Can France Be Saved?

A soldier stand guard under the Paris' iconic Eiffel Tower after an Islamic attack
A soldier stand guard under the Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower after an Islamist attack (Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Recognizing the Threat

Islamic terrorism is a long-term threat that emerged in the early 1990s. Al-Qaeda declared war on the USA in 1996 and, despite the huge assets deployed against it by the international coalition, it is still active and has spawned innumerable jihadist groups worldwide.

The conditions favoring Islamic terrorism will persist far into the future due to the vigor of Salafism and Wahabbism supported by the Gulf States, the endemic chaos of the Arab and Muslim world, the frustration of Muslim populations in the West, the economic crisis that makes their integration problematic and the subsequent feelings of victimization.

In France, the danger is not so much from abroad as from the suburbs. Most of the perpetrators of the attacks in 2015 and 2016 were French nationals. The same is true for Belgium, the UK and Germany. The problem is thus one of domestic security.

It is understandable that our citizens are concerned about the erosion of basic freedoms entailed by the increased powers given to law enforcement. But we are in a situation of real and present danger, and that danger is not coming from law enforcement or the intelligence services, but from Salafism and jihad. The public must understand that in the absence of tough measures, the threat will grow faster than our ability to contain it.

The number one threat is radical Islamic ideology rather than terrorist attacks. France has the highest proportion of Muslim residents in Europe. While 90% of them may be upstanding citizens practicing a moderate Islam, an active minority of several hundred thousand is seeking to destabilize the country by imposing their norms. This subset of the population advocates an archaic and intolerant strain of Islam and is a vector of hate speech that encourages some young people to wage jihad.

 

Measures Needed

Since the emergence of global jihad in 2001, and following the attacks of 2015 and 2016, numerous measures have been taken by successive governments. But they are slow, timid and partial and always come after the attacks instead of before. We need to be more proactive and tough.

 

A Global Response

The fight against Islamic terrorism can only succeed if it is broad-based, ranging from the enforcement of criminal law and state of emergency powers through education of the populace in detecting suspicious behavior (something that has never been done, unlike in Israel) to strengthening intelligence gathering, security and judicial investigations and law enforcement. New legislation relating to public security (transport, large public gatherings) needs to be enacted. Finally, more needs to be done to understand the psychological drivers of jihad.

 

Domestic Measures

  1. Identify the enemy: Salafists, Wahabbis and the Muslim Brotherhood. They represent a veritable fifth column in the homeland that infiltrates and manipulates the Muslim population.
  2. Close down all places that are vectors of Islamist ideology: mosques, associations, cultural centers and bookstores.
  3. Ban displays of radicalism. Niqabs and burkas are explicit symbols of adherence to hateful movements that openly reject our values.
  4. Develop a counter-radicalization strategy more appropriate than the one set up by the French government in 2015, which is extremely naive and has not reached its objectives. It should be grounded in the assertion of the superiority of Western values.
  5. Combat crime and delinquency, because jihadists are very often former criminals who converted to Salafism in prison to indulge their death-wish. The explosion of illegal arms dealing in the suburbs provides them with an arsenal to carry out attacks.
  6. Embark on a security, economic and social reconquest of the “lost territories” of the Republic. In these no-go zones crime, drug-dealing and radical Islam flourish with total impunity.
  7. Bring back border checks to gain control of our territory and impede the free movement of Islamic terrorists.
  8. Enforce the law. The principle of authority has become taboo and politicians are reluctant to apply it. This weakens the state and demoralizes law enforcement.
  9. Enforce criminal and military laws relating to treason and collaboration with the enemy. French nationals who engage in armed conflict at home and abroad are traitors and should be judged as such.
  10. Increase the numbers of intelligence and security personnel and provide training in Islamic doctrine.
  11. Increase the law enforcement budget, which has been in decline for the past two decades.
  12. Strengthen co-operation not only among the various security and intelligence services, law enforcement, customs and prison administration but also include the fiscal administration and social services in order to combat radicalization and terrorism effectively.
  13. Increase the number of specialized judges, who currently lack the capacity to deal with legal cases on their desks.

 

Foreign Policy

We need to review our foreign policy and identify who the enemy is and who is supporting it. We have uncoupled the fight against terrorism and the fight against Salafism, Wahabbism and the Muslim Brotherhood political ideology that is driving them.

We are conducting an irresponsible foreign policy by allying with states that support Islamism and terrorism — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, among others. This policy prevents us working with the Syrian intelligence services, which can help us curb the activities of returning jihadists.

We need to call into question our relations with these Islamic states. Without a major shift in foreign policy, we cannot expect to win the war against Islamic terrorism.

The threat from Islamic terrorism is here to stay. Whatever resources we deploy against it, we cannot expect to eliminate the attacks. This is why we need straight talk so our population understands what is going on and acts accordingly to make our society more resilient, like in Israel.

 

ED
Eric Denece
Eric Denécé is Director of CF2R, the French Centre for Research on Intelligence. He has authored over 20 books and numerous reports on intelligence, terrorism and special operations and is a regular guest on French and international news media.