These are just some thoughts about the attacks in Paris. They’re not a thorough narrative or analysis, but things that have occurred to me as I have followed the story today.
For personal reasons this has been a particular concern, which I’ll explain at the end.
WHAT SORT OF ATTACK?
It was clearly a highly organized, well-equipped and trained group. It is likely they had additional logistical and planning support, besides the 8 who actually took part.
This sort of action requires a lot of planning and logistics. It has probably been in preparation for some time.
The first target, the Stade de France where the France-Germany football friendly was taking place was probably a largely symbolic target. Security would have been high with the French President in attendance. Just managing to set off a single bomb near the Stadium would have guaranteed big publicity, even if there were relatively few casualties. They managed two.
The subsequent smaller targets – the various restaurants and cafés, were probably to spread as much confusion and disruption as possible.
Their second main target was clearly the Bataclan concert hall where the intention was simply to create as big a body count as possible. In this they succeeded – this was no ‘hostage’ situation, as many media keep saying, it was just a slaughter-house in which they could kill large numbers in a confined space.
Most media – the BBC included – keep talking about the random nature of these attacks. There seems to have been almost nothing random about it. Targets were selected to generate the maximum body-count, disruption and publicity.
There seems to have been three probable reasons why the attack took place last night.
The first is the situation in Iraq and Syria, where ISIL have come under mounting pressure – Iraqi, Kurdish and free Syrain forces have been making gains and the seemingly inevitable expansion of their “Islamic State” had been halted and has even begun to be rolled back. Fascistic movements like IS and the other jihadi’s have always relied on creating a mystique of invincibility and muscular unstoppability – that mythos is being punctured by the Peshmerga, free Syrian and Iraqui forces.
The second is the international Conference being held in Vienna in which tentative steps could be seen to the formation of real international alliance to crush ISIL. A large symbolic attack in Europe at the same time as the Conference was clearly desirable from their point of view.
Third was the football match: it guaranteed big coverage in French and German media and promised payoffs in raising tensions in both countries.
My first thought was it might be linked to the killing of Mohammed Emwazi or “Jihadi John”, but I think this can probably be discounted – this attack would have been too long in the planning for that.
The of great cities most associated with freedom and the resistance to jihadi barbarians – Washington, New York, London and Paris – the latter was probably simply the most vulnerable. Since 9/11 and 7/7 US and British intelligence agencies have become very adept at spotting and disrupting large-scale conspiracies.
Attacks that have taken place, like the Boston marathon bombing and the murder of the British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London, were mostly lone-wolf, or in these cases just two, jihandi’s acting more or less alone – much more difficult to detect and stop.
As the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year showed, French intelligence has not been quite so effective. Guns and explosives are also slightly easier to move around in continental Europe than they are in Britain. Paris, and France, is not a soft target – but it may be easier than Britain to attack.
As I said on BBC Radio5Live today, it is easier to attack a café in Paris than to stand up to a Peshmerga onslaught in Iraq.
Paris is also the home of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” and symbolically stands for everything Islamic State and other jahadi’s hate about ‘the west’. Their chilling statement put on the internet also makes lurid claims about how ‘degenerate’ supposedly Paris is. Their attack on the Bataclan concert venue is specifically justified in these terms.
Finally, their perception is clearly that France has more potential for fomenting internal unrest between its Muslim population and non-muslim French. The rise of the Front Nationale would clearly fuel that belief. The irony is that both FN and the jihadi’s probably hate the free-wheeling, multicultural, young Parisiens who were attacked. But that won’t stop the FN trying to make political capital out of the attacks, and the jihadi’s know that.
PERSONAL REASON TO BE FEARFUL
My personal interest today is simple: my oldest step-son (who is English and an airline pilot) and his wife (who is a French-Tunisian muslim and a gendarme) live in Paris with our 2 year-old grandson.
We spent several hours this morning trying to contact them – it turned out she was on duty (not in the directly affected area) and he was in mid-air. We did finally get hold of them and everything was fine, as we expected. But it was a worry.
My step-son, our daughter-in-law and their child are in a way a symbol of everything Islamic State hates and Paris stands for. Long may they all stay that way.