2021-10-13 20:44:34 U.S. Antigovernment Groups Are Influencing the French Far Right
U.S. Antigovernment Groups Are Influencing the French Far Right
WASHINGTON (AP) — According to the top French intelligence official, right-wing extremist groups in the United States have been influencing French groups and spreading anti-government conspiracy theories in Europe.
Laurent Nuez, France’s national intelligence and counterterrorism coordinator, has been in Washington this week for meetings with American officials such as Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence.
Relations between Paris and Washington have been strained since the United States agreed last month to sell nuclear submarines to Australia, effectively ending a French contract.
Mr. Nuez did not mince words when he stated that “the serious bilateral crisis” remained. Nonetheless, Mr. Nuez’s visit was authorized by French President Emmanuel Macron as part of efforts to ease the diplomatic feud and restore high-level communications between the two governments.
Cooperation among intelligence services, which is often devoid of politics, is typically far more stable than relations between heads of state, and this has been the case with France, according to US officials. French officials stated that they would continue to collaborate on a wide range of counterterrorism issues in Syria, Africa, and Afghanistan, as well as threats from domestic extremist groups.
“In terms of threats from the extreme right,” Mr. Nuez said, “the developments we are seeing in France are quite similar to what is happening in the United States.”
Previously, he said, extreme right-wing groups in France were more open about their activities, were less violent, and had different motivations. Mr. Nuez added that right-wing extremists were becoming older, and that they were frequently people whose activities the French authorities were unaware of.
“They want to organize themselves into secret networks,” he explained. “There is no longer any visibility. They are willing to commit violent acts comparable to terrorists.”
According to him, the groups’ targets have shifted from mosques and Islamic organizations to French state institutions. Many extremist groups, like American groups, have adopted conspiracy theories about the government’s actions.
Mr. Nuez claimed that over the last five years, French authorities have dismantled six extremist cells that had amassed weapons or explosives and were planning attacks.
The French authorities have not discovered any “operational links” between domestic extremist groups and the US. However, Mr. Nuez claims that French groups have drawn inspiration from movements outside of France, such as QAnon.
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory held by some supporters of former President Donald J. Trump who believe the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles.
Officials in the United States and Europe have been tracking the spread of QAnon to Europe, which accelerated at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In Germany, for example, some far-right groups began to embrace QAnon theories. Mr. Nuez stated that a similar phenomenon was taking place in France.
“Some people have adopted the logic of QAnon,” he said. “They believe the government has a hidden agenda and is working against its own people.”
French officials have been closely monitoring the activities of extremist groups in the United States, particularly since the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
“We can see they have the same motivation,” Mr. Nuez said. “They are waging a war against democracy.”
The French, like the rest of the world, are looking for signs that Al Qaeda will return to Afghanistan or that the Islamic State will gain strength under the new Taliban government.
The most lethal terrorist attack in France, the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people, was partially planned in Syria. Mr. Nuez stated that it would be more difficult for terrorist organizations to use Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks in Europe. According to him, the network that brought fighters from Syria to France does not exist for extremists in Afghanistan.
So far, the French have not seen an influx of Europeans seeking to join the Taliban in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, Mr. Nuez believes it is critical to thoroughly vet Afghan refugees.
Mr. Nuez added that the Taliban’s failure to prevent Islamic State attacks during the evacuation from Kabul airport has raised concerns in Paris about the new Afghan government’s ability to prevent terrorist threats from emerging.
“We have to keep an eye on whether Al Qaeda leaders are moving to Afghanistan,” he said. “Will the Taliban be able to control and deconstruct those cells?”