Behind Nice attack, a Caliphate in retreat

France attack, France, Nice, Bastille day attack, Nice attack, Nice terror attack, France terror attack, Nice trucker attackEven a year ago, some experts on terrorism were arguing against intervention against the crisis in Iraq, but the slaughter in Nice is evidence of how deluded that belief was.

In September, 2014, the Islamic State’s lead spokesperson, Muhammad al-Adnani, issued a grim edict to the newly-born caliphate’s armies of supporters overseas. “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian or a Canadian, or any other disbelievers from the disbelievers waging war with us, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be”.

“Kill then disbeliever, whether he is civilian or military”.

READ: France attack: A white truck, bodies fly, and a world of tears in Nice

Today, as the world gazes out at the carnage in Nice—coming just eight months after the attacks in Paris, at the end of a long line of massacres that have bloodied cities from Malaysia to the United States—the full weight of that message is clear.

Even a year ago, some experts on terrorism were arguing against intervention against the crisis in Iraq, claiming the Islamic State posed no threat to the rest of the world. The slaughter in Nice is evidence of how deluded that belief was—but also of just how difficult it is to deal with the challenge.

Nice truck attack, Bastille Day attack, France attack, Franc attack Victim count, France attack Count up, President Francois Hollande, President Francois Hollande on France attack, France truck Attack, French-Tunisian citizen attacker, French-Tunisian citizen ivloved in attack, French-Tunisian citizen truck driver, latest news, International news The truck which slammed into revelers is seen near the site of an attack in the French resort city of Nice, southern France. The was truck loaded with weapons and hand grenades drove onto a sidewalk for more than a mile, plowing through Bastille Day revelers. (Source:AP)

It isn’t clear, yet, whether the killings had anything to do with the Islamic State—though social media accounts linked to its fans are exulting over the slaughter, believed to have been carried out by a French citizen of Muslim faith. In critical senses, though, it simply doesn’t matter. The Islamic State isn’t important as an organisation—but as an idea. It is a medium for the propagation of a more than century-old notion that Islam is locked in a civilisational struggle against the rest of the world.

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France—with its tradition of muscular secularism, and its large population of assimilated Muslims who have separated their civic life from their faith—is a primary ideological adversary for the Islamic State. Bastille Day, which celebrates the French Revolution, and its historic dethroning of the divine right to rule man, celebrates that moment.

Thus, in January, 2015, Al-Adnani asked the world to “know that we want Paris, by Allah’s permission, before we want Rome, and before Spain, after we blacken your lives and destroy the White House, Big Ben, and the Eifel Tower”.

READ: At least 84 dead in Nice, ‘terrorist nature’ of tragedy undeniable, says Hollande

A woman cries asking for her son as she walk near the scene of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice. (Source: Reuters) A woman cries asking for her son as she walk near the scene of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who’d gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice. (Source: Reuters)

There is strategic method, too, to the slaughter. Faced with the loss of the cities it took as it swept aside government forces in Iraq and and Syria Islamic State is preparing for a post-territorial future—to become, as it were, the very al-Qaeda whose true inheritor it claims to be.

In an editorial published last month in its weekly Arabic-language newsletter al-Naba, ‘The Crusaders’ Illusions in the Age of the Caliphate’, the Islamic State noted that its adversaries were seeking “to eliminate all of the Islamic State’s provinces at once, such that it will be completely wiped out and no trace of it will be left”.

However, the editorial argued, the anti-Islamic State coalition “will not be able to eliminate it by destroying one of its cities or besieging another of them, or by killing a soldier, an emir or an Imam”.

This was because the caliphate has “shown all of mankind what the true Islamic state is like”. Thus, the anti-Islamic State coalition would have to eliminate “an entire generation of Muslims that was witness to the establishment of the Islamic State and the return of the caliphate”.

Police officers seal off the area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A spokesman for France's Interior Ministry says there are likely to be "several dozen dead" after a truck drove into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice. (AP Photo/Ciaran Fahey) Police officers seal off the area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who’d gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A spokesman for France’s Interior Ministry says there are likely to be “several dozen dead” after a truck drove into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice. (AP Photo/Ciaran Fahey)

Al-Adnani himself, in a speech marking the month of Ramzan, evoked the destruction of the Islamic State—then known as the Islamic State in Iraq—by an alliance of the the United States and Sunni tribes in 2008. “Were we defeated when we lost the cities in Iraq and were in the desert without any city or land? And would we be defeated and you be victorious if you were to take Mosul, Sirte or Raqqa, or even take all the cities”, he asked?

“Certainly not”!

Faced with exactly the same crisis, al-Qaeda had propagated many of the same ideas. In 1998, for example, he and co-signatories told followers that to “kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it any country in which it it is is possible to do it”.

Following 9/11, thus, al-Qaeda supporters waged a worldwide campaign of strikes, from Istanbul to Djerba, from Karachi to Bali,from Jakarata to Madrid, from London to Casablanca.

nice, french riviera nice, bastille day nice, nice attack, france nice attack, truck attack nice, tunisian driver nice, francois hollande, nice attack india, pranab mukherjee nice attack, president mukherjee nice attack, world news, india news The Bastille Day celebrations in Nice took a tragic turn as a truck rammed into the crowd killing 77 people in French Riviera. (Source: Reuters)

Today, al-Qaeda continues to pursue the same strategy—though with conspicuously less success than the Islamic State.

Al-Adnani had told the Islamic State’s followers they didn’t need guns or bombs to act against infidels. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him”.

“If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face”.

The caliphate has understood what al-Qaeda grasped before it: hate is robust plant, and needs no great lands, nor tending, to flower.

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