Every August, the traditional vacation month for Spaniards, those Barcelonans who can afford to flee the city and its hordes for the green hills and pretty beaches of the nearby Costa Brava. The legendary boulevard of Las Ramblas, in Barcelona, snaking from the city’s downtown along the ancient Gothic quarter to the Mediterranean Sea, is a must-do for all foreign visitors, and it is thronged with people at the best of times. Earlier today, Las Ramblas became the latest soft target for terrorists, when a man, evidently swearing allegiance to the Islamic State, drove a rented white van for hundreds of feet, hitting dozens of people who were walking along the tree-lined avenue. Zigzagging back and forth in an apparent effort to maximize the death toll, the driver killed at least thirteen people and injured a hundred.The earliest images to emerge from the scene, a few hours ago, had a ghoulishly reminiscent quality: one of them was an iPhone video clip, without any narrative or commentary—nor needing any—evidently shot in the first shocked aftermath of the attack. It showed several people, most of them in summer shorts and T-shirts, lying dead or unconscious and badly wounded, bleeding, on a sidewalk, as stunned survivors stumbled past.
Tag Archives: GWOT
The blowing up by Isis of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul marks a decisive defeat for the caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the same mosque three years ago. Isis will continue fighting as a guerrilla force, but it will be the end of a state once the size of Great Britain and fielding a military force more powerful than many members of the United Nations. Presumably Isis decided to destroy the ancient mosque and its famous minaret, a symbol of Mosul, to prevent the Iraqi security forces triumphantly raising the Iraqi flag over a place so closely associated with Isis.The end of the short-lived caliphate will be underscored if the self-declared caliph is himself dead, killed by a Russian airstrike near Raqqa some three weeks ago. Oleg Syromolotov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, repeated today a claim made last week but with greater certainty, saying that fresh information showed that there was “a high degree of probability” that Baghdadi was dead, killed after a meeting he was attending was targeted by Russian aircraft.
Britain refuses to accept how terrorists really work – and that’s why prevention strategies are failing
The Conservative government largely avoided being blamed during the election campaign for its failure to stop the terrorist attacks. It appealed to British communal solidarity in defiance of those who carried out the atrocities, which was a perfectly reasonable stance, though one that conveniently enables the Conservatives to pillory any critics for dividing the nation at a time of crisis. When Jeremy Corbyn correctly pointed out that the UK policy of regime change in Iraq, Syria and Libya had destroyed state authority and provided sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and Isis, he was furiously accused of seeking to downplay the culpability of the terrorists. Nobody made the charge stick that it was mistaken British foreign policies that empowered the terrorists by giving them the space in which to operate.
A big mistake in British anti-terrorist strategy is to pretend that terrorism by extreme Salafi-jihadi movements can be detected and eliminated within the confines of the UK. The inspiration and organisation for terrorist attacks comes from the Middle East and particularly from Isis base areas in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Their terrorism will not end so long as these monstrous but effective movements continue to exist. That said, counter-terrorism within the UK is much weaker than it need be.
Was that really the best Theresa May could do? It was the same old tosh about “values” and “democracy” and “evil ideology”, without the slightest reference to the nation to whom she fawns – Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabist “ideology” has seeped into the bloodstream of Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Tony Blair used the same garbage language when he claimed – untruthfully, of course – that the 7/7 London bombings had nothing to do with Iraq. He, too, like George Bush, claimed that they were perpetrated because the bombers hated our values and our democracy, even though Isis would have no idea what these values were if they woke up in bed next to them.
After major losses in Iraq and Syria, London terror attack is an attempt by Isis to prove it’s still a major force
The indiscriminate slaughter of ordinary members of the public on London Bridge and in Borough Market on Saturday night is fully in keeping with the operational methods of Isis. They have yet to claim responsibility, but it is extremely likely that they were ultimately behind an attack that bears so many Isis hallmarks.
The killings were probably triggered by a pre-arranged instruction to a cell or individual in Britain, the order coming from within the Isis apparatus, and not in response to a more generalised call to its sympathisers to make attacks in Europe and elsewhere. Isis is more professionally organised than is generally supposed, going by its track record over the last five years; its military and terrorist tactics traditionally involve those in charge deciding overall objectives and timings, but leaving local operatives to determine everything else.
The unsayable in Britain’s general election campaign is this: The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.Critical questions—such as why the security service MI5 maintained terrorist “assets” in Manchester and why the government did not warn the public of the threat in their midst—remain unanswered, deflected by the promise of an internal “review.” The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years.The LIFG is proscribed by Britain as a terrorist organization, which seeks a “hardline Islamic state” in Libya and “is part of the wider global Islamist extremist movement, as inspired by al-Qaida.” The “smoking gun” is that when Theresa May was Home Secretary, LIFG jihadists were allowed to travel unhindered across Europe and encouraged to engage in “battle”: first to remove Muammar Gadaffi in Libya, then to join al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria.
What are the risks for a nation seeking to protect its citizens from violence? Is there a point at which a society can become so bunkered, walled off, and restrictive that it begins to forfeit its essence? Something like this, to various degrees and in different ways, is happening in Erdoğan’s Turkey, Netanyahu’s Israel, Modi’s India, and Trump’s America. For much of the past forty-five years, the United Kingdom, too, has intermittently had to answer questions of national security and civil liberties—and even human rights—in dealing with the threat of terrorism. Last week, it had to ask them all over again.The British are rightly proud of their tradition of remaining stoic in the face of horrific adversity. The so-called “7/7” attacks of 2005, in London, when four young jihadis set off bombs on trains and a bus, killing fifty-two people in addition to themselves, is a notable case in point. When children are the target of an attack, as they were in the gut-wrenching atrocity at the Manchester Arena, last Monday, stoicism is much more difficult to maintain. Even so, a decorous calm has mostly prevailed in Britain, notwithstanding an ongoing security alert triggered by fears that other terrorists might be preparing to strike.
The massacre in Manchester is a horrific event born out of the violence raging in a vast area stretching from Pakistan to Nigeria and Syria to South Sudan. Britain is on the outer periphery of this cauldron of war, but it would be surprising if we were not hit by sparks thrown up by these savage conflicts. They have been going on so long that they are scarcely reported, and the rest of the world behaves as if perpetual warfare was the natural state of Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, North-east Nigeria and Afghanistan.It is inevitable that, in the wake of the slaughter in Manchester, popular attention in Britain should be focussed on the circumstances of the mass killing and on what can be done to stop it happening again. But explanations for what happened and plans to detect and neutralise a very small number of Salafi-jihadi fanatics in UK, will always lack realism unless they are devised and implemented with a broad understanding of the context in which they occur.
The Government has known since 2003 that the failed ‘war on terror’ could cause an attack like the one in Manchester
Jeremy Corbyn is correct in saying that there is a strong connection between the terrorist threat in Britain and the wars Britain has fought abroad, notably in Iraq and Libya. The fact that these wars motivate and strengthen terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda and Isis has long been obvious to British intelligence officers, though strenuously denied by governments.The real views of British intelligence agencies on the likely impact of Britain taking part in wars in the Middle East are revealed in a Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessment dated 10 February 2003, just before the start of the invasion of Iraq led by American and British forces. It is marked “top secret”, but was declassified for use by the Chilcot Inquiry and, though it was referred to by several publications, attracted little attention at the time.
What are we prepared to sacrifice to keep children safe? On Monday night at Manchester arena, 22 people were senselessly slaughtered. Many of them were young girls, pouring out of a pop concert, giddy with excitement. Hours before the killer was identified or Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack, the political conversation had already turned to vengeance, and respected public thinkers were calling, in the name of those dead children, for further crackdowns on immigrants and perceived outsiders, for troops on the streets, for “internment camps'” with straight faces and the sincere implication that anyone who disagrees is weak-willed and possibly a terrorist sympathiser. A lot of little girls have been killed. What good are tolerance and human rights today?