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The aftermath of the bombing in Rue de Rennes, Paris, in 1986, attributed to Hezbollah: Seven were killed and 55 injured (© Staff/AFP/Getty Images)

After the latest wave of Islamist terror in Paris, many in France have begun to wonder how to deal with a threat that most agree is unlikely to fade away any time soon. This is not the first time that Paris has been hit by terrorism in one form or another. Walking the streets of the City of Light, one can draw a mental map of Paris arrondissements that have experienced terror. There is hardly a neighbourhood in the French capital that has not been hit by terrorism. In the past six or seven decades almost all the terror attacks on the city have been committed by members of Islamist groups, or at least have been related to real or imagined grievances in various parts of the so-called “Muslim world”.

Starting in the 1950s, Algerian terrorism kept Paris on tenterhooks for a decade. The Algerian terror campaign was part of a larger plan drawn up by the Soviet Union and its regional client, the Egyptian despot Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Moscow wanted to pin down the French army, at the time the second largest in Nato. Its Algerian allies, many of them former NCOs from the French army, wished to seize control of the North African country for themselves, taking the place of moderate Algerians, led by Ferhat Abbas, who wished to negotiate a peaceful and phased independence from France, modelled on the ways in which Morocco and Tunisia had gained independence.

Trained and equipped by the Soviets and Egyptians, the National Liberation Army (ALN) and its political wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN), never managed to defeat the French. But they performed the task set for them by the Soviet bloc by keeping the French army busy for years. France under General Charles de Gaulle fulfilled Russian desires by withdrawing from Nato’s military section, closing all US bases in French territory and adopting a semi-nonaligned foreign policy.

The 1960s were marked by the first wave of Palestinian terror. Groups such as Al-Fatah and Al-Saiqah, created by Egypt or Syria with Soviet blessing, muscled onto the international stage by hijacking passenger aircraft and, occasionally, with bomb attacks.

The 1970s saw a fusion of Palestine-related terrorism and radical leftist terrorism of the Leninist, Maoist and Trotskyite variety, with France as a prime target. Again, successive French governments tried to calm things down with measures such as the payment of regular cash tributes to the terrorist groups involved in exchange for protection for French airlines.

Subsequently, the French went even further in appeasing the terrorists by cutting all arms sales to Israel, pushing the Jewish state closer to the US. In the 1950s, the French government under prime minister Guy Mollet had helped Israel start its nuclear programme. By the 1970s another French government, under prime minister Jacques Chirac, was helping a Saddam Hussein-led Iraq to create a nuclear capability aimed, at least in part, at Israel.

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Tony Sandy
February 24th, 2016
2:02 PM
Is it just me or does the sound over The ISIS videos remind you of, Wizard of Oz and the guards patrolling the witches castle?

December 29th, 2015
2:12 PM
Islamic militancy is a manifestation of a deeper issue which is the overpopulation of regions with limited resources. My 1979 undergrad dissertation was on the Algerian economy - what struck me was the population doubling time of less than 30 years combined with a moribund economy - across the Middle East and North Africa there is a growing army of unemployed and angry young me with nothing to lose.

December 23rd, 2015
7:12 PM
I think it was Lawrence of Arabia who first made me aware that the Arabs would not tangle with any military force unless they were assured of overwhelming numerical and tactical superiority. 500 mounted men declined to confront 100 Ottoman armed soldiers. Was it cowardice or simply poor odds in their opinion?

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