Paris Terrorist Attacks in the Regional Media

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Middle East Policy Council

The coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday have dominated headlines across the globe. Along with the outpouring of grief and pledges of support, many members of the media in the region are urging a closer examination of the context of the attacks, including the historical role of France in the Levant. Others are calling for an end to the Saudi-Iran rivalry, which they believe feeds the schisms that lead to sectarian violence. Meanwhile, the attack has also signaled a shift in ISIS tactics, which, according to some observers, brings it more in line with al-Qaeda and raises the specter of cooperation between the two terror groups. Finally, there is a great deal of debate over how to actually defeat ISIS, as bombs do not seem to be doing the job.

Even though most editorials and op-eds took time to express sympathy for the victims of the terrorist attacks, some, like Tehran Times’ Hassan Larsjerdi, took the opportunity to also highlight what in their view was France’s own responsibility for the attacks: “Although terrorist attacks are by any standard condemned and rebuked, however, we need to bear in mind that events do not happen in a vacuum. In other words, the action-reaction chain is part and parcel of the human society. If France’s approach towards the attacks is colored by ethnic, religious, or national clichés, then this would give birth to more terrible aftermaths. In other words, once there is too much pressure on certain minorities, be it religious, national, or ethnical, there would be counterbalance for sure….However, if the French government steps back to identify true players behind the scene, then it would certainly enjoy the support of the international community and even takes the lead against terrorism….countries need to look at the bigger picture and consider a slew of underlying factors behind crises so as to prevent future occurrences of similar events.”

Asharq Alawsat’s Salman Aldosary is also critical of France, and the West in general, but this time for not doing enough to combat the threat of ISIS in the region: “the terrorists frankly and unequivocally present their crimes as having no roof whatsoever like those who draw up their policies on the basis that the field of terrorism will remain confined to the hot spots like Iraq and Syria. Here is France, another victim of the lack of firm, international resolution which asserts that the war on terrorism is a real, strategic goal and not just resonant recommendations and speeches which are not actually reflected on the ground, and not, for example, the world’s largest country’s decision to send tens of experts to address the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.”

It is clear to many observers that, in addition to the West, Muslim countries and Muslims in general must also take a hard look at themselves, especially, as The Dawn’s recent editorial points out, in light of the failure of those countries to take a leadership role on this issue: “Where, though, is the Muslim world in all of this? The destructive competition of Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East and the Muslim world in general appears to have stifled any pan-Muslim initiatives. Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia — each has a large population and high stakes in helping defeat militancy. In the Middle East, there are states that could urgently lobby the Muslim world for a united approach. But each and every Muslim-majority country appears to have some reason or the other to not provide leadership — even though Islamist militancy is perhaps a greater threat to the Muslim world than to the non-Muslim world.”

That self-examination, argues Sabria Jawhar in an op-ed for Arab News, should start with the molding of the Arab youth. Otherwise, a campaign that relies only on the military prowess of the West is doomed to fail: “There is little doubt after the Paris attacks that Muslims need to clean their own house, but it can’t be done alone. Muslims and non-Muslims need each other in this escalating war. Muslim communities in western countries and every country in the Middle East and North Africa need to take an active role in educating its youth. Ignoring the problem — and the Ummah and the West must plead guilty to this — will only serve Daesh’s interest and help create a new generation of militants….Without a strategy that involves the leading Arab countries — with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, England and France at the forefront — there is little chance that we can stop Daesh. Unfortunately, that strategy must include military force and the potential for loss of life, but it also must be combined with education for children beginning at a very young age.”

The National’s Hussein Ibish, on the other hand, worries that Paris attacks mark a shift in ISIS strategy bringing it more in line with Al-Qaeda and thereby signaling an even more dangerous phase of the conflict: “ISIL broke with al-Qaeda over a range of issues, perhaps most importantly the question of priorities. Al-Qaeda argues ISIL foolishly jumped the gun in declaring a ‘caliphate,’ while ISIL maintains that seizing and controlling territory is the most important task….But given the scale and sophistication of the Paris atrocities, hasn’t ISIL adopted al-Qaeda’s approach?…So, what’s most alarming is not merely the likelihood of more terrorist attacks in major Arab and western cities. It’s the possibility that ISIL and Al Qaeda, for so long divided by both ideas and personalities, might now be able to form a working alliance or even reunify. The rift that began with Zarqawi might soon prove practically irrelevant at the level of strategy and tactics.”

The possibility of such an escalation — and coordination among the two foremost terrorist organizations in the region — makes Nahum Barnea’s recommendation to focus on the fight against ISIS even at the cost of neglected other pressing matters even more urgent. As Yedioth Ahronoth’s Barnea puts it: “Russia lost a civilian plane full of passengers in the Sinai skies. France was hit in Paris. It seems that the Islamic State, or its extensions, is not as insane as one would think, and is much more dangerous. The fact that in both cases there was likely no early intelligence information should concern every intelligence organization whose government is hostile towards ISIS, from Washington, London, Paris and Berlin, through Moscow, Riyadh and Tehran, to Jerusalem….The events in Paris must change the list of priorities. First of all ISIS, and everything else will have to wait, perhaps even be forgotten. This is good news for Iran, Assad’s patron and the enemy of ISIS. It’s good news for Assad and for Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

But as Hurriyet Daily News’ Nuray Mert asks, is fighting fire with fire the only optimal strategy left for the West and its regional partners? “We have seen that the politics of war and confrontation are no remedy; on the contrary, they create more wars and conflicts. The number-one reason behind the rise of ISIL was the policy of regime change in Syria….Only two days before the Paris attack, more than 50 civilians were killed in Beirut just because they were Shiite. It may be considered inconvenient about who did what in the Middle East under the circumstances of tragedy. Nonetheless, it is the Lebanese allies of France who have been supporting Sunni extremists against Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon….But, no it is not Islam and its theology, but pragmatic politics in the name of power struggles, along with poverty and discrimination of Muslims, that is the number-one reason behind this evil force….So, please no more shallow and meaningless debates on Islam, and please no more excuses for more wars!”

Click here to read previous installments of Middle East In Focus


Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: Comments and feedback are welcome at


  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Scroll to Top