Среда, 29 Ноябрь 2017 21:53

The End of ISIS is in Sight. What is Next?

Article by Shehab and Maria al-Makahleh

Given that the last strongholds for ISIS (known as Daesh in the region) in Raqaa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq have fallen, it is likely the group in its current territory-based form will gone by the end of 2017.  Only weeks ago, Daesh was allowed to leave central Syria before the Syrian Army closed the 5-kilometer gap between Al-Raqqa and Homs. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian Air Force, had liberated over 90 percent of the country’s territory. 

Fortunately, there has been a plan for this moment.  The Americans and the Russians—the main power brokers in the conflict– have been in direct talks regarding the future of Syria since 2015; indeed, everything is on the table regarding a transitional phase, the presidency, and even the future governing body. According to leaks and news reports, the two sides have agreed on that the president and transitional governing body shall exercise executive authority on behalf of the people but in line with a constitutional declaration. As for the president, he or she may have one or more vice presidents and delegate some authorities to them. This draft will be proposed during the Geneva Conference at the end of November.

As for the transitional governing body, it reportedly will serve as the supreme authority in the country during the transitional phase. According to drafts we have seen, it is proposed to have 30 members: 10 appointed by the current government, 10 from independent individuals named by the UN Secretary General and 10 by the opposition. The chairman will be elected from among the independent members by simple majority. This representative structure—which includes representatives from Assad’s government—stems from the recent visits to Damascus by officials from the European Union, Russia and the United States.

According to American sources, an important provision of the new constitution would be Presidential term limits. The proposed article states that “The President of the Syrian Republic shall be elected for seven calendar years by Syrian citizens in general after free and integral elections. The president might be re-elected only for one other term.”

The involvement of the Assad government in these deliberations should surprise no one. Former American ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford stressed in a recent article published in Foreign Affairs that “The Syrian civil war has entered a new phase. President Bashar al-Assad’s government has consolidated its grip on the western half of the country, and in the east. By now, hopes of getting rid of Assad or securing a reformed government are far-fetched fantasies, and so support for anti-government factions should be off the table. The Syrian government is determined to take back the entire country and will probably succeed in doing so.”

After Daesh, Syria still matters, and not only because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis there. Major political trends in the Middle East tend to happen because big countries want spheres of influence in geostrategic locations.  Russia has an interest in Syria, for example, as a Middle Eastern forward operating base, for access to warm water ports, and more generally, to check U.S. influence. The U.S. (and its allies) see in Syria a country cleared of Daseh that must now be “held” to prevent the regrowth of the terrorist caliphate, as a bulwark to protect neighboring Israel, and to maintain the free flow of oil.

In other words, the big countries that represent such geostrategic players such as Syria aspire to influence and change the geopolitical situation within her borders to improve their own strategic position and enable them to gain cards in the Middle East region.

But Syria is not merely a proxy battlefield for the big powers. With the end of Daesh in sight, Syria has a chance to reclaim her sacred sovereignty, which as the basis of the international order gives it the ability to control what happens inside its own borders. The upcoming constitutional process is an opportunity to restart and reconnect the Syrian people to its institutions, which should in turn serve them and only them. It should not be lost.

Article published in Foreign Policy Association: https://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2017/11/28/end-isis-sight-next/

Опубликовано в Tribune
Среда, 29 Ноябрь 2017 21:48

Daesh defeated, but what comes next?

After the demise of Daesh in Syria and Iraq, the question on everyone’s mind is: What comes afterward?
History has proved that defeating the symbols of terrorism has little impact on the phenomenon of terrorism itself, or its ideology — the international community, after all, heralded the defeat of terrorism after the killing of Osama bin Laden.
What happened in Syria and Iraq should be a wake-up call for everyone. The answer to the terrorist threat must be global. Battling against the influence of extremists is part of the nightmare that Muslim populations — tormented by anguish and uncertainty — are suffering daily, with many killings everywhere. The war on terrorism will not end with the defeat of terrorist factions; the many-headed hydra of terrorism will breed more of them from those who are marginalized in their communities, those who are unemployed, and those who have their own, more personal, reasons for becoming terrorists.
Daesh is on the brink of collapse on all military fronts; its cells are likely to continue with bombings and assassinations, but the terror group is no longer able to occupy land or open new fronts.
But after all the blood, displacement and destruction in Syria and Iraq, how will things look on various levels when Daesh is finished?
Perhaps all the bloodshed can lead to a serious reasoned response.
Since the 1960s, decision-makers have not placed terrorism at the top of their priority list. There are various reasons for this: Arms sales are one of them. Terrorism is not perpetrated only by those who have their hands stained with blood. Terrorism starts with dialogue and discourse, notions and concepts; then it expands into a sense of hatred, rejection and exclusion of others before turning into murder. The more extremist the education is, the more bloodshed humanity will witness.
The world must eradicate the circumstances that gave rise to the incubation of extremist ideologies and must neutralize the role of deviant clerics. The role of fighters may end when the fighting does, but the role of artists, intellectuals, the media and civil society can formulate new concepts and breathe life into them without directly interfering with social customs and traditions.

Many of its fighters have fled to many different countries, carrying with them Daesh’s ideology, and waiting for the chance to try again.

Maria Dubovikova

For example, many of the countries most-ravaged by terrorism lack any theatrical movement — the kind of thing that can, through satire and comedy, mix education with entertainment.
These countries should also initiate employment programs and plans to rescue the poorest families from their tragic realities. And perhaps the most important step that must be taken by these countries is to create new education programs for children based on a new vision. They also need to provide young people with sports and social clubs, instead of relying solely on mosques as a gathering place for youth. Of course, mosques and religion can play an important role in the transmission of morals and ideals, but those who would use religion to disseminate hatred and sectarianism must no longer be allowed to do so. Indeed, sectarianism should be officially criminalized through the UN.
One of the major obstacles to defeating terrorism is the rehabilitation of those who have been radicalized. Once they are trapped in the web of terrorism and extremism, it can be very hard for them to extricate themselves from it. A road map must be prepared to accommodate them and lead them back to normality.
Daesh has come to an end as a state; its dreams of a caliphate destroyed. But many of its fighters have fled to many different countries, carrying with them Daesh’s ideology, and waiting for the chance to try again.
After all that Daesh and other terrorist groups have done, and after all the condemnation of their bloody actions, can we now hope that terrorism will not return with other groups under other names? Or is that something we can no longer aspire to?

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1200191/columns

Photo credit: AFP

Опубликовано в Tribune
Пятница, 31 Март 2017 01:13

The war on terror needs new strategies

A close friend of mine lives and works in London. Her message to me on the day of the terrorist act near Westminster was: “I’m afraid to leave the office. Everybody is alarmed.

Terrifying. It’s London’s turn now.” The terrorists are moving the frontlines, step by step, closer to the homes of those who fight them, yet these countries still insist that evil will end with the fall of Raqqa. They are wrong.

The international community has been treating the symptoms of this deadly disease, not the disease itself. As a result, terrorism has mutated. Radicalism is common to all religions, but Islam’s image has been damaged the most by it. The core of Islamic radicalism is more political than religious, and initially grew due to dramatic regional turbulence, caused particularly by Western interventions without a proper understanding of the Middle East.

This created an environment conducive to the spread of dangerous ideas, turning religion into an instrument of manipulation. Muslims became pawns in a dangerous game, a brainwashed army without the capacity to think. The same is happening in Western societies due to the implementation of multiculturalism without proper integration policies.

Immigrants had to lose their old identity but did not get a new one. The same is happening with their children but on a new level. Cognitive dissonance and a feeling of injustice felt by the children of less fortunate immigrants can easily radicalize them. Thus Islam is proposed as an instrument of self-identification that can help them find their place.

Radical preachers and recruiters of terrorists, Daesh in particular, take advantage of this discontent in their propaganda and indoctrination. In particular, they hammer home the fact that Western countries have ruined the countries of immigrants, who are then humiliated and discriminated against by infidels when they have to move to the West. From the viewpoint of the target audience, that is exactly how it looks in many cases.

The new face of terrorism is far more dangerous than before, and can hardly be tracked by security services. It comprises lone wolves with minimal equipment, and small groups of mostly home-grown terrorists operating in European cities. It is time the West recognize this, tackle it properly, and come up with better policies for immigrant integration.

Despite Daesh taking responsibility for the attack in London, security services failed to find ties between the attacker and any terrorist organization. Daesh as a fading structure is using terrorist acts inspired, not directed, by it as a PR tool. The cheap attempt by some media to indirectly blame Saudi Arabia by saying the suspect visited the Kingdom at least twice is clumsy, because every Muslim wishes to visit Makkah at least once in their life.

So far, the international community has failed to formulate an appropriate strategy to counter extremist ideology. Separate local initiatives are woefully lacking, while the ideology of radical Islam is spreading, taking advantage of new technologies. Via social media, recruiters and propagandists come in direct contact with youths and brainwash them.

At the same time, moderate Muslims appear utterly incapable of playing a constructive role in preventing the spread of extremist ideology and the disfiguring of Islam’s image. They appear totally detached from the youth, unable to find common ground with them, and unable to use modern technologies as effectively as radicals.

Traditional security measures cannot guarantee much under the current circumstances without a full-scale strategy to counter the spread of extremism at all levels. It is high time the international community admit the mistakes made. Nothing ends in Raqqa. The longer the international community tries to make the war on terror a PR stunt, the more unavoidable radicalism and terrorism will become.

Article published in Arab News: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1076236/opinion

Опубликовано в Tribune