Only a UN Peace Conference can save Syria and Iraq

17 November 2015

Only a UN Peace Conference can save Syria and Iraq

The chaos in the Middle East seems complete. ‘Seems’, because things could get even worse now that the Russians have entered the fray. ‘Only an international peace conference with all of the parties involved can save the region.’

I think there are elements of truth in that, Tony Blair said at the end of October, in answer to a question as to whether the invasion of Iraq twelve years ago was the principal cause of the rise of ISIS. Blair’s analysis, which also exhibited regret for the ‘faults’ around the action, didn’t only offer an insight into the origins of ISIS , but at the same time a possible way to resolve the problems plaguing a completely dislocated region.

‘To find a solution it’s of the greatest importance that on the basis of an honest analysis we investigate where ISIS actually came from,’ says SP Member of Parliament and foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel. ‘In that, the dissatisfaction which prevails among Iraq’s Sunni population plays a major role. The Sunnis feel themselves discriminated against when compared to the Shi’ite majority in the country, represented by the government in Baghdad, which has been helped into power by the Americans. The solution is therefore that this government must make more space for the Sunnis and let them have a share of governmental power. In addition, cooperation must be increased with the Kurds in Iraq’s autonomous north. That’s the only way that the wind can be taken out of ISIS’ sails.’ Meanwhile, however, things just seem to be escalating. The Americans and French have been bombing ISIS in Iraq for some time now. More recently Russia’s been doing that too, but this doesn’t further the goals of the moderate opposition to Assad. And not only that: the Russians are supporting Assad wherever and however they can. That means that Russia and the US could find themselves on opposite sides. What makes it even more complicated is that the US is also aiding Assad, albeit indirectly, with their bombing of ISIS.

A chaotic armed struggle

‘The Russian intervention comes as no surprise, because Russia has military interests in Syria and they want to secure them,’ Van Bommel points out. ‘Russia is currently making efforts to maintain Assad, based on its own interests, but that could easily change. I’m extremely unhappy about the Russian military involvement, because yet more violence in Syria won’t solve the problems. ‘

According to Van Bommel the current chaotic armed struggle is the result of short-term thinking. ‘The reasoning goes: Is ISIS a threat? Then we’re going to bomb them. But that contributes nothing to finding a solution in the region. Because if you bomb ISIS into oblivion, another armed group will simply rise up in their place.’

So what’s the solution? ‘The precondition for finding a solution is that in both Iraq and Syria serious attention is paid to the interests of all population groups, including those of the Sunnis and the Kurds,’ says Van Bommel. ‘In addition, there has to be as soon as possible, preferably under the leadership of the United Nations, an international peace conference on the future of Iraq, Syria and Libya. All involved parties must be at this conference, including Russia and the region’s neighbouring countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. If this peace conference doesn’t take place then you can forget any idea of Iraq, Syria and Libya as nation states. So it has to really be a top priority for the UN, because this conflict carries within it the risk of a far greater war. Analysts such as Rob de Wijk are already talking about a Third World War. Things have fortunately not got that far, but this is indeed an exceptionally dangerous conflict.’

Yet in all honesty, how great are the chances of an international peace conference? After all, this is a region in which to an extent everyone is fighting against everyone: Shi’ites, Sunnis, Kurds, Turks, ISIS, Assad, the French, the Russians, the Americans. ‘The chances of an orgy of violence are indeed enormous,’ Van Bommel replies. ‘But that this peace conference will come is for me a certainty. The question is only how many victims will yet have to fall before we arrive there.’

The text is by Rob Janssen and Peter Sas. This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in November’s edition of the SP monthly magazine Spanning. It was written before the attacks in Paris.


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