Why ISIS May Be Targeting France
By seeking to destabilize France, already struggling economically, ISIS aims at bringing down the whole European Union.
- The Paris Attacks may be the final nail in the coffin for the agreement on a border-free Europe.
- Like the euro, Schengen may go down in history as a noble idea poorly (and incompletely) executed.
- ISIS is prepared to strike against civilian targets in states that use military force against it.
- ISIS may be focusing on France for a more sinister reason: as a weak link in the EU.
- The Parisian banlieues are home to many young Muslim men who feel ghettoized and unwanted.
The murderous attacks in Paris on November 13 and the aftermath of fear and insecurity across Europe have a variety of repercussions. Among these, it may prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the Schengen agreement on a border-free Europe – an accord to which the UK is not party.
Even before the Paris atrocities, the agreement was close to collapse after the failure of recent European Union-wide efforts to find political answers to the migration challenge.
Like the euro, Schengen may go down in history as a good and noble idea poorly (and incompletely) executed, with flaws which became near fatal when the system came under stress.
To work properly, a common area with free movement inside the zone demands a common border against the outside. The Schengen zone should have had a Federal Border Agency with a common, jointly run border force. The present arrangements fall far short of this.
Free movement no more?
France, for example, has surrendered control of who can enter its territory not to an agency in Brussels, where it would have a voice (though even this would be a step too far for the UK) but to the authorities in Athens, Rome or Budapest.
And they, in turn, have devolved responsibility to their agents in Kos, Lampedusa and any tiny village on the Serbian-Hungarian border now being besieged and overwhelmed by desperate people.
It is no surprise that those who wish Europe harm see the mass movement of people as an opportunity to infiltrate and damage the continent.
The EU regards the free movement of people as even more of a central tenet than the single currency. In principle, Schengen may remain fully in place.
But in practice, its implementation may be suspended, much as the free movement of capital was suspended between Cyprus and the rest of the euro area in 2013, and in Greece during summer 2015.
The border controls that President François Hollande has reinstated in France may stay in place for some time.
The larger question is, indeed, why the Islamic State has singled out France. For many Islamic militants, French military activity in Syria will provide a valid enough reason.
The downing of the Russian airplane at the end of October showed IS is prepared to strike against civilian targets in states that use military force against it. Beyond that IS may be focusing on France for a more sinister reason: as a weak link in the EU.
France is economically struggling and facing the running sore of failure to integrate its Muslim population – a larger proportion of the overall populace than in comparable states, and less at home in their host country than many.
The Parisian banlieues are home to many young Muslim men who feel ghettoised and unwanted. It is a ready recruiting ground for militant jihad.
France, as the second largest economy in the euro area represents a significant prize for those who wish the EU ill. Destabilize Britain, encourage the native population to turn against immigrants and you may knock one country out of the Union. Destabilize France and you may bring the whole Union down.
This may be grossly overstating ISIS’s ambition. But, if I was the hate-filled chief strategist of IS, turning the European family inwards and making its constituents argue among themselves would be high on my list of methods to destabilize western societies.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published as part of OMFIF Commentary