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ISIS Targets Distant Land for the First Time

November 19, 2015

The terrorist attacks that took place on Friday, November 13, were the worst that France has faced on its home soil since World War II. They demonstrate ISIS’ shift in strategy towards inflicting terror on foreign land and opens up the door for additional attacks in the West. European countries and the US are working towards intensifying air strikes in Syria and Iraq, while questions over border controls are given ‘fresh fuel’.[1]

The scene outside a Parisian restaurant in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attack<strong></strong>s
The scene outside a Parisian restaurant in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks. Source: Philippe Wojazer, Reuters.

The Fight Against ISIS

Following the bombings in Beirut, Lebanon last week, ISIS carried out another strike in Paris, slaughtering more than 125 people around various public venues in the city. France was targeted due to its strong involvement in US-led airstrikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. ISIS claimed responsibility for this terrorist attack and claimed that this was “only the beginning of the storm” for subsequent attacks in the West.[2] This appears to be the first time ISIS has engaged in a centrally planned campaign of terrorism on a distant territory.[3] A terrorist specialist at the University of Toulouse recently stated, “There is a radical change of perception by the terrorists that they can now act in Paris just as they act in Syria or Baghdad.”[4] Consequently, the US is coordinating with France to intensify air strikes in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State.[5] On Sunday, November 15 at the G20 summit, Obama vowed to increase military strikes in the Middle East to prevent another attack like this from reoccurring.[6] He stated, “We will redouble our efforts, working with other members of the coalition, to bring about a peaceful transition in Syria and to eliminate Daesh as a force that can create so much pain and suffering for people in Paris, in Ankara, and in other parts of the globe.”[7] Obama is trying to rally up as much military support as possible to address the ISIS threat. He recently met with Putin, and has been speaking to other European and Middle Eastern leaders, such as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, to encourage them to commit more militarily. Furthermore, a British intervention in Syria is now more likely. There will be enough Labor MPs who support intervention, compensating for the Conservative MPs who are against it. 

There is no doubt that the battle against ISIS will be long. They are an effective, well-organized propaganda machine whose mastery of media has enabled them to appeal to disaffected Muslim youths around the world. As Roger Cohen states, ISIS’ “medievalist literalism and technological prowess has produced a fanatical army of borderless appeal.”[8] However, due to the increased fear generated in leaders around the world, the fight against ISIS will intensify and there is no doubt that ISIS is far from insuperable in military terms.[9]

Effect on Immigration Laws

Last Friday’s attacks will exacerbate the current challenges that Europe faces with the refugee crisis. The issue is particularly serious in Germany where Merkel is already receiving a lot of criticism towards her liberal refugee policy. While the attack is unlikely to drastically stir Merkel’s refugee policy, she will have to deal more seriously with the balancing act of maintaining open borders while preserving the new national security dimension.

As expected, Central and Eastern European countries are taking advantage of the Paris attack to warn that migrants pose security risks; countries such as Poland and Slovakia plan to further limit refugee flows and to reconsider the EU’s open borders policy.[10] It was, in fact, the Charlie Hebdo massacre earlier this year that led to Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban launching a zero-tolerance campaign against immigration.

There are others, however, that disagree with this approach. Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, rebuked such statements connecting asylum seekers to outlaws and terrorists.[11] At the G20 summit he said, “We should not mix the different categories of people coming to Europe. The one responsible for the attacks in Paris… is a criminal and not a refugee and not an asylum-seeker.”[12]

French Elections 

President Hollande is already fairly unpopular in France, but Friday’s carnage singled him out perhaps more than anyone else.[13] The attackers declared Hollande’s name when they stormed the Bataclan rock concert, placing the blame on him for the attack. In terms of the upcoming elections, Hollande’s position will become increasingly vulnerable and French citizens will begin to doubt his ability to maintain their safety.[14]

 Former President Nicholas Sarkozy has already used this opportunity to say that Hollande’s foreign and domestic policies are not rising to the challenge of dealing with homegrown terrorism. However, despite calls for unity, the center-right party will end up becoming more divided as Juppe and Sarkozy face increased tension in the run up to the election.

 Similarly, Marine Le Pen utilized the terrorist attack to wage further criticisms against Hollande. She stated that the measures he has taken thus far have been insufficient and she expressed the need for a stronger stance against the presence of extremist Muslims on French soil.[15] Although it is still very unlikely she is elected the President of France, she could claim over 30% of the vote in regional elections.


References:

  [1] Spiegel, Peter, “Paris attacks spur fresh calls for new EU border controls,” FT, Nov 2015.

  [2] Spiegel, Peter, “Paris attacks spur fresh calls for new EU border controls,” FT, Nov 2015

  [3]  Ibid.

  [4]  Ibid.

  [5] Rubin, J. Alissa, “Paris Gunmen Single Out François Hollande, and Leave Him With Few Palatable Responses,” New York Times, Nov 2015

  [6] Ibid.

  [7]  Ibid.

  [8]  Editorial Board, “Terror in Paris”, New York Times, Nov 2015

  [9]  Schmitt, Eric and Kirkpatrick, D. David, “Strategy Shift for ISIS: Inflicting Terror in Distant Lands,” New York Times, Nov 2015

  [10] Ibid.

  [11] Afanasieva, Dasha, “U.S. to work with France to intensify air strikes in Syria, Iraq: Rhodes,” Reuters, Nov 2015

  [12] Spetalnick, Matt and Dolan, David, “At G20, Obama vows renewed effort to eliminate Islamic State,” Reuters, Nov 2015

  [13] Ibid.

  [14] Cohen, Roger, “To Save Paris, Defeat ISIS,” New York Times, Nov 2015

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