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05 March 2009

2765) Terrorist Renaissance: France, 1980-1983 by Samuel T. Francis

© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com With the possible exception of Northern Ireland, there is no country in Western Europe in which terrorist violence has been more intense since 1980 than France. In the 1970s France escaped most of the more dramatic and lethal terrorist . . enactments that disrupted West Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Great Britain. The French New Left did not breed terrorist movements on the scale of the Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, or the Red Brigades, and separatist movements in Brittany and Corsica never perpetrated violence on the level of the IRA and ETA. Nor did Palestinian and other transnational terrorists strike French targets with the same ruthlessness they displayed in the Munich massacre, the OPEC Ministers' kidnapping, or the more notorious skyjackings of the 1960s and 1970s.

Today French immunity to terrorism, domestic and international, is a thing of the past. Since 1980 a series of increasingly violent attacks by a number of different groups has rendered France, in the words of the London Economist, "easy water for terrorist fish."1 Between May and mid-August, 1982, twenty persons were killed and over forty injured by terrorist attacks in French territory;2 there have been more casualties since, and the governments of at least two countries (Israel and Turkey) have accused France of being unwilling or unable to take appropriate counter-measures.3ironically, the escalation of terrorism in France has occurred at the same time that Italy and Germany have displayed improvements in controlling it. As Ferdinando Imposimato, the magistrate directing the inquiry into the Aldo Moro kidnapping, has said, "International terrorism has been strangled in Germany, and has suffered serious setbacks in Italy. Driven out, or almost, from these countries, it has taken refuge and is recuperating in Paris."4

It is also ironic that the most notable terrorist actions in France have not been perpetrated by Frenchmen and often have not been directed at the French state or society. While the separatist groups continue to exist and to use violence, both of the main Corsican and Breton movements have generally been quiescent in recent years.5With one exception, both the extreme Left and the extreme Right in France have also avoided large-scale violence. The threat today derives principally from immigrant or internationally active elements that seek revenge, "liberation," or media attention by targeting their traditionally identified enemies, who happen to be located in a country that is providing inadequate security against such terrorist attacks.

The exception is the leftist group known as Action Directe, or AD. Reportedly developing from the fusion of Maoist and anti-Franco activists in the late 1970s, AD has launched attacks on a variety of targets ,predicated on a range of issues: nuclear power, French foreign policy, anti-semitism, and the United States-Israeli relationship. Prior to its being banned by the government on August 18, 1982, AD was believed to consist of some fifty members, with a high proportion of women and foreigners, and it has been definitely linked with the Italian Red Brigades and the Basque ETA. In October 1982, two members of AD were arrested in Paris, and documents in their possession and handwriting were held to show the complicity of the group in terrorist attacks previously claimed by the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Front (LARF).6

LARF has claimed responsibility for some of the most violent and dramatic terrorist attacks in France: the attempted murder of U.S. diplomat Christian A. Chapman on November 12, 1981; the actual assassinations of U.S. military attaché Charles R. Ray on January 18 and of Israeli diplomat Yacov Barsimantov on April 3, 1982; the bombing of a car belonging to an Israeli diplomat on September 17, 1982, in which five persons were killed; and two bombings directed at U.S. and Israeli embassy personnel on August 21, 1982, in which two policemen were killed and over forty persons were injured.

Documents in the possesion of Frederic Oriach, a known leader of AD, show that AD claimed partial responsibility for the August 21 bombings. This evidence led Joseph Franceschi, Secretary of State for security, to affirm that there was "proof that Action Directe is supported logistically and tactically by international terrorist organizations. . . anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian organization." 7

Anonymous phone calls attributed to AD responsibility for the machine-gun and hand grenade attack on the Jewish restaurant of Jo Goldenberg in Paris on August 9, 1982, an attack in which six persons were killed (including two Americans) and which has been called "the bloodiest anti-Semitic attack in France since World War II."8 The role of AD, however, was later denied, although it did claim responsibility for follow-up attacks in the following days, and ballistic evidence showed that the Polish machine-gun used in the restaurant attack was of the same kind used in similar terrorist acts in London and Vienna that were claimed by the Fatah Revolutionary Command of Sabri al-Banna, also known under his nom de guerre as Abu Nidal. The FRC, previously known as "Black June," is currently based in Damascus and probably enjoys Soviet as well as Syrian support. Since 1978 it has led an extremist opposition to Yasser Arafat and has been involved in a continuing series of assassinations of pro-Arafat and mainline PLO spokesmen.9

The Syrian connection with French terrorism is of considerable interest. On July 21, 1980, Salah al-Bitar, the former Prime Minister of Syria and the principal opponent of Hafez Assad, was assassinated in Paris. On April 22, 1982, the Paris offices of the pro-Iraqi and antiAssad newspaper Al Watan Al Arabi were targeted by a car-bomb that killed one person and injured forty-six. The French government immediately expelled two Syrian diplomats after the attack. On August 11, 1982, the Iraqi embassy was bombed, injuring six persons. These attacks are in part a continuation of the Middle Eastern feuds of ideological, political, and religious factions within the Arab states and the Palestinian movement. They appear in some cases to overlap with the ideological groups, especially those espousing anti-semitism and anti-Zionism, active in France (and in other countries), and it is difficult to say which elements bear major responsibility for some of the violent acts. It may be noted that the French ambassador to Lebanon was assassinated in September, 1981, and that both Al Watan and other investigators attributed the murder to Lebanese Shiites acting for Syria. Relations between France and Syria deteriorated as a result of the publicity, but probably a more important cause of the deterioration was the strong French tilt to Iraq in July, 1981.

Armenian terrorist groups are also among those foreign elements that have been active in France. As of mid-July, 1983, Armenian terrorists had claimed responsibility for six assassinations of Turkish government officials in Paris and had launched at least fourteen attacks on Turkish targets in France in the previous three years.10 Most of these actions have been the work of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), from the murder of Turkish ambassador Ismail Erez and his driver in Paris in 1975 to the bombing of the Turkish airlines counter at Orly airport on July 15, 1983, in which five persons were killed and over sixty injured. ASALA has been closely tied to Palestinian terrorists, and some authorities have suggested that this Marxist group, which never mentions Soviet domination of most of Armenia and never attacks Soviet personnel or facilities, is covertly supported by the Soviet Union. Some have also suggested that ASALA has been based in Damascus since its expulsion from Beirut in the summer of 1982. Varadjian Garbidjian, arrested by French police for the Orly airport bombing, is a Syrian born Armenian, and in November 1981, an Armenian, Dimitriu Giorgiu, was arrested in connection with the bombing of a synagogue in Paris on October 4, 1980. Giorgiu, linked with ASALA, was released and expelled from France, but his arrest and complicity in anti-semitic terrorism again suggests a linkage among Syrian, Armenian, Palestinian, and indigenous ideological terrorists of the Left and the Right.

The renaissance of terrorism in France is probably not due to any deep-seated changes in French social and intellectual fabric. There has been a turn to the right on the part of some French intellectuals, and this includes (on the fringe) a resurgence of extreme nationalist, xenophobic, and racialist ideologies. But the most notorious terrorism in France in recent years is largely the work of foreign elements that are not reflective of these changes.

The terrorist resurgence in France is more likely due in large part to a simple failure on the part of the Mitterand government to provide adequate constraints on criminal and subversive movements. In the first year of his administration, largely in the name of civil liberties, Mitterand and particularly his Minister of Justice, Robert Badinter, undertook a series of far-reaching reforms that effectively crippled the ability of the state to control and remain informed of terrorist violence. These included the abolition of the death penalty, the dismantlement of the state security court for anti-terrorism, the emancipation of some 6,000 petty criminals, the encouragement of the repeal of Giscard d'Estaing's anti-crime legislation, and the restructuring (some would say the de-structuring) of French intelligence. The appointment of Regis Debray, long known for his association (sometimes unwelcome) with Che Guevara and with other apostles of political violence, as a foreign affairs adviser; official sympathy for Central American insurgents; refusal to arrest or extradite known Spanish terrorists in French territory; and reluctance to modify the traditional asylum granted to political dissidents all tended to communicate or engender a laxity on the part of the government toward terrorists. In foreign affairs, Mitterand tilted sharply toward Iraq, alienating both Syria and Iran and precipitating terrorist attacks in France probably sponsored by both Assad and Khomeini.

By August 1982, with French terrorism becoming the subject of international headlines, a dispute erupted between Badinter and Gaston Deferre, the Minister of the Interior, who urged a harder line. Mitterand did undertake some counter-terrorist measures, notably the appointment of Joseph Franceschi to a Cabinet level post for public security, the imposition of stricter controls on immigrants, and a warning to political exiles to curtail their agitation, but these measures may not be sufficient to deter or control the practitioners of terror.

The lesson learned by Turkey, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and a host of Latin American countries in the past decade -- that violence is the midwife of more violence and that once the chain of terrorism starts, ideologies of revolt and traditions of vengeance will sustain it indefinitely -- appears to have been lost on Mitterand. While other West European states have developed legislation and institutions that provide effective counter-terrorist action consistent with democratic government, France has actually dismantled such institutions, has ignored persistent warnings from other states, and has thereby diminished its own security and the security of the innocent citizens of other states (including Americans) against renewed terrorist attacks.


References:
1. The Economist, August 21, 1982 , p. 37.
2. Time, August 23, 1982 , p. 33.
3. Ibid., New York Times, November 17, 1981 , p. A3.
4. Quoted in Edward Moxon-Browne, "Terrorism in France", Conflict Studies, no. 144 ( 1983 ), p. 3.
5. Breton terrorism was almost completely suppressed in 1978; Corsican terrorism, mainly in the form of bombings, continues and constitutes the most common source of terrorist attacks in France. But the statistical frequency of Corsican bombings has not left the same social and psychic impact created by the less common but more lethal and dramatic violence of anti-semite terrorists of the Left and the Right or of foreign terrorists operating in France.

6. For AD, see Moxon-Browne, Conflict Studies, pp. 22-25; and Foreign Broadcast Information Service/Western Europe, 15 October 1982 , p. K7.

7. Quoted in FBIS/WE, 15 October 1982 , p. KT; see also Washington Times, October 15, 1982.

8. Washington Post, August 10, 1982 , p. Al.

9. Ibid., August 11, 1982, p. A18, and July 15, 1983, pp. A1 and A17; for the background of Abu Nidal and "Black June"," see Samuel T. Francis, "Palestinian Terrorism: The International Connection", Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder Series, No. 69, December 8, 1978 , especially pp. 11-15.

10. Washington Post, July 16, 1983 , p. A16, and July 19, 1983 , p. A9.

World Affairs, 146/1, 1983

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