The Situation in Syria:
Nebraskans for Peace has long called attention to the dangers implicit in the growing confrontation between the Sunni powers in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, and the bloc of Shiite nations and militia powers extending from Iran through Iraq and the Alawite Shiite-ruled nation of Syria to the Hezbollah Shia armies in Lebanon.
A few months ago, Nebraskans for Peace hosted Sr. Agnes Miriam of the monastery of St. James the Mutilated from Syria. She warned us about the jihadists organizing in eastern Syria and Iraq, an organizing that has culminated in the march of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on Baghdad. Unfortunately Sister Agnes Miriam did not receive the attention that she deserved from the media press.
The United States has been largely indifferent to the tensions between Sunni and Shia in the Middle East since the détente of 2005 when Sunni tribes in Anbar province decided to cooperate with the U.S. and the de facto government in Iraq. After they did this and were promised inclusion, they were increasingly excluded from power by a Maliki government dominated by Shiites and exclusionary of other groups, especially of Sunnis. This failure by our ally in Iraq has created the organizing momentum for the Sunni ISIL group in Iraq. The same sort of failure has fueled the rebellion against the Assad government in Syria. The U.S. needs to cry out loud and long at the Iraq government’s exclusionary policies and its failure to rid itself of corruption.
The result of failures in official policy in Iraq and Syria has been the emergence of civil wars within Syria and Iraq between the Shiite governments and jihadist Sunnis wishing to control eastern Iraq and western Syria as a new nation. This nation would be capable of attacking the Shiite sections of Iraq and Syria and ultimately of harming the United States.
The Sunni-Shia conflict is further framed by the larger regional rivalry between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia and the geopolitical allies each side has gathered around the world.
Adding to the problem is the existence of what appeared to be genocidal tendencies among the Sunni rebels marching on Damascus.
When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it destabilized the country. It now has no credibility as a stabilizing agent more than 10 years later.
There are no good solutions for the present situation in Iraq, but we suggest the following:
1. We favor diplomatic pressure and negotiation as ways to reform both the Syrian and the Iraqi governments whose mistakes have led to the Sunni jihadist rebellions.
2. We call for an embargo on the shipment of U.S. and Russian weapons to the region. American weapons stolen by the rebels have largely fueled the rebellion. We also demand that U.S. does not get involved militarily either by bombing, drone strikes, supply of arms or ground troops. This will only assist in recruiting more jihadists for ISIL.
3. We call for an immediate intervention by the United Nations peacekeepers to stop the genocide in northern and western Iraq and to prevent that jihadist advances on Baghdad.
4. We believe that the Maliki government must restore Sunnis to a major role in governing or be replaced.
5. We also believe that it is highly unlikely that Iraq can operate as a strong unitary state. If it is to exist as a nation at all, it must be as a federation of three autonomous sections: a Kurdish section, a Sunni section, and a Shiite section. Iraq may need to become three separate nations for peace to prevail.
6. Finally, we believe that much of the struggle in Iraq is occasioned by the scarcity of resources, especially by the withholding of water from Iraq by nations upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. We believe that an international conference needs to be assembled immediately to make certain that Iraq has sufficient water to meet its needs in this period of climate change.
We urge our members to write to our representatives and senators about these issues. Regardless of whether our members concur with all of the above recommendations, it is critical that they to speak out for peace based on their own analyses before our nation is again plunged into another decade more of war.