In the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Belgium, there are new public revelations about the hundreds of Islamic State (ISIS) cells trained to cause havoc in Europe, with so many of them already spread across the continent. This is on top of earlier news that anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 European Muslims have joined ISIS and quite a few of them have returned home — as experienced fighters. With an undetermined number of the ISIS operatives likely to have entered Europe disguised as war refugees, the overall picture that emerges before us is a long-term terrorism epidemic that, unfortunately, is here to stay, bound to strike again.
Thus, one cannot even have a small sigh of relief at the latest headline that the Belgian and French authorities have nabbed six or more terrorists. Will such token progresses make more than a dent? Probably not.
What is certain, however, is that ISIS terrorism and growing Islamophobia led by nationalistic and right-wing politicians go hand-in-hand, will likely to lead to the intensification of forced assimilation and the twilight of multiculturalism in many parts of Europe. The predicament of Muslims in Europe, which is itself a root cause of cultural alienation and the ideological attraction of ISIS for some of the continent’s Muslim youth, will in all likelihood grow worse, particularly if the acts of ISIS terrorism continue and afflict more countries. How this will influence the European status quo, especially in the realm of visa restrictions and trans-national surveillance, remains to be seen. If France is an example, where the emergency state remains in effect several months after the November massacre of some 130 French citizens, the whole continent or at least essential aspects of it could soon be drawn in the abnormal state of high alert as the new normal, i.e., a complete transformation of the European way of life.
In diagnosing this sad state of affairs and its root causes, both short and long-term, internal versus external, causes must be studied to begin to understand why Europe’s anti-ISIS campaign may be too little, too late. Perhaps chief among the reasons is a lax attitude that allowed thousands to depart to ISIS’s bossom and, for the most part, many of them return without facing harsh consequences. European law has definitely lagged behind, as a result of which only lately we witness French legislators introducing bills that impose a prison sentence for any French citizen caught returning from ISIS territory. Perhaps if Europe had acted with stiff determination from early on, that would have prevented ISIS’s successful recruitment among the continent’s Muslims.
But, a complicating factor has been Turkey’s destructive role in allowing an oil corridor for the ISIS’s oil trucks and basically opening its borders to the ISIS (would be) fighters, a disastrous policy that has now clearly backfired, resulting in what appears to be an endemic terrorism problem in Turkey, with devastating consequences for its vibrant tourism industry and, indeed, for the whole Turkish economy. Clearly, without a tacit US consent, this Turkish policy would not have transpired, which explains the conspicuous absence of American bombs dropped on the ISIS oil convoys, not to mention the so many episodes of US arms parachuted “by mistake” into ISIS’s hands.
Consequently, the insecure Europeans are now much beholden to the Americans, who appear so far to be insulated from the ISIS’s wrath with minor exceptions, which might have a lot to do with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf movers and shakers behind ISIS, i.e., to some extent a useful menace for power politics, which can be traced back to the similar US and Western gambit behind the Afghan Mujahedein against the Soviets during the 1980s. Of course, this whole situation begs the question of what is the true nature of US-Europe relations and whether or not there is subtle yet important competitive side or dimension that is often overlooked? For too long Europe has taken it for granted that the US is on their side and, for sure, during the Cold War that was the case, but this can no longer be taken for granted.
Ironically, the longer this terrorism epidemic lasts, the Europeans may discover that they have more in common with Russia than with the United States, which may have become addicted to manipulating the radical Islam card in its mix of soft and hard power to exercise global hegemony.
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