ISIS's Campaign in Europe: March 25- July 15, 2016
ISIS is pursuing its campaign to punish, polarize, and destabilize the West by inspiring and enabling terrorist attacks in Europe. ISIS likely inspired the terrorist attack in Nice, France on July 15, when a suspect drove his car into a group of civilians celebrating Bastille Day. The attack killed at least 84 and wounded over 200 civilians. ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani encouraged terrorist attacks on Europe and the U.S. in a speech on May 21. The group uses its online propaganda and messaging to inspire individuals to conduct attacks in its name abroad in order to advance its global objective of destabilizing and provoking an eventual apocalyptic war with the West. Adnani’s speech also inspired a pro-ISIS militant to kill two French police officers in a stabbing in Magnanville outside Paris, France on June 13. The assailant posted a video claiming that the attack was a direct response to Adnani’s call. ISIS also used its foreign fighter networks to conduct a complex attack against the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey on June 28, displaying the continued maturation of ISIS attack nodes across Europe. ISIS may take advantage of a likely security reshuffle and intensify spectacular attacks in Turkey after a failed coup by military officials on July 15. Attacks in Europe are not a “desperate” reaction to losses in Iraq and Syria as Secretary of State John Kerry suggested, but rather a continuation of its global objectives in spite of them. ISIS is likely inspiring terrorist attacks to prompt a backlash against Muslim communities and fuel radicalization and recruitment in Europe. ISIS also seeks to break European unity by raising security requirements, exacerbating tensions between states, and damaging the economy through spectacular attacks. The successful Brexit campaign that capitalized on the panic of security threats advances ISIS’s objective to divide and destabilize the EU, and threats by other EU nations to follow suit may empower ISIS. The anti-ISIS coalition must take simultaneous action to eliminate the group’s safe havens in the Muslim world, neutralize its European attack networks, and counter its online messaging in order to destroy the ISIS threat to the Europe.