Attacks on France Mean the West Must Target ISIS in Raqqa

By Moshe Arens

July 18, 2016


Have you ever thought of a car as a weapon? Sitting behind the wheel you have the ability to kill − not by accident, but deliberately. It has already been done by radical Islamist terrorists on numerous occasions this past year, but never on the scale of the rampage along two kilometers of Nice's Promenade des Anglais on July 14, Bastille Day, by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

In France they’re still puzzling about the motive behind this murderous act. “Is he a secret sympathizer of jihad, or someone who decided to commit suicide posing as a martyr?” asks the French newspaper Le Monde. To Manuel Valls, the French premier, the answer is clear. “He is, without doubt, related to radical Islamism, in one way or another,” Valls has declared on French television. Unlike U.S. President Barack Obama, he has no compunction about calling a spade a spade – it’s radical Islamic terrorism.

It was premeditated murder. On July 11, three days earlier, Lahouaiej Bouhlel rented a 19-ton refrigerated truck. “I am delivering ice cream,” he told the checkpoint guard who let him pass through. The date, Bastille Day, wasn’t picked at random. Is there any doubt that this was another crime committed by Islamic terrorists? That the inspiration for it, as for so many other acts of terrorism, emanated from Raqqa, the headquarters of the Islamic State?

It’s true that it’s difficult to forestall “lone wolf” attacks − certainly far more difficult than when the attack has been planned and organized by a group, part of a network that can be tracked by experienced and efficient security services. But even so, at a mass event such as the Bastille Day celebrations, one would expect the police to be on high alert.

It was the third major terrorist attack in France over the past 19 months. After the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, French President Francois Hollande declared that it was “an act of war” by the Islamic State. But the questions arise: What has France done these past 19 months to win this war, or even to defend itself? And what can France do?

Despite the problems he faces by intermittent acts of terror causing massive loss of life, Hollande has found the time to assemble a meeting of foreign ministers in Paris. This meeting was meant to support his initiative, to be presented at the United Nations, to compel Israel to accept his version of a “two-state solution.” Maybe he really believes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who in his recent appearance at the European Parliament stated that once the Palestinian problem had been solved terrorism would disappear.

So pursuing his Palestinian initiative may be his answer to the Islamic State’s attacks on France. But the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all the Middle East's problems, a notion that at least for a while was shared by Obama, is completely divorced from Middle East reality. The Islamic State’s worldwide offensive against Western civilization, as well as against all Muslims who are not of the group’s persuasion, provides almost daily proof of this.

Defending France, and for that matter the Western world, requires going after the Islamic State on its home ground, in Raqqa, Syria. It is from there that operational instructions are issued and “lone wolves” draw their inspiration.

Of course, Hollande would prefer to let the Kurds and Iranian militias do the job, while providing occasional air support. And he is, no doubt, encouraged by their recent limited successes. A remote-control war is preferable to the real thing. But wars are won on the ground. And this one will be won only with boots on the ground in Raqqa.