Political and strategic considerations in the aftermath of Paris attacks
George X. PROTOPAPAS
● Analyst, The Center for International Strategic Analyses
● Member of IFIMES International Institute
Political and strategic considerations in the aftermath of Paris attacks
The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris caused tremendous shock and proved that Europe remains vulnerable to the atrocities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Paris attacks also display the necessity for the review of European security and for a unified international strategy against ISIS.
The analysis of the European response on Islamist terrorism could be examined based on three parameters: (a) how the European leaders can confront ISIS avoiding the disruptive effects for Muslims communities, (b) the new strategy of ISIS, the transformation from a regional to a global organization and (c) the prospect of the USA and Russia to undertake an effective and well- coordinated strategy against ISIS and to end the Syrian civil war.
European Union’s fragile response
The need for greater cooperation from European Union (EU) member – states on security is of paramount importance but it raises significant questions, because it could disaffect and marginalize Muslim communities in Europe.
European leaders must show a level of solidarity and unity, otherwise the EU risks losing its democratic values. The fear of terror could provoke tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in European cities and as a result to serve the dark mission of ISIS.
The EU governments will face enormous pressure to entrench the borders in order to stem the inflow of refugees of war-torn Syria and the Middle East. The fact that one of ISIS terrorists of the Paris attacks initially registered as a refugee in the Greek island Leros increases the fears that many ISIS terrorists use the “refugee cover” to pass Europe.
The migration crisis has created tension and mistrust among the European governments as the European leaders want to protect at any cost their citizens. The President of France François Holland closed the borders in a state for emergency and the Hungarian Prime-minister Victor Orban stated that terrorists exploit mass migration. Hungary also built a razor – wire fence along its border to restrict the entry of refugees.
Paris attacks seem to provoke signs of divisions on the fragile agreement for the solution of refugees’ crisis. The European Commission works on a system of permanent relocation of refugees, on an agreement of EU member – states to take in asylum seekers who travel from Syria to Europe.
The sentiment of insecurity could endanger the Schengen Treaty. Hardliners criticized the open border agreement. Paris deadly attacks and the inflow of hundred thousands of refugees boost their argument.
The Islamist threat and the migration crisis could be limited if the great and regional powers adopt an agreement to end Syrian civil war and to create preconditions for a post – war transition period.
On the European level intelligence cooperation is considered the most efficient way to protect Europe from Islamist terrorist threats. The security of the EU could be more effective if intelligence cooperation of member – states is based on sincerity and coordinated actions.
The global face of ISIS
Paris attacks display the new face of ISIS implying a change of its strategy from regional to global. ISIS demonstrated the capacity to accomplish terror attacks on European soil.
However ISIS global strategy could provoke problems in command and control as its global communications could expose militants to counterterrorism practices. ISIS more open fronts means more enemies and more tough security. ISIS displays a style of attacks in Paris which seem to involve tactics of urban warfare, in order to kill, terrorize and shut down a major city for an extended period of time.
ISIS is considered to adopt a “three – face strategy” and has entered in “phase two” to provoke the West into a self – defeating overreaction.  Particularly:
“The first stage is “vexation” of the enemy aimed at creating chaos in which the forces of the foreign powers and their local proxies are distracted and exhausted while Islamist terrorists and guerrillas learn how to use their power effectively”.
“The second stage is the “spread of savagery,” which begins locally with small-scale attacks and metastasizes. Individuals and local groups take up the cause and act either on their own or with limited coordination. Those who carry out ISIS programs will do so because they have adopted its ideas not because they are directed by any central authority”.
“The third stage is the “administration of savagery” to establish “a fighting society.” To minimize the air power of its enemies, ISIS has turned itself into an almost nomadic state, virtually without frontiers. But within the areas it controls, it has set out a socio-political program that aims at “uniting the hearts of the people by means of money, food and medical services and by providing a functioning system of justice under Sharia [Islamic] governance. From this base it will become possible to create a rudimentary state.”
ISIS has gradually started to overcome the notorious Al- Qaeda. ISIS plans to be transformed into a global Islamist terrorism organization. The most important difference in regard to Al- Qaeda is that ISIS has seized large strips of land in Syria and Iraq and has built an army of Islamist militants from all over the world.
International co-operation against ISIS
The asymmetric threat posed by Islamist terrorism needs a coordinated strategy against ISIS in Syria and most importantly the end of the civil war. The successful ISIS military campaign is a result of the different national interests of Western powers, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar in the Syrian front. Russia and Iran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. and its regional allies insist upon his removal.
The international coalition which is led by the USA must co-operate with Russia on the airstrikes against ISIS militants. Coordinated airstrikes and intelligence co-operation must be followed from ground operations which should receive orders from a joint command center.
In parallel Washington and Moscow must also co-operate in a diplomatic level. Paris attacks seem to have shaken the two most important global players and to have changed their minds. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a joint press conference in Vienna said that a cease-fire between the government in Damascus and recognized opposition groups should be in place within six months.
The timeline for the peace plan according to international media involves:
- 1 Month, or, by Dec. 14: Diplomats will reconvene to review progress.
- Jan. 1: UN will seek to convene Syrian government and opposition in formal negotiations.
- 6 Months, or, by May 14, 2016: Cease-fire between Syrian government and opposition groups; process for drafting new constitution.
- 18 Months, or, by May 14, 2017: Free elections administered by the UN held under the new constitution.
The deterrence of Islamist terrorism demands from European leaders to co-operate and to put aside their differences in order to protect the European borders. The migration crisis can be solved only with co-operation and co-ordination of the EU member- states. European intelligence sharing could detect more easily suspected Islamist militants and could help the European security and law enforcement authorities to avoid negative reactions from the Muslim communities. The EU must not characterize its Muslim communities as the scapegoats of the Paris attacks and to evade from ISIS trap – to radicalize Muslim populations. The EU must pay more attention on Muslim communities and to contribute to their economic and social development.
Daniel L. Byman, “Why ISIS might regret the decision to go global”, Brookings,16/11/2015, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/markaz/posts/2015/11/16-isis-big-mistake-paris-byman
 Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, “Paris terror attacks indicate that age of urban warfare may just be beginning”, NYDaily News, 14/11/2015, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/paris-attacks-urban-terrorism-article-1.2435283
 William R. Polk “Falling into the ISIS Trap”, Consortiumnews, 17/11/2015, https://consortiumnews.com/2015/11/17/falling-into-the-isis-trap/
 Jonathan Tirone ,“Syrian Transition Plan Reached by U.S., Russia in Vienna”, Bloomberg, 14/11/2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-14/syrian-transition-plan-achieved-by-u-s-allies-kerry-says
First publication at The Center for International Strategic Analyses
Ljubljana, November 21, 2015