‘This is for Syria!”
Echoing the Paris terrorists, a terrorist screamed that ISIS threat as he attacked passengers at a London Tube station Saturday. Fortunately, while he cut the throats of two innocent victims, police Tasered the 29-year-old terrorist before he could fatally wound anyone. Still, British counterterrorism authorities are rightly treating this incident very seriously. The attacker’s knife-wielding neck attacks evoke memories of the 2013 Lee Rigby atrocity in which jihadists decapitated an unarmed British soldier who happened to be walking on a London street. Moreover, although unsuccessful, the attack on Saturday is probably a harbinger of things to come. Unfortunately the U.K. faces a greater counterterrorism challenge today than it did in 2013.
As I’ve outlined over the past two years, the jihadist threat to Britain has been steadily growing. But while ISIS has accelerated this threat, its roots run deeper. The key factor is Britain’s small minority of Muslim young men. “Since the 1990s, they have “turned to hardline Wahhabi and, later, Salafi imams,” I wrote last year at NRO. “These imams manipulated the social discontentment toward a ‘purposeful’ cause of religious fundamentalism.” These extremist Imams preach that the West is guilty for all the injustices of the Islamic world.
Today, ISIS has increased Britain’s terrorism threat to the breaking point. By successfully presenting itself as immune to Western military power, ISIS has persuaded British Sunni extremists that it is an ordained product of Allah’s will and that its actions are a tribute the Allah’s divine glory. The divine-invincibility propaganda enables ISIS to mobilize a global caliphate that both gives marching orders to terrorists and inspires them to commit jihad on their own. In turn, ISIS’s recruitment of hundreds of British terrorists has imposed severe operational pressure on Britain’s domestic-intelligence service, MI5, and associated policing units. And it’s not just ISIS — thousands of jihadists from different groups operate in Britain.
#share#Another complication? Terrorists have learned from Edward Snowden how to reduce their digital and physical visibility to intelligence officers. After the attacks in Paris, Britain increased funding for hundreds of new surveillance officers who will be tasked with monitoring terrorists. It’s clear that Britain is increasingly concerned about a Paris-style attack. Reflecting this fear, British special forces are conducting regular overt and covert exercises to prepare for hostage sieges and attacks with firearms and explosives. This preparation is crucial in the U.K., because the vast majority of British police officers (like the first responders to Saturday’s attack) are unarmed.
#related#Yet it’s not all bad news for Britain. After all, the public reaction to this weekend’s attack has been overwhelmingly positive. In a unique feat of worthwhile hashtagging, “YouAintNoMuslimBruv” is now trending on British Twitter. Those words were uttered by a witness to Saturday’s attack who challenged the jihadist’s claim that Islam justified his knife assault. The tweet might help mobilize, at last, a Muslim uprising to jihadist propaganda. Also positive was that a local imam forthrightly condemned the attack within 24 hours, saying he and other members of his congregation were “saddened” by it, and adding: “What happened last night is totally unacceptable and we totally and strongly condemn this.” This is notable, because too many Muslim leaders in Europe have previously qualified their condemnations with references to supposed failures in the West’s foreign policy.
Of course, ultimately, this attack is yet another rebuke to the West’s present strategy against ISIS. It reminds us that as long as ISIS banners continue to fly, the group will grow stronger and its attacks will escalate. This is a truth proved by the innocent blood and fear spilled at Raqqa’s roundabout and on Tunisian beaches, in a San Bernardino health center, in London Tube stations, and in Parisian restaurants. And in many other places everyday across the world.
— Tom Rogan is a writer for National Review Online and Opportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group, and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. He tweets at https://twitter.com/TomRtweets. His homepage is tomroganthinks.com.