The long, global thread of jihadi terror extends to Brussels

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By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS — The tide of hate has come to Brussels with three terrorist attacks in the Belgian capital. Islamic State (ISIL) jihadi militants carried out coordinated bombings on the Brussels Airport as well as the Metro killing at least 31 people and wounding hundreds of civilians.

Coincidentally just days earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry conceded the obvious, that the so-called Islamic State was committing genocide against minorities, especially Christians and Yazidis.

French President Francois Hollande stated the challenge most succinctly; “Terrorism has hit Belgium, but Europe was targeted, and the whole world is concerned.”

After the dust settled we were again reminded that the assault on yet anther European city formed part of the gruesome tableau of terror which has included Paris, London and Madrid. This is hardly the end but part of a continuing thread of terrorist networks which runs throughout Europe and yes, into the USA as well.

BrusselsSome commentators have suggested a shrugging inevitability, a kind of “new normal” where such attacks are just part of the global landscape.

“If its Tuesday this Must Be Belgium,” to cynically paraphrase a 1960’s comedy about Americans touring Europe in a swirl and arriving in little Belgium presumably on a Tuesday. Tuesday was the day of the attacks; the recent November outrages in Paris came on a Friday.

But by succumbing to the philosophy of inevitability we are feeding the self-fulfilling prophesy and thus willing to contain, but not to seriously confront and defeat, the emerging threat.

Why Belgium? I fondly recall visiting Brussels on a pretty regular basis back in the day.

There’s NATO headquarters, the headquarters of the European Union (EU), not to mention some amazing historic cities, Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, and naturally Brussels. The Kingdom of Belgium was always worth a visit. Centrally located and with open borders, Belgium offers easy access to the rest of Europe.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “The despicable attacks struck at the heart of Belgium and the center of the European Union.”

Precisely so because on the darker side security experts point to Belgium becoming a nexus for Islamic extremists and home-grown jihadi radicals whose sophisticated terror web extends to the recent Paris attacks as well as serving as a recruiting base for foreign fighters for Syria’s civil war. Tiny Belgium hosts one of the highest per capita contributors of jihadi fighters to Syrian terrorist groups and thus highlighting the globalization of terrorism.

Let me be blunt, contrary to the French police, the Belgian security networks and counter- intelligence are a pale shadow and simply not up to prime time. Haphazard and often uncoordinated intelligence sharing is another hindrance.

Turkish police had warned the Belgians that they had earlier deported one of the Brussels bombers but no action was taken by Belgium. Then of course in Brussels there’s a large Muslim community, 25 percent of the population which is not well integrated, some of which is radicalized and “off the grid,” and marginalized in an increasingly multicultural society.

Back to the important genocide declaration by the State Department. Secretary of State John Kerry at long last admitted the obvious; that the gruesome and targeted killings of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, the rape and enslavement of the Yazidi women, and the ongoing campaign by Islamic State is responsible for committing genocide.

Broadly defined, genocide refers to the specific State targeting of racial, ethnic or religious groups for liquidation.

For the past few years we wept while seeing ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria subjected to wanton killings and torture. The religious segregation of Christians as “apostates” by the ghoulish guardians of Islamic State in Mosul Iraq, the desecration of churches and smashing of Syria’s rich religious mosaic, and the trashing of cultural artifacts dating from ancient times are part of this sordid legacy in the contemporary Middle East.

In the depths of the security bureaucracy there’s probably someone saying, “we can keep Islamic State terrorism to an acceptable level of violence.”

But now it’s not only Brussels for which we pray for and stand in solidarity with.

In the last few weeks, Belgium stands with Ivory Coast and Turkey as among the targets of terrorists. The list is growing but the western world seems unwilling to accept the long term threat as thousands of foreign fighters who fought in Syria have returned to threaten Europe.

The thread of terror which runs through Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem, New York, London, recently added new cities to the litany: Paris, Brussels, and ???

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).