A new alliance against evil that could bring peace to millions
(BSC/Robert Walter*) This summer’s daily stream of migrants onto Europe’s shores and across the continent is a catastrophe that will not abate until we all face up to our responsibilities in Europe and the United States (U.S.).
The refugees only seek the security that we all enjoy. Those who flee the poverty and lack of opportunity in Africa and Asia seek to share in our economic prosperity. They represent the failure of Europe’s post-colonial policies, the failure of our overseas aid programmes and the failure of the WTO to develop trade as an economic lever. But most clearly they also represent the failure of western military intervention in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa. Our TV screens and consciences this summer have been focused on the refugees, the desperate people fleeing for their lives from conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and most particularly Syria. In Syria alone, 250.000 dead, 12 million internally displaced and 4 million in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey or roaming across Europe in search of shelter and security.
Western military intervention has successfully removed some of the bad guys … the Taliban, Saddam and Gaddafi. But, what have we left in their place? … chaos, instability and the emergence of evil, intolerant extremists who terrorise and murder their people. This self-proclaimed caliphate has no moral compass and is beyond any conventional diplomatic dialogue. Bloodied by earlier policy failures, our electorates and therefore our governments are reluctant to propose military solutions to the crisis. There is no cry in Europe or the U.S. to put “boots on the ground”. But that is not an excuse for doing nothing, or even just doing a little. If I focus on Syria and Iraq; what a pity that the 3 largest military powers in the eastern Mediterranean; Egypt, Israel and Turkey are not talking to each other. What a crying shame that in 4 years we have failed to get Bashar al-Assad to the conference table, failed, until quite recently, to engage with Iran and failed to identify a common approach, political, diplomatic or military, with Russia.
In this situation the Iraqi government forces will struggle to even hold their current positions. The “moderate” Syrian opposition, including their Kurdish allies, is fighting valiantly on two fronts: against a reinforced Assad regime and against their extremist competitors. The real enemy is the evil fundamentalist, be he fighting in or supporting ISIL, Daesh or Al Qaeda.
The little children who drowned in the Aegean this summer didn’t really want to go to Germany or Sweden or Belgium. They just wanted to go to school in Aleppo, to play in the streets of Homs, to grow up in peace in Hama and to get jobs in Damascus. The Syrian families we saw every night on our TV screens have never looked for a new life in an alien culture where they don’t speak the language, have no jobs and dislike the climate. They just want to live in peace in their established communities in Syria and Iraq.
If we are to address this problem at its source then some of our leaders may have to hold their noses, abandon their prejudices and rethink previous strategies. But in the interests of humanity Europe and the U.S. must talk to Russia, to the Assad regime, to Iran, to Israel, to the Gulf States and to Egypt.
Any proposal that the way forward in Syria must involve Assad and Hezbollah will be difficult for many western allies. Assad is not part of the long term solution. After the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the conflict that ensued, a solution, leading to a peace process only came about by including the very perpetrators of the bloodshed. But, we should remember that subsequently Milosevic and Mladic were brought to justice and faced international tribunals in The Hague for their crimes. Direct Russian intervention in Syria should focus a European response, lest we appear weak and indecisive. At no time since the end of the cold war has it been more important for Europe, the U.S. and Russia to come together with the regional powers in the Middle East, to engage, not just with the consequences, but to deal with the root causes of the crisis. Who knows, perhaps this kind of cooperation might also help us find long overdue solutions in Palestine and Ukraine. But for now, we must unite to destroy the evil, before the new caliphate terrorises and destroys us all. *Robert Walter, MP for North Dorset 1997 –2015, Leader of the U.K. delegation, VP of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and Member of the Advisory Board BSC 2015 “We must unite to destroy the evil, before the new caliphate terrorises and destroys us all!”