Cablegate: Violence in Suburbs: Comments of Terrorism

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

041058Z Nov 05

S E C R E T PARIS 007527


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2015

REF: A. PARIS 7525


ONS 1.4 B/D

1. (S) During a conversation November 3 with terrorism
investigating judge Jean-Francois Ricard, Poloff asked for
his analysis of recent violence in the suburbs (ref A).
Ricard began by saying that no one in the French government
should be surprised by what has happened. Successive
governments have tried and failed to integrate suburbs with
high immigrant populations. For "the last twenty years,"
said Ricard, the GOF has known that the suburbs have become
areas where respect for the state has dried up. As a result
of this inattention, the suburbs with high immigrant
populations have lost their French identity and have built up
an identity based on the "cites," (similar to the
"projects"). French symbols of authority, like the fireman
and policeman, are considered to be "assassins" and worthy of
being targeted. In addition, gangs and radical Islamic
groups have an interest in keeping the cites free of GOF
influence to maintain their freedom of operation. French
intelligence can only do so much, said Ricard. The areas
need a substantial GOF presence, i.e., police and gendarmerie.

2. (S) Ricard criticized many current French analyses as
"tired leftist critiques" uttered by those who have no
understanding of the world of the cites. He said they
focused only on socio-economic problems, viewing the cites
inhabitants as victims of precarious living situations --
young people who are unemployed and uneducated, with poor
prospects for the future. When he had been an ordinary
investigating judge in the northern suburb of Bobigny, Ricard
said people were relatively well-off. They had cars and
televisions and other material possessions. Other areas of
France, such as the north near Belgium, were much poorer,
said Ricard. The real problem was the GOF's failure to be
present in these areas. Inhabitants developed a sense of
being apart from French society, and over time, became proud
of this. The combination of setting oneself apart, real
and/or imagined grievances against the GOF, state
inattention, and the interest of gangs and other groups,
including Islamists, to accentuate this divide, has led to
the current unrest, said Ricard.

3. (S) If the unrest dies out "very quickly," this would be
bad news, said Ricard. It would mean that gangs and other
groups in the cites exert a powerful control over those
currently burning cars and assaulting police. These gangs
have no interest in triggering a massive GOF response,
because it would mean the long-term "occupation" of the
cites. If the unrest goes on for much more than a week,
Ricard said it would signify that the cites have become
completely anarchic. He speculated that one reason for the
riots might have been Sarkozy's announcement in late October
of an increased GOF security presence in the cites, including
17 companies of CRS (specialized crowd control police) and 7
platoons of specialized gendarmes (ref B). (Note: In a
strangely prescient interview with Le Monde on October 25
about his plan to increase security in the cites, Sarkozy
said that, since the beginning of 2005, "9000 police
vehicles" in France have had stones and other projectiles
thrown at them. Every night, Sarkozy continued, "between 20
and 40 " vehicles (presumably not only police vehicles) are
burned or otherwise set on fire. End note.)
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