Four Things That Will Likely Change After The Paris Terrorist Attacks
November 16, 2015
by Pete Baumgartner
The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds of others could have a major impact on political and social issues in Europe and other Western countries.
U.S. President Barack Obama described the multiple assaults on soft targets in the French capital on November 13 as an "attack on the civilized world," and the deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since 2004 has already empowered anti-immigrant political forces, increased isolationism among governments, and heightened xenophobic sentiment toward Muslims.
Backlash Against Migrants
News that at least one of the terrorists in the Paris attacks may have traveled to Europe alongside Syrian refugees has led some government leaders to harden their opposition to refugees amid the biggest flood of migrants in Europe since World War II.
Greek and Serbian officials said the man, identified as Ahmad al-Mohammad -- possibly an alias -- had posed as a Syrian refugee and arrived by boat to a Greek isle in early October before taking the Balkan route to a migrant camp in Croatia.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban -- who built a razor-wire-topped fence between Hungary and two neighboring countries in recent months to keep refugees out -- said on November 16 that it is impossible to know exactly how many terrorists have come to the EU by mixing in with migrants.
"One terrorist is too many," Orban said.
He added that the EU's plan to send quotas of migrants to each member country is illegal and will "spread terrorism around Europe."
Polish Defense Minister Witold Waszczykowski said on November 15 that the "tens of thousands of young men" arriving in Greece with an "iPad in their hand" and asking where they can plug it in could instead -- with EU help -- be turned into an army and sent back to Syria to "liberate their country."
His comments came one day after Polish European Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski said Warsaw does not consider Brussels' plan to distribute refugees around the EU to be a "political possibility."
The outgoing Polish government that was replaced on November 16 had pledged to the EU that it would accept some 7,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea over the next two years.
The Paris attacks are also expected to put greater political pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been imploring Germans to welcome the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have arrived in Germany this year.
In the United States, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said the United States should focus on accepting "a limited number" of Christians fleeing persecution in Syria.
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, said the Obama plan to accept thousands of Syrian refugees "is nothing less than lunacy" and agreed with Bush that Christians should be given priority among the refugees the United States accepts.
Even state leaders were quick to jump on the anti-refugee bandwagon.
Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, which is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States, said the process of bringing Syrian refugees to his state has been postponed.
The governors of Alabama and Louisiana also announced their opposition to Syrian refugees being resettled in their states in the American south.
Growing Anti-Muslim Sentiment
Hand-in-hand with mounting official opposition to refugees in the aftermath of the Paris attacks is rising xenophobia toward Muslims. Islam is the predominant religion of the some 1 million migrants expected to arrive in EU countries in 2015.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in a televised statement that France must ban Islamist organizations, expel foreign "preachers of hatred" and illegal immigrants, and close down hard-line mosques.
Le Pen's standing in opinion polls has increased substantially this year as she trumpets her tough stance on immigration. She even garnered an invite on November 15 from French President Francois Hollande to hold talks at the Elysee Palace to discuss the terror attacks.
Anti-Muslim sentiment in the Netherlands has caused the popularity of far-right leader Geert Wilders -- who has compared the Koran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf -- to skyrocket. Opinion polls show Wilders' Party of Freedom would triple its seats in parliament if elections were held now.
The German anti-Islamic movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) said the Paris attacks have led it to expect much larger turnouts for its marches in several German cities, which are held every Monday.
Demonstration organizers in the eastern German city of Dresden -- where PEGIDA was founded -- are hoping some 20,000 people will attend their November 16 rally.
And although Obama said in Turkey on November 16 that the United States should not put a religious test on whom it accepts as refugees, he did say that the Islamic community should make a greater effort to ensure that young people are 'not infected' with radical beliefs.
He added that Muslim leaders have not provided enough pushback against Islamic extremism.
Donald Trump, the current leader in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, said on November 16 that he would consider closing mosques in the United States that have radical leaders.
Politically charged comments by U.S. presidential candidates mirror anti-Muslim feelings among many Americans who have written derogatory comments about Islam on social media since the Paris attacks.
Those feelings have also translated into violent actions in some places.
On Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, which was seized and annexed by Russian last year, a mosque was attacked in the town of Zavet-Leninsky over the weekend, with bricks being thrown through the building's windows.
Newly arrived migrants at the Macedonian-Serbian border expressed great concern at how they might be treated by Europeans in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
Military Action In Syria -- Cooperation With Russia?
The Paris attacks brought pledges from several political leaders for tougher military action in Syria against the Islamic State (IS) group, which has claimed responsibility for the mass killings.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls didn't mince words when he said France "is at war" with terrorism -- and the country backed up the tough talk when some 12 French fighter jets targeted the IS stronghold of Raqqa on November 16, hitting weapons depots and a training camp.
The strikes came the same day that Hollande said France will "intensify" its air campaign against IS targets in Syria and Iraq.
But Obama ruled out any major change in the U.S. strategy for fighting IS, reiterating his pledge that Washington would not put forces on the ground to battle the Islamic extremist fighters.
Some observers suggested the enormity of the Paris attacks would force Western countries to take greater action against IS in Syria, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone, a safe zone in northern Syria as proposed by Turkey, or even to forge cooperation between Russia and the multination, U.S.-led coalition fighting IS militants in Syria.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after a meeting with Hollande on November 15 that 'we need everyone in order to exterminate [IS], including the Russians. There cannot be two coalitions in Syria.'
But despite top world leaders' presence in Antalya, Turkey, for the G20 summit the past two days, no major reports of progress toward creating a no-fly zone or a safe territory for Syrians emerged.
Hollande did announce, however, that in the coming days he would fly to Washington for talks with Obama, as well as to Moscow to meet with Putin and discuss the IS threat.
And, in a possible overture to the U.S.-led coalition striking IS targets in Syria, Putin said in Antalya on November 16 that Moscow had "reached agreements" with some armed opposition groups in Syria that had asked Russia not to strike the territory they control.
Washington has repeatedly said Russian air strikes in Syria are aimed primarily at keeping beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad in power and not necessarily to destroy the IS group.
Moscow's air strikes have targeted what the United States considers moderate opposition that is fighting both extremist Islamist groups and Syrian government troops loyal to Assad.
Putin said Moscow has "established contacts with some parts...of the irreconcilable Syrian armed opposition."
He added that the "tragic events in Paris show that we have to unite our efforts in fighting this evil, something we should have done a long time ago."
But no such agreement on cooperation seemed imminent after Putin and Obama met for 35 minutes in Antalya on November 15 on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Increased Security In Everyday Life
Hollande declared a state of emergency and closed the country's borders immediately after the attacks.
He also posted thousands of French soldiers throughout the capital as public institutions and tourist sites -- such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum -- shuttered for days in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Similar measures were imposed throughout Europe -- particularly in large cities such as Berlin, London, and Rome -- as governments involved in the coalition fighting IS and other militant Islamist organizations worried about copycat attacks in their capitals.
Soldiers with automatic weapons were also posted in New York City's Time Square and at various monuments in Washington, D.C.
European countries started checking passports at their border crossings and imposed other measures that caused traffic to bottleneck in several places.
The new restrictions imposed among Schengen-zone countries have worried many that the area -- which includes 26 countries and was established in 1997 -- is at risk.
The immense number of refugees that have poured into Europe in 2015, many escaping conflict in Syria and other countries, has led to EU members Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia to either build or begin installing fences and other barriers between their borders.
Such actions are in direct contradiction to the spirit of Schengen and its open-border policy.
The attacks have also raised concerns about the security for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11, which Obama and many other world leaders will attend.
And the attempt by at least one of the terrorists to enter the France-Germany soccer match at Paris's Stade de France during the devastating November 13 attacks has caused jitters about next summer's Euro 2016 Football Championship, which will be hosted by France in 10 different cities.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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