Paris Attacks Suggest Shift in Islamic State’s Strategy

Terror group’s claim of responsibility, if true, represents a departure from militant group’s concentration on creating a state in Syria and Iraq

By Yaroslav Trofimov

French police officers stopped a vehicle at a check point at the French-Italian border on Saturday, as European capitals reinforced security checks following a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late Friday that left more than 120 people dead.

French police officers stopped a vehicle at a check point at the French-Italian border on Saturday, as European capitals reinforced security checks following a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late Friday that left more than 120 people dead. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Friday’s attacks in Paris, if Islamic State’s claim of responsibility proves correct, represent a major departure for the militant group that until now concentrated on creating a state in Syria and Iraq rather than directly targeting the West.
Such a turn also heralds a dramatic escalation in the perils faced by civilians in Europe and the U.S., the “crusader nations” in Islamic State’s cross hairs. Islamic State, after all, is far more indiscriminate in its targeting than al Qaeda: It considers pretty much anyone in the West as legitimate prey.
The Paris massacre occurred as Islamic State was suffering military setbacks in Syria and Iraq, losing territory to the Kurds in both nations and being subjected to an intensified air campaign by both the U.S.-led coalition and, since recently, Russia.

“Islamic State is on the defensive and so it is shifting toward terrorist activity, particularly in Europe, because that is an accessible area for them. This is the way to make sure people keep speaking about them, and to appear as an attractive group that remains capable of spectacular action,” said Camille Grand, director of the Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique, a Paris-based defense and security think tank.
While the Paris massacre wasn’t the first terrorist act in the West claimed by Islamic State, it is by far the deadliest and most sophisticated. It came two weeks after Islamic State claimed to have brought down a Russian passenger jet in Egypt.
Until now, most of its attacks in the West, such as the January assault on a Paris kosher supermarket and the December hostage-taking in a Sydney coffee shop, were believed to be the work of Islamic State sympathizers rather than people acting on direct orders from the militant group, also known as ISIS and ISIL. 
“If this was indeed directed by ISIS Central, it represents a major change from an earlier focus on state-building: They have made a decision that they will punish anyone who stands in the way of the expansion of their state,” said William McCants, an expert on radical Islam at the Brookings Institution and author of a recent book, “The ISIS Apocalypse.”
The initial claim of responsibility from Islamic State didn’t name the Paris attackers or provide video evidence of the kind usually released following bombings in the Middle East. Terrorism experts, however, increasingly believe Friday’s killings were unlikely to have been the work of lone wolves.
France deployed soldiers to secure strategic areas in Paris while European leaders met to address security measures in their own countries. WSJ's Shelby Holliday has the details on Europe's response to the Paris attacks.

“The complexity of the operations we have seen in Paris shows that we are facing an organization, something that was not just incited but also organized,” said Mr. Grand.

As long as Islamic State retains control over a huge territory in Syria and Iraq, and enjoys the legitimacy this control confers on it in the eyes of many radical Muslims, more such attacks are likely soon.
“Let France and all the nations following in its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for Islamic State, and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils.…Indeed, it is just the beginning,” Islamic State said in its claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.
Given just how simple it is to kill random civilians in a Western city, that isn’t an idle warning. Its also one that calls into question the U.S.-led policy of using limited means to contain, rather than decisively defeat, Islamic State. 

“Without a doubt, this is a whole new threat to humanity, and it is really hard to imagine how it could be contained,” said Hassan Hassan, a fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London and author of a recent book, “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.” “I don’t think it could be restrained without effectively defeating it in Syria and Iraq.”
In fact, Islamic State is far more dangerous than al Qaeda in the immediate future, many experts say. Unlike Islamic State, al Qaeda exercises relative restraint and pursues a political agenda that, for example, doesn’t call for an outright genocide of Shiites. During the January attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, claimed by al Qaeda, the perpetrators didn’t shoot random bystanders—the victims of Friday’s rampage.
“Al Qaeda chose symbolic targets,” said Stephane Lacroix, a specialist in radical Islam at Sciences Po university in Paris. “But Islamic State views this as an almost existential conflict, which translates into far more indiscriminate methods of action. And that makes its attacks much more difficult to stop.”

0 comentarios:

Publicar un comentario