The horrific terrorist attack in Paris is an extension of a war that has given rise to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which lashes out against all those who do not share, or who oppose, its extremist version of Sunni Islam. The viciousness and the coordination of the seven Paris attacks provide sufficient motivation to create a united international strategy against ISIS.
Our hearts are heavy this week as the numbers of innocent victims mount. On Friday evening more than 128 people died in the French capital, on Thursday 43 were killed in several bombings in Beirut, Lebanon; 15 days ago 224 passengers were killed by an alleged explosive on a flight from Egypt to Russia. These attacks are all linked to ISIS. In the case of France and Russia as retaliation for bombing the positions of the Islamic State in Syria, and Lebanon because it is under control by the Shia Muslim group, Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.
The attack in France gives a sense of urgency to the need to stabilize Syria. Seventeen countries who agreed to a plan for negotiations and elections among non-Islamic rebels and the Bashar Al Assad regime, while continuing the offensive against ISIS. This is easier said than done, as the United States and Russia have opposing positions on the future of Assad. The common ground among the diverse group of nations is the need to eliminate ISIS from Syria in order to eliminate the safe haven for extremists, their organization and their recruitment.
The other problem is ensuring security in the face of fanatical suicide terrorists. That France was not able to prevent this attack is an indication of the difficulties faced by democratic societies in their efforts to contain this type of threat. Intimidation and fear tactics do not work. The risk of nativist backlash against the Muslim community because of the extremists is always a possibility.
ISIS wants to spread blood and fire. From Syria and part of Iraq, their religious extremism dreams of a war without borders, whether in combat with soldier in battle or a suicide bomber among civilians. Stopping ISIS requires a coordinated international effort that includes the countries of the region. This is an enormous challenge for the world’s geopolitical interests. Hopefully what has happened in Paris, Beirut and the Russian jet will help overcome the differences in order to make a common front against this enemy.