By Richard Walker —
Loose immigration policies across Europe have allowed radical, violent Muslim groups to position sleeper cells around Europe that are ready to carry out attacks at a moment’s notice. Law enforcement agencies across the continent are so concerned about this possibility that they have been working around the clock to stop what they believe will be a major terror assault—or a series of assaults—against multiple targets.
The problem is so acute many senior officials say it is not if an attack will happen but when it will happen because militant groups like Islamic State (ISIS) have cells in major European cities.
A troubling feature of the security climate is that it is impossible to track down large numbers of trained terrorists, who have been smuggled into countries like France and Germany from the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere in the Mideast.
The problems facing Europe are most acute on the European mainland, especially within the European Union (EU), where the lack of border controls has enabled the free movement of terrorists and criminals. Britain faces a similar threat even though it is one of the EU nations that refused to relinquish its border controls.
Britain’s problems derive from the fact that it has a large Muslim population and acted much too late to stem the flow of young Muslims seeking to fight in conflicts in the Middle East, especially Syria. In fact, Britain, the United States and France for years turned a blind eye to Muslims going off to become revolutionaries in Syria, because the West was determined, at any cost, to destroy Syria’s government led by Bashar al-Assad.
In Britain and France, Muslim groups were even free to argue that going to Syria to become a fighter was an honorable thing to do.
Unfortunately, many young men and women from Europe, who went to Syria, ended up being radicalized and subsequently joined ISIS or the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate.
Some experts believe the West’s anti-Assad policy has now come back to bite it.
The terror threat facing Europe can equally be attributed in part to its policy to encourage immigration from previous Middle East colonies and to permit a movement of asylum seekers from those countries.
With the increasing Muslim population, the EU also neglected for too long to confront the preaching of virulent anti-Western propaganda in mosques in cities like London, Paris and Berlin. It failed to address the fact that too many Muslims were unwilling to respect and conform to the traditions of the EU countries where they were settled. Many even insisted on demanding the rights of Islamic law. Wahabbism, the most extreme form of Islamic belief, now guiding ISIS, is prevalent among Europe’s Muslim population and is promoted by the Saudi leadership.
Russia has been watching with growing nervousness the emerging threat in Europe, because Russia has a large Muslim population within and on the margins of its borders. Its counter-terrorism leaders believe there is a need for a global effort to attack the issue.
Despite the deep chill in Russian relations, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB, it’s internal security and counterintelligence service, spent time recently at a terrorism summit in Washington arguing for a united intelligence effort. He made it clear there were 1,700 Russians among 20,000 foreigners in ISIS’s ranks.
A retired British intelligence agent, with knowledge of the Middle East, spoke to this writer on condition of anonymity about the dangers facing Europe. He stressed that Europe was now in the crosshairs of the biggest terror threat it has faced and it needed “all hands on board, including the Russians.”
“When you see countries like Sweden and Denmark expressing concern,” he said, “the scale of the threat becomes clear. ISIS poses the kind of danger we haven’t seen before. Unlike al Qaeda of the past and al Qaeda today, ISIS has thousands of young, intelligent foreigners in its ranks. It’s high time the EU re-installed tight border and naval controls and addressed immigration issues.”
He added that this is something Washington needs to get on board with as well.
“America can’t afford a vulnerable Europe because ISIS will seek to exploit Europe as a launching pad for attacks against America,” he said. “It has been made clear to all the major European security networks that there can be no room for complacency.”
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.