Context and the Paris attack
November 13 will now be synonymous with 9/11 and 26/11. Late on Friday night, a series of shooting and explosions struck Paris, killing at least 129 people and injuring more than 350 in one of the city’s densest and progressive districts. ISIS has officially claimed responsibility for the attack, but the veracity of the group’s claim remains unclear. In its official statement, ISIS cited France’s “crusader campaign” in an apparent reference to the country’s role in airstrikes against the group in Syria and Iraq, as a key motive behind the coordinated attacks. French President François Hollande promised a “merciless” response, and world leaders have lent their full support to France.
In a statement, Hollande announced that a state of emergency was imposed for the whole country and that France would close its borders. His office later clarified that while the country will not be closed, border controls will be instated. In the era of the European Union, which prides itself on the free movement of people and goods across national borders, it is an unprecedented step. Suffice to say, this newspaper wholly condemns the horrific events of Friday night. Whatever the motive, nothing can ever justify the sheer horror many innocent civilians suffered on the night of November 13. It is, however, impossible to delink the horrors of Friday the 13th from the larger geopolitical crisis that has engulfed the Middle East in recent times.
Without the American invasion of Iraq, there would have been no ISIS. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an interview with CNN, partially acknowledged this claim. It is also imperative to understand that what we see today as ISIS, was nothing but a mob of foreigners and Iraqis who fed off a broad Sunni discontent fuelled by the American invasion. Back in 2003, it was a disorganised mob. However, it soon organised itself into al-Qaida in Iraq, and then finally morphing into ISIS, since mid-2013.
“Throughout all its incarnations, the group’s grievances have been largely consistent. Central to them is the belief that the invasion destroyed a regional order, ousting a stalwart of the Sunni rule (Saddam Hussein), and inviting the rival Shia sect to take over. The sense of loss was profound, with many Sunnis passionately believing that the US and Britain must have known exactly what they were doing,” according to journalist Martin Chulov, who covers the Middle East for British daily The Guardian.
“These views, formed along contemporary fault lines of power and patronage, drove a widespread Sunni resistance, a mix of non-ideologues enraged by losing jobs, status, and dignity; and others, like the jihadis, who believed the war had been pre-ordained in Islamic prophecies. As Iraq unraveled, the latter began to hold sway – just as later happened in Syria.” The inability of the American and their fellow allies in the NATO to create worthwhile institutions of governance in Iraq is what allowed radical Sunni groups to play on the wounds of discontentment that continued to fester.
What the world finally gets is the ISIS. It is also safe to suggest that if certain member nations of the European Union, including France, did not support the war the US-led war in Afghanistan and Iraq, bombarding Libya and supporting the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Middle East and more pertinently Europe would have never seen the rise of ISIS. It is not to definitively argue that they are primarily responsible for the crisis, although they did play a significant part. The statement released by ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris attack only confirms this view, besides their medieval angst against the likes of Charlie Hebdo. More than sectarian grievances, what propelled the rise of ISIS was the US-run prison system, which began with the rampant abuses at Abu Gharib.
The facility soon sparked the creation of mass detention facilities across Iraq. In an interview to Martin Chulov, the ISIS jihadist, who uses the assumed name of Abu Ahmed, said that the prison system was their most effective organising tool. Without the Camp Bucca facility in southern Iraq, where Abu Ahmed and the rest of the current senior leadership were detained, the world would not have witnessed ISIS.