It has been a difficult couple of days at the end of a difficult year. Individual lone wolf terrorism is impossible to stop completely. Fortunately, although it commands the headlines when it occurs, it is quite incredibly rare. Terrorism remains almost the least likely of freak deaths you could suffer, and everywhere in Europe is thousands of times less likely than the comparatively mundane event of dying in an ordinary traffic accident. Yet the perception of the terrorism risk is entirely wrong – for precisely the same reason that recent surveys show that people massively overestimate the number of Muslims in the population. Relentless media propaganda takes its toll.
Just as in the case of Anders Breivik, the media have jumped to the conclusion that the Berlin Christmas market terror was an act of Islamic terrorism, with no evidence whatsoever at this point. It is indeed very likely, probably most likely. But it could also have been a right wing group seeking to exacerbate anti-immigrant feeling. The disappearance of the killer makes this more likely. Perhaps people weren’t looking for a Breivik type slinking away because they were too busy in a racially motivated vigilante chase after a perfectly innocent Baloch muslim? I do not say it was not a Muslim – I don’t know – but the arrest of that young Baloch shows the problem of false assumptions. Amidst the terrible sorrow and anguish in Berlin – and let us not forget in Poland – I hope Germans find the grace to apologise properly and humbly to that racially stigmatised young man.
Even if the attacker was motivated by Islamic terrorism, the ISIS claim of control and organisation is very probably false. Let us await real progress in identifying what kind of attack this was before we start to address conclusions.
The murder of Ambassador Andrey Karlov was awful. Again, it is very hard to understand the precise situation. I remain sceptical that the Gulenists were really behind the coup attempt in Turkey. I am therefore reluctant to address theories about the policeman murderer’s links to the coup or Gulen, both of which seem improbable.
The Turkish/Russian relationship is extremely complex. There is no doubt that Erdogan remains strongly sympathetic to elements of the Sunni insurgency in Syria, and the profit-making of his family members from relationships with the jihadists was very real. So there is real conflict beneath the attempts at détente. But I cannot conceive Erdogan sanctioning the murder of an Ambassador, nor see how it benefits him. Russian bombing has hit ethnic Turkish communities on Syria’s northern border, and this seems the assassin’s most probable motivation, perhaps from family loss. I do not have high expectations we will get the truth, particularly from the official Russo/Turkish investigation.
Finally. the government has now at last admitted that British cluster bombs have been raining down on civilians in Yemen, a full two years after evidence should have made it undeniable. But there is still no chance that the hobbling of British foreign policy by its strange thraldom to Saudi Arabia is going to change. So long as the arms manufacturers, security industry and owners of high end London property control the British establishment, unquestioning support for Saudi Arabia remains the fulcrum around which the FCO revolves.