British MPs deliver damning verdict on David Cameron’s Libya intervention

The Guardian reports: David Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, according to a scathing report by the foreign affairs select committee.

The failures led to the country becoming a failed a state on the verge of all-out civil war, the report adds.

The report, the product of a parliamentary equivalent of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, closely echoes the criticisms widely made of Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq, and may yet come to be as damaging to Cameron’s foreign policy legacy.

It concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that the intervention was “a shitshow”, and repeats the US president’s claim that France and Britain lost interest in Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown. The findings are also likely to be seized on by Donald Trump, who has tried to undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials by repeatedly condemning her handling of the Libyan intervention in 2011, when she was US secretary of state. [Continue reading…]

Chris Stephen writes: When Nato went to war against Gaddafi in the revolution, the US took a back seat, with Britain and France sharing the leading role. But with the revolution over, Cameron walked away.

In London, few parliamentary debates on Libya were called by the government or the opposition, even though British bombing had done so much to create the country’s new order.

When last year the foreign affairs select committee called on Cameron to give evidence in its inquiry into British planning in Libya, he informed them he had no time in his schedule.

Meanwhile, diplomats insist that Libyan leaders of all persuasions have shut out offers of support. Memories of domination by outside powers leave Libyans suspicious of the motivations of foreigners, and offers to help build a modern state were spurned.

London finally woke up to Libya last year, with people smugglers taking advantage of the chaos to build a booming business – and with Islamic State on the march.

The UK, along with the US and Italy, is a prime mover behind the troubled government of national accord (GNA), created by a UN-chaired commission last December. Unelected and largely unloved, the GNA has failed to create a security force of its own, relying instead on militias that are also busy fighting each other.

The capture of key ports by the powerful eastern general Khalifa Haftar this week may have sealed the fate of this new government, now deprived of oil wealth.

All of which leaves Libya, in the words of Britain’s special envoy, Jonathan Powell – a veteran of Blair’s meeting with Gaddafi – veering towards becoming “Somalia on the Mediterranean”. [Continue reading…]

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One ISIS recruiter tied to at least four plots to attack France since June

The Associated Press reports: A single French Islamic State jihadi has emerged as the link among at least four plots to attack France since June, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

The precise role of the extremist, Rachid Kassim, is under investigation, but the officials say he has become a key instigator who directs recruits in encrypted forums on how and where to carry out the Islamic State’s call for European Muslims to strike at home. Most recently, he was believed to be in contact with a 19-year-old in an unprecedented cell of French women who failed in their attempts to detonate a car bomb and kill police.

From the Loire River town of Roanne, the 29-year-old Kassim is believed to be in either Syria or Iraq yet figures in multiple French anti-terror investigations.

Kassim’s virtual fingerprints were found as early as the June 14 knifing of two police officials at their home in the Paris suburb of Magnanville, in which the killer left behind not only a video that he had streamed on Facebook Live but a hit list of politicians, journalists and public personalities. That list is believed to have been drawn up by Kassim ahead of time, one of the officials said. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. [Continue reading…]

BBC News reports: By early August came the first indication that Rashid Kassim was targeting women and children to carry out attacks.

His name has been linked a girl of 16 arrested at Melun, south of Paris, and to another teenager in Clermont-Ferrand. The 16 year old had gone on Telegram to announce her plan to launch an attack.

And on 11 September, a boy of 15 was arrested in Paris on suspicion of planning an attack in a public place. Investigators said he too was in contact with Kassim and been under surveillance since April.

Another plot in Paris this month involved several women and was, in the words of Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, “remote-controlled” from Syria. Unconfirmed reports said Rashid Kassim was the inspiration.

In the early hours of 4 September, a car packed with gas canisters and jerry-cans of diesel was abandoned by female jihadists in a street near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. [Continue reading…]

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‘The way people look at us has changed’: Muslim women on life in Europe

The New York Times reports: The storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.

What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.

Courts have struck down some of the bans on burkinis — the one in Nice, the site of a horrific terror attack on Bastille Day, was overturned on Thursday — but the debate is far from over.

“For years, we have had to put up with dirty looks and threatening remarks,” wrote Taslima Amar, 30, a teacher in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. “I’ve been asked to go back home (even though I am home).” Now, Ms. Amar said, she and her husband were looking to leave France.

Laurie Abouzeir, 32, said she was considering starting a business caring for children in her home in Toulouse, southern France, because that would allow her to wear a head scarf, frowned upon and even banned in some workplaces.

Many women wrote that anti-Muslim bias had intensified after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, and in Brussels, Paris and Nice more recently. Halima Djalab Bouguerra, a 21-year-old student in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, dated the change further back, to the killings by Mohammed Merah in the southwest of the country in 2012.

“The way people look at us has changed,” Ms. Bouguerra wrote. “Tongues have loosened. No one is afraid of telling a Muslim to ‘go back home’ anymore.” [Continue reading…]

The French prime minister didn’t like this article: Je tenais à répondre à l’article “Regards changés et langues déliées”, paru dans les colonnes du New York Times le 2 septembre, et qui donne une image insupportable, car fausse, de la France, pays des Lumières et pays des libertés. [Continue reading…]

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Days of rage

Kenan Malik writes: In the past, the distinction between political violence and sociopathic rage was relatively clear. No longer. There seems today almost a continuum between ideological violence, disjointed fury and some degree of sociopathy or mental illness. What constitutes ideological violence has decayed; instead, amorphous rage has become a persistent feature of public life.

One reason is the breakdown of social and moral boundaries that once acted as firewalls against such behavior. Western societies have become more socially atomized and more riven by identity politics. The influence of institutions from the church to labor unions that once helped socialize individuals and inculcate them with a sense of obligation to others has declined.

As broader identities have eroded, and traditional social networks and sources of authority have weakened, people’s sense of belonging has become more parochial. Progressive movements that gave social grievance a political form have faded. Instead, the new oppositional movements are often rooted in religious or ethnic identity and take sectarian or separatist forms.

There is a growing disaffection with anything “mainstream,” and a perception of the world as out of control and driven by malign forces. All this has helped incubate a sense of rage without an outlet, undermined people’s ties to others as human beings, and weakened the distinction between sociopathy and political violence. [Continue reading…]

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High court suspends ‘burkini’ ban in French town while Sarkozy calls for nationwide ban

The New York Times reports: France’s highest administrative court on Friday suspended a ban by a Mediterranean town on bathing at its beaches in so-called burkinis, the full-body swimwear used by some Muslim women that has become the focus of intense debates over women’s rights, assimilation and secularism in France.

The Council of State, the highest court in the French administrative justice system, ruled that the ban, enacted by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet on Aug. 5, violated civil liberties.

At least 20 other municipalities, most of which are on the French Riviera, have imposed similar bans, and although the decision on Friday does not apply directly to them, it can be seen as a warning that their bans are likely to be similarly struck down if challenged in court. The largest such community is the city of Nice.

Critics of the bans have said they unfairly targeted Muslims and stirred up fear in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe.

The bans recently provoked a backlash in France and abroad, after photographs spread online showing armed police officers enforcing them. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: Nicolas Sarkozy says he will impose a nationwide ban on burkinis if re-elected to the presidency in 2017, positioning himself as a strong defender of French values and tough on immigration.

Hundreds of supporters waving French flags chanted “Nicolas! Nicolas!” and applauded as Sarkozy, a conservative president from 2007 to 2012 before losing an election to Socialist François Hollande, promised to protect the French people in his first rally for the 2017 election.

“I will be the president that re-establishes the authority of the state,” Sarkozy told a crowd of more than 2,000 in a sports hall in Châteaurenard in Provence, a town where his Les Républicains beat the far-right Front National (FN) in regional elections last year. [Continue reading…]

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All hail the burkini’s blend of Islamic values and western lifestyle

Rachel Woodlock writes: Men forcing women to remove their clothes is never going to look like freedom, equality, and encouraging “good morals”, no matter the justification. There are now 15 French towns that have targeted beach-loving Muslim women in the wake of July’s terrorism-linked murders in Nice and Normandy. When the inevitable pictures of French police enforcing the burkini ban emerged this week, we saw not an effective counter-terrorism measure, but a clumsy attempt to push back against Islam’s visibility in France.

Keen to win over anti-immigration supporters from the right in his forthcoming bid for the French presidency, the former head of state Nicolas Sarkozy jumped in to the debate yesterday evening, claiming that burkinis are a sartorial prison and a “provocation” that supports radicalised Islam.

It’s a theme being repeated all over Europe, where the palpable fear of Islamic religiosity conflates its most extreme, violent and – as Charles Kurzman argues in his book The Missing Martyrs – rare form with the peaceable faith of ordinary Muslims. Yet we know from researching the lives of Muslims in western countries that most do not want to hide away in isolated ghettos, or abandon their cultural heritage and assimilate into invisibility. They want to find a happy balance between the two: adapting and integrating into western societies, and being acknowledged as fully contributing and worthy citizens in the nation states they call home. [Continue reading…]

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France’s burkini ban could not come at a worse time

By Fraser McQueen, University of Stirling

Images of armed police confronting a woman in Nice, apparently forcing her to remove some of her clothing, have added fuel to the already combustible debate over the prohibition against women wearing burkinis on many beaches around France.

Since mayor of Cannes David Lisnard banned the full-body burkini from his town’s beaches, as many as 15 French resorts have followed suit.

Arguments defending the bans fall into three main categories. First, it is about defending the French state’s secularism (laïcité). Second, that the costume represents a misogynistic doctrine that sees female bodies as shameful. And finally, that the burkini is cited as a threat to public order.

None of these arguments satisfactorily refute the claims of civil rights activists that the bans are fundamentally Islamophobic.

[Read more…]

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Sarkozy calls burkinis a ‘provocation’ that supports radical Islam

illegal-and-legal-surfing

The Guardian reports: The former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has branded the full-body burkini swimsuits worn by some Muslim women a “provocation” that supports radicalised Islam.

After efforts by a series of French coastal towns to ban women from wearing burkinis set off a heated debate in the country, Sarkozy said in a TV interview on Wednesday night that “we don’t imprison women behind fabric”.

His outburst earned a sharp rebuke from the woman who created the burkini, the Australian designer Aheda Zanetti.

“I truly, truly believe that the French have misunderstood and that they don’t know what a burkini looks like and what it represents,” said Zanetti. [Continue reading…]

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French morality police enforce laws controlling culturally acceptable beachwear

The Guardian reports: Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the Burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

After they arrive, she appears to remove a blue long-sleeved tunic, although one of the officers appears to take notes or issue an on-the-spot fine.

The photographs emerged as a mother of two also told on Tuesday how she had been fined on the beach in nearby Cannes wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf.

Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.

“I was sitting on a beach with my family,” said the 34-year-old who gave only her first name, Siam. “I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.”

A witness to the scene, Mathilde Cousin, confirmed the incident. “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.” [Continue reading…]

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Why Europe can’t find the jihadis in its midst

Mitch Prothero reports: The assignment given to the Belgian police in the summer of 2014 was straightforward but high stakes: Follow two men suspected of involvement with ISIS through the streets of Brussels. Find out who they meet, record what they say. A court had approved wiretaps for the men’s phones and for the use of tracking devices, and a specialized team of covert operators from the secret service had broken into the men’s homes and vehicles and planted bugs and GPS devices without leaving a trace.

Rather unusually, there had been little problem getting senior police officials and the courts that oversee Belgium’s personal privacy laws to approve the mission. Partly, it was the two men’s history: They had long criminal records — drug dealing, petty theft, and the occasional violent robbery — and now, unbeknownst to them, had been placed on a terrorism watch list.

With hundreds of people suspected of having ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda, it would be impossible for the Belgian authorities to monitor all of them. But these two were believed to be linked to Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French-Algerian man charged with killing four people at the Jewish Museum of Brussels on May 24, 2014.

Belgian authorities knew there had been an alarming increase in violent rhetoric — as evidenced by the proliferation of online videos and public demonstrations, and by the criminal trials of members of Sharia4Belgium, a group advocating extremist ideology — much of it linked to the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But even for trained investigators, let alone police officers typically assigned to financial fraud or money-laundering cases, getting an overall sense of what was happening remained elusive.

In part this was because of the transformation in the threat posed by ISIS militants; as nebulous as al-Qaeda had been, it was at least an organization with a defined leadership and network of followers. These new cases were much more challenging, seemingly organic in nature, with a more diffuse structure that was nearly impossible to pin down. [Continue reading…]

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France’s ‘burkini’ bans are about more than religion or clothing

The New York Times reports: There is something inherently head-spinning about the so-called burkini bans that are popping up in coastal France. The obviousness of the contradiction — imposing rules on what women can wear on the grounds that it’s wrong for women to have to obey rules about what women can wear — makes it clear that there must be something deeper going on.

“Burkinis” are, essentially, full-body swimsuits that comply with Islamic modesty standards, and on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France waded into the raging debate over the bans in some of the country’s beach towns, denouncing the rarely seen garb as part of the “enslavement of women.”

This, of course, is not really about swimwear. Social scientists say it is also not primarily about protecting Muslim women from patriarchy, but about protecting France’s non-Muslim majority from having to confront a changing world: one that requires them to widen their sense of identity when many would prefer to keep it as it was.

“These sorts of statements are a way to police what is French and what is not French,” said Terrence G. Peterson, a professor at Florida International University who studies France’s relationship with Muslim immigrants and the Muslim world.

While this battle over identity is rising now in the wake of terrorist attacks, it has been raging in one form or another in French society for decades, Professor Peterson said. What seems to be a struggle over the narrow issue of Islamic dress is really about what it means to be French. [Continue reading…]

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Human rights groups vow to challenge burkini ban on Cannes beaches

The Guardian reports: A French human rights association and Muslim groups have said they will take legal action against the mayor of Cannes for issuing a decree banning burkinis from the resort’s beaches.

David Lisnard signed off on a ruling last month preventing women from wearing the full-body swimsuits in the Côte d’Azur town. The decree was introduced shortly after the Bastille day attack in Nice in July, where a delivery driver killed 85 people when he ploughed into crowds celebrating the French national holiday on the seafront.

The decree states that Muslim women wearing burkinis could be a threat to public order and will be cautioned and fined €38 (£33).

“Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc), which it is necessary to prevent,” it says.

Thierry Migoule, the head of Cannes municipal services, said: “We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach … but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us.”

Lawyers, human rights groups and Muslim associations have described the decree as illegal and preposterous. [Continue reading…]

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