The third wave of Jihad begins. We will soon see its power.

Summary: Jeremy Harding at the LRB looks at the next big step by jihadists, and the amazing oddity of the West’s response.

Islamic Jihad



Modern jihad has gone through several phases, each stronger and more virulent than the predecessor. First came Afghanistan’s Mujahideen, who burned out in internecine conflict (defeated by the Tailiban). Al Qaeda came next, destroyed in the years after 9/11. Then came ISIS, now being destroyed after its premature shift to phase three insurgent operations (per Mao’s schema: holding territory and waging conventional warfare). Now jihad takes a new step, resuming phase two operations (terrorism) — but expanding their operations into Europe.

We can only guess at what form this will take, and what jihadists learned from their previous failures. Here Jeremy Harding explains this stage in jihad’s evolution, and the great oddity of the West’s response. Red emphasis added.

Third Wave Jihadism?

By Jeremy Harding. Excerpt from London Review of Books. 15 July 2016.
Posted with the author’s generous permission.

Gilles Kepel, a specialist on ‘Islam and the Arab world’, wrote last year in Terreur dans l’Hexagone – a study of French jihadism – that the Charlie Hebdo killings were ‘a sort of cultural 9/11’. The jihadism that we’re now confronted with, he argued, is a third wave phenomenon, superseding the mujahidin in Afghanistan (the first) and emerging in the long twilight of al-Qaida (the second).

“The latest wave is specifically targeted at Europe, with its significant Muslim population (about 20 million in EU countries): the approach is ‘horizontal’, favouring networks rather than cells; disruption, fear and division are the tactics; the radical awakening of European Muslims, many already disaffected and marginal, is the immediate objective. The murders at Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the kosher store in Paris brought the third wave ‘to a paroxysm’, in Kepel’s view, just as 9/11 brought the second ‘to its pinnacle’. At the time of writing, no one has laid claim to the atrocity in Nice: more than 80 dead, 50 hospitalised (‘between life and death’, in President Hollande’s words, earlier today).


Caliphate flag

“…Hollande, who saw his national football team go the final in Euro 2016 and argued that things were on the mend in France, is now promising to increase air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Impossible, then, to fault his prime minister, Manuel Valls, when he says that the French must learn to live with events of this kind. Bombing the remains of Arab states does not drive terrorism beyond France’s borders; on the contrary. Why it doesn’t make politicians unelectable is a mystery: even Marine Le Pen has spoken half-heartedly in favour of France’s air strikes in Syria. But what use are they against an armed man in a truck on the Promenade des Anglais?”

——————- End excerpt ——————-

Jeremy Harding

About the author

Jeremy Harding has written for the London Review of Books for 25 years. His first pieces were about the unfinished wars of liberation in Eritrea, Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. Small Wars, Small Mercies: Journeys in Africa’s Disputed Nations was published in 1994. In 2000 he published The Uninvited: Refugees at the Rich Man’s Gate.

In 2000 his report on unauthorised migration and refugee routes to the European Union won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism. He updated it with new material from Europe and the US/Mexican frontier for his most recent book, Border Vigils: Keeping Migrants Out of the Rich World (2012).

He lives in France and has worked in the Balkans, West Africa and the Middle East. In conjunction with the Palestine Festival of Literature he has run writing workshops in the Occupied Territories. {This bio paraphrased from this source.}

See his articles at the LRB and the LRB blog.

For More Information

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Also see these two of Jeremy Harding’s books

The Uninvited: Refugees at the Rich Man's Gate
Available at Amazon.
Border Vigils: Keeping Migrants Out of the Rich World
Available at Amazon.

9 thoughts on “The third wave of Jihad begins. We will soon see its power.”

  1. FM- Two quick thoughts…

    1. Understanding Turkey’s Erdogan rejection of the West as a rational actor move is important to understanding this next wave. From a Western lens, he seems crazy to gamble his ties with Nato, the EU, and even the tourism industry in his own country. From another view, it is perfectly rational and ties into the next point. He’s consolidating power internally, and, if he opens his borders, then the flood of refugees will increase exponentially creating havoc in the West.

    2. One interesting point about the ISIS movement is that a lot of the recruits are not initially overly religious. Rather, it is a combination of philosophical, religious, and socio-economic issues and feelings colliding. Simply put, there are a lot of young, angry Arab-Muslim men who do not feel that they have many opportunities in life or friends outside of their closed communities. This mixture is dangerous, and it could create something more powerful than Mao’s fight given the limited scope that Communism had to attract folks. In this fight, young men and women are so angry / depressed / isolated / sexually repressed that they are willing to blow themselves up and take out as many people as they can.

    1. Mike,

      Thank you for this comment, useful and brilliant as usual.

      I agree that Turkey is more likely to play a larger role in the world — and Islam — than the evolving jihadists. But I cannot even imagine what that might be. Perhaps Erdogan will find the long-sought “third way” between communism and capitalism (the political equivalent of the northwest passage).

      Most analysis in the West doesn’t go beyond “religious tyrant — doubleplusungood”.

  2. If you’re some lowish IQ loser living in the projects would you rather live in obscurity or die as a warrior of God and make sure no one ever forgets that you trod the Earth even if you were alive for just a few decades. The War Nerd does a great job of describing this dynamic in his podcasts.

    As for bombing foreign places, it seems in most of the world the state is like Humpty Dumpty once you break it it’s near impossible to put it back together again, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.

    1. Hoyticus,

      I agree about the appeal of fanaticism to isolated and alienated young people.

      “once you break it it’s near impossible to put it back together again, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.”

      Sad but true. But if left alone these areas often (not always) and heal, regenerating a viable social order. Sometimes it takes generations. That requires great powers to stop destabilizing them. Afghanistan is a good example of great powers repeatedly wrecking a nation. Callously. brutally.

  3. Alot of people are already advocating border control and radicals are urging the deportation of muslims by force if necessary making parallels also with the reconquest of spain.

    One of the prominent frenchmen a police chief I believe said that any more those attacks could result in civil war.

      1. Infowarrior,

        “One of the prominent frenchmen a police chief I believe said that any more those attacks could result in civil war.”

        Upon examination, this is more interesting. The remarks were by Patrick Calvar, head of the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), France’s internal security agency. He testified before a parliamentary commission examining French means to fight terrorism, published on July 12 in a 300-page report. The stories differed between the mainstream news and the tabloids.

        The real news had few stories on this, the same stuff we’ve heard every month since 9/11. See the AP and USA Today.

        The UK Daily Express reported that he told the Commission “Migrant sex attacks will spark confrontation with Islam in Europe“, that “he feared an inevitable confrontation between the far right and Muslims poses more of a threat than terrorism.”

        The Daily News said that these remarks were leaked to a French newspaper on July 10.

        The Metro reported that he told the French newspaper Le Figaro “We are on the brink of civil war.”

        So we don’t know what he said. Google returns many links to French language news stories about this. Perhaps someone can read these and report the actual story.

      2. Infowarrior,

        “Its french head of intelligence actually:”

        Your comment makes no sense whatsoever. As I said, Patrick Calvar is “head of the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI), France’s internal security agency”. Which is exactly what the Daily Mail article you cite says: “Patrick Calvar, head of the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) – France’s equivalent of MI5.”

        There is no one French “intelligence” agency. They have several, as do the UK, the US, and Russia.

        Please read more carefully before posting a “gottcha” or correction.

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