Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Is Europe Finally Coming Around?

Today's WSJ Review & Outlook includes an unsigned editorial on how Europe is beginning to "come around" relative to the global war on terror.

Last year's murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh seems to have been a watershed moment that has awakened Europe to the danger. A radical Muslim of Dutch-Moroccan heritage has been charged with the crime, and in a pre-trial hearing last week the prosecutor told the court, "The murder made it clear that terrorism, inspired by an extreme interpretation of Islam, is a reality in our country."

And sure enough, in recent weeks police in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands have rounded up dozens of terrorist suspects. According to intelligence reports, security services have thwarted a dozen major terrorist attacks in Europe since September 11.

Intelligence experts believe Europe is targeted for two reasons: ideology and opportunity. Despite the political disagreements some European countries have with the Bush Administration, Islamist terrorists still consider Europe part of the hated and infidel West. In addition, Islamic terrorists -- some of whom carry European passports -- can hide and move about much more easily amid Europe's large Muslim and Arab populations than they can in the U.S.

Consider Spain, where the government thought that withdrawing its troops from Iraq after last year's Madrid train bombings would take it off the terrorist target list. No such luck. Security services have since foiled Islamist attacks against such targets as the main criminal court and Madrid's soccer stadium. Last year, the Spanish arrested more than 130 suspected Islamist terrorists. Also last year, terror suspects were arrested in Britain and France for planned poison gas attacks.

Embarrassment over finding some of their nationals among the terrorists killed by U.S. forces in Iraq has also led governments in Europe to step up efforts to stop the recruitment in their countries of suicide bombers for the jihad in Iraq. After a 19-year-old Frenchman was killed during an American bombardment of Fallujah in July, the French began an investigation that led last week to the arrest of a cell of 11 people who allegedly were recruiting terrorists for Iraq.

But check out the whole thing (unfortunately, a paid online subscription is required - but worth it) for the rest of the story.

Will Europe really come around? Stay tuned.

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