Czech foreign minister dismisses president's anti-terrorism policy

Lubomír Zaorálek, photo: Filip Jandourek

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has publicly rebuked comments made by President Miloš Zeman regarding how best to fight against Islamic radicalism. Zeman used an event marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz to warn of the threat of a new “Superholocaust”. But the Czech foreign minister was quick to distance the Czech government from the head of state’s remarks.

Miloš Zeman, photo: CTK
President Zeman’s speech to the Third International Holocaust Forum on Tuesday was intended to ruffle feathers. But his warnings of the need to up the fight against terrorism via military means led the Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek to declare opposition to the president’s apparent call to arms. Soon after the event concluded, Zaorálek released a statement in which he asked rhetorically: “Are we supposed to declare a Crusade? Against whom and where? Against Jihadist groups from Senegal to Somalia; against Libya, Yemen, all the way to Pakistan? Nonsense!” The foreign minister also added that the real way Islam could be “cured” of radicalism would be for Muslims themselves, primarily Arabs, to commit to such an undertaking.

In a TV panel discussion later that evening, the Foreign Minister expanded his opposition to the president’s prescription, dismissing the idea of assembling global armies to “storm” terrorist trouble spots as nonsense:

“I agree it is a serious issue, but we have a consensus already on what needs to be done: tackling the dangerous fifth column at home, cutting off terrorist funding, utilizing our intelligence services…when I hear arguments like President Zeman’s, then it reminds me of George W. Bush and his neo-conservative conception of a New American Century – whereby we storm in somewhere, carry out a regime change and are greeted as liberators.”

I spoke with analyst Erik Best, who said he was surprised by Minister Zaorálek’s criticism, arguing that the Czech president’s comments were indeed in line with US foreign policy – but he then offered a possible alternative interpretation:

Lubomír Zaorálek, photo: Filip Jandourek
“You can, of course, look at Zeman’s speech from another level. You could say that he was actually criticizing US foreign policy, because he is saying we need to use drones and have an international offensive against terrorism. And, of course, that is precisely what the US is doing. So is Zeman suggesting that the current policy is not successful, in part because it is led by the United States? And does that mean bringing the issue to [the UN Security Council], which would give Russia and China veto power over it.”

I also asked Best if he thought that a Holocaust forum was the correct place to be discussing anti-terrorism policy.

“It is noteworthy that Mr. Zeman used this arena to present his ideas – most of which, by the way, are not new. When he speaks of a ‘super-Holocaust’ that could claim hundreds of millions of victims, he is changing the debate of the last couple of days from one that was focused on the reaction and aftermath of the Paris attacks. He’s taking a different approach to the debate, and to an extent, by doing that yesterday, he did somewhat dilute the message that the others at the conference were trying to get across.”