CON COUGHLIN (The Telegraph)
The only concern for the majority of people fleeing war-ravaged countries such as Syria and Iraq is to find sanctuary from violence. But for those few of more malign intent, Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War has provided a unique opportunity – to infiltrate Europe’s heartland with terror cells.
Thanks to the EU’s hapless response to the migration crisis which erupted last summer, it is estimated that thousands of jihadists trained in the latest terrorist techniques have been able to make their way undetected through Europe after obtaining new identities and passports.
The result, so far as Britain is concerned, is that the leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have succeeded in setting up a network of sleeper cells throughout the UK which can be activated to conduct terrorist attacks on a similar scale to those recently experienced in Paris and Brussels.
In short, to use the terminology familiar to MI5 and MI6 officers, Isil leaders have succeeded in “weaponising” the refugee crisis for their own nefarious purposes.
James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, earlier this week revealed the existence of sleeper cells in the UK, as well as other European states such as Germany and Italy. He believes Isil has been able to infiltrate the country by taking advantage of Europe’s porous borders.
If that is indeed the case, then many people will be sympathetic to questions raised by Iain Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions secretary, about the wisdom of the Government spending nearly £2 billion to help countries such as Turkey and Serbia join the EU.
It was the failure of these, as well as other Balkan states, to monitor properly the flood of refugees fleeing across the Syrian border that enabled Isil to penetrate the migrant routes in the first place. Therefore, the Government’s policy of encouraging them to join the EU, whereby they can benefit from its open-borders policy, is likely to make it even more difficult for intelligence agencies to track terrorists criss-crossing the continent.
Planting terror cells throughout Europe certainly makes perfectly good sense for Isil’s leadership at a time when they find their self-styled caliphate in northern Iraq and Syria increasingly under pressure from the West and its allies.
In the past year, it is estimated that Isil has lost between 30-40 per cent of the territory it captured during the summer of 2014, and now governs a population of around six million, instead of the nine million it previously controlled.
Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition have forced the terrorists to abandon key positions in both Iraq and Syria, and the constant war of attrition against Isil’s infrastructure has undermined its financial wellbeing.
Until recently Isil generated an estimated $80 million in revenues from its lucrative oil-smuggling operations. But this has now fallen to around $56 million as a result of the coordinated assault on the group’s oil smuggling routes, particularly along the Turkish border. As a result, the terrorists have been forced to introduce new revenue-raising wheezes, such as charging exit taxes for anyone desiring to leave caliphate-controlled territory. On-the-spot fines have also been introduced for anyone unable to recite verses of the Koran.
This escalation of the campaign against Isil’s heartland in Syria and Iraq – and its success – has led to its leadership seeking to extend its campaign of terror across Europe. Intelligence officials believe the bombings in Paris, Brussels and Istanbul are part of a deliberate attempt to intimidate the civilian populations and encourage them to put pressure on their respective governments to change tack.
But to do that the EU must undertake a radical overhaul of its open-borders policy, rather than extending it and allowing yet more terrorists to travel freely across the European continent.