Phone Seminar with Steve Emerson: “After Brussels Terror Attack: Is the U.S. Next?”

Published on Apr 27, 2016 by emetonline

On March 22, 2016 Belgium was struck by three simultaneous terror attacks at its airport and subway system, killing 31 people and injuring more than 180. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. Saleh Abdeslam, one of the prime suspects of November’s horrific attacks in Paris, was arrested in Molenbeek, an inner-city suburb of Belgium, and the district where at least three of the Paris attackers grew up. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Tuesday, “What we feared has happened. We were hit by blind attacks.” Abdeslam is alleged to have taken part in November’s terror attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. In December, Islamic terrorists in San Bernardino, California, killed 14 people; the deadliest terror attack on US soil since 9/11.

What lessons should the United States learn from the attack in Brussels? What is the current terrorist threat to our homeland, and what steps need to be taken to combat the rise of radical Islam in the US? Please join us for a phone seminar with terrorism expert Steve Emerson as he explores these critical issues.

Europe: Suicide by Jihad

Gatestone Institute, by Guy Millière, April 16, 2016

  • In the last two decades, Belgium has become the hub of jihad in Europe. The district of Molenbeek in Brussels is now a foreign Islamist territory in the heart of Belgium. It is not, however, a lawless zone: sharia law has effectively replaced Belgian law.
  • One of the organizers of the Paris bombings, Salah Abdeslam, was able to live peacefully in Molenbeek for four months until police decided to arrest him. Belgian police knew exactly where he was, but did nothing until French authorities asked them to. After his arrest, he was treated as a petty criminal. Police did not ask him anything about the jihadist networks with which he worked. Officers who interrogated him were ordered to be gentle. The people who hid him were not indicted.
  • Europe’s leaders disseminated the idea that the West was guilty of oppressing Muslims. They therefore sowed the seeds of anti-Western resentment among Muslims in Europe.
  • Hoping to please followers of radical Islam and show them Europe could understand their “grievances,” they placed pressure on Israel. When Europeans were attacked, they did not understand why. They had done their best to please the Muslims. They had not even harassed the jihadists.

The March 22 jihadist attacks in Brussels were predictable. What is surprising is that they did not take place sooner. What is also surprising is that more people were not killed. It seems that the authors of the attacks had larger projects in mind; they wanted to attack a nuclear power plant. Others may succeed in doing just that.

In the last two decades, Belgium has become the hub of jihad in Europe. The district of Molenbeek in Brussels is now a foreign Islamist territory in the heart of Belgium. It is not, however, a lawless zone: sharia law has effectively replaced Belgian law. Almost all the women wear veils or burqas; those who do not take risks. Drug trafficking and radical mosques are everyplace. The police stay outside and intervene only in cases of extreme emergency, using military-like commando operations. Other areas of Belgium, such as Shaerbeek and Anderlecht have the same status as Molenbeek.

The Belgian authorities have allowed the situation to deteriorate. The situation in the country now is virtually equivalent to a surrender.

They seemed to hope that willful blindness and accepting the unacceptable would permit the country to be spared. It did not.

The attack on Belgium’s Jewish Museum on May 24, 2014 should have served as a warning. It did not. That “only” Jews were the target led the Belgian government to underestimate the threat. The jihadi who wanted to kill passengers on train from Amsterdam to Paris, on August 21, 2015,prepared his attack in Brussels. That three American heroes neutralized him before he could start shooting again led the Belgian government to think the danger was not large.

The jihadis who struck Paris on November 13, 2015 had also organized their attacks from Molenbeek, but the blood was not spilled in Belgium. Belgian authorities perhaps assumed that Belgium would be spared. They spoke of “imminent danger” for a day or so, but never increased security.

One of the organizers of the Paris bombings, Salah Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted terrorist criminal, was able to live peacefully in Molenbeek for four months until police decided to arrest him. Belgian police knew exactly where he was, but did nothing until French authorities asked them to. After his arrest, he was treated as a petty criminal, not a jihadi terrorist. Police did not ask him anything concerning the jihadist networks with which he worked. Because he was hurt during police operations, officers who interrogated him were ordered to be gentle. The people who agreed to hide him for so long were not considered suspects and were not indicted.

The Brussels jihadist attacks took place two days later.

Despite the worst attacks on Belgium soil since World War II, Belgian authorities do not seem ready to change their behavior.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud (left), one of the planners of the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, was — like many terrorists in Europe — from Molenbeek, Belgium. Philippe Moureaux (right) was mayor of Molenbeek for 20 years, thanks to his alliance with radical Islamists.

After the attacks, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel denounced “violent and cowardly acts” and stressed his “determination,” without saying what he intended to do. He did not speak of the necessity of changing the Belgian laws to make them more effective. He did not mention any enemy. He never used words such as “jihad” or “radical Islam.”

He behaved and talked as most of his European counterparts did. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls used more courageous words and said many times he is fighting “radical jihad” and “Islamism.” The French parliament passed laws allowing what is still impossible in Belgium:police searches at night. But France stands alone, and effectively the situation in France is no better than in Belgium. Islamist enclaves exists in many suburbs. Whole cities are controlled by thugs and radical imams: cities such as Roubaix, Trappes, Aubervilliers and Sevran in the northeast of Paris.

Islamist enclaves also exist in other European countries: Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, theUnited Kingdom and Sweden.

European leaders have been making choices. After World War II, they decided Europe would be a region of the world where war would be banished and all problems solved through diplomacy and appeasement. They gradually abandoned financing defense and security activities. Instead, they built welfare states. They thought that taking care of people from cradle to grave would suppress anger and conflicts. They denied the existence of totalitarian dangers and the necessity of showing strength. To this day, their statements indicate that European leaders think both the Berlin Wall and the Soviet empire fell thanks to the benevolence of Mikhail Gorbachev, not thanks to the determination of Ronald Reagan. To this day, they seem to think that Islam is essentially areligion of peace and that the jihadis belong to a tiny, marginal sect.

Decades ago, Europe’s leaders adopted a general policy of “openness” to the Islamic world in general, and the Arab world in particular. They decided to welcome migrants from the Muslim world by hundreds of thousands but without asking them to integrate. They made cultural relativism and multiculturalism their guiding principles. They acted as if Islam could mingle in the Western world harmoniously and without difficulty. Europe’s leaders disseminated the idea that the West was guilty of oppressing Muslims and had to pay for its sins. They therefore sowed the seeds of anti-Western resentment among Muslims in Europe.

When in the Muslim world jihadis started to kill, Europe’s leaders wanted to believe that the attacks would take place in the Muslim world only. They thought that by not interfering with what European jihadis were planning, they would not risk jihadi attacks on European soil.

When Jews were attacked, Europe’s leaders decided that the problem was not jihad, but Israel. They stressed the need not to “export Middle East conflict in Europe.” Hoping to please followers of radical Islam and show them Europe could understand their “grievances,” they placed increasing pressure on Israel. They also increased their financial and political support for the “Palestinian cause.”

When Europeans were attacked, they did not understand why. They had done their best to please the Muslims. They had not even harassed the jihadists. They still do not know how to react.

Many of them now say privately what they will never say in public: it is probably too late.

There are six to eight million Muslims in France, and more than thirty million in Western Europe. Hundreds of jihadis are trained and ready to act — anytime, anyplace. European intelligence services know that they want to make “dirty bombs.” Surveys show that tens of thousands of Muslims living in Europe approve of jihadi attacks in Europe. Millions of Muslims living in Europe keep silent, behave as if they see nothing and hear nothing, and protest only when they think they have to defend Islam.

European political leaders know that every decision they make may provoke reactions among the Muslims living in Europe. Muslim votes matter. Riots occur easily. In France, Belgium, other European countries, Islamists are present in the army and police forces. In the meantime, Islamist organizations recruit and Islamic lobbies gain ground.

European governments are now hostages. The European media are also hostages.

In most European countries, “Islamophobia” is considered a crime — and any criticism of Islam may be considered “Islamophobic.” People trying to warn Europe, such as the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, despite an apparently biased judge and forged documents against him, are now on trial.

Books on radical Islam are still published but surrounded by silence. Books praising the glory of Islam are in every bookstore. When Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia was published in Europe, she was denounced and received hundreds of death threats. Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept, published in the U.S., was not even available in Europe. Ten years later, the situation is worse.

Political movements expressing anger and concerns are rising. All are demonized by political power holders and the media. They have almost no chance of gaining more influence.

Populations are gnawed by fear, frustration and impotence. They are looking for answers, but cannot find them. A few hours after the attacks on Brussels, a man on Belgian television said that Europe is on the verge of suicide.

Europe looks like a dying civilization. European governments created a situation that can only lead to more attacks, more massacres, and maybe unspeakable disasters. Europe’s leaders continue to react with speeches and a few police operations.

If some European governments decided to restore their abolished borders, it could take years, and most European leaders would probably disagree with such a policy. Meanwhile, millions more “migrants” will enter Europe, and among them many more jihadis. In spite of the mayhem created in Germany by “migrants” who arrived in 2015, Angela Merkel said she would not change her decisions. No Western European government dared to disagree with her, except Viktor Orbán in Hungary, a lone voice of dissent.

In Brussels, as in Paris earlier, people gathered where the attacks took place. They brought candles and flowers to mourn the victims. They sang sentimental songs. They cried. There were no shouts of revolt against jihad. Members of the Belgian government called on the Belgian people to avoid reactions of violence, and declared that Muslims are the main victims of terrorism.

In Europe’s near future, more people will bring candles, flowers and songs to mourn victims. Another two or three jihadists will be arrested. But nothing will be done.

Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.

ISIS jihadi warns mom in Belgium: “Don’t go out on Monday”

The Rebel, by Victor Laszlo, April 10, 2016:

This story, widely reported in Belgian media, is now translated into English where an Islamic State jihadi warns his mother in Belgium not to go to popular public places tomorrow. (April 11)

Excerpt from the full English translation:

This SMS was published by numerous medias on Friday, with all the usualprecautions. But the police, who indeed know the identity of the mother and herson, take the matter very seriously and additional troops provide security in public places (cinema, party rooms, Shopping centres) in the city dear to Bart De
Wever. “It is, however, difficult to judge whether these threats are serious or not,” Wouter Bruyns, spokesman of the Antwerp police, told our colleagues fromNieuwsblad.

The original Belgian French article can be seen here

Given events in Belgium over the past few months, warnings such as this should be given consideration most certainly.

The dilemma is exacerbated by European nations’ reluctance to warn the public. If they do, they incur massive costs to civil society without the need for an actual attack; if they don’t inform the public, they risk a few dead.

The dilemma could be readily resolved were these nations to identify the threat — Islam — and take action against its agents.

The Left’s Unholy Alliance with Islam

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Politically Short, by Nick Short, March 27, 2016:

The Islamic State terrorist organization known as ISIS first outlined their strategy to attack the West in a 99-page manifesto issued in January of 2015 under the title of “Black Flags from Rome.” ISIS states that their strategy in the West is to do “hit and run tactics and then go into hiding in order to waste millions and billions of dollars on police while shutting down major cities.”

The manifesto further notes that, “once the media attention dies down, the Islamic State will tell another ‘Sleeper Cell’ to carry out another attack again.” Their reason being that “this will put the police on high alert again, forcing them to shut the entire city down again, causing the [economic] loss of billions, so the people of Europe will realize that there is a constant war in their country, they will not feel safe.”

On Tuesday, March 22, ISIS followed through on this strategy as they carried out a deadly assault in the heart of the European Union’s administrative capital in Brussels, Belgium, making this the third such terrorist attack on European soil in just over a year. The Brussels assault involved simultaneous, coordinated attacks on key infrastructure sites hitting at least two major public sites. The first, occurred shortly after rush hour at 8 a.m. as two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at the departure hall of Brussels’ Zaventem airport, the country’s international airline hub, killing at least 11 people and injuring another 80 or so more. One hour later, another suicide bomber detonated his suicide belt in the Maelbeek Metro station in central Brussels, killing another 20 people and injuring over 100. The Maelbeek station was targeted deliberately as it services the modern headquarters for the 28-nation E.U.

In response to the attack, Belgium’s government raised its terrorism-threat risk to the maximum level, appealed to people to stay home, and shut down the airport and Metro system while canceling the high-speed Eurostar and Thalys trains linking the city to London, Paris and Amsterdam. ISIS succeeded, once again, in carrying out their strategy outlined in their initial manifesto as the people of Europe are coming to the harsh realization that their country is in a state of constant war.

As John Schindler of the Observer notes, “the game changer [for Europe] was last November’s horrific attacks in Paris, the bloodiest events on French soil since the Second World War.” The November 13, 2015, attack in Paris that killed 130 people and injured 368, was carried out in virtually the same manner of the Brussels attacks, albeit on a smaller scale, but with the same modus operandi featuring simultaneous attacks on soft targets in various locations by multiple shooters and suicide bombers. The Paris attacks “turned out to have a significant Belgian footprint, with several of the attackers linked to Molenbeek, a notorious Brussels suburb that’s half-Muslim and known to authorities as a hotbed of radicalism. For the police, Molenbeek has been a no-go area of sorts for years, leaving jihadists free rein to raise funds, collect arms, and plot mayhem elsewhere,” writes Schindler. In short, Europe is now reaping what they have sown as Europe itself has imported a major threat into its countries based upon the utopian liberal policies of multiculturalism, open borders, and an unwillingness to address the underlying religious cause of jihad.

It is due to the unholy alliance between the modern day leaders of the left and Islam itself that is to blame for the war like conditions in which Europe is currently living under. This utopian agenda of the left is being exploited by jihadist sympathizing European Muslims as they have begun to ally with Left-wing activists in order to pave the way for what ISIS has calls the “conquest of Rome.” This was specifically mentioned in the ISIS manifesto alluded to earlier as the terrorist organization explained the following:

A growing population of left-winged activists (people who are against; human/animal abuses,
Zionism, and Austerity measures etc) look upto the Muslims as a force who are strong enough to
fight against the injustices of the world. Many of these people
(who are sometimes part of Anonymous and Anarchy movements) will ally with the Muslims to fight
against the neo-Nazis’ and rich politicians. They will give intelligence, share weapons and do
undercover work for the Muslims to pave the way for the conquest of Rome.

So how will this happen? ISIS writes:

If you have ever been at a pro-Palestine / anti-Israel protest, you will see many activists who are not even Muslims who are supportive of what Muslims are calling for (the fall of Zionism). It is most likely here that connections between Muslims and Left-wing activists will be made…they will start to work together in small cells of groups to fight and sabotage against the ‘financial elite’

This not only applies to Europe, but the United States as well as we have seen a growing alliance between America’s own radical left and those within the Muslim community who espouse the ideology of jihad. For instance, in 2011, we saw the formation of an alliance between anti-Israel and Muslim-American advocacy groups in the United States who capitalized on the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) to promote this agenda. Recalling the Occupy movement, it started in New York’s Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011, and spread to more than 100 cities. According to the movements website OccupyWallSt.org, the movement was “inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia aiming to expose how the richest 1 percent of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.”

It didn’t take long till Muslim Brotherhood front organizations such as the Council on Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) joined the fray in supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement. In a press release issued on November 2, 2011, ICNA invoked classic leftist warfare rhetoric stating that, “Real progress and development of a country depends on prosperity of society as a whole, not just that of a selected portion of society. Yet the income gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, and uneconomic recovery across the country has been uneven and unstable at best.” Continuing this leftist sentiment, the press release goes on to conclude that, “ICNA sympathizes with the message of Occupy Wall Street protesters and supports their cause. These protesters are raising legitimate concerns regarding income disparity, unemployment and the state of our economy that cannot be ignored. As American Muslims we stand in solidarity with them across the country.”

In his book The Brotherhood: America’s Next Great Enemy, Erick Stakelbeck explains the underlying motivations behind this alliance writing that the “Occupiers hate America, loathe the free market, want to weaken the United States, overthrow capitalism, and divide the spoils among themselves. Islamists hate capitalism as much as any socialist Occupier does, because they seek to install a global Islamic financial system based on sharia precepts. Additionally, the Islamists and the radical Left both regard the United States—the standard bearer and chief protector of Judeo-Christian Western Civilization—as the Great Satan that must be destroyed.”

This is the ultimate culture war, Islamists take advantage of the lefts moral relativism, its default disapproval for non-Western, non-Judeo-Christian forces, and its tendency to pathologize any opposition to its causes as bigotry and ‘phobia’, notes Stakelbeck. While the Occupy Wall Street Movement has flamed out, the unholy alliance continues to metastasize like a cancer throughout our nation.

The latest alliance being the growing nexus between Islamist groups like CAIR, ICNA, and many others with the radical leftist “Black Lives Matter” movement which casts itself as a spontaneous uprising born of inner city frustration while its agitation has provoked police killings, violence, lawlessness and unrest in minority communities throughout the U.S. Simply put, Black Lives Matter is the exact organization that a terrorist group like ISIS could only have dreamed of and as Kyle Shideler of TownHall documents, jihadist front organizations like the Muslim American Society (MAS) and ICNA have already crept their way in.

Detailing a conference between MAS and ICNA in 2015, Shideler highlights that at the event, MAS leader Khalilah Sabra openly discussed the importance of Muslim support for Black Lives Matter, and urged “revolution.” Comparing the situation in the United States to the Muslim Brotherhood-led Arab Spring revolutions, she asked, “We are the community that staged a revolution across the world; if we can do that, why can’t we have that revolution in America?”

Reporting on this merging “revolutionary” alliance goes back as far as the first outbreak of disorder in Ferguson, Missouri writes Shideler, noting that “few may recall the attendance at Michael Brown’s funeral of CAIR executive director Nihad Awad.” Awad was identified in federal court as a member of the Palestine Committee, a covert group of Muslim Brothers dedicated to supporting Hamas in the United States. CAIR joined other Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Ferguson, and from then on the alliance between Black Lives Matter has only become emboldened. Look no further than the massive civil disobedience movement set to begin next month under the banner of Democracy Spring to confirm that the Muslim Brotherhood has embedded itself nicely within Black Lives Matter and other leftist groups.

To conclude, radical Islam and the radical left in Europe is the same as radical Islam and the radical left here in America. The left, no matter where it is, uses Islam as means to achieve their radically different ends, which ultimately boils down to power and control. In Europe you’re currently seeing what those ends look like while here in America, the means are only beginning to take shape. The lesson to be learned from Europe is that the unholy alliance between the left and Islam inevitably leads to the latter taking over the former. Europe is at war with not only an enemy it cannot contain in Islam, but with itself as well.

America too will soon follow suit if we continue down Europe’s utopian path of multiculturalism, open borders, and political correctness. We are living on borrowed time.

Belgium Fell Asleep at Their Guard Post

20160322_BRUSSELSFamily Security Matters, by Barry Shaw, March 24, 2016:

Western intelligence services repeatedly warned Belgium of a serious and imminent terror threat. They even gave the intended targets, the airport and the underground system, but Belgian security services failed to take the necessary preventative measures that may have stopped the huge loss of life and injury on March 22 in Brussels.

As one Israeli counter-terror expert told me, “they fell asleep on guard duty even after being told the enemy was about to attack them.”

Whether the Belgians either did not take the warnings seriously, or they did not know what to do with the intelligence, it does seem, when adding other cases of Belgian dismissal of counter-terror warnings that there is deep rooted problem in that country.

Last November’s deadly terror outrage in Paris showed that Belgium was the base of the terrorists’ operations.

A top US counter-terror official travelling in Europe was turned down when he requested to meet his Belgian counterparts. He was told that they were “too busy” investigating the Paris atrocity. (‘Belgium not cooperating with US on counter-terror efforts,’ Reuters, 24 March, 2016)

This brush-off was one small sign of US frustration over Belgian handling of their growing Islamic terror threat. This frustration has stretched to Turkey who, last year, deported one of the Paris suicide bombers, Brahim Abdeslam, back to Belgium. He, apparently, slipped off the Belgian security radar, allowing him to travel to France and perpetrate his deadly attack.

Worse still, Turkey detained Ibrahim El Bakraoui in June 2015. They notified the Belgian Embassy in Ankara the same month and then deported him back to Brussels the following month. The Turks reported that “the Belgians ignored our warning that this person was a foreign fighter” (i.e. terrorist).  El Bakraoui was released by the Belgium authorities. They claimed that “no links to terrorism” could be found, yet this man walked undetected into Brussels airport together with his brother pushing two trolleys containing the two heavy bombs that killed and maimed too many people.

This, and now the revelation that the Belgium authorities were warned that this was about to happen and they did nothing to prevent it.

There is something sadly delusional in Belgium. It is a dysfunctional country with two populations, speaking different languages, at political loggerheads with themselves.

It thrives as the capital of European bureaucracy and is trapped by the thought-process and the system that this bureaucracy imposes on them. It is also trapped by the ideology that it has to show itself to be the supreme European example of progressive liberal socialist policies and philosophy. This has blinded them to the harsh reality of what has been playing out in their midst, and much of Western Europe, namely shunting a disillusioned and increasingly radicalized second generation youth into their ‘no-go zones’, a youth who, despite the social welfare benefits, resent the generosity of the country of their birth and wish to return to their Islamic origins not in the Middle East but in the place of their birth.

Against this backdrop Belgium, but certainly not confined to Belgium, put human rights, even for terrorists, before the human rights of their innocent civilians.

This may be the reason why they were so slow to act on the terror tip-off.  After years of condemning other countries such as America and Israel of offending their sensitivities in questioning terrorists, they couldn’t put themselves in the same situation even though they were warned of a ‘ticking bomb’ scenario. And so, they let the bomb go off.

They had the prime suspect in custody following the apprehension of Salah Abdelsam but they apparently did not extract the information from him. Despite this, they failed to act on the incoming intelligence that should have set red alert alarm bells ringing, especially as the targets were named.

The Belgium government has to prove itself more moral than morality permits. They claim they lose their humanity if they treat evil terrorist killers any differently than they would the ordinary man on the street. They are dangerously wrong. Charity, and humanity, begins at home by doing everything within their power to protect and defend the lives of their civilians above the rights of the stranger that comes to kill you. Human lives trump human rights.

Only three weeks ago, Belgium was warned in an EU report that untrained border guards at their main airport were failing to check suspicious passengers from high risk countries against the EU’s counter-terrorism database. (‘Belgium rebuked for chaotic passport control three weeks ago.’ Daily Telegraph, March 24.)

Compare that to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with its eleven rings of security.

The problem we saw in Paris and now Brussels is not what we saw happening in the last few months. It is what has been allowed to develop over the last fifteen to twenty years in Europe. PC is the new political incorrectness. Europe is beginning to become aware that warnings ignored for years have become deadly reality.  The havoc in their societies highlighted by the disaffected, the unemployed, the entitlement society, the rising crime rates, the rising voices of hate and resentment, the radicalization and the accelerating rate of violence and terror incidents, show that the socialist liberal politics simply have not worked. Opening their gates to a tsunami of migrants has put the final nail in the coffin of Europe as a compassionate society.

As I said in a recent conference on the refugee crisis, Calais is no longer Calais, Cologne is no longer Cologne, now Brussels is no longer Brussels. Compassionate Europe is no longer compassionate Europe but a fearful Europe. People do not leave the Middle East for Europe, they bring the Middle East with them into Europe. They bring with them their norms of thought and behavior. No amount of integration or tolerance can remove this inner self that leaves a resentment coming to the fore when all else fails.

This resentment displayed in a rapidly growing polarization in the population of many European countries. This has been caused by the failure of liberal socialist policies when it comes to social cohesion and national and personal security concerns.

Barry Shaw is the Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College. He is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’ 

Terror Attacks in Europe Aim to Inspire New Recruits

Police stood guard near Maalbeek subway station in Brussels on Tuesday after a blast there caused deaths and injuries. PHOTO: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Police stood guard near Maalbeek subway station in Brussels on Tuesday after a blast there caused deaths and injuries. PHOTO: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WSJ, by Stephen Fidler, March 24, 2016:

The message from Brussels reinforces the warning from Paris four months earlier: Islamic State has the capability to commit deadly terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe. To keep its mission alive, it must do more of the same.

As it tries to do this, the group has two strategic advantages. Conflict in Syria and Iraq has permitted the group to establish a home territory. And the refugee flows into Europe have allowed it to embed its fighters into the thousands of people fleeing the war zones.

Those embedded fighters include Europeans returning to the places where they grew up, as well as battle-hardened jihadists from elsewhere. This has proved a murderous combination of people with local knowledge and sympathizers who can provide shelter and support, together with individuals with extensive expertise in weapons and bomb-building.

“I’ve repeatedly said it: People think this is a small crew from Molenbeek,” said Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens, referring to the Brussels neighborhood that was home to some of the Paris attackers. “But that’s not right….[Some] are unknown to us; often they haven’t been to Europe before.”

Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, estimated in February that around 5,000 Europeans have traveled to Iraq and Syria to train and fight with jihadist groups. Several hundred have since returned, he said. Many more are thought to have come from other regions.

Like al Qaeda in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks, control over territory has allowed Islamic State to train thousands of fighters and direct missions abroad. Territory is critical to maintaining the threat: Once al Qaeda lost its foothold in Afghanistan because of U.S.-led military action, its ability to mount operations as complex as 9/11 gradually deteriorated.

The public-transport attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 were inspired by al Qaeda, and some of the attackers went to al Qaeda training camps, but by then the center’s ability to direct fighters on the periphery was severely reduced. As the training camps shrank, the main al Qaeda threat stemmed from lone wolves—hard to detect and deadly, but generally unable to scale up.

It isn’t clear that Islamic State is directing its operatives the way the Sept. 11 terrorists were directed from Afghanistan. More likely, U.S. officials say, Islamic State provides broad direction and leaves the operational details to its people on the ground.

U.S. military officials believe Islamic State differs fundamentally from al Qaeda. While both groups hate the U.S. and the West, al Qaeda at its height was intent on attacking the West with the purpose of ultimately destroying it.

Al Qaeda sought grand attacks on the scale of 9/11 that would feel existential and threaten to shake the foundations of the Western order. “Al Qaeda was aiming at increasing lethality. Whether ISIS is looking for mass lethality is an open question,” said Ian Lesser, Brussels-based senior director of the German Marshall Fund.

Islamic State, U.S. officials say, attacks the West for a different reason: propaganda value. The group has set its most important goal as establishing a caliphate in Syria and Iraq. To do that it needs a steady stream of recruits.

As the U.S.-led coalition pokes the wasps’ nest of Islamic State’s homelands—and particularly if the terror group’s base is shrunk through military action—Islamic State must seek to demonstrate its relevance to its followers and potential recruits by carrying out attacks in the West.

Scott Atran, a Franco-American academic who specializes in terrorist motivations, has described al Qaeda as “largely a decentralized movement of volunteers led by fairly well-off and well-educated folk.”

Islamic State, on the other hand, is “better led, organized and supplied, rooted in territory, and more uncompromising and brutal in action.”

If the analysis is right, Islamic State doesn’t need the spectacular successes along the lines of 9/11, and in that sense, it poses less of a threat than al Qaeda did. But it does need a series of successful attacks in Europe—and in that sense poses a greater danger.

The proximity of its heartlands to Europe, compared with the relative remoteness of Afghanistan, together with the hundreds of potential operatives and thousands of sympathizers in place, makes it likely it will carry out further strikes. How many will depend on how governments respond.

In this respect, Belgium appears to be one of the weaker links. It has directed fewer resources at the issue than the U.K. and France with their well-developed security infrastructures. It has a large population of disaffected, poorly integrated Muslim youth. And it has significance as the symbolic center of Europe.

Even as countries like Belgium direct more resources to the issue, building antiterrorism expertise and trust among governments to boosting information and intelligence-sharing takes time.

“We’re not simply talking about hiring more people and they are immediately productive. Analysts need a lot of training and time before they can contribute,” said Manuel R. Torres, a political scientist and terrorism expert at Spain’s Pablo de Olavide University.

Europe is making strides in strengthening its security. But for now, he said, the threat is growing faster than officials’ ability to keep up.

Why Belgium is Ground Zero for European Jihadis

Gatestone Institute, by Soeren Kern, March 23, 2016:

  • Growing numbers of Belgian Muslims live in isolated ghettos where poverty, unemployment and crime are rampant. In Molenbeek, the unemployment rate hovers at around 40%. Radical imams aggressively canvass in search of shiftless youths to wage jihad against the West.
  • “When we have to contact these people [European officials] or send our guys over to talk to them, we’re essentially talking with people who are… children. These are not pro-active, they don’t know what’s going on. They’re in such denial. It’s such a frightening thing to admit their country is being taken over.” — American intelligence official.
  • “Returned Syria fighters are a huge threat… It is absolutely unbelievable that our governments allow them to return… Every government in the West, which refuses to do so [lock them up], is a moral accessory if one of these monsters commits an atrocity. … Our citizens are in mortal danger if we do not restore control over our own national borders.” — Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

The terrorist attacks on the airport and metro in Brussels are casting a spotlight, once again, on Belgium’s ignominious role as a European haven for jihadists.

Several distinct but interconnected factors help explain why Brussels, the political capital of Europe, has emerged as the jihadist capital of Europe.

Scenes from the jihad on Belgium: The aftermath of yesterday’s bomb attacks at the Brussels airport (left) and a metro station (right).

Large Muslim Population

The Muslim population of Belgium is expected to reach 700,000 in 2016, or around 6.2% of the overall population, according to figures extrapolated from a recent study by the Pew Research Center. In percentage terms, Belgium has one of the highest Muslim populations in Western Europe.

In metropolitan Brussels — where roughly half of Belgium’s Muslims currently live — the Muslim population has reached 300,000, or roughly 25%. This makes Brussels one of the most Islamic cities in Europe.

Approximately 100,000 Muslims live in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, which has emerged as the center of Belgian jihadism.

Parallel Societies

Belgium’s radical Islam problem originated in the 1960s, when Belgian authorities encouraged mass migration from Turkey and Morocco as a source of cheap labor. They were later followed by migrants from Egypt and Libya.

The factories eventually closed, but the migrants stayed and planted family roots. Today, most Muslims in Belgium are the third- and fourth-generation offspring of the original migrants. While many Belgian Muslims are integrated into Belgian society, many others are not.

Growing numbers of Belgian Muslims live in marginal districts — isolated ghettos where poverty, unemployment and crime are rampant. In Molenbeek, the unemployment rate hovers at around 40%. Radical imams aggressively canvass the area in search of shiftless youths to wage jihad against the West.

Salafism

As in other European countries, many Muslims in Belgium are embracing Salafism — a radical form of Islam — and its call to wage violent jihad against all nonbelievers for the sake of Allah.

Salafism takes its name from the Arabic term salaf, which means predecessors or ancestors — meaning of Mohammed. Salafists trace their roots to Saudi Arabia, the Mohammed’s birthplace. They glorify an idealized vision of what they claim is the true, original Islam, practiced by the earliest generations of Muslims, including Mohammed and his companions and followers, in the 7th and 8th centuries. The aim of Salafism is to recreate a pure form of Islam in the modern era.

This goal presents serious problems for modern, secular and pluralistic states. A recent German intelligence report defined Salafism as a “political ideology, the followers of which view Islam not only as a religion but also a legal framework which regulates all areas of life: from the state’s role in organizing relations between people, to the private life of the individual.”

The report added: “Salafism rejects the democratic principles of separation of state and religion, popular sovereignty, religious and sexual self-determination, gender equality and the fundamental right to physical integrity.”

Although Salafists make up only a small fraction of Europe’s burgeoning Muslim community, authorities are increasingly worried that many of those attracted to Salafi ideology are impressionable young Muslims who may be receptive to calls for violence in the name of Islam.

Sharia4Belgium

Before the rise of the Islamic State, the best-known Salafist group in Belgium was Sharia4Belgium, which played an important role in radicalizing Belgian Muslims.

Sharia4Belgium was outlawed in February 2015, when its leader, Fouad Belkacem, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. A partial archive of the group’s former website can be found at the Internet Archive. There Sharia4Belgium issues an invitation to all Belgians to convert to Islam and submit to Sharia law or face the consequences. The text states:

“It is now 86 years since the fall of the Islamic Caliphate. The tyranny and corruption in this country [Belgium] has prevailed; we go from one scandal to another: Economic crises, paedophilia, crime, growing Islamophobia, etc.

“As in the past we [Muslims] have saved Europe from the dark ages, we now plan to do the same. Now we have the right solution for all crises and this is the observance of the divine law, namely Sharia. We call to implement Sharia in Belgium.

“Sharia is the perfect system for humanity. In 1,300 years of the Islamic state we knew only order, welfare and the protection of all human rights. We know that Spain, France and Switzerland knew their best times under Sharia. In these 1,300 years, 120 women were raped, which is equal to 120 women a day in Europe. There were barely 60 robberies recorded in 1,300 years.

“As a result, we invite the royal family, parliament, all the aristocracy and every Belgian resident to submit to the light of Islam. Save yourself and your children of the painful punishment of the hereafter and grant yourself eternal life in paradise.”

A cache of the background image for the Sharia4Belgium website has the black flag of jihad flying above the Belgian Parliament. Until recently, the Sharia4Belgium YouTube page (also shut down) was used to incite Muslims to jihad. The group had posted videos with titles such as, “Jihad Is Obligatory,” “Encouraging Jihad,” “Duelling & Guerrilla Warfare,” and “The Virtues of Martyrdom.” Thus Sharia4Belgium paved the way for the Islamic State in Belgium.

Belgian Jihadists

One of the smallest countries in Western Europe, Belgium has become Europe’s biggest per capita source of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq. According to data provided by Interior Minister Jan Jambon on February 22, 2016, 451 Belgian citizens have been identified as jihadists. Of these, 269 are on the battlefields in Syria or Iraq; 6 are believed currently to be on their way to the war zone; 117 have returned to Belgium; and 59 attempted to leave but were stopped at the border.

According to Jambon, 197 of the jihadists are from Brussels: 112 are in Syria while 59 have returned to Belgium. Another 195 jihadists are from Flanders: 133 are in Syria while 36 have returned.

Belgium is the EU’s leading supplier of jihadists to the Islamic State per capita: around 40 jihadists per million inhabitants, compared to Denmark (27), Sweden (19), France (18), Austria (17), Finland (13); Norway (12), UK (9.5), Germany (7.5) and Spain (2).

Official Incompetence?

During the past 24 months, at least five jihadist attacks have been linked to Belgium. In May 2014, jihadists attacked the Jewish Museum in Brussels. In August 2014, a jihadist with links to Molenbeek attacked an Amsterdam-to-Paris train. In January 2015, Belgian police carried out an anti-jihadist raid in Verviers, Belgium.

In November 2015, it emerged that two of the eight jihadists who struck Paris were residents of Brussels. Police on March 18 arrested Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national of Moroccan origin, for his role in the Paris attacks. He had been months on the run. On March 22, jihadists once again struck Brussels.

After the Paris attacks in November 2015, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said: “There is almost always a link with Molenbeek. That’s a gigantic problem. Apart from prevention, we should also focus more on repression.”

Interior Minister Jambon added:

“We don’t have control of the situation in Molenbeek at present. We have to step up efforts there as a next task. I see that [Molenbeek] Mayor Françoise Schepmans is also asking our help, and that the local police chief is willing to cooperate. We should join forces and ‘clean up’ the last bit that needs to be done, that is really necessary.”

The latest attack in Brussels, however, indicates that Belgian authorities still do not have the jihadist problem under control.

A Belgian counterterrorism official said that due to the small size of the Belgian government and the large numbers of ongoing investigations, virtually every police detective and military intelligence officer in the country was focused on international jihadi investigations. He added:

“We just don’t have the people to watch anything else and, frankly, we don’t have the infrastructure to properly investigate or monitor hundreds of individuals suspected of terror links, as well as pursue the hundreds of open files and investigations we have. It’s literally an impossible situation and, honestly, it’s very grave.”

An American intelligence official reportedly said that working with security officials there was like working with children:

“Even with the EU in general, there’s an infiltration of jihadists that’s been happening for two decades. And now they’re just starting to work on this. When we have to contact these people or send our guys over to talk to them, we’re essentially talking with people who are — I’m just going to put it bluntly — children. These are not pro-active, they don’t know what’s going on. They’re in such denial. It’s such a frightening thing to admit their country is being taken over.”

In November 2015, the New York Times published a scathing analysis of Belgian incompetence. It emerged that a month before the Paris attacks, Molenbeek Mayor Schepmans received a list with the names and addresses of 80 jihadists living in her district. The list included two brothers who would later take part in the November 13 attacks in Paris.

According to the Times, Schepmans said: “What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists. That is the responsibility of the federal police.” The Timescontinued: “The federal police service, for its part, reports to the interior minister, Jan Jambon, a Flemish nationalist who has doubts about whether Belgium — divided among French, Dutch and German speakers — should even exist as a single state.”

An Artificial State

Belgium, nestled between France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, was established in 1830 to serve as a neutral buffer state between the geopolitical rivals, France and Germany. Belgium’s role as a buffer state effectively came to an end after the end of the Second World War and the subsequent move toward European integration. Over time, Brussels emerged as the de facto capital of the European Union.

For the past three decades, Belgium has faced an existential crisis due to growing antagonism between the speakers of Dutch and French. One observer wrote:

“The country operates on the basis of linguistic apartheid, which infects everything from public libraries to local and regional government, the education system, the political parties, national television, the newspapers, even football teams. There is no national narrative in Belgium, rather two opposing stories told in Dutch or French. The result is a dialogue of the deaf.”

This dysfunction extends to Belgian counter-terrorism. The New York Times observed:

“With three uneasily joined populations, Belgium has a dizzying plethora of institutions and political parties divided along linguistic, ideological or simply opportunistic lines, which are being blamed for the country’s seeming inability to get a handle on its terrorist threat.

“It was hardly difficult to find the two Molenbeek brothers before they helped kill 130 people in the Paris assaults: They lived just 100 yards from the borough’s City Hall, across a cobblestone market square in a subsidized borough-owned apartment clearly visible from the mayor’s second-floor corner office. A third brother worked for Ms. Schepmans’s borough administration.

“Much more difficult, however, was negotiating the labyrinthine pathways that connect — and also divide — a multitude of bodies responsible for security in Brussels, a capital city with six local police forces and a federal police service.

“Brussels has three Parliaments, 19 borough assemblies and the headquarters of two intelligence services — one military, one civilian — as well as a terrorism threat assessment unit whose chief, exhausted and demoralized by internecine turf battles, resigned in July but is still at his desk.

“Lost in the muddle were the two brothers, Ibrahim Abdeslam, who detonated a suicide vest in Paris, and Salah, who is the target of an extensive manhunt that has left the police flailing as they raid homes across the country.”

The language issue also affects integration. As a Washington Post analysis explains, “Many jobs in Brussels require knowledge of French, Flemish or Dutch, and now sometimes English, too, while most immigrants speak mostly Arabic and some French. That has blocked integration.”

Open Borders

The so-called Schengen Agreement, which allows for passport-free travel throughout most of the European Union, has allowed jihadists posing as migrants to enter Europe through Greece and make their way to northern Europe virtually undetected.

In an interview with Breitbart London, Dutch Politician Geert Wilders, currently on trial in the Netherlands for free speech, said:

“Returned Syria fighters are a huge threat. They are dangerous predators roaming our streets. It is absolutely unbelievable that our governments allow them to return. And it is incredible that, once returned, they are not imprisoned.

“In the Netherlands, we have dozens of these returned jihadists. Our government allows most of them to freely walk our streets and refuses to lock them up. I demand that they be detained at once. Every government in the West, which refuses to do so, is a moral accessory if one of these monsters commits an atrocity.

“The government must also close our national borders. The European Union’s Schengen zone, where no border controls are allowed, is a catastrophe. The Belgian Moroccan Salah Abdeslam, the mastermind of last November’s bloodbath in Paris, travelled freely from Belgium to the Netherlands on multiple occasions last year.

Wilders concluded: “This is intolerable. Open borders are a huge safety risk. Our citizens are in mortal danger if we do not restore control over our own national borders.”

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in 2016.