Paris at Midnight: Attempt to push France out of anti ISIL coalition in Syria?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Update: Daesh (IS, ISIS, ISIL) has said they were behind the attack.

Paris was hit by at least two well-trained and -equipped terrorist cells in a coordinated attack on 6 or 7 soft targets on Friday night. The attack that took the most lives, over 120 according to a high French official, was the assault on the audience for a musical performance by the Eagles of Death Metal (not actually a death metal band) at the Bataclan concert hall. Four assailants shot down audience members with machine guns, then when police went in after midnight, three detonated their suicide bomb belts. A fourth was shot dead, but then when he fell, his bomb went off anyway. But the cowards also shot up a Cambodian restaurant, set off bombs outside a soccer stadium and committed carnage elsewhere.

Regular readers know that I grew up in part in France; I had a fellowship at the Nouvelle Sorbonne a couple of years ago in Paris, a city I absolutely adore, and this news hit me viscerally. I can only express my support and profound solidarity with the brave Parisians.

A radio and television professional who was at the Bataclan and survived reported “I clearly heard them say to the hostages, ‘It is [President Francois] Hollande’s fault, it is the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria.’ They also spoke of Iraq.”

If this report is accurate, then the attackers were likely members of, or sympathizers with Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, and against which France began flying missions in September. Another possible culprit is core al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates, such as the Support Front (al-Jabha al-Nusra) in Syria. The Support Front does not, however, have territory in Iraq, and France has not specifically targeted it in the west of Syria, as opposed to hitting ISIL in the east.

When I was in France in mid-October, I was told by a former diplomat that President Hollande had decided to begin flying missions against ISIL in Raqqa, Syria, last September because French intelligence had learned that ISIL was planning to hit France. It is estimated that there are some 3,000 radical French Muslims fighting in ISIL (though remember that this number is proportionally tiny, since there are on the order of 3 million French Muslims, some 5% of the population– and the majority of them is not religious).

This operation may, then, have been planned even before France was militarily involved in the campaign against ISIL in Syria, and the terrorists’ assertion that it was revenge for that intervention of the past two months has things backward.

The French air force has been inflicting substantial damage on ISIL in Raqqa and its hinterlands. On Tuesday, AFP reported that France launched a fourth wave of airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria, targeting the oil infrastructure that is a source of much of ISIL’s budget.

But AFP says, “The two previous waves targeted training camps for foreign jihadists who were suspected of preparing attacks in France. Hollande said on Thursday last week operations would be expanded to include “all those sites from which terrorists could threaten our territory”. The president also said France would deploy its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — the flagship of the French navy — to boost operations against IS in Syria and Iraq.”

So France tried to forestall an attack on French soil by ISIL from last September by disrupting its training camps and hoping to disrupt the planning and logistics. But if the plot were more advanced than French intelligence knew, and ISIL operatives were already in France and gathering up the arms, bombs and ammunition they needed for a terrorist strike, then bombing training camps in Syria would only have stiffened the terrorists’ resolve.

I underline that we don’t know who exactly ordered and carried out Friday’s attack. But the circumstantial evidence is that it was the work of, at the least, sympathizers with Daesh.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had told AFP Tuesday that the French military had intensified its bombing campaign against ISIL oil infrastructure. Le Drian said, “We struck again twice last night in the Deir Ezzor region, firstly on an oil distribution station and secondly on a gas separation plant.”

President Hollande closed French land borders, declared a state of emergency, and deployed 1500 troops in the streets of Paris. Schools and universities will be closed on Saturday, and all school field trips have been canceled. The Schengen rules allow member countries, who had removed visa requirements for each other, to reimpose border controls across the board in an emergency.

Some fear that these strikes will spell the end of Schengen open borders and will negatively affect the refugees that have come to Europe in the thousands recently.

The terrorists may have been attempting to replicate the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which also aimed at soft targets, and which convinced Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Likely, however, the perpetrators have stiffened the resolve of the French government to intervene even more robustly against Daesh. In 2013, [pdf] France sent in an expeditionary force to Mali, and stabilized that country. France also intervened in the Ivory Coast. Will it send in an expeditionary force, say a brigade of 3,000 men, to Eastern Syria?

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Related video:

Paris Attack | Bataclan Hostages Leave

50 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    A French Division in Syria? How on earth do they get out again?

    The really big danger in France is that savage police and military reaction in the banlieu kicks off open rebellion.

    Marine le Pen will have gained many followers overnight.

    • Hi, Frank. I didn’t say a division (25,000 troops)! I said an expeditionary force, maybe a brigade. Or maybe they will intensify aerial bombing.

      • This is what the Foreign Legion was created for. There are less than 8,000, with half stationed in France. With the exception of the Syrian Arab Army and Kurds, all limit attacks against ISIS to air power.

      • I don’t see how a French brigade gets to Eastern Syria. I don’t think Jordan is going to allow anyone to conduct a ground attack out of Jordan, and I know Erdogan won’t allow a ground attack out of Turkey. (Perhaps if the French wanted to attack Assad/fight the Russians or attack the Kurds, in which case, Erdogan would be happy to help.)

        So they’d have to go in through Iraq, which leaves them fighting in the north with the Kurds, or in the south (center) with the Shi’a. I don’t think that’s what Hollande’s going to aim for, unless he is very very dumb.

        Of course, I suppose the Russians might persuade Assad to allow the French to attack from his area of control, but the Americans are going to be freaking out about that. Not to mention Assad would be demanding additional help in his fight against al-Nusra and friends.

        A french brigade on the ground forming the spearhead around Sinjar would be a very helpful thing to have today, but the supply situation would be terrible.

        More combat aircraft they can do, I think.

        max
        [‘I don’t think the American scheme of sending in support troops to Anbar has been particularly useful. All the risks and costs, and none of the rewards.’]

      • Dear Professor Cole

        Ooops I was thinking of the size of a Marine Expeditionary Force. III MEF is 27,000 men link to iiimef.marines.mil

        Rupert Smith in his excellent book “The Utility of Force” tells us that the first thing you do when the politicians want to do something military is to identify how big the operation is. Is it a Brigade, Division or Corps operation?

        Once you know that you can start planning.

        Sending a small force into Syria against ISIS 30,000 men might just get bogged down and surrounded and would have difficulty in covering the geographic area with consequent Logistic Difficulties

        An airborne operation to seize Raqqa in a coup de main by a division might be doable. Hold until relieved by Syrian Army forces. Having air superiority means the assault will succeed.

        USAF and RUAF have Antonov and Gallaxy aircraft capable of lifting tanks that outgun ISIS tanks. Ilushin, Airbus and Boeing models can operate from improvised airfields

        These aircraft are capable of supplying a division in the field.

        A second operation to relieve the Garrison of Deir ez Zoar will trap ISIS between Syrian Army and Iraqi Army.

        The Saudis will go apeshit. Oh Good!

    • Useless to say I´m no military expert , but I am an economic one. Judging by the article on the costs of the US wars I dare say that France wont send a soldier to Syria, the cost is to high an the results doubtfull- Instead bombing ISIS economic base, camps, equipment barracks and tne sort to shreds ,even if there are unwanted casualties would be far cheaper . It all depends on the war lobby and its push on the french Gov . Anyway a bomb is cheaper than a dead soldier and at the present far more rewarding to the french public

    • If its not , its very near . It will change Europe´s minds towards the redugees , no matter how old are they. it wil close the East Mediterranean , Poland ,and the , the Czech and the Scandinavian are already anti inmigratión , Austria will join soon, Madame Merkel is overseeing her politics the UK will be pushed out of the EU, it would be a rarity if anyone tossed a coin to Greece. This would leave Italy and Spain to deal with them, and there´s all on the side of then floating a fleet to close the mare nostrum from N Africa

  2. When certain governments attempt to destabilize other governments they should expect blowback. Only fools and those in the corridors of powers are oblivious to this simple cause and effect relationship. Terrorism cannot be used selectively to pursue national interests.

  3. “Will it send in an expeditionary force, say a brigade of 3,000 men, to Eastern Syria?”
    France token attacks on terrorists could be the cause but France and England pushed to lift the EU wide arm embargo in Syria and Assad warned them back then. Using fanatics to reach political end has its problems as evident in Afghanistan destroyed civil society. Now France is to use a self inflected wound and invade Syria? Nuclear powered aircraft carrier? After the event of these last months, how do the coalition members even look each other in the face? That’s you France and Qatar and…

  4. I recommend the movie Battle of Algiers to anyone interested in learning more about the history of relations between France and Algeria.

    As if islamophobia in the US was not bad enough already, as a woman “visibly” Muslim I now fear for my life each day – in the US. Thank you Mr. Cole for being a voice of reason. Being asked to denounce this implies that we are somehow all collectively to blame- when in reality 99.99999999% want to live our lives in peace. We didn’t do anything to deserve this. Get to know your neighbors and the people you share this earth with. Live and let live.

    From an attorney.

  5. It was Hollande, Cameron and Obama who armed these terrorists in the first place. I can still see fool William Hague and Cameron going on march of triumph and glory and full of glee, to shake hands with the terrorists who had destroyed Libya and murdered Gadaffi with the arms and military assistance which we and the French supplied. While the Russians are dropping bombs on the terrorists in Syria, the Americans are dropping ever more arms and munitions for the (good) terrorists to use on the legitimate government of Assad. When the terrorists who the French have armed now turn on the French, its the innocent citizens who get it in the neck, where it should be those in the French government who started and fermented this madness in Syria and the middle East !

  6. Thank you ! Thank you America for the illegal invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, your continued Israel support, what ever their government inflict on Palestinians and for your general Middle East policy of regime change. Thank you for meddling in what doesn’t concern you : we are now ripping the fruits of your failed policy here in the EU ! Thank you again that you created a failed country in Iraq and destabilized Syria, Tunisia, Lybia etc.. Without that we won’t have the pleasure to enjoy both chilling terrorist actions and a huge refugee crisis. What we don’t own to our American ally !

    That kind of terrorist acts can be anything, not only Daesh or Al’Quaeda. It is a mouvance of several groups uses sharing common thoughts and anger deriving from all the harms that the West has done to the ME and North African populations. And the leading power behind most of these harms is the US. When some EU members tried to resist the push toward the Iraq invasion (France and Germany in particular), the US twisted their arms badly; lesson learned : they are now little poodles following the US policy. But at what cost ! and note that given our proximity, the costs are all for us.

    • This is a sad day in a series of sad days! While some or perhaps most of the blame goes to military solutions to deeper political problems(Afghanistan, Iraq, Granada, Vietnam, Korea, etc) spearheaded by the US for the past 3/4 century, it is simplistic to blame and quit instead of finding ways to prevent future such attacks. The deeper problems require deeper understanding, more devoted polity, less reactionary thinking, more compassion, less hatred, more dialogue, less violence, etc. If you look at the roots of the Paris attacks(based on what the witnesses have said so far), the sheer hate is palpable 4000 miles away! We have to ask ourselves how to change course in the US, in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia, etc: more tit for tat? Will that lower our risk?

    • Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia brushes crumbs off its flowing robes, and sips its tea–do its hands tremble? Their position is still secure, for if the banks threaten they will make everybody pay. It is one hell of a throne.

    • Thank you, Christiane. You point out the obvious, yet here in Australia we have almost 24-hour coverage of this tragedy on our national broadcaster, without any analysis whatsoever of the underlying cause.

    • As an American, I agree with you completely. The United States is approximately 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes 35% of the world’s resources. Since the United States doesn’t have many of the resources it needs to support its extravagant lifestyle, it must unfortunately use force.

      It’s unfortunate that the people of this planet haven’t decided that we all belong to this planet and that the resources of the planet should be used for the good of all.

      Thanks for speaking out,

      conrad
      Taos, New Mexico, US

  7. The concerns over “cowards” and “stiffening resolve” and “stabilizing” may concede too much to the rhetoric of the right. It does look as though mere anger rather than strategy may have done the target selection in Paris. Spain withdrew from Iraq after a similar attack, but probably used it to excuse its withdrawal from a foolish US military adventure. Where the US failed to “stabilize” Iraq with 150,000 soldiers, it is unlikely that France stabilized Mali with a few percent of that: it was probably stabilized by insurgents choosing other targets for a while.

    The problem with the “cowards” critique (likely chosen to discourage the anti-muslim response) is that we all know that modern war deliberately kills civilians to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. So-called terrorism is simply war by small-scale means, where insurgents have very similar civilian casualty rates as massed western armies. The problem is always the causes of the insurgency, which rhetoric ignores: careless policymaking is the true cause of endless insurgency.

    It is the imperialist practice of simply militarily attacking those they like least, or whom they get the most campaign money to attack, that leads to instability. Here the underlying causes are the Israeli strategy of destabilizing every neighbor they can’t buy, and the US politicians’ strategy of inciting fears of foreign monsters, to get Israeli and MIC bribes for election money.

    So long as this US corruption continues it will have insurgents for its deluded militarists to kill as a pretense of defending their country. But it is the US militarists and right wing demagogues who have attacked and destroyed democracy in the US, not the religious or socialist insurgents on the other side of the planet.

    We must quickly put aside the rhetoric of the right wing and get to the underlying causes.

  8. The carnage is terrible I agree. And I sympathize with the French people as you do. I wondered after reading all of the news stories this morning about the attacks though why no one bothered to point out the cause of all of this terror. Perhaps it is to soon? But I do not think the players who have caused all of this strife should get a free pass. The US in particular. Our meddling, the invasion of Iraq, our imperial divide and rule policies, along with the puppet governments we prop up, all have directly led to the creation and spread of the Islamic state.

  9. Seems Daesh may be doing what Trump is doing: throwing so many bombs they will eventually alienate many supporters.

  10. Haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere yet, but France is a NATO country and can invoke collective defense, an attack on one being an attack on all. That means we, the Brits and several other countries could be formally at war with Daesh, land operations to divide them and roll them up…

  11. I’m a bit surprised to read your characterization of the Madrid attacks as having “convinced Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq.” “Indirectly resulted in,” perhaps. “Convinced” feels as though it misses the mark, though my memory of the details are fading. I suppose I’ll go back and re-read your analysis from back then.

    • Indeed; the Madrid bombing was in the closing weeks of the national election pitting conservative incumbent José María Aznar against Socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Aznar was among the few world leaders who agreed to join the invasion & occupation of Iraq in the “Coalition of the Willing” –a move overwhelmingly opposed by the Spanish public. Even before the bombing, Zapatero campaigned on a promise to withdraw Spanish participation.

      In an historic act of cynical exploitation, Aznar quickly blamed the Madrid bombing on Basque separatists, whose political allies supported Zapatero. When al Qaeda took responsibility and their authorship was confirmed, the public turned against Aznar. Zapatero immediately withdrew Spain from the coalition, which he would have done regardless of the Madrid bombing.

  12. I am a pacifist and a conscientious objector from the Vietnam War era.

    However, I now endorse international military action to destroy the so-called Islamic State. First, I do not see how repeated terrorist assaults such as this one yesterday on Paris can be prevented unless ISIS is determinedly crushed. Second, the crisis of migration from Syria is intolerable. It threatens to disrupt the peace of the world and is an inhumanity that is unbearable to witness.

    We have reached the point, I believe, that the nations of the world, under the United Nations, must intervene with coordinated and deliberate purpose. This shall mean the invasion of Syria. It shall mean a forcible pacification of that region.

    This is something new to the world–that we recognize that collapsed societies are a global issue. We are, in the modern era, no longer islands to our selves.

    • Sorry John but Russia will veto an invasion of Syria. And from where would you invade? Not another Normandie please. This the direct result of Bush/Chenney invasions and destructions of Iraq/Afghanistan

    • The problem, John, is that invasion is not a solution: it doesn’t put us in a position to dictate to the people, it doesn’t solve any of the underlying problems, but rather increases them. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and a dozen South American misadventures prove that it doesn’t work. One cannot stop an insurgency by killing insurgents, even if most of them were killed. There are no swift martial victories over the anger caused by injustices, nor over ignorance, poverty, malnutrition, etc.

      The root cause must be addressed. The right wing will always tell you that violent intervention is a solution, and will never admit that it doesn’t work. That’s because foreign violence is their means to power: they must create foreign monsters to demand power and accuse their opponents of disloyalty. And they are paid to rent our forces out at a great loss to foreign pseudo-allies like Israel, and corporate scammers like the MIC, who fill their election funds.

      If you were a pacifist and conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, I urge you to reconsider what really works. That is cautious and humanitarian policymaking, not the corruption and propaganda that make US policies. If the US is to intervene, it must do so by diplomacy and massive humanitarian aid to improve health, education, justice, personal security, and standard of living, not by military force. It works every time, but slowly and only to the extent that circumstances allow. That is the best we can do.

      The enemy is always the right wing, not the foreign monsters du jour they create. They are traitors wrapped in the flag, against the US and all humanity.

    • “I am a pacifist and a conscientious objector from the Vietnam War era.”

      So it’s different now, since you won’t have to do the fighting I assume?

      “It shall mean a forcible pacification of that region.”

      You are not remotely a pacifist. It is your countries that do the war mongering and need to stop.

  13. While you try to find cause-effect connections to the tragedy, please consider that the people of Islam may be very angry because they have been mortified for a long time and we, the West, either ignore it and/or cooperate with the mortification.

  14. Between this and the refugee crisis it is hard to see how the Schengen open borders treaty can survive. Maybe some good will come of it if people have to learn the hard way that the EU actually affected them in positive ways. Right now the EU is always scapegoated by national politicians while the advantages it confers are taken for granted.

    At any rate, if ISIL/Daesh thought that this will deter France from fighting them they are in for a nasty surprise.

  15. So good answer to my comment on the TPM article, which is basically How do we know it is ISIS not Al Qaeda (for whom violence outside the “Califate” territory is the M.O.)?

    Longer, from the other comment:
    Fine if Hollande actually has evidence that it is ISIS.

    It smelled, and smells, more like Al Qaeda to me.

    ISIS theology, strategy and practice is to draw militiants in to their territory, to expand the Califate. No doubt lotsa angry young men, born in France of Algerian and other North African descent, living without hope in the dehumanizing HLM slums of north Paris and the suburbs beyond (like St Denis, where the football stadium is) have heard the call and taken up arms in Syria.

    As their older siblings did a couple of decades ago, to join Jihad in Chechnya. Where they were recruited by Al Qaeda for terrorist acts. AQ remains strong across North Africa, and it had no immediate Califate objective. Rather, the Al Qaeda strategy was to strike the Great Satan wherever it was.

    From an intelligence perspective, distinguishing between ISIS and AQ is very valuable. It would be a tmistake to pour fuel onto the ISIS fire while AQ is sneaking around planning more atrocities Over Here.

    The Squealer-choir chants “fight them over there so they don’t kill us over here.” This could well be a classic and deadly case of eyes-off-the-ball.

    • In support of your analysis, al-Qaeda is now a rival of ISIS in Syria and has a motive for a false-flag attack. If that’s true, then it is NOT ISIS retaliating for Western intervention, but al-Qaeda trying to provoke Western intervention to get rid of the competition so it can take over. Note that Putin has been accused of only bombing groups like al-Qaeda and leaving ISIS alone – perhaps so that he can keep them around as an excuse for his general goal of saving Assad?

      So please, folks, let’s not think that any of our options here are easy.

  16. Attempt to push France out of anti ISIL coalition in Syria?

    This seems unlikely. This attack will likely lead to escalation and demagogues on all sides who feed this spiral of death expect and indeed depend on it. Escalating attacks in Syria, escalating repression against refugees or anyone vaguely “Middle-Eastern” looking, escalating poll numbers for the right and parties who have shifted to the right, thus directly and indirectly boosting recruitment for whoever organized this.

    The Spanish public already largely detested the Iraq war as something evil and imposed on it from the outside and the attacks were largely seen as blowback. In contrast, the new French militarism championed by the “Left” seems quite popular, and only criticized from the Right. Citizens are well insulated from even noticing the effects of the protracted air “war” their country has been engaging in (for years in different “theaters”). The media by and large do not connect any dots, not even between the war in Syria/Iraq and the refugees, let alone to the attacks.

  17. The middle east has seen hundreds, if not a thousand, terrorist attacks over the past 5 years. It is clear that the people behind this attack were professionals. The suggestion that they miscalculated the response to the attack is not plausible. They are experts in predicting the response to terrorists attacks as result of their vast experience in this area.

    (forgot to put this in my prior post, please forgive me for posting twice).

  18. I too have personal connections to Paris. Lived my teenage years in Geneva, my brother studied at what we called the Sorbonne (though I must confess that I don’t know what the Sorbonne is exactly) and my in-laws live in the Ninth Arrondissement. It’s hackneyed, but heartfelt: We’re all Parisians now.

  19. I join millions of others in being horrified at what happened. However, we should not lose perspective. Timothy McViegh in the Oklahoma City bombing, with very little help, killed 168 people and injured 600. Was he the result of any policies? There will always be extreme ideologues and some of them will be motivated enough to engage in terrorism. Even authoritarian dictatorships cannot stop all determined terrorists, especially those who don’t care if they die. Yes we need to stop meddling in the Middle East, but we also need to try and reduce ISIS. Hopefully that will be done mostly by those in the region. And no matter what we do, the danger of terrorism will still exist, from many different sources.

  20. American right-wingers are rushing to cameras, journalists and the Internet trying to make hay out of this. Ann Coulter (yeah, she’s still around) is trying to declare Donald Trump the next president. It’s disgusting.

    Many people, including myself, will be turning to Informed Comment, for a clear-eyed perspective.

    I have a couple of comments, but not necessarily facts. European countries taking in refugees has certainly been the right thing to do, but the chance of terrorists slipping in among terrorists seems very high (though it’s likely weapons would have to come to the terrorists by other routes.)

    Assuming the attack was by ISIL, they have had setbacks in recent days. If related to the attack, then the terrorists were pre-positioned and waiting for a signal.

    Last point and I have no way to know at this time what the possibility is. Could this attack be regarded as a threat or message to the many refugees that have been going to Europe? For example, might the attack have had as one of its goals making it more difficult for refugees to be accepted?

  21. Perhaps a cleric in Saudi Arabia would be willing to declare a fatwa against DAESH/ISIS for their violations of the Koran’s language regarding targeting innocent civilians.

  22. One result of these attacks may be the effect on the ability of refugees from Syria to enter into other Western countries.

    Republicans are using this event to advocate to close the doors in the U.S. to Syrians fleeing their homeland.

    The provincial government of New Brunswick announced yesterday they can accommodate 1,500 Syrians and Canada’s national government has been generally receptive to the plight of the Syrians – this recent attack in Paris could affect those positions.

  23. Mark my words, Russia will indirectly be blamed for this: “they intervened in Syria and as a consequence things escalated terribly, the world is now an indisputably more dangerous place because of Putin’s Syrian hubris and folly.”

  24. I suspect the attack in France, particularly in light of the attack on Hezbollah and the likely responsibility for the downing of the Russian jet are meant to be provocative, possibly even to deliberately incite the “crusaders” and “infidels” into a near-suicidal battle for the future of the caliphate … do they wish to have the caliphate destroyed rather than endure the ignoble defeat of the caliphate by attrition, loss of territory, loss of revenues? The news blackout from ISIS/DAESH has been so complete I have to wonder if the suspense, waiting to be attacked, has not grown exhausting.
    My personal hope would be that rather than immediately mounting such a “vain glorious” end to Al Baghdadi’s caliphate, we harden the border and starve the caliphate of its recruits, it’s weapons and ammunition, it’s black market oil revenue. etc. We need to put teeth in our demands that supply lines from KSA and Jordan and Turkey and even Iraq be cut.
    The NYT reports that ISIS is using suicide truck bombers (in motion along highways) in fighting the Kurds … that sounds to me like an army in retreat .. wasting explosives and vehicles.
    In the event of a case of a full-bore NATO assault, will the caliphate free its soldiers to vanish into the Magreb to live and fight another day? or will the caliphate demand an end-time style battle to the last man?
    Holland says “this is war” — Is ISIS/DAESH rejoicing that their wait is almost over?

  25. Perhaps we have arrived at a branch point with one path leading towards escalating carnage and the other winding tortuously towards a new global order. Our world has run out of spaces for oppressed people to migrate and find a new life, something which always occurred in the past and laid the foundations of many civilisations, including America.. But it was already too late after WWII which is perhaps why Israel in Palestine is such a festering sore. It can’t be done any longer, we have to find an alternative where people can stay where they are or move in patterns of mutual exchange.

    It seems time to abandon notions of a global hierarchical authority under the US or any other segment of our world and move towards something horizontal, for the US to come down now from its self-allocated throne and join a round table. The other day in Vienna Kerry was still claiming Assad’s continued presidency to be the principle reason for terrorism in the ME, and presumably now by logical extension the carnage in Paris, which is both absurd and insulting. There can be no resolution to the problem of terrorism while such irrationality gets a hearing. No one believes it. Kerry can’t really believe it himself, or if he does he’s dotty. Obama today puts me in mind of a Holy Roman Emperor, not Holy, not Roman, and not an emperor. And unclothed to boot. We seriously need to make the UN real or there is no hope of ever finding peace. Change, like birth is ever painful, perhaps it will be the final outcome of this painful period.

  26. I agree w/sunflower. These are despite acts. They want a glorious end with western invasion. Isis lives in between the conflict if others. A modern crusades would create much real estate for them. There are plenty of locals who want to destroy Isis. They just need anti tank (TOWs) and air power. France has sold these items plenty of times.

  27. Graeme Wood speculates these recent attacks may be — very conditional — evidence of loss of central control by ISIS leadership … their after-the-fact blessing does not indicate they participated in the planning, had advance knowledge of the attack or the participants …
    link to politico.com

  28. Dear Professor Cole,
    Allow me first to correct one assertion made in your article and which is incorrect: Al-Quaeda’s attack’s in Spain did NOT convince Madrid to withdraw its troop from Iraq. Actually, the attacks took place a couple of days before Spanish genereral elections. The Spanish right was the incumbent, had, in the previous years, followed 100% Georges W. Bush foreign policy and clearly annouced it’s intention to continue on that course. The left had, on the other hand, announced as clearly, that it would retire from Iraq within 100 days. Prior to the attacks, this election appeared very close and clearly undecided. Did the attacks made the difference? Polls closest to the attack shows that they did NOT. What made the difference? A concerted and ill-inspired campaign by the right wing governmement in order to present Basque nationalists the likely perpetrators. That obvious disinformation attempt resulted in a major media and public backlash, which resulted into a clear electoral victory for the left. But, said victory was not the result of Al-Quaeda’ attacks. It was the direct result of the dishonesty and stupidity of (then prime minister) Jose Maria Aznar’s government. Had they opted for transparency and a call to Spanih pride, they could very well have won the election. It is therefore a mistake to link directly the attacks and the withdrawal of Spain armed force’

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