed to have been caused by a maintenance, manufacturing, or engineering mistake.

    At any rate, your review of Middle Eastern “deradicalization” programs is interesting. I had read of their weaknesses in the past, but hadn’t considered the extent of their limited applicability in our Western systems of laws designed to protect civil liberties. It sounds almost like we need some sort of GTMO that operates just beyond those protections if we want to keep the most extreme option open for the most extreme perps.

    As such “deradicalization” programs operate under systems of despotism, it raises the question of how much those programs might be used to “deradicalize” these “disgruntled youths” against their own government, while (rather neurotically) maintaining the focus of this suicidal radicalism against the enemies of the despotic state. More specifically, the Pakistani intelligence agencies might want to reform their radicals not to murder indiscriminately in Pakistan, but murdering Indian Buddhists in India is perfectly okay. Similarly, I’m sure Tehran works to “deradicalize” Iranian holy warriors who might want to rampage indiscriminately at home, but to keep their radicalism violently inflamed against American and Israeli crusaders and infidels. The concept of “deradicalization” is probably based on the perceived interests of the given despotic state that operates without civil liberties protections and with, uh, let’s call it “situational” rule of law.

    • The failure here is political, not security-related, in its essentials and essence.

  22. uwe permalink

    The German LEO union estimates the number of officers needed for full time surveillance of one suspect at 25 officers. The Ministery of the Interior has about 200 hardcore salafis on its watchlist. That means that together with their first level contacts there are 1000 people to watch. So, we would at least need 25 K officers to do that and not the few hundred BfV and Police actually have. And never mind the future returnees from Syria who would require additional staff. So surveillance of known potential offenders is a bit lacking, but the minister said that the BMI has a plan for the now heigthened state of alert. First step of this plan seems to be to find out where the known suspects actually are. What they will do with this information I do not understand since they obviously lack the ressources to do much else. But at least they arrested some guy returning from Syria. So our security services seem to be in control of this or so the minister implies. But wait, the information leading to this arrest came from -you guessed it – a Partnerdienst, a foreign intelligence agency. To be more precise an American agency which was not all to popular here during the last year. And now the minister asks for improvements in international cooperations especially between the intelligence services. Embarrassing.

  23. My personal view, increasingly, is that unless the West and moderate Arab States re-look at the whole strategy around tackling radical Islamic/ religious fundamentalism, this is going to be an insolvable problem (Communism & Socialism were conventional challenges; radical Islam is an assymetric challenge that’s leader & boundaryless for now); infact it will get worse. So far we’ve been exposed to suicide bombings, gun attacks & the like; the inevitability of the use of WMD’s and the like is not far-fetched & a constant wish.

    I therefore believe that to truly tackle this menace, shocking as it may sound, radical groups are going to have to be talked to and engaged and possibly accommodated somehow in the regions where they proliferate the most (not at home in the West obviously). It may even have to be a co-existence because there just simply isn’t any military or intelligence solution. Infact nations are currently spending billions on intelligence and weaponry to swat flies that are not easy to find or see. And, this accommodation has to start at home where the problems are- Syria, Iraq, etc, not in the West. The intelligence and political pillars of the State could well be used to do this as a new strategic direction to counteracting radical religious behaviour. When you do look at the history of radicalism (whether political, rebel, religious), there has never been a situation where this was defeated on the battle-field through a conventional or assymetrical method, rather positive outcomes have always tended to have been through recognised accommodation, a political settlement or some form of “talk”, even if through military means that may have weakened the sides to talk. Even the most radical or pariah regimes and entities were talked to and this now simply has to be the case. For instance, could IS be engaged through Arab States to understand what they truly want? If it is a religious state they are looking at, is this option implausible? Politics and religion are intertwined in several states including England, Saudi Arabia, even UAE, Morocco, etc. How would it then be structured? What would be the checks and balances that are considered so that once you have a “state” you don’t export the ideology? What kind of “idealogy” is acceptable as part of a state? What kind of checks to limit the “Kouachi brothers/ Coulibaly” from going back to the West to wreck havoc? What dire consequences for those States if the “Kouachi brothers/ Coulibaly” types do leave their “states” and attack? Do they have a “leader”, several, or they rally around a common cause? Who feeds them with weapons, ideaology, commonality, tactics, name it? Finally what do you do with these States that actually perpetuate these groups into proliferating (Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, etc, etc)?, ETC, ETC. One of the outcomes from the post-Iraq error was how everyone was wired pre-Iraq to a “group-think” culture that fed into what eventually happened in Iraq, could there perhaps be a new way of tackle this ever-growing, problematic monkey that doesn’t seem to be going away but rather seems to be becoming ever more entrenched & harder to spot & deal with?

    Of course all said and done, it’s easier said than done, but would these radical groups even want to talk or consider the thought of talking to so-called “infidels”? Noone really has that answer except themselves. This is the key that needs to be discovered and then solved. This is possibly where intelligence agencies and governments could well use their ingenuity to discover this piece of the unanswered puzzle.

    Infact the West and moderate States have nothing to do with radicalising the youth/ feeding religious extremism, it is the States from where they originate that are weak and disenfranchise large sections of their poulations. I also believe it’s a blatant excuse to keep blaming Western policies for feeding radicalism; that’s very far from the truth given that the West, in as much as it does engage in geo-politics, does more to promote and build up States into strong pillars than it does disenfranchise them since time-immemorial (World War 2 is an example of nations coming to the aid of others at great cost, yet they could have sat out), therefore another area that needs to be deliberately improved and is a strategic opportunity is in the communications and public diplomacy arena (the information war). The information war’s currently being perceptually won by radicalism & what it stands for, which is a pity.

    Finally, last minute as it was planned, it was also quite unfortunate that at the Paris march, besides King Abdullah & Prime Minister Davutoglu who were in Western suits & didn’t really stand out, there was no other visible Arab leader in a Jalabiya & Kafiyah as these would have been very symbolic signals to the world (and their own streets) that everyone stands for moderate religious beliefs, especially Islam a religion of peace. The Arab street is influenced alot when there leaders are seen taking a stand for moderation.

  24. c6543 permalink

    “The real problem is that French politicians, as in all Western countries, have absolutely no idea what to do with the burgeoning numbers of aspiring jihadist killers in their midst.”

    Yes, but *if* everyone can agree that the threat level is already too high, and if we can agree that this is an islamist problem, involving a share of the world’s muslim population, however small, then why do “our” mainstream politicians *insist* on their ludicrous policy of open borders, which statistically will ensure that the threat level only will increase? Why do many of them indeed try to label all opposition to this policy as “fascists”? Why promise to do “Whatever It Takes” to protect the Euro, but not doing anything at all to protect Europe?

    Why is our security of so little value?

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