Now that public outcry provoked by the terrorist attacks in Paris has begun fading away, different analysts and intelligence agencies are trying to establish why France has been chosen as the target for these attacks. In a country where intelligence agencies are known for their competence, usually networked with their NATO allies, especially the United States, Britain and Germany, it’s hard to imagine that security forces could have missed the preparations for such a carefully planned and well organized attack. One can safely assume that ISIL sleeper cells can be found in all major European countries, along with the US, Canada and even Australia, but the attack was carried out in France.
To find an answer it’s not enough to answer who benefits from this attack, it’s also critical to establish which forces had a conflict of interests with Paris. In fact it’s irrelevant which terrorist group was tasked with the mission of terrorizing the French Republic – was it ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra, or some other form of Salafi radical movement? It’s quite often the case when those who carry out terrorist attacks remain ignorant of the fact of who was planning and sponsoring them. Moreover, what we’ve witnessed was not a regular attack, but a carefully prepared operation where terrorists were acting simultaneously in different places. The incredibly indecisive “retaliation” strikes the French Air Force carried out against ISIL positions, striking a total of 20 targets in the Syrian city of Raqqa, testify to the fact that France was oblivious to the fact of who actually organized the Paris massacre.
The first and utmost thing that should be noted is that out all the US “coalition” forces, France has practically been the only one that bombed oil infrastructure facilities occupied by ISIL in Syrian territory. Moreover, it has been stating this fact openly. These facilities have been the most precious assets of ISIL forces, which have provided the group with virtually unlimited funding, while those states or state-supported “businessmen” that have been buying oil from terrorists continue receiving huge profits. The Islamic State has been selling crude oil at a price at least 2 times lower than that which can be found at international markets, which created a huge network of smugglers operating in neighboring countries interested in the preservation of their activities. According to experts, stolen oil provided ISIL with up to 2 billion dollars a year in profits so far, and smugglers received just as much. It’s been reported that smugglers are even selling cheap oil to the Syrian army and Iranian troops deployed in Syria, who are fighting ISIL on a daily basis. Moreover, once this oil reaches international markets, it damages Russia’s interests, since it is helping the Persian Gulf countries maintain low oil prices, hurting the Russian economy.
The state that is interested in preserving this contraband the most is Turkey, due to the fact that it allows the majority of the stolen oil to be transported across its territory, while Jordan enjoys a considerably smaller “share” of the profits from this business. Some media sources have hinted that smugglers are connected with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a large group of Turkish businessmen. These activities are somewhat common for Ankara, since it used to smuggle Iraqi oil when Saddam Hussein’s regime faced severe sanctions. Turks and Kurds alike, especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party were profiting from transporting Iraqi oil from Dohuk across to Turkish territory. A flood of heavy-duty trucks with hidden tanks filled with diesel fuel from refineries in Mosul, Kirkuk and Baiji resulted in signs “diesel fuel from Iraq” appearing along most Turkish highways, where residents could buy fuel at half-price. Smuggling was carried out by tanker owners as well – they transported fuel from illegal refineries in Shatt al-Arab, across the Persian Gulf to the United Arab Emirates. American 5th Fleet that was stationed there to prevent these activities, occasionally capturing a tanker or two. But, as Iraqis reported, it was enough to put 20 thousand dollars in a bag that was dropped on the deck by a US Navy helicopter for the tanker to be released regardless of its cargo.
What should be taken into consideration is that this kind of terrorist attack in the heart of Paris, full of secret service agents in civilian clothes and police officers that are tasked with ensuring the safety of tourists (tourism produces up to 6-7% of France’s GDP), in a country with massive Arab, African and Islamic communities that are filled with informers, cannot be carried out without the involvement of foreign intelligence agencies. Any terrorist group that would try to infiltrate France under the guise of Syrian refugees to prepare such an attack on its own would be uncovered in the matter of days. The same thing can be said about the terrorist attack on the Russian Airbus over the Sinai.
This means that some political circles in a certain country have decided to target France over its policies. One can name Turkey but this version has to be dismissed since it would be too risky for Erdogan. On top of that, Ankara’s secret services are not nearly as competent enough to organize anything like this, especially in Europe. In addition, there could be whistle-blowers who would jeopardize the whole operation due to the rejection of the policies of Tayyip Erdogan. Such an operation would be equivalent to political suicide for Turkey. But, on the other hand, nothing prevented Turkey from keeping this operation secret, if it was to be prepared by a friendly state.
And then there’s another player – Qatar, an incredibly rich state with efficient enough security forces, that were trained by the Americans, British and French experts. And what’s even most important – it is closely related to the most effective intelligence service in the Middle East – the British MI6. Qatar has been providing extensive amounts of financial support to ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra. Doha has been frustrated with the indecisiveness of French politicians in the fight against the Syrian regime, despite its leading role in the fight against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. After being struck by the terrorist attack in Algeria in 2013 and the need to carry out a military operation in Mali against the local branch of al-Qaeda, Paris officially declared that its main priority in the efforts to combat international terrorism would lie in the region of the Maghreb and the Sahara Sahel – namely, in the area where it used to maintain its colonies. Moreover, 95% of the immigrants in France came from these areas, primarily from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. And representatives of those states are fairly numerous in ISIL ranks, many of whom have French passports.
So finding those who would know France good enough to carry out a terrorist attack was not a problem.
Qatar was annoyed with Paris not due to Syria alone, since France was also reluctant to apply pressure on Lebanon, and this state is a zone of special interests for the Qatari ruling family for a number of reasons. Qataris have made multi-billion dollar investments in Lebanon to make a decent place for Qatari sheiks to go on vacation. In addition, France did nothing to oppose a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, while Doha as was Riyadh were categorically against this.
Yet, the question remains, what does MI6 has to do with all this? There’s a handful of factors one must take into consideration. Firstly, the historical mistrust that exists between England and France, then the British jealousy of to the strong Franco-German axis within the EU. There’s a growing desire within Her Majesty’s government to withdraw from the EU, due to its problems and a number of EU countries that are in a desperate need for financial assistance. On top of that, legislation in the field of migration is way too liberal in the EU, which leads to flows of refugees from the Middle East reaching Britain through France. Should London leave the EU it will be able to dramatically tighten border controls, while weakening the united Europe as a whole, which will go in tune with the British principle of choice – “divide and rule”.
In addition, MI6 involvement in this attack corresponds well with the aspirations of the UK’s primary strategic partner – the United States, who perceives a strong united Europe as a growing rival. Especially if one is to take into consideration the rapidly increasing military and political power of Russia and China, there can be way too much competition for the US. Moreover, the leaders of the EU – namely France and Germany – have started drifting towards Russia’s position on the crisis in Ukraine, which challenges Washington’s posture in this conflict.
The times of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder, who had dared to challenge America on Iraq in 2003, are long gone now. The US needs the EU to remain weakened and terrified, in desperate need of “protection” provided by the United States against all threats, real and imaginary, be it international terrorism or “aggressive” Russia. So politically, the US only benefits from the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Although, it’s highly unlikely that the UK would be directly organizing such attacks. This would be way too much. But it doesn’t prevent British security services from helping a friendly state, such as Qatar, to plan a similar attack, especially when this planning can be made by retired agents that have no direct connections with MI6.
And there’s one more important point. The way this attack was carried out is different from all previous terrorist attacks carried out by ISIL. The Islamic State usually employs cars packed with explosives and suicide bombers to intimidate its rivals. And in Paris we’ve witnessed hostage-taking and gunfire. Clearly, a different modus operandi. Someone has invested a lot of training into these terrorists , perhaps in the training camps in Turkey, Jordan, Syria or Iraq. And those instructing them have obviously been professionals familiar with the details of the Dubrovka Theater Siege in Moscow.
There is no way the terrorists could pull out a similar attack in Germany, where the security system is much tougher and effective, and if they targeted Spain or Italy the attack wouldn’t hold even half as much impact, since those states are not permanent members of the UN Security Council. Additionally, Francois Hollande cannot be considered to be a strong leader, even though he has been entrusted with a very influential country to lead.
It’s more than unlikely that the investigation into the terrorist attacks in Paris will provide us with answers as to who was behind this tragic event. However, what is important is that they have ultimately achieved their goal – Europe is frightened and weakened, and there’s an acceleration of the gradual disintegration of the EU. Moreover, European dependence on the US has sharply increased in the aftermath of the attack So one cannot expect the leading EU countries, including France and Germany, to change their positions over Russia and the Middle East in the foreseeable future. Europe has not matured enough to play the role of an independent player on the world stage. The absence of such figures as Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac, Willy Brandt, and Gerhard Schröder is really showing.
Aleksander Orlov, a political scientist, expert-orientalist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.