President Barack Obama used to think that problems related to ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq will last for 30 years and more. This was a serious misjudgment by a superpower, which possesses highly developed and accurate tools. America’s superior apparatuses have not been able to secure presidential elections against Russian hacking and they could not stop WikiLeaks and other similar leaks.
Before both these incidents happened, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq failed in terms of providing security and re-establishing the state. Taliban is now communicating with Iran and Russia to increase its chances of controlling the country again. In Iraq, “the Sunni rebellion” – as the US coined it – that began in 2004 is still escalating amid the three challenges posed by the Americans, the Iranians and the Shiites ruling Iraq.
In all cases, American failure does not console us at all because our countries are the arenas of America’s success or failure. ISIS will be eliminated in Iraq and Syria before the year 2017 ends and not after 30 years. Some terrorist operations will still happen; however, the legend of the “state” is over or about to be over.
Even if we say that the US has played a major part in eliminating ISIS and al-Qaeda, we must note that these group’s accomplices on ground were never the people who suffered due to them but they were the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks and the Israelis.
Arabs as states and communities were never these groups’ accomplices especially that many Arabs were displaced and their communities destroyed by Iranian militias, Iranian revolutionary guards and sectarian governments in Iraq and Syria.
So what’s happening now to think about the future post-ISIS and al-Qaeda? What’s funny is that when it comes to Syria, there is nothing worth mentioning. The Syrian constitution is even being discussed in Astana while it was supposed to be discussed during the political negotiations in Geneva as the Astana talks were meant to discuss military and security matters and gradual ceasefire.
Even if there are plans to hold elections in Syria in 2019, half of the Syrian people will not be in Syria to vote as they have no rights, and this is similar to Israel’s case with the PalestiniansRadwan al-Sayed
How will the country be managed after the war ends this year? In Iraq, they say they have a constitution, a parliament, an independent judiciary and a recognized government. However one third of the country is destroyed and there are 5 million displaced people. So who will vote in Iraq in 2018?
Before we even discuss this, what will happen after the Kurdish referendum? ISIS and Iran made gains in favor of neutralizing the nationalistic role of Sunni Arabs. It seems the balance of terror between Turkey, Iran and American protection encourages the Kurds to separate and have their independent state.
In this case, the Kurdish state and the tension on borders with Turkey will make a “national solution” weak or impossible. Nouri al-Maliki is about to make a statement similar to Benjamin Netanyahu’s on Palestine: “We do not have a partner we can negotiate with!”
The situation in Syria is more difficult as more parties are involved. Despite the latter’s diversity, there is no strong party that represents a wide category of Sunni Arabs who are the majority of the Syrian people. In Iraq, there’s a weak and fragmented party but it’s represented in the parliament, government and institutions. Meanwhile in Syria it’s like they’re completely eliminated.
The Russians are heading in the direction of withdrawing recognition of the High Negotiations Committee, which represents the Syrian political opposition. The vision of the Syrian regime, Iran and Russia is to restore the situation to how it was in 2010 and to keep Assad as president. Proof to that is that Russia and Iranian militias are in control of the situation on the ground.
Elections in 2019?
Even if there are plans to hold elections in Syria in 2019, half of the Syrian people will not be in Syria to vote as they have no rights, and this is similar to Israel’s case with the Palestinians.
The situation in Libya is better because there are two legitimate bodies, and they are an international body as represented by the presidential council and another in the East as represented by the elected parliament.
It is thus possible to think of a solution if Arabs who support both legitimate bodies or who support only one cooperate to reach a consensus. Perhaps assigning Ghassan Salame, who is well-known for his experience in crises and negotiations, as the UN envoy to Libya will pave the way towards a solution.
The situation in Yemen may be even better than the situation in Libya as there is a stable map for a solution and restoring legitimacy. Those behind the coup is running out of luck and if supplies through the Hodeidah Port is closed, it will weaken due to drop in aid.
However, the fear is from southern separatists who do not want to wait until the militias are toppled. What they are doing is tantamount to fragmentation amid famine, cholera, and destruction of the state.
Difficulties in troubled countries are many and they may lead to frustration. However, those who survived the wars of Iran, Turkey, Russia and the US can help the brotherly countries that are suffering. They should think with them about the phase after this unrest ends.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.