Satuday’s announcement by the Islamic State organization claiming responsibility for the truck attack in Nice on Thursday came as the heads of France’s security forces were meeting in Paris to discuss the investigation’s findings. But while in terms of the investigation the announcement is insignificant, politically it resolves many problems for the French.
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The statement put an end to calls from the extreme left to lift the extension of the state of emergency and cancel the additional funding announced by the French president. These calls were based on the theory that the attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was mentally disturbed and that the attack had nothing to do with the French fight against the Islamic State and Islamic extremists. The statement also saved Prime Minister Manuel Valls from an anticipated confrontation in the National Assembly this week over his hasty announcement that the perpetrator was “certainly linked” to Islamic terror organizations.
In addition, the Islamic State claim enables President Francois Hollande to present criticism of him from the right in the past two days as “electoral populism,” as one supporter termed it Saturday morning. The pronouncement by the front-runner in next year’s presidential election, former Prime Minister Allain Juppe, according to which the war against the Islamic State should be separated from the fight against Islamic extremism within France, sounded somewhat duller, perhaps even hasty, on Saturday.
The announcement by Islamic State will greatly help the families of the victims, both from the psychological perspective and vis-a-vis the agencies that handle compensation.
Moreover, the claim of responsibility gives Prime Minister Valls the justification he needs for a campaign of preventive arrests amazingly similar to Israeli administrative detention, over the vehement objections of his Socialist Party.
The announcement vindicates Hollande’s declaration of three days of national mourning, which Saturday morning seemed unjustified. There are many ceremonial aspects to this period but its national political nature should act to blunt criticism from the right in the National Assembly.
Finally, it should be noted that from the perspective of the extreme right, the announcement validates its contention from the outset that it makes no difference whether the perpetrator belonged to the Islamic State or was only influenced by that organization’s propaganda, because either way, the government again proved helpless against Islam. Nice is a stronghold of the far-right National Front. Marion Le Pen, the niece of the party’s current president, Marine Le Pen, and granddaughter of its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won 42 percent of the votes in the last regional election to enter the National Assembly. It now seems certain that support for the party in the southern city will rise in next year’s presidential election.