A few hours ago, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for last night's carnage in Paris which left 128 dead so far and over 180 wounded. Paris City Hall just issued a plea for Parisians to donate blood today to help the wounded. The attacks come in the wake of repeated calls through ISIS' media arm -- Al Hayat - to launch attacks against French targets for months.
It will likely emerge as the investigation proceeds that the suicide bombers who targeted France's National Stadium intended to detonate their bombs inside, rather than outside, the stadium during a friendly soccer match between France and Germany, which was attended by French President Francois Hollande. After the attacks, Hollande declared the terrorist attack "An Act of War."
ISIS' assertion of culpability was made in a statement in Arabic and French released online Saturday and circulated by supporters of the group asserting that "Soldiers of the Caliphate" have struck a terrible blow to the French infidels. It was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the statement, but it bore the group's logo and resembled previous statements issued by the group.
Although it is difficult to come by hard numbers, there are approximately 1200 French nationals who departed France during the past two years to fight in Syria and Iraq for ISIS. This constitutes the largest number of wannabee terrorists from any western nation - evidencing the continuing threat that France's radicalized Muslim population - the largest in Europe - poses to its people - a Fifth Column inside France.
Of the estimated 20,000 foreign fighters who have joined ISIS, over 7,000 have returned to their former countries - 7,000 terrorists lurking in the shadows, most of who simply unable to be placed under surveillance by the national police of their home nations. Ticking time bombs. It's estimated that 4,000 are from Western Europe with France, Germany and the UK the biggest contributors. Belgium has contributed more per capita than any other EU country.
The Islamic State that now stretches across northern Syria through Iraq - connected by the bookend cities of Raqqa and Mosul has morphed from a "near terrorist threat" to a "near/far terrorist threat" deriving support from local criminal enterprises.
In just 2015, ISIS inspired and/or committed major terrorist attacks in Tunisia, in Egypt, and against Russia (the explosion aboard the Russian Metro Jet was the worst terrorist attack against a non-Muslim nation since 9/11). A few weeks ago, Belgian police broke up the largest ISIS terror cell in Europe stocked to the gills with weapons. And but for 3 heroic Americans and 1 courageous Frenchman a TGV train from Brussels to Paris would have been the scene of another ISIS act of carnage. At home, the FBI has thwarted at least one dozen ISIS inspired attacks planned by so-called lone wolves that are barely mentioned in the media, and the FBI Director publicly declared that its agents cannot keep track of all the ISIS dangerous sympathizers lurking in the shadows across the nation. The Beirut suicide bombings three days ago were also committed by ISIS operatives. A suicide bombing in Ankara last month killed hundreds of Turks.
Ironically, President Obama boasted yesterday morning - the day of the Paris attacks - that ISIS "...is not getting stronger, but is being contained." Other than his jayvee NSC staff that wrote that fairy tale statement for the president to read, who actually believes that? Tell that to the French people, Mr. President!
According to BBC News estimates the five countries with the most fighters in Syria are Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Libya. Russia has also contributed a substantial number of fighters - with most believed to have come from Chechnya. Another 3,000 come from former Soviet states.
The continuing flow of Arab fighters from the Middle East into Syria and Iraq provides the oxygen that enables ISIS to survive and, indeed, thrive. Tunisia - a largely secular and advanced state and ironically the birthplace of the misnamed Arab Spring - and the Arab world's only democratically elected regime - is the single largest contributor to ISIS in the Arab world - over 3,000 young Tunisians have trekked across Libya and ferried to Syria via Istanbul, Jordan and Lebanon. ISIS has devoted considerable resources to convert Tunisia into a breeding ground for the Islamic State - and the social media campaign ISIS targets into Tunisia's shanty towns is its most sophisticated recruiting operation in the Middle East (I know, I have spent months with a team attempting to counter it).
The Sunni states of Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey and Pakistan collectively represent the largest source of ISIS recruits - countries that have failed to do enough to stop their nationals from responding to the ISIS clarion call to join Jihad. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Qatar - two of the wealthiest Arab states, have all too often turned a blind eye to their own nationals donating to ISIS through dummy charitable organizations.
Moreover, despite entreaties from the U.S., France and the U.K., Gulf Arab state private donations continue to be funneled through Kuwait's lax financial control system into ISIS coffers. UNACCEPTABLE!
Given the Islamic State's sinister reach into North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, and South Asia, and the threat it poses to the very Sunni Arab states which provide the largest fighting forces for it, these Arab nations should be doing everything possible to suffocate the flow of men, money, and arms to ISIS - but they are not. UNACCEPTABLE!!
The demise of the Islamic State will not come about until Arab states are shamed, compelled, forced, sanctioned, what have you, to do everything necessary to prevent its funds and nationals from joining ISIS' ranks. At the same time, Arab states must be the major source of boots on the ground to defeat ISIS - not boots from France or the U.S.
How tragic that the Potemkin Village Coalition extolled by Messrs. Obama and Kerry is a paper tiger largely devoid of Arab support.
As the U.S. escalates its air war against ISIS - it is flying over 90% of all "coalition" sorties the coalition is evaporating. Arab states which dispatched with great fanfare months ago have, according to the New York Times on November 8, "largely vanished from the campaign." Why? Why have we not held their feet to the fire? Why have we not compelled Arab states to shoulder the burden that is not ours? Arab states clearly prefer that Americans fight and die on their behalf.
To put it bluntly, that is a sucker strategy.
As France mourns, and as Americans are drawn more and more into the struggle against ISIS, the Obama Administration and its European allies have to turn the tables on Arab states before ISIS strikes again against us. It is all well and good for Secretary of State Kerry to work in Vienna to find some solution to the Syrian Civil War, but as he focuses his attention there, where is the American effort to galvanize a coalition against ISIS that is evaporating because of neglect and an incoherent Trans-Atlantic strategy? Mr. Kerry cannot do it alone, and the evidence is there for all to bear witness.
The French people are under siege, and we Americans are under threat. The Arab nations directly and indirectly supporting ISIS seem to be under neither based on their conduct so far.