France: Has Sunday’s Defeat Dashed Le Pen’s Presidential Hopes?

Posted by John Rosenthal

Following its strong showing in the first round of France’s regional elections on December 6, The National Front and party leader Marine Le Pen came crashing back to earth last Sunday in the second round of elections. Having gone down to defeat in a region where the National Front is especially strong, can it now be assumed that Le Pen will likewise fall short on the national level in France’s 2017 presidential elections? The answer is: No.

For the reasons, see my new article on Geopolitical Monitor here.

The Dubious “Mastermind”: Abdelhamid Abaaoud and the Paris Attacks

Posted by John Rosenthal

Parts of the mainstream media appear now to be having their doubts that the Belgian jihadist Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the “mastermind” behind the November 13 Paris attacks, as initially claimed. In fact, Abaaoud, a neophyte jihadist who gained notoriety entirely by accident, had nothing like the makings of a terror “mastermind.” Indeed, there are strong reasons to doubt that he played any role, even a subordinate one, in the plot or that he could even have been in Paris to do so.

For the details – including revelations from the Belgian press that have hitherto gone unreported in English – see my new article at Geopolitical Monitor here.

WaPo Gives Forum to Group that “Freed” Recruiter of German 9/11 Cell

Posted by John Rosenthal

The Washington Post’s decision to publish an op-ed piece by a representative of the Syrian jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham has raised numerous eyebrows and elicited a number of incredulous responses. But perhaps the most salient and telling point about Ahrar al-Sham from an American perspective has thus far gone largely overlooked: namely, the fact that the jihadist group sought and obtained the liberation from a Syrian prison of none other than Mohammed Haydar Zammar, the al-Qaeda recruiter who assembled the Hamburg cell….

See my new post at World Affairs here.

Meet the Merah-Essids: France’s First Family of Jihad

Posted by John Rosenthal

“Oh, you Jews! Allah has permitted us to kill your brothers on French soil and here on the soil of the Islamic State.” So says the speaker in an Islamic State video released in March, which allegedly shows a Palestinian Mossad agent being shot dead by a child executioner. Standing next to the boy and behind the kneeling detainee, the man, whose face is uncovered, speaks French with the cadence of the banlieues, France’s troubled urban slums that have proved fertile recruiting grounds for the Islamic State and other jihadist groups. He has been identified as none other than Sabri Essid, the self-described “half-brother” of the infamous Jewish school killer, Mohammed Merah.

In fact, Essid is Merah’s stepbrother. In the summer of 2011, Essid’s father, Mohamed, married Merah’s mother, Zoulikha, in a religious ceremony. As far as Islamic law is concerned, Merah thus became Mohamed Essid’s stepson. The boy in the video, incidentally, is Sabri’s own stepson, Rayan. Several other members of the extended Merah-Essid clan are likewise known to have left France to join the “lands of jihad” in Syria, including Mohammed’s elder sister Souad.

See my portrait of France’s “first family of jihad” in the June 29 issue of The Weekly Standard, now available online here.

Law and Jihad: Qatari Lawsuit Aims to Stifle Criticism in France

Posted by John Rosenthal

The accusation that the oil-rich Middle East micro-kingdom of Qatar is a major supporter of jihadist terror is a commonplace in English-language media and political debate. But if the Qatari royal family and two lawyers with close connections to the French political establishment have their way, any such talk could soon prove to be illegal in France.

For the details, see my new article at World Affairs here.

Newsletter Reminder

Posted by John Rosenthal

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2012 Egyptian Elections: Did Hillary Demand Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Be Declared Winner?

Posted by John Rosenthal

Back in the heady days when the West was still enthralled by the “Arab Spring,” the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections represented a watershed – if albeit an ambiguous one, given the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi. In the meanwhile, however, evidence has emerged that Morsi did not win the elections after all, but was merely declared the winner by the electoral commission in order to avert the violence that was sure to follow an announcement to the contrary. Moreover, according to reports in the Egyptian press, it was not only the Egyptian “street” that brought pressure to bear on the authorities to name Morsi the winner, but also then US Secretary of States Hillary Clinton…

See my new post at the Weekly Standard here.

Houellebecq’s ‘Submission’: Islam and France’s Malaise

Posted by John Rosenthal

French literary star Michel Houellebecq’s new novel Soummission has been widely pilloried as islamophobic in the French media. The book depicts the “submission” of France to Islamic rule – or, at any rate, to the government of an Islamic party – in the not-so-distant future of 2022. But on closer inspection, Houellebecq’s novel is less about any external threat to France, Islamic or otherwise, than about a profound internal malaise. He brandishes the specter of “Islamization” in order to set in relief the folly and opportunism of France’s own elites, who, he suggests, in order ostensibly to “save the republic” would even be prepared to dilute its principles with a “moderate” dose of sharia.

See my review essay in the May/June issue of World Affairs and now available online here.

Adventures in European Counterterrorism: The Fabulous Destiny of Saïd Arif

Posted by John Rosenthal

What happens in France if you are convicted of plotting terror attacks with chemical weapons on French soil, including, among other potential targets, the Eiffel Tower? Well, if you are the Algerian jihadist Saïd Arif, you spend a few years in jail; and then when you are released, instead of being deported, you are put up at public expense at hotels throughout the French countryside, receiving not only full room and board but also unemployment benefits to boot; before one fine day you steal a car and drive off to points unknown.

On the amazing story of Saïd Arif, who was reportedly killed last month in a missile strike in Syria, see my new article at The Weekly Standard here.

How Many Euro-Jihadists Have Really Gone to Syria?

Posted by John Rosenthal

How many European jihadists have gone to Syria? EU officials and the Western media continue to cite relatively reassuring figures, typically in the low thousands. But the official statistics are misleading. The real figure must be significantly higher: undoubtedly now in the tens-of-thousands. See my new article at Geopolitical Monitor here.