Since the Islamist terrorists launched their attacks in Paris on 13 November there have been terrorist attacks in other parts of the world and statements by world leaders at several international meetings condemning the ISIS group and supporting the need to destroy that group and its caliphate. But apart from additional air strikes on military target and some tightening in counter-terrorism policies, particularly by giving police additional powers under declarations of emergency, there appears to have been precious little action by governments (in fact almost all of the Paris terrorists appear to have adopted the Islamic suicide fate rather than allow themselves to be shot by police or imprisoned).
The extent to which Premier Hollande has failed to obtain from his “round world” trip to persuade Obama and European/Russian leaders to agree to a coordinated approach to ISIS has not emerged publicly. However, the main development in regard to that group appears to have been the emergence of a major difference of view as to how to handle the Syrian leader Assad. The shooting down of a Russian plane over either Turkey or northern Syria (it is difficult to know which side is lying) by Turkey or one of its groups opposing Assad has highlighted the split within those supposedly in agreement to destroy ISIS. The failure of the US to provide any effective leadership is patent.
As mentioned in previous commentaries, although there seems to be increased support in the US for the idea of putting more troops on the ground in Syria/Iraq, its rejection by Obama has given it the kybosh. Turnbull has however played a “follow the leader” game and used that as a ploy to publicly attack Abbott and Andrews for expressing support for the idea. As suggested by former Labor party President Warren Mundine on today’s Bolt report, the diminished support for Obama in America (and elsewhere) make it wise for Australia to put itself at arms-length from his views.
One aspect of the post Paris attacks that has emerged is the extent of the potential threat of further terrorist activity from Muslim groups.
This analysis, written for the Gatestone think-tank in the US (Chaired by former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton), suggests that a number of the Paris terrorists lived in a suburb of Brussels and that the district of Molenbeek in Brussels has for some time been considered Europe’s “terrorist factory”. With a Brussels population of about 1mn, about 25% are estimated to be Muslims and a significant number have gone to Iraq/Syria in support of ISIS. It appears that the extent of radicalisation in Molenbeek has been supported by a Marxist Mayor who espoused the view that Muslims have the “right to diversity” and who accused Belgian Jews of preventing that.
Possible new terrorist threats have also emerged in Paris, where an estimated 1.7mn of the total population of about 11mn are Muslims. Yesterday’s report in The Times claims 57 airport employees who have access to planes and airways are on the intelligent watch list (this article also refers to other large potential terrorist sources which are under review).
In the course of criticising Australia’s Grand Mufti, Cabinet Minister Josh Frydenberg has also drawn attention in comments reported today to the potential threat from the significant minority of extremist Muslims in Australia and to the need to deal with this situation both militarily and with a counter narrative viz “The point about Islam is that this is a minority of extremists, and you could argue it’s even a small minority of extremists but it’s a significant minority of extremists and it does pose a challenge to our way of life in Australia. We need to acknowledge the significance of this threat, to acknowledge that religion is part of this problem, and thirdly, because this is the key point, we need to deal with it at a hard edge — with a military response — but we also need to deal with it with a counter narrative.”