IS is a European problem

If there is to be effective resistance to IS, it is mainland European countries -- from where most of the "Western" jihadis originate -- that must step up to the plate, and NATO is the mechanism

French IS fighters
Robin Mitchinson
On 1 September 2014 08:35

‘Britain faces the “greatest and deepest” terror threat in the country’s history, David Cameron warned as he pledged emergency measures to tackle extremists’ – at a snap press conference that drove the UKIP defector off the front pages

In other words, the PM’s estimation is that we are facing the prospect of more than 3,000 deaths of British citizens over a period of 30 years (if it is worse than the IRA terror, that is). We might now expect more repressive legislation in the name of ‘national security’.

Presumably he bases this on the mayhem that could be unleashed by ‘British’ jihadis returning to the UK as battle-hardened experts in explosives and urban warfare.

But he is seeing this in the wrong context. It is not an exclusively  British problem. It is European.

Figures published in the Economist illustrate that ‘jihadis’ have been recruited from 10 European countries. Relative to population size, Belgium is top of the league table, followed by Denmark, France, Norway, Netherlands, Austria and Ireland. Britain languishes at number eight just ahead of Sweden and Germany. This makes it a NATO problem.

There is another dimension. It is believed that 400 British nationals have joined IS, compared with 700 from France. It is unlikely that a sizeable proportion of them will pose a future threat to the UK because they will either be dead or have decided to stay in their Islamic nirvana.

And it is highly likely that a good many will be rapidly disillusioned when they realise that they are not involved in a romantic struggle for the soul of Islam but in the slaughter of women and children, most co-religionists. And it is a reasonable certainty that British security has its tabs on most of the young men (and some women) who have gone to Syria and Iraq. The name and address of the killer of James Foley was quickly published in the press.

America does not have a dog in this fight except via NATO; a mere 70 ‘jihadis’ have come from the US, and Obama has made it clear that he has no plans and no policies to deal with the IS threat over and above the limited military assistance rendered to the Kurds.

If there is to be effective resistance to IS, it is Europe that must step up to the plate.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

blog comments powered by Disqus