The Friday attacks in Paris that left at least 129 dead are the among the most deadly terrorist strikes on Western soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
In the wake of the Paris attacks and numerous governors vowing to not allow Syrian refugees into their states, the House will vote on a proposal that could affect Iraqi and Syrian refugees’ entry into the United States.
But the Obama administration on Wednesday issued a veto threat, arguing the legislation “would provide no meaningful additional security for the American people” and only “create significant delays and obstacles in the fulfillment of a vital program that satisfies both humanitarian and national security objectives.”
The bill is based on legislation drafted by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) that would require the FBI, Homeland Security Department and National Intelligence director to report to Congress that none of the refugees that have been cleared to enter the country are a security threat. The FBI also would have to certify that adequate background checks were conducted on the Syrians and Iraqis seeking to relocate to the United States.
“It would mean a pause in the program until we can be certain beyond any doubt that those coming here are not a threat,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said on Wednesday. “It’s that simple and I don’t think it’s asking too much.”
But the administration warned in its veto threat that the bill “would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world, many of whom are victims of terrorism” – as well as undermine efforts to address the refugee crisis in other countries seeing far greater inflows, such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
A spokesman with the New York City Police Department said a newly released Islamic State video shows old footage of New York City and it “reaffirms the message that New York City remains a top terrorist target.”
But spokesman J. Peter Donald added there is “no current or specific threat to the city at this time” and authorities “will remain in a heightened state of vigilance.”
— J. Peter Donald (@JPeterDonald) November 18, 2015
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement, said “New Yorkers won’t live in fear and people should continue to go to work, live their lives, and enjoy the greatest city in the world.”
Here’s the statement:
Stoking fear is the goal of terrorist organizations, but New York City will not be intimidated. The NYPD is the most capable police force in the country, with a robust counterterrorism operation that was just strengthened with an investment of 500 additional officers. While Times Square and Herald Square appear in the video, the NYPD in conjunction with all of our partners are taking all necessary security precautions in these areas and areas across the City. New Yorkers won’t live in fear and people should continue to go to work, live their lives, and enjoy the greatest city in the world.
The Post’s Liz Sly explores whether it’s too late to solve the “tangled mess the Middle East has become in the four years since the Arab Spring plunged the region into turmoil.”
What Jordan’s King Abdullah II referred to as a “third world war against humanity” has, more accurately, become a jumble of overlapping wars driven by conflicting agendas in which defeating the Islamic State is just one of a number of competing and often contradictory policy pursuits.
In those four years, four Arab states — Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen — have effectively collapsed. Civil wars are raging in all of them. World powers have lined up on different sides of those wars. And the chaos has given the heirs to the legacy of Osama bin Laden the greatest gift they could have hoped for: the gift of time and space.
Aided by the disinterest of a world wearied and wary after the failings of the Iraq war, an assortment of al-Qaeda veterans, hardened Iraqi insurgents, Arab jihadist ideologues and Western volunteers have moved into the vacuum left by the collapse of governments in Syria and Iraq and built themselves a proto-state. It can hardly be said to count as a real state, but it controls territory, raises taxes and maintains an army.
Any responses now “are very late in the game,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The costs of inaction have accumulated, and we can’t undo the damage of the past four years.”
People around the world came together to comfort one another and show solidarity with those affected by the Paris attacks:
Two marches planned during upcoming climate change talks are banned due to security concerns, said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, according to the Associated Press.
The government has not authorized marches in Paris and other French cities Nov. 29 and Dec. 12 “to avoid extra risk,” he said in a statement.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 21, will take place in Le Bourget, France, starting Nov. 30. Civil society events will go on, according to organizers:
— COP21en (@COP21en) November 18, 2015
Organizers urged people to hold “mobilizations” outside of France, and said they were considering other options for the now-canceled marches.
The Post’s Hugh Naylor writes about why the heavy French bombardment of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, appears to have inflicted minimal damage:
… After over a year of U.S. coalition airstrikes, the Islamic State has learned to secure its weapons, communications systems and fighters in fortified bunkers or densely populated residential areas where bombing would inflict intolerably high civilian casualties, analysts and activists said.
The French attacks highlight a limitation of air power, said Theodore Karasik, a Dubai-based expert on military issues in the Middle East. Rarely is it enough to subdue enemies, he said.
“The Islamic State, like any other terrorist group, has adapted and developed its own underground networks in order to safeguard their prized assets,” Karasik said.
“Airstrikes can be effective, but you need a ground component to go along with them.”
The Fix’s Philip Bump writes about a new national poll from Bloomberg News, conducted after the Paris attack:
The most politically powerful data point in the new poll, though, is the one dealing with the possibility of Syrian refugees being resettled in the United States. More than half of Americans oppose the existing plan to allow 10,000 refugees to enter the country — with nearly 70 percent of Republicans holding that position.
Jean-Michel Fauvergue, chief of the elite police unit that carried out Wednesday’s raid on an apartment in a Paris suburb, gave a blow-by-blow account of the operation in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.
The Washington Post, citing two senior European officials, reported that the raid resulted in the deaths of at least two suspected terrorists, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged ringleader of Friday’s terrorists attacks in Paris. Three other suspects were arrested.
Fauvergue heads the police counterterrorism unit known as RAID, for Research, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence.
“We knew that [Abaaoud] was perhaps there. Other services gave us that information,” Fauvergue told Le Figaro. He said the word was that two men and a woman were in the apartment and that they were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and explosive vests.
The raid started at 4:16 a.m. with an attempt to blast open the third-floor apartment door with explosives, but the reinforced door would not open properly, and the element of surprise was lost, he said. The terrorists inside then blocked the door with a heavy object.
Hundreds of shots were exchanged, and the terrorists also threw grenades, he said. The police then decided to send in a dog, Diesel, but it was killed with a shotgun.
According to the account, six sharpshooters were posted on surrounding buildings. One of them saw one of the terrorists and ordered him to raise his hands. He refused and opened fire with a Kalashnikov. The sharpshooter wounded him with a shot, but the terrorist continued firing.
Then the woman let loose a long volley of shots, followed by a big explosion. The windows were blown out, and part of a body fell on one of the police cars in the street. No police were injured by the blast.
About five hours into the siege, police could hear only one Kalashnikov firing. The second person shooting was dead. Police then decided to use 40mm flash-bang grenades designed to deafen and stun, throwing about 20 of them into the apartment.
Police also used a drone and two robots to try to do reconnaissance, without much success. There were holes in the floor, so the commandos passed cameras up through them from the second floor. One of the bodies fell through to the second floor. It was badly mutilated by explosions.
On the third floor landing, two men were found hiding under laundry and debris. They were arrested.
“Five of our men were wounded” by bullets or shrapnel, none seriously, Fauvergue said. About 70 police commandos participated in the raid, out of 110 police in all on the scene.
The Islamic State’s coordinated attacks across Paris that left 129 dead were a clear indication of the “group’s adoption of global terror tactics to boost its profile and strike back at its enemies.”
To really understand that Islamic State and how the group operates, we recommend you read these five stories:
Yes, there has been a huge influx of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But the real decisionmakers aren’t foreigners, but former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime.
Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.
2. The U.S.-Islamic State propaganda wars, by Greg Miller and Scott Higham
Islamic extremist propaganda went from Osama bin Laden’s long sermons from a cave to highly produced Islamic State recruiting videos. The U.S., on the other hand, tried to counter or thwart the extremist message but is still struggling. Even though the United States has killed bin Laden and thwarted mass-casualty attacks after Sept.11, 2001, “Al-Qaeda’s brand of militant ideology, however, has only spread.”
3. Life under the Islamic State: Spoils for the rulers, terror for the ruled, by Kevin Sullivan
“The Islamic State has drawn tens of thousands of people from around the world by promising paradise in the Muslim homeland it has established on conquered territory in Syria and Iraq,” writes Sullivan. But the reality is quite different:
The militants have created a brutal, two-tiered society, where daily life is starkly different for the occupiers and the occupied, according to interviews with more than three dozen people who are now living in, or have recently fled, the Islamic State.
4. In Libya, the Islamic State’s black banner rises by the Mediterranean, by Missy Ryan
In the time after Moammar Gaddafi was removed from power, the Islamic State has built a stronghold in the region. Sirte, the hometown of Gaddafi, today is “a subdued, fearful place, residents say, where the streets are deserted after dusk. Militants have closed banks and schools. Music and smoking are outlawed, and violations of minor rules are met with fines or beatings. More ominous, Islamic State fighters have shown levels of violence previously unseen in Libya.”
A teenager from Texas tries to join the Islamic State, makes it to Turkey, but then calls his father and says: “I want to come home.” Nineteen-year-old Asher Abid Khan does make it home, but now faces up to 30 years in prison.
Before trying to join the Islamic State, Khan had an exchange with a friend where he asked, “Where is Isis do you know? Bc i might go early.” The exchange between his friend Suied is worth a read:
The mayor of Roanoke has requested that local governmental and nongovernmental agencies “suspend and delay” assistance to Syrian refugees. And then, in explaining his position, he invoked World War II Japanese internment camps.
“I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then,” Mayor David Bowers (D) wrote in a letter, the Roanoke Times reported.
The text of the letter, which the Roanoke Times posted here, is below:
Roanoke is a welcoming city and America is the melting pot of the world, and right and successful we have been at both.
However, since the recent terrorist bombing of the Russian airliner, the attacks in Paris and now with the murderous threats to our nation’s capital, I am convinced that it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia.
Thus, today, I’m requesting that all Roanoke Valley governments and non‐governmental agencies suspend and delay any further Syrian refugee assistance until these serious hostilities and atrocities end, or at the very least until regarded as under control by U.S. authorities, and normalcy is restored.
I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.
I further want to assure our citizens that Roanoke’s law enforcement and public safety agencies are and will be prepared to the best of their ability to assure our citizens that everything is and will be done to protect Roanokers from harm and danger from this present scourge upon the earth.
In this regard, at least for awhile into the future, it seems to me to be better safe than sorry.
David A. Bowers
In a radio ad released Wednesday, Donald Trump accuses President Obama and other politicians of “losing the war on terrorism” and promises to “quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS.” ISIS is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State militant group.
The minute-long ad, which will soon air in early primary states, features Trump’s voice over ominous instrumental music. He opens the ad by saying: “The tragic attacks in Paris prove once again that America needs to get tough on radical Islamic terrorism. President Obama and other politicians have consistently failed us. Just hours before the attacks in Paris, President Obama said ISIS has been contained.
“It’s amazing that the United States can have a president who is so out of touch, but it’s also dangerous. Obama has no strategy to defeat ISIS. And now he’s preparing to let hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria into the United States.”
Near the end of the spot, Trump adds: “And, yes, I will also quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS, will rebuild our military and make it so strong no one — and I mean, no one — will mess with us. If I win, we will not have to listen to the politicians who are losing the war on terrorism. We will keep America safe, and we will make America great again.”
PARIS — The French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier sailed Wednesday from Toulon naval base, south of France, and headed for the eastern Mediterranean to support coalition operations in Iraq and Syria.
The sailing, announced Nov. 5, has taken greater significance since the terrorist attacks here last week, as French President François Hollande has pledged to punish the ISIS forces which claimed responsibility for the killings.
“I am not talking about deterring the Islamic State but about eliminating it totally,” Hollande said earlier this week.
Here’s how it looked when the nuclear-power vessel, carrying 26 fighter jets, left for the eastern Mediterranean on Wednesday.
Paris prosecutor François Molins described at a Wednesday news conference the massive police raid in the Saint-Denis suburb, saying that suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud had “entrenched himself on the third floor” of the apartment building.
Molins said he could not provide the identities of the two people who died at the scene, but he added that neither Abaaoud nor another wanted suspect, Salah Abdeslam, were among the eight people — seven men and one woman — who were detained at the apartment and other locations Wednesday. Three people were arrested in the raid on the apartment, he said, one of whom had a gunshot wound in the arm.
Abaaoud was killed in the raid, according to two senior European intelligence officials.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Wednesday called for “overwhelming force” to be used against the Islamic State militant group, including the deployment of ground troops.
“The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force,” Bush said in a speech at the Citadel, the famous military college, referring to the Islamic State by an alternative acronym. “As the words of French President [François] Hollande have made clear, the United States will not be alone in galvanizing this global effort. Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air — and on the ground.”
“While air power is essential, it alone cannot bring the results we seek,” Bush said. “The United States — in conjunction with our NATO allies and more Arab partners — will need to increase our presence on the ground.”
Bloomberg News has reported that on the same day as the Paris attacks, local emergency responders had gone through an exercise that simulated a mass shooting event. (Drills such as the one carried out Friday became regular occurrences after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January, according to the report.)
Bloomberg News spoke with Mathieu Raux, emergency room chief at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris, about Friday’s exercise. Reports Bloomberg:
During Friday’s exercise, trauma specialists used a centralized dispatch system to set priorities and direct victims to the ER best equipped to treat their injuries. Ambulance services made sure they were ready to roll, and hospitals verified that surgeons and staff could be quickly summoned to treat arriving victims. “We tested every link in the chain,” Raux said. Because Paris emergency physicians work 24-hour shifts, virtually every ER doctor on duty in the city Friday night had already taken part in the exercise earlier that day.
French media reported that the woman who set off a suicide blast as security forces closed in Wednesday during an antiterrorism raid in Saint-Denis was Hasna Aitboulahcen. The 26-year-old French citizen was a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks.
Abaaoud, a Belgian extremist, was killed during the raid, according to two senior European intelligence officials.
Aitboulahcen, the suicide bomber, is a former manager of Beko Construction, a company in Epinay-sur-Seine, a town north of Saint-Denis. The company was closed in 2014.
Turkish soccer fans disrupted a moment of silence honoring the victims of the Paris attacks before their team drew, 0-0, against Greece in a friendly on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post’s Marissa Payne.
— Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin) November 17, 2015
It was, Payne wrote, at least the second time this year that Turkish fans have whistled and chanted through a moment of silence honoring victims of terrorist attacks. In October, a group of fans disrupted a moment of silence before Turkey beat Iceland, 1-0, in a Euro 2016 qualifier. The moment of silence was held for the victims of attacks in the country’s capital, Ankara.
Hollande said it was France’s “humanitarian duty” to honor its commitments to refugees, even in the wake of the chilling terror attacks on Friday, claimed by the Islamic State, which killed at least 129 people.
“We have to reinforce our borders while remaining true to our values,” the French president said.
The message flies in the face of recent statements by American Republican presidential hopefuls and governors, who have all cited the security concerns surrounding the terror attacks as reasons to halt resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. Some have proposed only allowing in Christian refugees, at the expense of Muslim ones.