The frenetic response of both the press and the leadership of the Western nations to the slaughter in Paris has been most disconcerting not only because of the lack of perspective and historical context, but also because of the focus on retaliatory strikes. More drone and fighter plane attacks on Raqqa by the French and the US will not resolve anything. Yes a few more Daesh maniacs are likely to be killed, but so will a larger number of innocent residents, Daesh captives and slaves unable to escape the evil clutches of the fanatics.
We are faced with a dreadful mess which has engulfed the entire Middle East. The British Prime Minister’s eagerness to drop bombs on Syria will not help to resolve the situation. What is lacking at the moment is a planned strategy for the entire region not merely to combat terrorism or to depose Assad, but also to control the tensions between the Sunnis and Shias and to lessen the contagious extremism in the region which threatens even further hostilities.
I strongly believe it is crucial at this stage to leapfrog the day-to-day events and to focus on the larger picture in order to get results. What this involves is an international Conference to follow up on the G-20 talks in Turkey and the continuing talks in Vienna. The agreement reached on November 14th — by 19 countries including the rival powers of Iran and Saudi Arabia — could lead to talks between the Syrian government and its opposition and work toward a possible ceasefire by May 14, 2016. This was a positive first step in the right direction.
The harsh reality of the current regional chaos dates back to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI and its break-up at the Treaty of Sevres (1920) by oil greedy French and British representatives. The dramatic regional configurations which liquidated this empire, then the largest state in the Western world, were made by French and the British diplomats who rejected the advice of those most affected. Syria and Lebanon became French mandates, while Palestine and Trans-Jordan came under British mandates. A truncated Turkey was ordered to give autonomy to Kurdistan. This latter demand was never pushed through because the French and British had lost interest in the Kurds at the Lausanne Conference two years later when they attempted to correct some of the over-sights of the Sevres Treaty.
Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon all became separate nations in an area which had contained one large Muslim body or caliphate, for 650 years. It is to be noted that the wretched and criminal leadership of the terrorists had only one strong point on their agenda: the return of all these artificially created nations into one single body, or caliphate. None of the heads of state meeting in Turkey and Vienna these past weeks brought up this alternative solution.
Perhaps they should have started their discussions with the festering Kurdish question: The Turks have been fighting an off-and-on battle with the Kurds for a couple of generations. The Kurds today have become the strongest ground forces fighting against Daesh and are continuing to expand the territory and oil they control in Iraq — but NO one is proposing a solution as to how these Kurds, who also continue to face persecution in Iran and Syria, can be recognized as a nation. All the so-called national players in this area are opposed to the prospect of Kurdistan as a neighbor. The Iraqis, in particular, are fearful that the Kurds are becoming so powerful that their country will be split in two.
A resolution is essential and needs to be addressed by a wider group at a Middle East Conference in 2016 which would have to make amends for the greed, ignorance, arrogance, and imperial ambitions of the French and the British following WWI. All the major players in this area should be seated around a table, as well as the representatives of the five permanent member states of the Security Council. Their decisions would then have enforceable validity on such important issues as the millions of displaced refugees, the increased hostility between the Sunnis and Shias, and the continuing threats of both Daesh (“ISIS”) and other terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.
Western politicians and diplomats have continued to be divided over how to unseat Assad and destroy Daesh at the same time. The two are linked in their minds because the dictator’s brutality against his own people has been one of the driving forces behind the early advances of the terrorists. On the other hand, the highly effective targeting of Daesh commanders by US drones has resulted in the elimination of their original leadership and a subsequent takeover by inexperienced, weak and unaccountable young substitutes. A leaderless force tends to produce chaotic and irrational consequences. The leaderless Hamas in Gaza is a prime example of what happens in this region when you either kill or imprison all those capable of effective command. World powers have had great difficulty in dealing with such groups and will have to come up with new ways of engagement at conferences which must inevitably be forthcoming in the critical restructuring of this entire region — and the sooner the better.