Op-ed: Lebanon’s Former Foreign Affairs Minister on Fighting Terrorism

ERROR IN COMMAND: Washington's credibility in fighting terrorism came under scrutiny after its recent "mistake" bombing the Syrian army instead of Daesh.

Super powers must exert serious efforts to stop terrorists

BY Adnan Mansour

On September 17, the U.S.-led coalition carried out a series of airstrikes on the barracks of the Syrian army, killing 62 soldiers and injuring nearly 100. Washington acknowledged the strike in eastern Syria’s Deir Al Zour province, saying it was a “mistake” and that its target at the time was intended to be Daesh.

The Americans later apologized to the Syrian regime, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who blamed the U.S. for a “bleeding” region, and questioned the U.S.’s seriousness in fighting Daesh, further insinuating that Washington may be, in fact, aiding terrorist groups rather than bombing them.

“It is very hard to believe that reconnaissance officers of the U.S.-founded coalition that’s fighting [Daesh in Syria] could forget about who is located where,” Lavrov stated.

The U.S., on the other hand, whose ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, expressed her country’s “regret for the loss of lives,” due to the airstrike, slammed Russia for “cheap point scoring.” Washington further refuted the Russian insinuation.

It is worth noting that ever since the U.S. started having a presence and military participation in Iraq and Syria—in parallel with the rise of Daesh and its swift spread across a large geographical area in both countries—and following Moscow’s decision to take part in the Syrian conflict at the behest of the Syrian Presidency, the difference between both super powers (U.S. and Russia) in handling terrorist organizations and their approaches to eliminate terrorist groups seems to be quite clear.

Over the past five years, Moscow, unlike the U.S., did not take part in a coalition of nations. It did not arm, train or finance foreign factions on the ground to bring down the Syrian regime.
Instead, Russia directly combats armed factions in Syria, some of which are arguably terrorist entities and have started to have regional and international dimensions, as they cross borders to hit targets in several places worldwide.

But it is understandable as Russia has suffered for years from blows by radical groups, which makes it well aware of the importance of facing and uprooting terrorists, without linking this to toppling a regime or eliminating a president, unlike what the U.S. seems to be doing.

In that sense, the Russians have sent a clear message: A political change in Syria must be dictated by the Syrians themselves, not by groups boasting thousands of foreign fighters from across the world.

With that, a question must be asked: Are all these foreign fighters in favor of democracy in Syria? And do they really want the best there is for the Syrian people?

Had Washington been serious about combatting terrorism, or even ending it, Daesh wouldn’t have survived to date, along with the rest of terrorist groups that are linked to it on the ground.

Based on the increased frequency of events, where Washington has helped by “mistake” Daesh and other terrorist factions, including several “unintentional” errors whereby the U.S. airdropped military aid over terrorist-held areas, perhaps the U.S. doesn’t wish to conclude the war in Syria.

How is it possible that following nearly two years of operations against Daesh, a great power like the U.S. alongside its allies have not accomplished their intended goal? And how is it that such a super power with unrivaled military abilities, cannot take definitive action to block terrorist factions, or tell the difference between regular army barracks and terrorists gatherings?

The U.S. has helped reclaim the balance of powers on the ground in Syria, by hitting the Syrian army, thus prolonging the armed conflict in the country. Such an action has dragged the Syrian government into a long war that is draining the country’s resources and strength.

With that, a question needs to be posed here: Is Washington more interested in toppling the current pro-Russian Syrian regime in favor of a pro-American regime, rather than helping the Syrian people as it claims?

The U.S. has recently turned a blind eye to the Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq and Syria. It has also disregarded the Kurdish fighters’ fanning in the same region.

Knowing that Washington is an ally of Turkey and has armed and supported factions in northern Iraq and Syria, especially the radical ones, makes the picture clearer that the U.S. does not wish to create a solution that guarantees the unity of the Syrian and Iraqi territories but rather create a “New Middle East” map.

On the other hand, Russia finds its best interest in supporting the Syrian regime, while it fights terrorism, while the U.S. seems to be more interested in holding pressure cards to impose its own terms when the Syrian regime, armed factions and the opposition sit down for negotiations.

Washington currently holds the Kurdish card, the Free Syrian Army card and the Turkish card, aside from the continued Israeli military intervention in Syria, and Israel’s open support of terrorist organizations such as Al Nusra Front —Al Qaeda’s military arm in Syria— which has recently rebranded its name to Fatah Al Sham so that it would appeal to the U.S.-led coalition as a future bet when negotiations finally kick off. Indeed, the names change yet terrorism remains one.

So, which Syria does Washington want? Does it want a Kurdish State in northern Syria? Will it accept Turkish demands on the expense of Syria’s territorial sovereignty? Or is Washington interested in dismantling Syria and Iraq to accommodate a new map in the Middle East that falls in line with a strategic Israeli goal that was published in the Israeli magazine Kivonim on February 14, 1982?

The question that should be asked now is: Will the U.S. accept for itself what it is proposing to others? Will Washington approve that armed foreign fighters arrived in the U.S. to change the regime?

Terrorism, in my opinion is undivided; be it moderate or radical, as long as it is funded and armed from abroad and by foreign elements, and aims at killing innocent civilians, causing havoc and destruction and displacing citizens and residents.

The world is currently run through deceitful and hypocritical policies. It is time to work on stopping terrorism, the bloodshed and destruction for real to allow this region to live in peace.

This is the responsibility of the international community, and the super powers in particular, including the U.S. It is time that the U.S. opens a new page with this region, which has suffered for decades from the international political conflict. And should the U.S. deal with our region with more transparency, then perhaps, it will find a friend in every home. However, it seems too early to see any change in biased policies as long as principles are bent to serve interests at the expense of the people’s stability, security and freedom.

Adnan Mansour is Lebanon’s former foreign affairs minister.


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