“We should assume an asymmetric war lasting three years!”

Former CIA agent Robert Baer on the failed war on terror and why Europe could be easy prey for terrorism

Former CIA agent Robert Baer’s books regularly cause a rude stir in the U.S. Baer’s works "See No Evil" and "Sleeping with the Devil" provided the template for the film Syriana completed in 2005. The person of the film character Bob Barnes – played by George Clooney – was modeled on Robert Baer.

The Paris attacks in November 2015 sent shock waves around the world. What were your first thoughts when you heard about the attacks there??

Robert Baer: My first thoughts were, what will become of Europe?? What do you mean?

Robert Baer: Europe, unfortunately, is about to fulfill all the conditions to become an easy prey for terrorists. Especially the European metropolises, of course. The trouble spots are in the immediate vicinity, the EU’s borders are more or less open. I don’t think I have to say more, do I??" The German government recently admitted that they don’t know how many people have recently arrived as refugees. Do you think that is a danger?

Robert Baer: Absolutely. Without wanting to portray the vast majority of refugees as a threat, fleeing hardship, terror and war, but of course potential terrorists can move in this stream of people like fish in water. A Syrian passport was also found in Paris, which seems to indicate that one of the perpetrators entered Greece as recently as October.

Robert Baer: Of course, this could also be a fake to mix up tracks. The terrorists only need 8 people to cause a bloodbath like the one in Paris. The danger today comes from small, fanatical groups, not from a headquarters somewhere in Iraq or Syria. They may be linked to the Islamic State, but they do not need a green light from it. You yourself were involved in the persecution of Islamic terrorists in France in the 1980s as a CIA agent. How does the situation today differ from the situation then??

Robert Baer: In principle. The attitude of the French public has changed fundamentally. The traditional anti-Arab racism in France also existed then, condemning many of the Maghreb immigrants to a life on the periphery of society, not only geographically but also socially. In French society, then as now, it was incredibly difficult to rise to the top. The problems that persist to this day also arose in these milieus. At that time, however, the Europeans were aware that they only had to use a little political force, but could still maintain their open society. In the meantime, panic is spreading, the problems described from back then have not been solved, political extremism is spreading. What would happen if attacks of this kind were to continue??

Robert Baer: Then comes a new fascism in Europe. Values like liberalism and democracy are thrown overboard, the project of the EU is collapsing, Schengen is already dead. Does Germany have to reckon with an attack like the one in Paris??

Robert Baer: Every country tends to be at risk. Whether in the West or elsewhere. Germany still seems relatively safe to me, apart from potential attacks against foreign institutions, since Berlin has not yet taken part in direct military action. However, this is not a guarantee. And what about the USA?

Robert Baer: They are just as much at risk, if only because of the easy access to weapons that we know exists here.