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In Middle East, Paris Attacks Harden Views on Foreign Intervention

  • Heather Murdock

FILE - Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the highest Islammic Sunni institution, Ahmed Al-Tayeb looks on during his meeting with Egyptian presidency candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, not pictured, in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 8, 2011.

FILE - Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the highest Islammic Sunni institution, Ahmed Al-Tayeb looks on during his meeting with Egyptian presidency candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, not pictured, in Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 8, 2011.

As Paris reels and the death toll mounts, some Egyptians are calling for a renewed global commitment against Islamic State militants, while others say failed international policies in Syria and Iraq are largely responsible for the group’s existence.

“The time has come for the whole world to unite and cooperate to stand up to this rabid monster which Egypt has long warned about," said Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, considered the Sunni Islamic world’s top university.

The grand imam condemned the attack as “uncontained by any constraints of religion, humanity, or civilization.”

Madrid bombings

In the deadliest attack in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings, Paris was terrorized Friday night by coordinated gun and bomb attacks. At least 127 people were killed in bars, restaurants and other sites, including near a stadium. At least 180 were injured, many critically.

Witnesses said some of the attackers claimed it was revenge for French intervention in Syria.

Egyptian and Syrian passports were found near the bodies of two of the attackers, but some analysts believe they are not real. In war-torn Syria, a fake passport goes for roughly $1,000.

“French police found Syrian and Egyptian passports,” tweeted political analyst Koert Debeuf. “Why? Because ISIS wants it to be found. Goal: change EU policy of welcoming refugees.”

Other analysts argue the refugee crisis benefits IS for a variety of reasons, starting with chaos and ending with an ability to move people in.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been among the most aggressive Arab leaders against IS, sending fighter jets into Libya in retaliation for the slaughter of Egyptian nationals. El-Sissi has also repeatedly called for an ‘Arab Force’ to fight the group, a call that all relevant nations seem to agree on, but the force has yet to materialize.

El-Sissi also condemned Friday night’s attacks, saying they highlight a need to adopt, “a comprehensive approach to confronting terrorism, which seeks to undermine security and stability worldwide.” Egypt was one of several Middle Eastern countries to condemn the Paris attacks on Saturday.

Failed international policies in the Middle East, however, are largely responsible for creating an atmosphere that has allowed ISIS to develop and thrive, according to some analysts. Pentagon documents declassified last spring, revealed the United States believed its policies would create an extremist ‘Islamic State’ within Syria and Iraq.

ISIS claims

Islamic State militants on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack in a video that resembles their past work. The militant in the video said nothing to prove the group’s more central leaders in Syria and Iraq planned and orchestrated the attack, rather than inspiring it.

And on the streets of Cairo, some locals said they don’t believe it matters if the men in the video are physically directing the increasingly horrific and widespread attacks or simply encouraging them.

Two weeks ago, a plane crash killed 224 people heading back to Russia from their holiday in Egypt. The Egyptian government says the investigation has been inconclusive so far, but militants professing allegiance with the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Islamic State has also made — again unverifiable — claims it was behind two suicide blasts in Beirut Thursday that left more than 41 people dead and 200 injured.

On a quiet Cairo residential street on Saturday, Neven Salah, a 21 year old college student, said it no longer matters where the attacks take place, since such a large part of the world is at risk.

But, she added, as a history student, she would modify the world’s approach to defeating the group.

“Nobody says ‘I'm not going to support the victims because they are not from my country,'” she said. “But we should learn more about their (the attackers') ideology so we can face them.”

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