Asif Haroon Raja
The serenity of Paris was jolted on the night of November 13, 2015 by the noise of blazing guns and din of explosions. The rattle-tattle of the guns, explosions and sounds of police sirens/ambulances and shrieks of trapped people subdued the music beats in the theatre, shouts of the jeering lovers of soccer match and chatter in the restaurants. Fear and panic gripped the people. Eight gunmen wearing suicide jackets carried out coordinated bombings and shootings at six targets which included a theatre, restaurants and national stadium.
Timings of attacks were staggered. The first wave of shooting occurred at 8.20 pm, the second at 9.40 pm and the third at 11.20 pm. Most of the casualties occurred in Rock Concert Bataclan Theatre where 1500 people were watching the music show. The other place was the stadium where a friendly soccer match between France and Germany was being witnessed by a large numbers of people including President Francois Hollande. He was escorted from the scene and evacuated in a chopper. He met with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in a closed meeting shortly thereafter to coordinate counter actions.
The attacks, which were clearly coordinated, took place in multiple locations and involved different methods. In the first wave, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at locations near the Stade de France. Besides assault rifles, grenades and explosives were used. Thereafter, gunmen opened fire on a tightly packed Cambodian restaurant in a drive-by shooting. Roughly 25 minutes later, gunmen opened fire on Rue de Charonne. And about an hour after the initial attacks, attacks by other terrorist cells took place at the Louvre and Les Halles.
Special police units, including RAID, a police intervention unit, were rapidly mobilized who secured the areas around the stadium, the bars and restaurants in the area of the 10th and 11th arrondissement, a part of Paris popular with young people and tourists, and the Bataclan concert hall, where some of the gunmen, armed with explosives apparently used grenades inside the main concert hall and held up to 80 hostages. Most of screaming hostages were killed one by one. Total deaths in the Batcalan were 89 with many injured. Later on, French security forces stormed and secured the Building.
According to latest reports, 132 have died and 349 injured with 42 in critical condition in the shootings and blasts at several places. Among the dead, two each were from Belgium, Romania and Mexico, one each from the US, Sweden, Britain, Germany and Italy. As many as 6 attacks took place which included suicide attacks. While six terrorists blew themselves up, one was shot dead by the police. It is for the first time in the history of France that suicide attacks have occurred. ISIS (Daesh) has claimed the responsibility of attacks. This outfit had earlier on threatened that European cities will be targeted in 2016. It has warned that more attacks will be launched against France if it continues to carryout aerial strikes against Daesh in Syria.
These were the most deadly attacks in Europe after the March 11, 2004 explosions in four commuter trains heading for Madrid and killing 191 and injuring 2000. The other was in London on July 7, 2005 in which four suicide attacks on three underground metros left 56 dead and 700 wounded. Earlier this year on January 7, attack on Charlie-Hebdo offices in Paris by two gunmen, killing 8 cartoonists and journalists involved in drawing and publishing satirical caricatures on Islam had intensified Islamophobia in France. Rigid stance taken by French government on headscarves by Muslim students and working women and prohibition on construction of minarets of mosque, overall anti-Muslim policies and full support to all the US military misadventures and vigorous participation in air campaign against Daesh in Iraq and Syria had welled up feelings of distaste among the Muslims living in Europe and in Middle East (ME).
In an address to the nation, French President Francois Hollande said that “the country will close off its borders. The French government will prioritize immediately locking down the city, protecting civilians and capturing the attackers. The next piece of that will be to close down transportation and the borders to prevent any perpetrators from escaping. Finally they will begin to investigate to uproot the parties responsible for the attacks”. Hollande termed the episode as an ‘act of war’ by the Daesh and declared a state of emergency in the country. Curfew was imposed in Paris, borders sealed, all cross border movement ceased and border security tightened. 1500 soldiers were deployed to beef up internal security and all sports events were cancelled; and museums and theatres were closed. Security of French Embassies and official buildings in other countries has been tightened. Three-day mourning was announced.
Fear has gripped European countries. Capital cities have been put on high alert and security measures reinforced. British Special Forces are backing the police in Britain. Obama termed the incident as an attack on all of humanity and an attack on civilized world. He vowed to step up efforts to eliminate ISIS in Syria. In the same breath he said efforts will be redouble to find a peaceful solution to Syrian crisis. G-20 leaders have assured full support to France in their hour of anguish. European leaders urged Russia to shift its air effort to ISIS only. Israel has extended support to France to fight Daesh, although it has not been enjoying cordial relations with it because of France’s readiness to recognize Palestinian State despite Tel Aviv’s warning in late 2014. It is widely believed that attack on Charlie-Hebdo was masterminded by Mossad to teach a lesson to France. The UN Secretary General took advantage of the sense of urgency among world leaders to find a solution to the Syrian crisis stated that the world had a ‘rare moment’ of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.
Saudi Arabia’s leadership stated that the attacks were in violation of ethics, morals and religions. Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque termed the attacks despicable. Messages of grief and sorrow kept pouring from all over the globe. Pakistan also shared the grief of French people and condemned the dastardly attacks but made no effort to say that Pakistan being the biggest victim of terrorism fully understands the pain of French and that the terror attack on Army School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 although much more gruesome than Bataclan theatre attack had some common features. CNN, BBC and Indian media on the other hand while commenting upon Paris attacks slyly drew comparison with Mumbai attacks.
Syrian Mufti Azam’s video of 2011 was aired by western media in which he was warning that in case the west attacked his country, large numbers of suicide bombers will attack Europe. Assad stated that Paris attacks were a result of flawed policies of French government. European leaders shot back by saying that Assad’s repressive policies created space for Daesh in Syria. Some quarters are suspecting Israeli hand behind the attacks to compel France and other European states to join the Syrian war.
French authorities have concluded that the attacks were planned outside France, but there were facilitators inside the country. The attackers that have been identified are from Europe. Two of the gunmen were French nationals. Belgium born and French national Abdeslam Saleh is the most sought man. Initial investigations indicate Belgium being used as the base of planning and execution with facilitators inside Paris. Two cars were used for transportation of gunmen; one in use of Saleh has been located in close vicinity of Bataclan hall. One of the attackers has been identified as Ismail Omar Mustafai who was French born, Algerian descent and resident of Paris. He had blown himself up. One of the attackers who also blew himself up was an asylum seeker from Syria. His Syrian passport has been found. 7 persons have been arrested in Brussels with possible connection with Friday attacks. An international manhunt has been launched on November 15, (similar to the one launched against Osama bin Laden in December 2001), to get hold of the mastermind who in collaboration with his two brothers helped in organizing and executing the carnage in Paris. Out of three brothers, one died, one is in custody of Belgium, and the fate of third is not clear.
Having said this, let us see the possible reasons behind these attacks which will have wide ranging repercussions in coming days. The major reason is the initiation of global war on terror by the US and its western allies in the aftermath of 9/11 to avenge the terror attacks in New York and Pentagon in which about 3000 Americans had died. As is now quite evident, the war was planned by the neo-cons and the Jews under a calculated agenda and was entirely Muslim specific. There are many who are convinced that 9/11 was an in-house false flag operation. The invaders had different sets of objectives for Afghanistan and Iraq. The former was occupied in November 2001 to de-seat Taliban regime, destroy al-Qaeda, convert Afghanistan into a permanent military garrison for carrying out proxy wars and subversion in Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, energy rich Central Asian States (CARs); then denuclearize and possibly balkanize Pakistan; and then ship oil and gas of CARs as well as mineral resources of Balochistan through Gwadar to Middle Eastern, African and European markets.
Net Conclusion: Invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was governed by geo-economic interests and not by love of Afghans.
Iraq was picked up as the next target to act as a pivot for spreading chaos in Middle East (ME) with a view to change the regimes of the countries posing a threat to Israel, change the ME boundaries, facilitate establishment of ‘Greater Israel’ and make it the unchallenged power of ME, and above all control oil. In this regard Adid Anon plan in 1984, Pentagon’s Memo listing seven ME countries as targets (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia), Col Ralph Peters plan (Blood Borders) and map of ME he published in 2006, and assertions made by US think tanks lay bare the contours of hidden agenda behind US invasions. Terrorist groups were created to fight proxy wars in targeted countries. Al-Qaeda was CIA creation in 1980s to fight Soviet forces in Afghanistan. ISIS (also known as Daesh) was created by CIA in Bucca Camp in Baghdad in 2006 to fight Al-Qaeda. Later on, it was moved to Syria in 2011 to fight Syrian military and topple Assad regime. Dozens of terrorist groups now termed as moderates are supported by the US, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Net Conclusion: Motivation behind Iraq adventure on false charges was ‘Iraqi oil’ and Israeli strategic interests, and not to liberate Iraqis from clutches of Saddam.
After occupation of Iraq in May 2003 which triggered sectarian war, Arab Spring was let loose in the ME which brought down the ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and its ripple effect was felt all over the ME. While Sudan was bisected, civil wars were stoked in Libya, Yemen and Syria. Egypt is restive due to fight between security forces and Islamists. Mali, Niger and Nigeria are also turbulent. Under the debris of deliberately stirred up chaos, Daesh has emerged as the most powerful and rich militant group and has managed to establish a Caliphate under Abu Bakar Baghdadi stretching from Raqqa in Syria to short of Dyala in Iraq. It controls almost half of Syria in northeastern parts including oil and gas fields, and one-thirds of Iraq. Daesh has made inroads in Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Europe. The monster created by the US to serve its ends has now become a threat for its master as well.
Conclusion: Qaddafi was felled to capture Libyan oil and to clear the path of Israel and not to liberate Libyans from the so-called tyranny of Qaddafi.
Unlike the quick fall of Qaddafi regime in Libya in mid 2011, Basher al-Assad regime in Syria is still holding on despite the foreign sponsored insurgency since March 2011. The main reason is the unity of the military by and large remains intact and it continues to remain loyal to President Assad. The other reason is the whole-hearted support of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia to Assad. With intervention of Russian airpower from September 30 onwards, the situation in Syria has become grave owing to differences of opinion. Many see it as a flashpoint and a possible trigger for a bigger war because far too many powers are involved in the civil war. The US, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey support the rebel groups led by Free Syrian Army under Gen Idris and call them moderates.
Since August 2014, the US-NATO air campaign is targeting Daesh in Iraq and Syria and also supporting the Kurds in their ground battles against the Daesh. Turkey despises the Kurds because of their ambition to establish Greater Kurdistan, which includes territory of northern Turkey and as such, is hitting Kurds. The latter is spared whenever it gets locked with Syrian Army. On the contrary, Russian jets are not making any discrimination and are striking all the groups pitched against Assad forces and are achieving results. These differing perceptions and actions have given rise to frictions but by and large both sides are continuing with their bombing spree. Among the US coalition, the French air force is most active against Daesh.
In the firefight, Daesh is the most hard pressed since it is fighting against dozens of rebel groups in Syria, Assad forces, Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi Kurds, US-NATO-Turkey-Arab States coalition airpower, and Russian airpower and has yet retained its Caliphate and running it. One reason behind the strength of Daesh is continuous flow of Jihadis from all parts of the globe including white Jihadis from Europe, Australia and USA. They are joining this outfit and fighting the war in Iraq and Syria despite the odds. From France 500 fighters are members of Daesh in Syria and Iraq, out of which half have returned home but many more are waiting for their turn to go.
Conclusion: Syria is the last stronghold in Middle East standing in the path of Israel’s ambitions. Assad’s fall will complete the cycle of deliberately stoked chaos in ME.
Tailpiece Comment: Notwithstanding the deplorable act of the terrorists against innocent civilians in Paris, the questions asked are who created Al-Qaeda, Daesh and used these non-state actors for accomplishing selfish interests? Why the greedy world powers want to snatch every morsel of the developing and underdeveloped world to upkeep their royal lifestyle? Who introduced the concepts of good and bad Taliban/rebels, proxy wars, regime change, false flag operations and psychological warfare? The civilized and cultured world which is feeling hurt and affronted needs to answer whether peaceful Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were destroyed by uncivilized world, and were over two million people killed by the uncultured? Why the world remain tightlipped when Muslims kill Muslims in tens of thousands, and that too egged on by outsiders, but raise a storm when non-Muslims are killed? They need to answer who fomented chaos and created the big mess in Afghanistan, Pakistan and in ME which has now made Europe vulnerable and the world insecure and unsafe? Why was it assumed that the flames of terrorism lit outside USA and Europe will not spread into neighboring Europe and elsewhere? Why is the blood of Muslims so cheap that they can be killed like stray dogs? Why have the sole super power and other world powers not solved the most contentious Palestine and Kashmir disputes lingering since 1948, which are at the bottom of heightened religious extremism, intolerance and terrorism? Why the sins of Israel and India committed in broad daylight smoke-screened and why the biggest terrorist states are eulogized and rewarded by the ones running the prejudiced international order?
The list of questions and grievances of the ones under the sledgehammer are too long. Rather than addressing the root causes and opting for a political solution to Syrian crisis and bringing semblance of order in chaotic ME, why the champions of democracy and human rights are once again honing their guns and getting ready to pounce upon Syria to add up to the chaos and prepare grounds for a bigger war? Efforts are in hand to pitch Taliban against Daesh in Afghanistan. After Daesh, who will be next??
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Member Ex-Servicemen Society, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. [email protected]