Mohsen Abdelmoumen: In your masterful book that everyone should read « Au cœur des services spéciaux – La menace islamiste: fausses pistes et vrais dangers” (At the heart of special services – the Islamist threat: false leads and real dangers), you offer keys to understanding the terrorist phenomenon. Based on your long experience in intelligence, is there not today a need to adapt, or even reorganize, certain intelligence services according to the current terrorist threat? What are for you the priority needs of an intelligence service to be effective in the fight against terrorism?
Alain Chouet: It should be noted first that the intelligence services are not ineffective, on the contrary. The number of attacks prevented and foiled, especially in Western Europe, is much higher than that of successful attacks. In this field, however, there is a real problem in terms of information and public opinion, which gives our countries little interest to thwarted attempts and obviously only relies on the attacks which have moved people with the procession of doubts about the work of Public safety organizations that this entails.
This incomprehension has multiple causes of which we will retain here only the two main ones. Our societies are perfectly accustomed to certain forms of violence which, unlike terrorism, do not arouse great interest or criticism of the security services. Indeed, no one talks about the bankruptcy of firefighters when a forest fire of criminal origin occurs nor the bankruptcy of the police when thugs attack an armored van.
Thus, in the last ten years, the United States has experienced 271 mass killings which have made a total of 1358 victims but of which only 5 or 6 have caused emotion and global questions because they have been described as « terrorism » for the simple reason that they were committed by Muslims. Europe suffers less from mass killings, but is also not immune to individual or group-based irrational violence, which, again, is only described as an act of terrorism if it is committed by Muslims. And this perception is often aggravated by the fact that Islamic fundamentalist organizations claim these violent actions by expediency even when they are not at the origin.
Western services have learned a lot from the different phases of terrorism that have followed one another since the 1970s (euro terrorism and Palestinian terrorism of the 1970s, irredentist terrorism, State terrorism of the 1980s, Islamic terrorism of the 1990s and 2000s led and organized by structured organizations) and their record is more than honorable in terms of neutralization and prevention.
The problem today is that this violence organized by structured entities that were defeated gave way to very simple individual resonance phenomena (knife attacks, iron bar, car ram, etc.) committed by individuals or small isolated groups , with broken family and social links, sometimes psychotic, who act out often irrational and unpredictable way.
This is a reality much more difficult to apprehend by the security services in democratic countries where it is not possible to constantly keep an eye on each citizen, especially since these excesses do not only concern safety but also and especially family, social, cultural, and even often medical issues.
In the very rich collective work that we recommend to our readers « La face cachée des printemps arabes » (The hidden face of the Arab Spring) edited by CF2R, you have signed a titled contribution « Du printemps arabe à l’hiver islamiste” (From the Arab Spring to the Islamist Winter). Is not the « Arab Spring » a major historical turning point in the plan to dissolve nation States? In your view, what are the big winners of this disastrous project for the Arab-Muslim world?
To imagine that there would be a « project of dissolution of nation States » is a conspiracy vision that I do not share. What would be the authors? What would be the objectives? What would be the interest?
On the other hand, there is a strong neoconservative current of thought that has long advocated the erasure of more or less artificial States resulting from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1920 and their replacement by nation States based on ethnic or religious communitarianism.
The main theoreticians of this project are the Israeli Oded Yinon and the American Ralph Peters who have elaborated it, maps in support in various publications. The idea, inspired by the dismemberment of the Empire of the British Indies in 1948, is to reconstitute the Middle East into homogeneous State entities on the confessional or ethnic level which, at the same time, would both legitimize the existence of Israel as a « Jewish » State, would defuse the internal clashes of existing multi-community States, would reduce interest in progressive and secularist ideologies, would divide the region into entities that are opposed to each other and sufficiently small and weak not to constitute a military danger.
It turns out that this « project » ran up against another which bet on the contrary, polities build on majorities that entailed entrusting the governance of the countries of the Arab and Muslim world to « moderate » Islamists in the hope that they would neutralize both « extremist » Islamists on the one hand and « progressive » nationalists on the other.
The Arab « Spring » of 2011 has found its source in the legitimate exasperation of peoples in the face of the excesses of authoritarian regimes rooted in the east-west rivalries of the Cold War. By naivety, ignorance or calculation, this « spring » has been encouraged by the political and media elites of the West until they produced uncontrollable chaos. But the exasperation is not a political program and it was coopted by the only existing structured organizations outside the nationalists, that is to say the Islamists among which the most extremist of them have tried, in an outbidding competition, to seize power.
Do not you think that the attacks in Europe are one of the consequences of so-called « Arab Spring »?
No. The seeds of Islamist political violence were planted in the early 1980s by Westerners, led by the United States, jointly with Saudi Arabia and, from the 2000s, Qatar, in a global policy of « containment » of USSR and Iran. The strategic and religious controversy between Iran and Arabia led the latter to try to take control of world Islam through many institutions and NGOs spreading the Wahhabi Salafist fundamentalist message relayed at the time for opportunistic reasons by the Muslim Brotherhood. To the militants thus seduced ideologically, the war of Afghanistan provided weapons, a military training in the methods of violence and especially gave them a politico-religious legitimacy in the whole Muslim world, including in the emigrated communities in the West which suffered from various forms of exclusion.
Abandoned after the collapse of the Eastern bloc, these « heroes of Islam », deprived of support but with weapons and ideas, turned against their Arab and Western masters by striking as they could and where they could, their « near » enemies and their « distant » enemies by the weapon of the weak against the strong that is terrorism. It is in the more or less fantasized « exploits » of the different violent salafists movements that young Muslims or converts in the West who seek a model of protest behavior. That is sociopathic and provides a rationality to their destructive impulses. These violent behaviors have certainly been encouraged by the apparent support of the Western elites for the outbursts of Arab « spring » but this, which comes very late in the development of jihadist violence, is not the cause.
Since the attacks that have hit, among others, France and Belgium, in your opinion, have Western governments adopted effective concrete measures to counter terrorism?
France from 2003 and Belgium from 2016 have embarked on a vast package of reforms, adaptation and modernization of their intelligence and security services to deal with the threat from structured violent organizations without fall into the security excesses of the American « Patriot Act ». Similarly, the awareness of our fellow citizens to the threat has been conducted without provoking a reaction of rejection and exclusion of so-called « at risk » communities. However, nothing has really been done on the criminal, social, family, educational, cultural level to effectively control the most fragile elements of these « at risk » communities, to prevent their susceptibility to the dazzling speed jihadist propaganda, to impose on all the respect of our democratic and liberal values, to recover entire neighborhoods and other suburbs that are in dissent with our societies and where the police, emergency services, medical or social services cannot safely enter. There are even in France as in Belgium, local politicians who – by availing themselves of « good feelings » – flattered these dissidences for electoral purposes.
This is what exposes us today not to an exogenous organized terrorism but to endogenous violent excesses peculiar to our societies. In France as in Belgium since the attacks of Charlie Hebdo, it is not foreign elements specially trained to attack us who hit us, but our own children or at least products of our own social system. Whether they claim external causes or that foreign organizations claim responsibility for their actions does not change anything. The problem is at the heart of our societies and therefore is not the sole responsibility of the security services.
Do you think that cooperation at the intelligence services level between Western countries and third countries such as Syria, Russia, Iraq, etc. is optimal?
Cooperation between Western countries in the field of terrorism is working rather well even though it is sometimes hampered by the gigantism and compartmentalization of the American Security apparatus, which has no fewer than 16 intelligence agencies. On the other hand, the cooperation of Western services with the services of most Arab countries – which had allowed certain successes in the decade 2001-2011 – is stalled either because the services of these countries have disappeared (Libya, Yemen), or because they are in the process of laborious reorganization (Tunisia, Iraq), or because our political decision-makers have made the choice to break all channels of dialogue (Syria). As for relations with the Russian services, they are complex, distrustful and limited by the fact that Westerners and Russians are not in the same camp on the ground and do not have the same perception of the jihadist threat.
That said, cooperation is only worthwhile if we have something to share. To the extent that, for several years now, the terrorist violence that we are suffering in Europe (France, Belgium, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany, etc.) are the fact of residents in the target country from which they have often never left, there is really no matter for international cooperation.
In your opinion, is it a good idea to welcome jihadists « foreign fighters » or « returnees » and their families, knowing that the various Western security services lack resources, admitted by some police sources?
This is obviously a problem but it is our problem. We are responsible for our citizens, good and bad, especially when our public opinion refuses that they be judged and condemned in the countries where they committed their crimes, either because we are touched by too heavy sanctions, or because the judicial institutions of these countries are uncertain.
We have to recognize our inconsistencies. In particular, that of turning a blind eye to the departure of jihadists who expressed their desire to bring down the Syrian regime, or that of not requiring our Turkish allies of NATO to close their borders with Iraq and Syria to our illegal nationals. And refuse their return would take the risk of finding them on other theatres of jihadi operations in Africa, Asia or elsewhere.
We therefore have no choice but to repatriate them but their management can not be shouldered by the security services alone. Since their violent excesses are the result of serious deficiencies in our judicial, social, cultural and educational systems, it is up to the entire State apparatus and the national community to reintegrate them if it is possible and neutralize their nuisance potential if they are irrecoverable.
Do not you think that the policies of de-radicalization advocated by some Western governments have failed?
They could only fail because we mistakenly apprehended the problem by wanting to consider radicalization on a religious level. To answer the questions of Olivier Roy who wonders if it is Islam that is radicalizing itself or the radicalism that Islamizes itself, it must be noted that it is a double movement. For over 30 years, under the financial impetus of Arabia and the ideological impulse of the Muslim Brotherhood, this is the only neo-Hanbali interpretation Salafist-Wahhabi, hitherto a very minority of Islam, which has imposed itself as a unique and indisputable reference of religion especially among the most ignorant and uneducated, in particular young people from emigrant communities cut off from their roots and their social and family ties but totally under the influence of the internet propaganda and some social networks that Salafists master perfectly.
To these more or less decerebrated young people, it is perfectly useless to oppose arguments in the religious field, even by recognized authorities of Islam. Any speech that comes out of the Salafist doxa is for them not only inaudible but also hateful.
In fact, the problem is psychological, even psychiatric. They are individuals who are completely out of touch with their environment, generally affected by a most degraded vision of themselves that leads them to confuse the respect they aspire for with the fear they inspire. It is this constant search for confrontation with the rest of the world that constitutes radicalism.
And in this context, Salafism advocates violence and terror against anyone who is not Salafist – that is 99.9 % of the planet – is obviously a welcome reference since it arouses everyone’s fear of the violence of a few. But we have seen elsewhere that other references can be used for individuals who have suffered the same psychological excesses as in Norway, Anders Breivik, who rationalized his radicalism in the Nazi cultural background, or in the United States, Timothy Mac Veigh, the author of the bloody Oklahoma City bombing that was referring to the codes of white supremacy, and all over Europe in the 1970s, the Euro-terrorists, those young people who murdered in the name of a fantasized vision of Marxism-Leninism.
So, it is not a question of « de-radicalizing » the jihadists of the religion but of their death instinct, which dresses with the rags of Salafism and to reinsert them into society. This can only be a long, expensive, multidisciplinary process and not always guaranteed success as some currents are irreversible.
In your opinion, does the communitarianism that thrives in certain Western countries not serve the cause of terrorists?
Any attempt to cut off a segment of the population from the rest of the national community can obviously only weaken this national community, divide it into hostile entities, provoke internal confrontations, and provoke the rejection of the collective values which found its unity and its solidarity.
This is a classic approach to subversion, which has many examples in history, and that the Muslim Brotherhood has fully recaptured, as can be seen in the writings of their leading theorist of violence, Sayyid Qutb.
The goal is to cut Muslims from the rest of the world by making them heinous to non-Muslims and hated by them so as to dominate them without anyone wishing to intervene against this domination.
It is in fact a sectarian approach in the Latin sense of the word (sequor = cut) which is that of all sects whose purpose is to cut off their followers from all their social, national family ties and make them totally dependent on the influence and authority of the « leader », until death if necessary.
The « communautarianism » you evoke is fed both by the determined policy for various purposes of the Wahhabi Salafists, Muslim Brothers or Pakistani Deobandis, but also by the naivety, ignorance and pseudo good feelings of a certain number of Westerners who, for reasons that are just as diverse, enclose Muslims in their essence of Muslims by according them, without even asking their opinion, a « right to be different », a « duty to keep their roots », a license to not respect common rules of the national community that do not suit them individually.
This exacerbated communitarianism, of course, benefits the sectarian strategies fueled by the instigators of jihadism.
What exact role did George Soros and his organization play in « Arab Springs »?
It is usual in conspiracy circles to accuse US billionaire Georges Soros of all the miseries and destabilizations of the world. I think he deserves neither this excess of honor nor this excess of indignity. It is clear that his various NGOs and foundations – in particular his « Open Society » – have contributed greatly to the hope of change sustained by America to the « orange revolutions » in the former Eastern Bloc and Arab « springs » and has incited each and every one to various forms of extremism.
The naivety and ignorance of those responsible for its foundations, probably with good intentions, led them to consider that the Muslim Brotherhood was a kind of Christian Democrats with a Muslim flavor who could both control the jihadist drifts and ensure transition of Muslim countries towards forms of liberal democracy and integration into the globalized market economy. And, relying on massive media and financial means, they managed to convince many political leaders and elites of the Western intelligentsia just as ignorant and naive as them.
That the initiatives of the institutions led by George Soros have contributed to sometimes dramatic destabilization is hardly in doubt. That they were calculated and premeditated in the neoconservative line of « creative chaos » seems to me doubtful. I am sure that, after forty years of intelligence work, real ignorance, arrogance and stupidity do much more damage than hypothetical conspiracies.
By supporting a so-called moderate « opposition » in Syria when it is composed mostly of jihadists, have not Western governments made a strategic mistake that has wreaked havoc throughout the MENA region?
This is still a perfect illustration of the ignorance and arrogance of Western elites. There was of course a real democratic opposition in Syria, but it was extremely marginal and most of the time exiled for a long time abroad, in France, in the United States and in Great Britain and without influence on the ground. In Syria itself. The only real opposition force to the seizure of the Alawite minority – allied to other minorities (Christians, Druze, Ismailis, and Shiites) – on the power and wealth of the country was constituted by the most extremist fringe of the Sunni majority consisting mainly of Muslim Brotherhoods.
And civil clashes in Syria do not date from spring 2011 but began in 1980 when a Muslim Brotherhood commando entered the Army Cadet School in Aleppo, separated the Alawite cadets from the others and slaughtered them with the knife in application of the fatwa of Ibn Taymiyya, this Salafist Jurisconsult of the 14th century. The Brothers paid a high price in their fief of Hama in 1982, but the civil clashes have not stopped since even if the regime did everything to hide them.
Surprised and traumatized by the « spring » of Tunisia and Egypt where they had multiplied the false moves, the western decision-makers bet on a rapid fall of the Syrian president with whom it was therefore pointless to find a negotiated solution, and assured their support to an opposition that their usual Syrian interlocutors who were refugees in Europe and the Turkish Islamist party presented to them as democratic, whereas it was essentially composed of radical Sunni Islamists.
Seven years later, we can measure the full extent of this misjudgment.
Is NATO’s intervention in Libya not another strategic fault that has destabilized the African continent?
This intervention proceeds for the same reasons and the same causes from the same error of judgment committed in Syria. The present Libya, that is to say the joining of the three regions of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan, has existed historically and in a fragile way only since 1950. It was only weakly stabilized in an authoritarian way from the coup of the army officers with Gaddafi at their head in 1969. The Libyan dictator gave the world the appearance that his country was united in « buying » the civil peace with the spread of oil revenue, by organizing subtle balances between regions and rival tribes, by mobilizing the vital forces of the country in projects more or less far-fetched but blazing in the Arab world and Africa. But he did not build either a State or a Nation.
And it took him forty years, a lot of brutality and duplicity to arrive at a very fragile and artificial stability and his brutal disappearance could only lead to the breakup of the country, to ruin and anarchy.
When the international community assumed that Gaddafi was going to repress the « Libyan spring » hatched in Benghazi, far from the capital, in a bloodbath, the United Nations mandated Westerners to protect threatened populations. But no one had ordered the forces involved to destroy the Libyan army, to bomb public buildings throughout the country and the presidential palaces, to dismantle the State apparatus and to lynch the dictator under the lens of the cameras.
The chaos that results is all the more dramatic as no one among the intervening powers had thought about the consequences of the intervention and what should be done next to ensure the unity and stability of the country.
Here too, the results are measured seven years later…
Do not you think that Western governments need to reconsider their alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that have exported Wahhabism all over the planet? When will governments and States seriously start tackling the financing of terrorism?
As researcher François Burgat rightly noted during a parliamentary hearing in 2017, Saudi Arabia does not support jihadism by ideological affinity or missionary will. It does it by pragmatism. It supports anyone in the Arab and Muslim world – including emigrant communities – to protect the family from the critical eye of the West, away from Iran’s imperial competition, immune from contestation, especially from democratic or social protest, it encourages everywhere and always anyone who is likely to relay the theocratic, sectarian and reactionary doxa on which it has built its contestable legitimacy. And there is obviously no shortage of candidates to try to take advantage of the annuity generated by this strategy because, lack of cultural and human resources, Arabia is forced to implement it by a checkbook tactic.
In fact, the link between jihadism and Wahhabism has been proven for over two centuries with this constant that the Saud tribe regularly exploits jihadism in the service of its interests but systematically fails to control the developments and perverse effects of its actions and finds its salvation only in the armed intervention of foreign powers, generally non-Arab and non-Muslim, which then have to bear the military and financial burden of this intervention, the responsibility and guilt of its consequences, the constant suspicion of crusade against Islam. We can pretend to look elsewhere for reasons of economic or diplomatic opportunity – as we have done for years with Qatar – but it would be dangerous to ignore or deny the phenomenon.
The West in general and Europe in particular can not persist in ignoring the existence of the political, ideological and financial instigators and supporters who are feeding and clumsily using Salafist violence for 30 years in an attempt to preserve their faltering legitimacy against the competition of Islamic Iran and against democratic developments. It is in our interest to oppose these supporters politically and diplomatically vigorously. After long years of misguided ways, Egypt set the example in the summer of 2013 by criminalizing jihadism and the Muslim Brotherhoods from which came 90% of ideologues and militants of international jihadist violence. We would do well to be inspired by it instead of stubbornly seeing in this subversive, populist and totalitarian group a kind of Christian-democracy with Muslim flavor.
Especially since if the West has been so intransigent towards the Arab dictators to the point of demanding their head at the end of a pike, it knows how to show remarkable flexibility with regard to certain oil kings of the Arabian Peninsula that reign on the opposite extreme of the democracy, freedom and respect for the most basic human rights.
The West in general, France in particular, will have to deal with the terrorist risk on their soil with all the more intensity as this terrorism will have rear bases, political support, financial sponsors and an ideological matrix. The consequences must be drawn because the threat will be permanent as long as the matrix that generates it will exist.
How do you explain the laxity of certain Western countries which not only tolerate the Muslim Brotherhood’s movement on their soil but allow them to spread their terrorist message through the propaganda media they have created as well as a whole network of charity organizations? How do you explain this connivance?
Here we are again at the heart of a political utopia which lies at the crossroads of naivety and ignorance. A large section of the Western intelligentsia thought, no doubt sincerely but with a whiff of neocolonialism right-thinking, that the Arab and Muslim masses were not ready for democracy, that they would need a transition period which would require a passage through an Islamist political system organized around the only strongly structured and organized transnational Islamic organization which is the Association of Muslim Brothers.
This idea was theorized in 1995 by researcher Graham Fuller in the think tank of the Rand Corporation and enthusiastically adopted by both neo-conservatives like Condoleezza Rice and « progressive » Democrats like Hillary Clinton. The concept was that, because of their clever double language, they were presumed « moderate », the Brothers would put the violent Salafists aside and that, with the conditional help of the West, they would organize the gradual transition Arab societies towards democracy by accepting the mobility of their youngest fellow citizens and opening themselves up to the globalized market economy conceived as an essential step towards modernity.
In the light of my experience of forty years in the Middle East and the Maghreb, I observe however that this sacrosanct trilogy of the « 3M » (Money, Mobility, Market), by which some leaders of the European Union inspired by American neo-conservative think tanks, think they can accelerate and strengthen the democratic transitions in the south of the Mediterranean, is an illusion and is to put the cart before the horse. It will be easy to bring together a consensus on transfers of aid and funds. But abandoning a narrow supervision over youth and rallying to liberalized economic systems runs counter to the Islamist principles of the Brotherhood based on patriarchal authority and protected mercantilism.
It is nevertheless this theater of illusions that motivated – and still often motivates – the complacency, and sometimes connivance, of many Western political leaders and intellectuals towards the Brothers. But, basically, entrusting the supervision of the Muslims to the Brotherhood is like keeping the henhouse by foxes. Foxes love it…
In your opinion, by making well-known terrorists respectable, do not some western governments play with fire?
There are still not many « notorious terrorists » in Western countries. But there is it and it is obviously a risk that we have not always evaluated. In this area, a number of countries in Europe and North America are caught up in their own contradictions.
The United Kingdom, for example, has for many years tolerated the presence of many ideologists and financial sponsors of Islamic violence to the point WHERE London IS GIVEN the unflattering SOBRIQUET of « Londonistan ». This tolerance was motivated by at least two reasons. One was a kind of tacit agreement between Islamist activists and the British security services under which these Islamists enjoyed a residence permit and a wide freedom of speech and action provided they had no subversive activity on the territory of the kingdom. The second is a provision of the British law following the clashes in Northern Ireland which requires that in order to make terrorist financing reprehensible, the prosecution must prove both that the alleged financier has paid money to terrorists, but also that he intended that this funding be used for violent actions. This evidence of « intent » is obviously difficult to bring and the financial sponsors of the violence quickly realized that they had an interest in operating from London where powerful local law firms watched over their impunity. These tolerances were more or less extinguished at the turn of the 2005-2006 years, but some residues remain.
As far as France is concerned, it is caught in the double trap of its « protective » legal provisions and its international positions. In particular, to the extent that the French justice is prohibited from expelling to their country of origin foreigners who risk the death penalty, it is well obliged to keep them on its soil. The most caricatural case of this situation is that of Algerian Djamel Beghal, a member of al Qaeda arrested in the summer of 2001 while attempting to return to France to commit an attack in Paris. Condemned for this, he has been kept under house arrest in France since it was forbidden to expel him to Algeria. From his house arrest, Beghal participated in the escape project of one of the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris in 1995. He was sentenced again and then returned to house arrest, where he became a mentor to the Kouachi brothers who committed the Charlie-Hebdo attack… On the other hand, the French authorities, who at one time had much encouraged, and even equipped, an armed subversion that they wanted to believe « democratic » against the Syrian regime have had a hard time to put things in perspective when some of these rebels, defeated on the ground, have asked for asylum in France.
But the United States did not do better by demanding from the Egyptian government, for « humanitarian » reasons, the release of many members of the Muslim Brotherhood involved in the assassination of President Sadat, including Ayman Zawahiri who became the ideologue of Al Qaeda and especially Sheikh Omar Abderrahman who obtained in few weeks the political asylum in the United States and organized the first car bombing against the World Trade Center in 1993.
In your opinion, are we not currently seeing the reorganization of Daesh? As long as the ideological war has not been won against organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood and Daesh, will there not always be a latent terrorist risk?
Al-Qaeda « historic canal », the organization that committed the attacks in Nairobi, Dar-es-Salam and September 11, died between 2002 and 2004. But before die, it was fertilized up by the strategic mistakes of the West and the unwise calculations of a number of Muslim country regimes. And Al-Qaeda made little ones, what is evoked by the diplomat and researcher Jean Pierre Filiu in a remarkable book « Les neuf vies d’Al-Qaïda » (The nine lives of al-Qaeda).
Among these « little ones » there was « al-Qaeda fil-Rafidayn » (Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia) of Abu Moussaab al-Zerqawi ( a member of the MBs) which then turned into an « Islamic State » (Da’esh) with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (another MB…).
Rather than pursuing the bin Laden-Zawahiri group’s policy of deterritorialized violence, the Daesh leaders believed they could ensure the sustainability of their organization through territorial anchoring, generating a geographical sanctuary and income by plundering local resources. It was a strategic mistake because in equipping itself with a leader residing in a capital, heavy military means, uniforms, barracks, a tax administration, Daesh was positioned against the hostile military forces much higher in number and in means. Despite his ability to play on local and regional political contradictions, despite his ability to provoke violence in Western countries to dissuade them from acting, Daesh did not survive this error.
Its surviving partisans thus take again the ways of the clandestinity and the scattering which made the success of the original organization and one finds them so disseminated in the Arabian Peninsula, in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Sahelian Africa, in Somalia, in some Muslim republics of Central Asia. But to exist and therefore to obtain the support of some financial sponsors, they must demonstrate their ability for mobilize, action and nuisance. And nothing is better than actions as spectacular as possible in the countries of the West where we are sure that the media impact will be important, even if the action is summary and minor. It is cynically observed that 300 dead in Baghdad, Karachi or Mogadishu are just entitled to a snippet in the media while 3 deaths in France, the United States or Germany mobilize several days the whole press and continuous information television channels.
But all this is only meaningful and justified if there are, for various reasons, ideological, political and above all financial support for violent action. And here we come back to the invariants of the « religious diplomacy of Saudi Arabia » as perfectly described and analyzed in the recent book by Pierre Conesa.
In seeing a very dense activity of some organizations related to terrorism on social networks such as Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, etc., do not you think that Western governments have lost the information war against Daesh?
You are asking a question that goes well beyond the narrow confines of terrorism. Today the Internet is analyzed as an unregulated, disordered global public space with no code of conduct, no law enforcement agencies, open to all transgressions, in particular the criminal transgression of terrorists.
Westerners (and many others) have not lost the information war since they have not even declared it. The Internet is open to all intelligences, including the most perverse: that of the terrorists of course, but also – and perhaps much more perniciously – pirates, traffickers, industrial spies, crooks, pedophiles, counterfeiters, liars, slanderers and all the malfeasances that can flourish under the guise of anonymity or non-seizability.
There is no example in the history of public space that can flourish in a sustainable and satisfactory way without a minimum of rules of « living together » and an authority to enforce these rules.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Alain Chouet?
Former head of the security Intelligence Department of the DGSE (General Directorate of External Security), a graduate in law, political science and Oriental languages, Alain Chouet made his career from 1972 to 2007 in French intelligence services, alternating assignments abroad (Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Geneva-UN, Brussels) and positions of responsibility at the central administration. Specialist in security issues in the Arab and Islamic world, he has been a consultant of the Center for Analysis and Forecasting of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is the author of numerous books and articles in specialized journals (Maghreb-Machrek, Questions internationales, Politique étrangère, Revue de défense nationale, La revue parlementaire, Marine et Océans, Présaje, Questions d’Europe, Cahiers de l’Orient, La Revue des Deux Mondes, Perspectives de l’UCLAT, etc.). He published ”Au cœur des services spéciaux – La menace islamiste: fausses pistes et vrais dangers” (At the heart of special services – the Islamist threat: false leads and real dangers) éditions La Découverte, 2013 (for the second edition) and ”La sagesse de l’espion” (The wisdom of the spy), éditions Jean Claude Béhar, 2010.
Published In American Herald Tribune, November 5, 2018: https://ahtribune.com/interview/2601-alain-chouet.html
In Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.061118.htm