The City of Light Falls Dark

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The City of Light Falls Dark

"France is a prime target because of its extensive and deepening military interventions in the Muslim world," writes Margolis. (Photo: Reuters)

On Friday the 13th, Paris, the City of Light, was plunged into darkness and fear.

At least eight young jihadists, allegedly from the so-called Islamic State group, attacked the national sports stadium, where President Francois Hollande was attending a soccer match with Germany’s foreign minister. They also attacked outdoor cafes, a pizzeria and a rock club.

As of this writing, 127 civilians were killed and dozens wounded. All of the attackers are believed to have died. For the second time this year, Paris is terror-struck and shaken to its foundation. Pope Francis aptly described the attacks as “homicidal madness.”

What was Islamic State’s objective in attacking all these improbable soft targets? Madness is not a sufficient motive. Clearly, Islamic State’s 20-somethings were bombing and shooting up targets that youngsters frequented, like a pizzeria or Friday night heavy metal concert. Their objective: to kill as many people as possible in a pure revenge attack.

Islamic State (IS), a collection of young hooligans, misguided idealists, and bitter riff-raff, have warned the West, “we will make you feel what we have felt.” They adopted this slogan from the Chechen independence fighters who resorted to attacks on Russian civilians after Russian forces killed an estimated 100,000 of their people in the 1990’s.

Now, it’s Europe’s turn to feel some of the horrors of the wars in the Mideast.

France is a prime target because of its extensive and deepening military interventions in the Muslim world. Some 10,000 French soldiers or airmen and large numbers of intelligence operatives are involved in Syria, Iraq, the Gulf, Libya, Chad, Mali and Ivory Coast. France props up the authoritarian rulers of Algeria and Morocco.

France is playing a central role in its former colonies, Syria and Lebanon. Paris appears to have long-range plans for expanding its influence in the Levant, including installing regimes attuned to French policies.

French warplanes are bombing Syria and this writer believes French special forces have been in combat in Syria, as they were in Libya when the western powers combined to overthrow the Khadaffi government.

In short, France has made many enemies for itself across the Mideast. It appears only a matter of time before France’s partners in Mideast intervention, the United States and Britain, become new targets of jihadist violence.

As the Bible says, “nothing new under the sun.” What the 20-something jihadists of IS are doing is trying to replicate the terror caused by the fabled, 12th century AD Sheik al-Jebel. Operating from his aerie of Alamut, high in Syria’s mountains, the sheik dispatched teams of hashish-crazed assassins with poisoned daggers to intimidate all of the Mideast’s rulers, Muslim and Crusaders alike.

The murderous Ismaili cult quickly came to be known as “hashishin,” or “assassins,” the origin of our term. The assassins terrorized the entire Mideast, shaking down its rulers for great amounts of gold. One never knew when or where they would strike. Their first warnings were often pinned to the pillows of intended targets as happened to the famed Saladin. The assassin teams would strike with poisoned daggers, then die under torture laughing and calling out to god.

Finally, the great Egyptian Mameluke sultan Baibars and the invading Mongols put paid to the assassins. The survivors fled east and today peacefully live in Pakistan’s Hunza Valley under the Agha Khan.

The modern reincarnation of the assassins struck Paris on Friday night. Alarmingly, one or more may have entered Europe as a Syrian refugee. Rightists in Europe are already calling for internment camps for Muslims, though they had nothing whatsoever to do with IS’s teenage lunatics. In fact, IS has put Muslims everywhere in peril as well as besmirching the name of Islam. Europe may seize the Paris attacks as an excuse to bar any further refugees.

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

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