French Investigator on Germanwings Crash: Mechanical Failure Not Ruled Out

Posted by John Rosenthal

The question as to why Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 would intentionally bring about the crash of the plane is at the source of much of the perplexity surrounding the Germanwings tragedy. Even if we suppose that Lubitz was suicidal, it is obviously one thing to commit suicide and another to do so in such a way as to cause the death of 149 other people as well. This perplexity undoubtedly fueled the unfounded rumors that Lubitz was Muslim, since if the co-pilot was an Islamic radical conducting a suicide operation, then the mystery would be resolved. But there is also another way of resolving the mystery: maybe Lubitz did not intentionally crash the plane.

Although the international media has shown little interest in any other storyline, French investigators have not ruled out other hypotheses, including that of a mechanical failure. For details, see my new post at the Weekly Standard here.

The Germanwings Co-pilot’s “Muslim Conversion”: A Feeding Frenzy of Speculation

Posted by John Rosenthal

Blogs and social media has been abuzz with talk of a supposed “German news report” indicating that Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525, was a Muslim convert. In fact, there is no such report. On how the rumor got started, see my new post at the Weekly Standard here.

France’s Departmental Elections: The Rise of the National Front Halted?

Posted by John Rosenthal

On Sunday, following the first round of voting in France’s departmental elections, Prime Minister Manuel Valls took time to congratulate himself on having halted the rise of Marine Le Pen’s National Front. But a closer look at the election results reveals that the prime minister’s personal triumph is an illusion. Reports to the contrary notwithstanding, the National Front remains the “first party of France.”

For the details, see my new post at World Affairs here.

Is “Global Terrorist” Denis Cuspert Dead or Alive?

Posted by John Rosenthal

On February 9, the US State Department designated German citizen Dennis Cuspert as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Formerly known as “Deso Dogg,” during his days as one of Germany’s most well-known gangster rappers, Cuspert more recently adopted the nom de guerre Abu Talha al-Almani (the German). The State Department designation comes after Germany itself submitted Cuspert’s name to be included on the UN Security Council’s list of designated terrorists and terrorist entities. There is no doubt that since arriving in Syria in summer 2013, Cuspert had become a very significant recruiter of foreign and, above all, German-speaking jihadists. There is, however, significant doubt whether Cuspert is today even still alive.

For the details, see my new report at Geopolitical Monitor here.

French for No-Go Zones

Posted by John Rosenthal

The recent controversy over a Fox News segment on “no-go zones” in France, culminating in Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo’s threat to sue the American channel, will undoubtedly have been a surreal experience for many French-speakers, connoisseurs of France, and, above all, French people themselves. For while the original remarks by Fox interviewee Nolan Peterson contained some fuzziness and error, the existence of such zones has been universally acknowledged in France for years: by members of all political parties, including Hidalgo’s own Socialists, and all media, including the leftist media. Of course, the French do not use the expression “no-go zones,” because the French speak French. Their expression is zones de non-droit, literally “lawless zones,” so described because the police are incapable of maintaining a regular enough presence in them to enforce the law.

For the details, see my new article in the Weekly Standard here.

Blowback: Charlie Hebdo and the Contradictions of Western Policy

Posted by John Rosenthal

The Islamic terror attack on the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has prompted spirited defenses of freedom of expression from the French government and its Western allies. The Western defense of freedom of expression in the face of attacks by Islamic fundamentalists has not always been so unequivocal, however. Indeed, from the start of the Mohammed cartoon controversy, the support of some Western governments – including the French – for Charlie Hebdo and other “offenders” has been tepid at best. Moreover, by allying with Islamist forces in places like Libya and Syria, the West has strengthened some of the most radical currents in the Muslim world: some of the very currents that had taken the West violently to task over the Mohammed cartoons. A brief review of the pre-history of the 2011 Libyan rebellion will make this clear…

See my new article on Geopolitical Monitor here.

Mehdi Nemmouche: The Road to the Brussels Jewish Museum Shooting

Posted by John Rosenthal

News that the suspected perpetrator of the Brussels Jewish Museum shooting is a French jihadist veteran of the Syrian war has added to what were already growing concerns about the dangers posed by European fighters returning from Syria. But closer consideration of the Brussels attack and its precedents shows that threats in Europe are not necessarily threats to Europe per se: Jews (civilians) and Americans (military personnel) remain the preferred targets of Islamic terrorists who strike on the European continent.

On the path that took the suspect, Mehdi Nemmouche, from a juvenile career of petty delinquency in France to jihadist militancy in Syria and ultimately, it seems, anti-Jewish terror in Brussels, see my new article at The Federalist here.

Spanish Diplomat on Obama’s Unfinished Wars

Posted by John Rosenthal

President Obama is reputed to be the president who “ends wars.” But Ignacio Rupérez, the former Spanish ambassador to Iraq, sees things differently. In an article in the Spanish daily ABC on the rise of ISIS in Iraq, Rupérez is quoted as follows:

Barack Obama wanted to go down in history as the president of the United States who ended wars. But in fact he should do so as the president who pulled his troops from wars without finishing.

Good Jihadist, Bad Jihadist? France’s Selective Struggle Against Jihadism in Syria

Posted by John Rosenthal

Last week, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced with much fanfare the launching of a plan to stem the ever-increasing flow of young French Muslims to Syria to participate in “jihad.” But the comments of a French intelligence officer quoted in today’s edition of the daily Libération suggest that the efforts of French authorities in this regard are highly selective. Referring to the French jihadist recruits, the unnamed intelligence officer explained:

We distinguish between those that fight against Bashar al-Assad as part of the FSA [Free Syrian Army] – a struggle that has been given legitimacy by the West and by numerous fatwas – and jihadists that have been taken under the wing of al-Qaeda veterans and trained in the use of explosives and the art of deception, in order to foment attacks in Europe.

Only the latter, per the Libération report, will face arrest upon their return to France. By “al-Qaeda veterans,” the intelligence officer presumably has in mind the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [ISIS]. It should be noted, however, that the official affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, is a crucial ally of the FSA.

An Eyewitness to the Syrian Rebellion: Father Frans in His Own Words

Posted by John Rosenthal

Much more on Father Frans van der Lugt’s view of the Syrian rebellion — and of coverage thereof in the media — including extensive translated quotes from three articles that Father Frans published in Dutch and an interview in French.

My new contribution to The BRICS Post here.