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Destabilising alliance: A Russian airstrike hits the Syrian opposition-controlled town of Daret Ezza, near Aleppo, in October 2015 (© Mamun Abu Omar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


Islamic State’s attacks in Paris and Beirut, coming only weeks after the downing of a Russian airliner, have made it clear that, rather than simply inspiring lone wolves to attack Europe, IS is conducting direct paramilitary operations throughout the world. None of this should be surprising. It is ten years since the Jordanian journalist Fouad Hussein managed to reveal al-Qaeda’s 20-year grand strategy. Although al-Qaeda split with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), IS’s precursor, before the US surge, IS appears to be pursuing a worryingly similar strategy albeit with different goals.

The role of terrorism in their strategy is important to note because it is not an end in itself but a means to achieve the greater goal of increasing insecurity and disunity in the West. It is particularly worrying that, after the events in Paris, IS’s strategy appears to be working, ably assisted by rising European anti-Americanism. The fantasy of the Left, expressed by Jeremy Corbyn’s comrades at the Stop the War Coalition, is that the West is to blame for both IS’s attacks and Russian revanchism. This claim was echoed by Sweden’s foreign minister, who linked Palestinian frustration to the attacks. This shows a stunningly undifferentiated view of the Middle East. Unlike al-Qaeda, IS has an apocalyptic ideology driving its strategy. This provides a better framework for understanding its identity than either its interpretation of Islam or indeed its politics. IS is responding to Western policy on the Middle East in instrumental terms: trying to precipitate a battle against the forces of “Rome” which will lead to the destruction of the values IS detests. All of this should have ended the notion that tackling IS is a regional issue of containment.

There is no accommodation that can be made with IS’s particular apocalyptic worldview. IS has successfully opened a third, European front in its desired war with the West and the effects are devastating. The European policy of open borders, already under threat in the wake of unprecedented migration, is fast approaching its end point. It is most telling that France, despite declaring the Paris attacks as an act of war, has not requested an Article 4 consultation from Nato as a step towards invoking Article 5. Article 5 is the cornerstone of the alliance: the notion that an attack on one member will be treated as an attack on all. The political reasoning was made clear two days after the Paris attack when the White House declared that Obama had little appetite for further troop deployment in Syria; Canada is already withdrawing air support. Instead France launched solo, punitive strikes against IS, and invoked Article 42 of the European Union treaties instead of looking to Nato. The EU is not a military alliance and Germany has already suggested it will not provide direct military support.

This leaves Europe and America partitioned, with Nato a hollow deterrent, and has delivered unexpected victories to Russia, IS and European extremism. There is an interesting similarity emerging between Russia and IS’s use of political warfare. Both seek to divide and conquer when it comes to Nato and Europe. At the G20 summit it became clear that Europe’s future is, to a significant extent, in Russian hands and both Obama and Cameron have been forced to enter into an effective bargain with Putin, to get the neccessary militarysupport in targeting IS. European security underpinned by American military power via Nato looks to be near-dead. We are fast sliding towards a post-American world order.

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