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Fighting them in France, not Iraq, so that we do not have to fight them here at home


Whereas the Bush43 terrorism strategy is "to fight them over there [in Iraq], so that we do not have to fight them here at home," has not worked given the assets authorized to attempt the job, and that we are actually "producing more terrorists than [we are] eliminating, fighting them with France and in France may at least offer a glimmer of a cost-effective response.

In early 2004, I observed in Europe's value after Atocha that "the European bloc… is now more valuable than ever. The Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigade put them in play and they must now work out a means to engage… A certain amount of US antipathy towards the French could even drain away if the French intel services engage in earnest. (Remember that the French government has its own quite significant issues with its Muslim minorities.)… The French have never endured a Church Commission and its aftermath, and its security services never suffered the equivalent of the "Levy Guidelines" as did the FBI."

I had also noted that "It is most valuable to have the FEBA (Forward Edge of the Battle Line) on their soil instead of ours" which would be an instant replay of the US-USSR Cold War confrontation that, had it gone hot, would have seen a NATO-Warsaw Pact confrontation on European soil. We could see the new NATO mission in the medium term to be anti-terrorism on, and entering, European soil.

The disclosure of the Alliance Base, a cooperative venture between the French General Directorate for External Security (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure -DGSE) and the CIA revealed that the French had already engaged with US intel assets in 2002 and was in the vanguard of recognizing a Muslim terrorist threat since the 1994 airliner hijacking by Algerians intent on crashing it into the Eiffel Tower. As the French saw the 11 September attacks as part of a "part of the jihadist campaign against Western civilization, Chirac ordered terrorist intel sharing in real-time "as if they were your own service."

Analyzing transnational terrorist movements with the intent to surveil or interdict, Alliance Base is said to funded from the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's classified "foreign liaison" account. The US adds its global surveillance assets while France adds "its harsh [Napoleonic] laws, surveillance of radical Muslim groups and their networks in Arab states, and its intelligence links to its former colonies."

The key elements in the French counter-terrorism strategy are the privileged relationship between intelligence services and dedicated magistrates, as well as the qualification of acts of terrorism as autonomous offences punishable by increased penalties. The specific offence designated ‘association’ or ‘conspiring to terrorism,’ makes a pre-emptive judicial approach possible. Meanwhile a sophisticated system named Vigipirate (security alert plan) of nation-wide, pre-planned security measures were developed. After the July 2005 attacks in London, Vigipirate was put in stade rouge (level red) swiftly invoking a large number of extra security measures in public places and public transport throughout France and along its borders.

The French intel community is tracking five trends;

  • Growing importance of the filière Irakienne (Iraqi network) network recruiting for the Iraqi insurgency
  • Recruitment networks operate Europe-wide with recruiters traveling back and forth between various European cities
  • Expectation that Iraq jihadist veterans will return to France to continue jihad
  • New category of Islamic extremists, almost all offspring of immigrants, "younger, more frustrated, and more radicalized than the French jihadists of the 1990s"
  • Apparent change in focus of the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an offshoot of the GIA, beyond the borders of Algeria

French skill and cooperation was masked by the 2003 belief of the Chirac administration that "U.N. inspections had successfully contained" Iraqi WMD programs, and of senior anti-terrorism magistrate, Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere who "saw no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda" which made them a target of Pentagon ire, Rumsfeld's in particular. It is a marvel of DGSE-CIA-State Department cooperation and Alliance Base member states (US, UK, France, Germany, Canada and Australia) overcoming their parochial fears and interests, that the alliance prevailed. (Even Germany gets an 'end-run' around its laws barring its criminal investigative assets sharing data with its intel assets, as its members can read the collective traffic.) It strikes this analyst as bizarre that anyone in authority in the US could risk public attack upon the French given the value of the cooperation. I can only agree with Wilkerson that "it was totally irrational, even dumb."

Housing Europe's largest Muslim population, French and US "terrorism experts are desperate to take terrorist-group recruiters and new recruits off the streets, and have been willing to put their own anti-terrorism laws into the service of allies." Some useful background:

One wonders if the French are using the Alliance Base to bridge its "several agencies and departments within the same agency involved in counter-terrorism" and frequently "act as little kingdoms, invoking inevitable problems of coordination": The National Police houses the French Secret Service (DST), the General Intelligence Service (RG) and the National Anti-terrorism Division (DNAT). The Defense Ministry's DGSE "has a role in countering terrorism and in addition both the Gendarmerie and the Judicial Police in Paris maintain counter-terrorist judicial and intelligence capabilities." One wonders if the forthcoming (2006) sharing of one location and resources by the DST, RG and DNAT was an offshoot of Alliance Base, a recognition that cooperation from without would sooth cooperation from within. The threats on offer certainly cry out for convergence and cooperation.

That need has vaulted with the discovery that Islamist terrorists have acquired four black market MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System) shoulder-fired Soviet missiles in Chechnya, likely Strela-2 (SA-7 Grail) or Strela-3 (SA-14 Gremlin) but could even be the Igla (SA-18 Grouse). It is instructive that CDI estimated in mid-2003 that over 700,000 MANPADS "are thought to have been produced in the past thirty years" but their proliferation only came to the forefront once access to black market missiles merged with the aims of terrorists and non-state actors. We can expect to see an increase in MANPAD attacks of a global scale as commercial airliners, with the exception of El Al and possibly some others, no not possess the countermeasures to deflect attack.

In what I would now undoubtedly surmise to be an Alliance Base case in progress, two missiles were "destined for cells operating in France" to attack aircraft at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport while the other two "were to be sent to a Palestinian group operating in Lebanon." Worse, the trail was lost in Turkey and allied "intelligence and security agencies [are said to] not know what has become of the missiles or who might have control over them." Adding to the when, not if, mentality, recent al Qaeda communications suggesting that their assets focus on economic targets as diverse as Japan and China. [Update: Chinese Ministry of Public Security has withdrawn this alert as "not credible."]

Complicating the immediate European situation, Bruguiere notes that Iraq "is a major factor in the recruitment and radicalization of young Muslims throughout Europe [in a] process [that] is happening faster than ever before":

"They have the capacity to shift (from fundamentalist to radical to jihadist) to convert very quickly; some of them within two weeks." Some of these Muslims are converts to Islam, many have European passports, and may belong to ethnic or national groups that have not previously attracted the attention of security agencies.

Bruguiere sees Europe as the natural expansion chamber for al Zarqawi jihadists and that the Chechen MANPADS "were destined for groups in France loyal to al-Zarqawi. Investigators have also uncovered evidence of direct communications between European cells and al-Zarqawi operatives based in or near the Middle East."

France must now deal with this threat amidst a low grade Muslim immigrant demonstration across France (various links below), but it is interesting to note the French street rioters are not the most dangerous actors. Alexis Debat, a former French defense ministry official and now a contributing editor to the National Interest, was one of the very few to call attention to the fact that the most immediately dangerous actors were those not on view:

A lot of Islamic leaders, by the way, a lot of - you mentioned fatwas, but a lot of - even Salafi leaders are coming out and saying we have to stop the violence. And one of the most interesting phenomenons about these riots is that for the most part, the neighborhoods where the Salafi influence is [strongest,] where radical Islam is the most influential are the neighborhoods that are the most quietest now and it has to do with the fact that these neighborhoods, this rebellion is being channeled through religion.

Debat places the riots in no-win situation where even the "white" French cannot create enough jobs for themselves, much less jobs for Muslim minorities that face 20-40% unemployment:

[The riots are] about the lack of trust in the French government by these people -- the lack of trust in the French elite to make a difference. Today there is no organization or institution to channel this anger because those political parties have been totally discredited.

Today a French Muslim has one-eighth to one-tenth the chance of a non-Muslim French national with a non-Muslim name to get a job… [There] is a pervasive, very dark racism in French society that associates the second generation Muslims, these second generation immigrants with trouble.

[No] French government in the past twenty, thirty years has been able to create the conditions of economic growth and social integration in these poor immigrant neighborhoods to the point that the second generation immigrants were torching the cars now, feel like second class citizens. So it is not just an adjustment that is needed, but a true cultural revolution to make sure that these people are not excluded from the mainstream French community to kind of plug that racial divide between the white French and the immigrant French.

The Alliance Base as its work cut out for it and its contributors.

Riots Continue Despite Curfew Threat
8 Nov 2005
8 Nov 2005 -
Yahoo! News

Arabs Bear Brunt of French Police Racism: Report
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
Islam Online
November 8, 2005

Failed Policies, Marginalization Sparked Riots: Bove
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
Islam Online
November 8, 2005

New powers to tackle French riots
BBC News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 15:02 GMT

News Hour
November 7, 2005

Timeline: French riots
A chronology of key events
BBC News
Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 13:19 GMT

Maps: Riots in France
BBC News

The deaths that set Clichy ablaze
BBC News
Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 10:44 GMT

As Youth Riots Spread Across France, Muslim Groups Attempt to Intervene
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 5, 2005

France; 250 Arrested
The Associated Press
November 5, 2005; 1:59 PM

A New Terrorist Threat In Europe
Sheila MacVicar
Nov. 4, 2005

France's disaffected Muslim businessmen
BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 13:59 GMT

Rioters Attack Trains, Schools and Businesses in the Paris Suburbs
Villepin Urges 'Return to Calm,' but Government Offers No Plan to End Violence
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 4, 2005

French Rioting Spreads as Government Seeks an Answer
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 3, 2005

Anger Erupts In Paris Suburb After Deaths Of Muslim Boys
Teens Were Electrocuted Attempting to Avoid Police
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 2, 2005

Headscarf defeat riles French Muslims
BBC News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 17:41 GMT

Meet the United States’ Unlikely Ally in the Terror Wars
By Jeff Stein, National Security Editor, CQ Staff
Oct. 28, 2005 – 8:02 p.m.
Private subscription, not yet mirrored
Congressional Quarterly National Security

France Says Extremists Are Enlisting Its Citizens
Police Assert Some Trained in Mideast Could Attack Paris
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post
October 19, 2005

Evaluating the Effectiveness of French Counter-Terrorism
By Ludo Block
Global Terrorism Analysis
Jamestown Foundation
Volume 3, Issue 17 (September 8, 2005)

France refuses to confirm or deny existence of joint US spy base
The News
July 05, 2005-- Jamadi Al Awwal 27, 1426 A.H.

Ministère des Affaires étrangères
Points de presse

US and France have secret anti-terrorism centre
4 July 2005

Help From France Key In Covert Operations
Paris's 'Alliance Base' Targets Terrorists
By Dana Priest
Washington Post
July 3, 2005

The MANPAD Menace?
Center for Defense Information
August 15, 2003

Gordon Housworth

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