“Internationalisation is not the key to stabilisation in Syria”, stated Prof. Jean- Pierre Filiu during his meeting with researchers at the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) on 3 April 2017.
Prof. Filiu was critical of the overall global strategy in Syria, stating that instead of internationalisation, the international community should allow Syrians the space to employ a more localised approach. That said, he did acknowledge the importance of Syria in terms of international security – particularly due to the design and coordination of Islamic State (IS) attacks worldwide from Raqqa.
Filiu suggested that the US and other regional powers must rethink their strategies in Syria, and invest a great deal more in the Syrian opposition. They must learn from history and the success of other nations, including the liberation of France from Nazi Germany when the opposition was initially just as fragmented. He also warned that the current US policy towards the PYD will prove problematic in times to come: “what is unfolding between Kurds and Arabs in Syria is unprecedented”. The reluctance in the region to create a strong Arab Sunni force to oppose IS and instead to rely on the PYD was deemed to be to the detriment of long term peace.
On Mosul, Filiu stressed that this city is not the only arena of IS operation and that dynamics in Syria, in particular Raqqa, should be considered. Learning from similar events in the region and beyond was suggested to be integral to designing an effective strategy to defeat the group and to create broader stability.
Whilst acknowledging that Mosul should not be the sole focus of analysis, as well as international attention, MERI’s research fellows discussed with the professor the potential situation in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) following its liberation. Researchers highlighted that there are many issues yet to be resolved, including tensions between and within minority groups, who are concerned both for their community interests as well as security.
Discussion also centered on KRI-Baghdad relations, which were argued to have largely stagnated. MERI researchers emphasised the opportunities that will be generated following IS’ defeat in Mosul in terms of generating ideological and social change. However, unless these opportunities are capitalised upon with a clear strategy then Mosul has the potential to become another Fallujah – a missed opportunity.
Throughout the discussion, one common theme raised was that mistakes in the region were recurring. Using a historical lens in order to identify and address key lessons from the past was considered to be crucial in building an approach to move forward.
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About MERI: The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.
MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).