Al Qaeda Declares France Enemy

Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahri has joined the Islamist war against France.

Al-Qaida has for the first time announced a union with an Algerian insurgent group that has designated France as an enemy, saying they will act together against French and American interests.

Current and former French officials specializing in terrorism said Thursday that an al-Qaida alliance with the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by its French initials GSPC, was cause for concern. “We take these threats very seriously,” Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said, adding in an interview on France-2 television that the threat to France was “high” and “permanent,” and that “absolute vigilance” was required.

Al-Qaida’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, announced the “blessed union” in a video posted this week on the Internet to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

France’s leader have repeatedly warned that the decision not to join the U.S.-led war in
Iraq would not shield the country from Islamic terrorism. French participation in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon could give extremists another reason to strike.

This just goes to show, as Andy Rooney sagely counseled, France should figure out why the world hates them so.

Does this prove that France was wrong not to join the U.S. in its effort to topple Saddam Hussein and establish a democratic bulwark against Islamists in Iraq? No. But it does seem to indicate that there’s not much a Western state can do to appease the terrorists.

Like the United States and the UK, France obviously has a history of entanglement in the Middle East. Iindeed, the latter two have a much longer history than the U.S. and, because of policy decisions made decades ago, now have substantial Muslim populations at home. One hopes events like this will provide additional incentives to work together against our common enemy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. George Dixon says:

    Not an existential threat part 3 eh?

    Krauthammer today: “In the region, Persian Iran will immediately become the hegemonic power in the Arab Middle East. Today it is deterred from overt aggression against its neighbors by the threat of conventional retaliation. Against a nuclear Iran, such deterrence becomes far less credible. As its weak, nonnuclear Persian Gulf neighbors accommodate to it, jihadist Iran will gain control of the most strategic region on the globe.

    Then there is the larger danger of permitting nuclear weapons to be acquired by religious fanatics seized with an eschatological belief in the imminent apocalypse and in their own divine duty to hasten the End of Days. The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age. Every city in the civilized world will live under the specter of instant annihilation delivered either by missile or by terrorist. This from a country that has an official Death to America Day and has declared since Ayatollah Khomeini’s ascension that Israel must be wiped off the map.

    Against millenarian fanaticism glorying in a cult of death, deterrence is a mere wish. Is the West prepared to wager its cities with their millions of inhabitants on that feeble gamble?”
    Another dynamic:
    1968 disaffected US teen-young adult experience a mass spiritual movement: back to the land, hippy everything

    Late 20th -early 21st century – disaffected muslim teen-young adults experience a mass spiritual movement: a rejection of modernity and an embrace of jihad.

    Votaire: “History does not repeat itself but people always do”.

    Strikes me that as Iran goes nuclear, as the disaffected muslim young-people demographic of Saudi, Jordan, Pakistan, Dubai et al see what they may perceive as a “strong horse” and as they embrace the ideology with the passion and inexperience of youth….the west has an exitential threat which does not look like threats of the past….which of course it would not because history does not repeat itself……..

    Lastly Krauthammer’s choice of description: “Persian” Iran…..recall the 1930’s, recall liebenraum and Germanic nationalism (can you say “Anschlus”), then look at whose empire was, is not today but who wishes it was. The Persian concept of empire sparkles in the eyes of hezbullah sponsoring Amanhijad, “son of Xerxes”.

    The issue of a “threat” is defined not by its potential for success, rather it should be defined by the probability and intent of an attempt. Winning, which the west would do, is never without cost. Denial of a threat simply means the initial onslaught is more effective.

    This debate is one where I bet Chicago that I am right and you bet Chicago that I am wrong……….are we having fun yet?

  2. James Joyner says:


    “The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age.” I guess that depends on whether we date the “nuclear age” to the atomic bomb or the hydrogen bomb. The United States did, after all, deploy two A-bombs against Japan.

    Still, there’s no doubt a nuclear Iran is a major threat to be forestalled if possible. Whether they’re infinitely more likely to use said weapons than Joe Stalin or Mao Zedong, however, is unclear.

  3. DC Loser says:

    The Islamist war against France has been in full swing since the Algerian military coup in 94 pre-empted the FIS Islamist Party from taking power in a democratic election. The French were seen, pretty much rightly, as having connived with and condoned the Algerian military plotters. Remember that before 9/11, the Algerian GIA terrorists plotted to hijack an Air France plane and crash it into Paris. This is nothing new.

  4. James Joyner says:

    DCL: It’s one thing to have Algerian separatists taking pot shots; quite another to have it go external.

  5. George Dixon says:

    Regardless of the splitting of hairs or atoms, recall Oppenheimer’s words when he witnessed the test of the first nuclear weapon….
    “behold, I am Vishnu, destroyer of worlds”

    To extrapolate and weigh this, one should define “worlds” relative to today and and weigh, say, an election in Spain – moved by bombs onna train – versus the socio-political impact of nukes onna plane……

    Take care….

  6. DC Loser says:

    James, the nexus between the GIA, its spinoff in the GSPC, and AQ is old news. Recall that the terrorist Ressam, arrested for the Millenium plot at LAX, was Algerian, and probably came from the GIA and then migrated to AQ.

  7. madmatt says:

    just another thing rethugnicans and al queada have in common…hatred of france…I hear they are going to call it freedom tabbouli from now on!

  8. Anderson says:

    Who needs al Qaeda when you have the Republican Party?

    [Pelosi] has been the focus of the GOP attack since her remark last week that capturing Osama bin Laden wouldn’t make us safer. It was similar to sentiments uttered previously by President Bush (“He’s not the issue”) and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (“If he were gone tomorrow, the same problem would exist”). But it set off a flurry of Benedict Arnold charges from Republicans directed at Pelosi and her colleagues.

    Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) wondered whether Democrats are “more interested in protecting terrorists than in protecting the American people.” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) stood next to a poster of Pelosi and her words about bin Laden and demanded: “Where do your loyalties lie?” House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said Democrats “are confused about who the enemy actually is.”

    If we’re going to target “existential threats,” I think the Republicans are an excellent choice.

  9. McGehee says:

    If we’re going to target “existential threats,” I think the Republicans are an excellent choice.

    Really? Because they’re responding to Democrats who are more focused on fighting Republicans than terrorists? Because they respond when people actually say things like, “Who needs al Qaeda when you have the Republican Party?”

    You so funny.

  10. A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him.
    * Aesop

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose, but it just gets down right nasty when you try to pick your friends nose.

    We are going to need dome more sayings to handle this.

  11. Tano says:

    “Does this prove that France was wrong not to join the U.S. in its effort to topple Saddam Hussein and establish a democratic bulwark against Islamists in Iraq? No. But it does seem to indicate that there’s not much a Western state can do to appease the terrorists.”


    I really don’t understand your logic here. You seem to be suffering from Bush-confusion syndrome – i.e. the failure to distinguish the war in Iraq from the WOT.

    France has never had a problem opposing al-Q. They were with us, with military troops, in Afghanistan after 9/11.

    What on earth could lead you to think that their opposition of the Iraq War had anything to do with “appeasment” of terrorists? Need you be reminded once again that the war in Iraq was against Saddam Hussein, not islamist terrorists? Need we remind you again that it has been our efforts in Iraq that are turning the bulk of that country over to Iranian-allied islamists, and another chunk over to ex-Baathists and alQ terrorists?

    The French are in the gunsights of al-Q because the French have opposed al-Q from the gitgo. It is not that their “sppeasment” has failed, it is that they have been enemies of al-Q all along.

  12. anjin-san says:

    How does France’s lack of interest in the Iraq war equate to “appeasement”?

    Perhaps the French felt that the war was a mistake, had nothing to do with 9-11, would not aid the fight against Al-Qaeda, and was not in their national interest.

    It is noteworthy how much noise Bush’s supporters make about democracy, and how offended they are when Democratic states make choices that do not fall in line with their own views.

    James, I doubt that you are as ignorant as this statement makes you sound. Are you simply a Bush shill now?