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The terrorist attacks of the "Islamic State" (ISIS) and its supporters has increased the level of anxiety in Europe over the past year. According to the Global databases on terrorism, these attacks have not yet reached the level of 1970s. Previous waves of terrorism in Europe were generated by internal conflicts, today's deadly surge of terrorism is associated with the instability outside the continent.
Recent attacks have arisen because of the political vacuum that arose due to the fall of the dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa. The bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, Libya, extreme polarization of Egypt, and the fragile security situation in Tunisia and Algeria seem to have no ending, and there is little reason to believe that the attacks in Europe will end in the near future.
A bloody coup in July in Turkey, where 270 people were killed and 1,500 were wounded during just a few hours, makes the country even more attractive target for ISIS. ISIS uses disadvantaged countries to attract the newcomers, create "the formal ISIS region," as it was done in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt, or form some “dissident cells” and small combat units, as it was done in Tunisia and Turkey.
These two methods of action - insurgency and terrorism - go hand in hand. ISIS has multiple objectives when choosing this course of action. It believes that the terrorist attacks in Europe will keep the West from attacking the ISIS territories; and it wants to take revenge for the deaths of more than 20 thousand of ISIS supporters killed because by the Western coalition air strikes. In addition, ISIS desires to escalate the hostility toward Muslims, alienating European Muslims from the rest of European society and increasing the influx of new ISIS supporters from Europe. Similarly, it is to sow discord among religious and ethnic minorities in Europe (a good example of such disagreements are Sunnis and Shiites, Sunnis and Alevis).
Terroristic aims of ISIS are not new; but its ability to constantly carry out attacks is a novelty. ISIS has managed to maintain high leveled terrorist operations in Europe, despite the heavy bombing of the ISIS in 2014. This happened because the organisation has been able to recruit more than 5,000 new supporters of a relatively small minority in Europe that have joined the fight in Syria.
The exact number of European militants, who have been trained in ISIS and returned home, is still unknown. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who carried out the attacks in Paris in November 2015, stated that he was one of 90 trained ISIS terrorists in Europe. ISIS allegedly trained its 400-600 fighters to carry out the "foreign operations", including urban guerrilla warfare, the production of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), methods of surveillance, the fight against the security services, and the production of false documents.
To date, France and Turkey has become victims of the most violent hits of ISIS. In France, more than 230 people were killed and about 700 people were injured, and in Turkey, more than 220 people died and about 900 people were injured. As it turned out, France and Turkey are the main sources of recruitment of a relatively large number of foreign militants fighting in Iraq and Syria (a rough estimate - 700 French citizens and 500 Turkish citizens fight under the banner of ISIS).
So why ISIS concentrates its attacks in France and Turkey? Probably, this is a negative reaction to the French laïcité - secularism tradition in public and political life among the disenfranchised young Sunni Muslims in French-speaking countries. This argument facilitates radicalization and recruitment of extremists.
But many other factors are also very significant. For example, French foreign policy in the twenty-first century recognizes many of the demands and grievances of Middle Eastern states. France opposed the war in Iraq in 2003; intervened against the dictator of Libya, stopping a potential crime against humanity in March 2011; saved the fragile democracy in Mali (the majority of the population - the Muslims) in 2013. While this policy has been favorably perceived by most Middle Eastern countries, ISIS and its supporters and sympathizers did not agree with that.
Turkey, for its part, has long been an attractive alternative development model for other countries with a majority Muslim population. Not taking into consideration its recent problems, Turkish democracy seemed to be successful (sporadically), and the annual economic growth was as much as 9% in recent years. Given the tendency of Turkey to the study of Western values, it is not surprising that ISIS has devoted several issues of Dabiq official journal attacks to the Turkish model of development, and personally to the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Europe must unite its democracies around the issue of common security policy. Signs of a lack of unity and fragmentation - not to mention the bloody coup attempts - are the crucial method of ISIS in "weakening European unity." Although France and Turkey stand out as the main goals of the ISIS, they are not alone. But, given their similar position, especially their bilateral relations, diplomats from each country must work to strengthen these relations.
European security policy, Islamic State, President of Turkey Erdogan, ISIS terror attacks in France, ISIS terror attacks in Turkey, weakening European unity, aims of ISIS, why ISIS attacks Europe, terrorist attacks, French laïcité,