This is not the world I have known throughout my life. Warriors and soldiers have always put their lives on the line during armed conflicts, and innocents have always been caught in the crossfire.
However, nowadays we are all potential targets of perverted death cults - some covertly supported by states - that think nothing of bombing or mowing down children. You would be forgiven for thinking a new, vicious species has evolved, one that resembles human beings but without human emotion.
France has suffered eight terrorist incidents since the Jan. 2015 slaughter of Charlie Hebdo employees. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken credit for several attacks, but has opportunistically claimed to have been the “inspiration” behind last week’s attack in Nice on Bastille Day. Its message can be interpreted as an admission it had nothing to do with it, but sought to profit from it anyway.
In many respects, this attack is a game-changer. On July 14, a humble truck was the weapon of choice for Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a French delivery man of Tunisian origin who killed at least 84 people (including 10 children) and injured 202. His name was not on a terrorist watch list, and he had only been convicted for minor crimes. Reports suggest he had no religious leanings.
Unless governments collectively implement a sea change in their current policies to tackle terrorism at source and quit laying out red carpets for state sponsors, memorials for its victims on every continent will increase and become the norm.Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
However, since others connected with him have now been arrested, the lone-wolf theory is beginning to collapse. All the mosques in and around Nice have denied knowing him. His motives, and those of many mass killers before him, are almost impossible to fathom. Bouhlel is likely to have been supported by a hostile state with the aim of destabilizing Europe and weakening France in particular.
Why citizens of first-world democracies, where nationals are educated and enjoy civil liberties, embrace terror is perplexing - unless there is money involved. No intelligence service could have had advanced knowledge, although listening to TV commentators you would think the cure is heightened intelligence-sharing between nations.
That might work in some instances, but would not have prevented this one. Anyone can get hold of a gun if they are determined enough, and hire a lorry without any red flags being raised - that is deeply disturbing.
The use of a truck as a killing machine was conceptualized by Hezbollah. “He who drives his truck into the enemy’s military base to blow himself up and become a martyr, he drives in with a hopeful heart, smiling and happy,” Iran’s lackey, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, said years ago. He went on to glorify these murderers’ deaths, likening them to passing through the door of a hot sauna into a cool, peaceful room.
Iran is being rewarded for being the world’s biggest sponsor of terror. It has sleeper cells in many countries, and the nuclear deal has done nothing to quell its evil intent toward the West. Its activities should be placed under a microscope, rather than buried by Western intelligence agencies for the sake of national interests.
Eradicating the scourge of terrorism requires a top-to-bottom strategy. The solution to getting rid of an ant colony is to destroy the nest and kill the queen. Stamping on each ant one by one is useless because more will be born. In other words, the international community must join hands to cleanse the planet of terrorism’s state sponsors, figureheads, funders and promoters before concentrating on lower tiers.
Certain Western powers have over the decades contributed to the problems we face by colluding with armed radicals and dangerous ideologues when it has suited their purposes. France gave sanctuary to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during his exile from Iran, while the BBC aired his messages.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Britain’s intelligence services have supported extremists to thwart the rise of pan-Arabism or bring down uncooperative leaderships. The murky alliances between the United States and its allies with hardened fanatics and militias in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are well known. You would think the West would have learned that if you play with fire, you will get burned.
Geopolitical power plays or economic interests should never trump the sanctity of human life. A nation’s self-interest should never underpin a war or an invasion while the deaths of hundreds of thousands are cavalierly written off as “collateral damage.” Hatred and the desire for revenge are the logical result.
France is at war with an invisible enemy within. The national mood has shifted from solidarity with the government and security forces to anger. President Francois Hollande’s convoy was booed while driving through Nice on Friday, and he can expect a political backlash for the inability of his government to protect its citizens. The winner will be the far right - Front National leader Marine Le Pen’s fantasies of moving into the Élysée Palace next summer could materialize.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is exploiting the situation. He has announced that his country is “at war,” and says “extreme” documentation should prevent the entry of people from “terrorist areas.” When such attacks occur he receives a boost in popularity, which given his Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton’s slipping approval ratings could carry him to the White House.
Former Republican house speaker Newt Gingrich says Muslims should be tested to see if they believe in sharia law, and if so be deported. Not only would that be unconstitutional and divisive, it would not make anyone safer because most terrorist attacks in the West have been committed by irreligious criminal losers.
Unless governments collectively implement a sea change in their current policies to tackle terrorism at source and quit laying out red carpets for state sponsors, memorials for its victims on every continent will increase and become the norm.
Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.