World fighting symptoms not root: Turki

There will be no end to terrorism in the Middle East if the root causes are not dealt with, according to Prince Turki Al Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.

Speaking at the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai, Prince Turki accused Western nations, including Russia, of treating the symptoms of terrorism by fighting Daesh, rather than tackling the causes.

His comments came during a discussion on the State of the Arab World in 2016 that also included Ghassan Salame, political thinker and Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) and professor of International Relations at Sciences Po, Paris and Columbia University, New York.

Looking ahead to 2016 and beyond, the Forum identified three key factors that could influence Arab World politics in the future. These include, the failure to deal effectively with Daesh; the regionalisation of conflicts and emergence of new conflicts and managing rather than ending regional conflicts

The failure to deal effectively with Daesh

Salame accused the US and Russia of using Daesh as a justification for their interference in Syria and Iraq. He said: “Everyone is against Daesh on paper but Daesh is not the main enemy. Daesh is being used as an excuse to fight a proxy war in the region.”

Urging Islamic nations to take responsibility for destroying Daesh, Salame said: “Air strikes are useless. What is the goal? Are we killing Daesh through air strikes? I don’t think so.”

Prince Turki pointed out that Arab governments have the required courage and determination to fight Daesh. “It is our responsibility to counter terrorism. We let this evil out of the can and we are honest in saying we are ready to fight Daesh. We see the ideological fight against Daesh in many countries. But unless we fix Damascus and Baghdad, we will not defeat Daesh.”

He added that Russia’s intervention in Syria has complicated the situation In Syria, adding that any Arab engagement on the ground in Syria would have to be done in cooperation others including United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey and Russia if they are willing to.

The regionalization of conflicts and emergence of new conflicts

Speaking about the failure of Western countries to commit ground forces to conflicts in the Middle East, Salame forecast that the regionalization of conflicts are set to continue in 2016. Citing Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya as examples of conflicts involving regional ground troops but not international forces, Salame said while there are people in the US and Europe who have the desire to commit ground forces to regional conflicts, the capability and determination is lacking. He said the UK’s armed forces are already stretched beyond capacity. In addition, France too lacks the political will to put boots on the ground to support regional troops.

Salame warned that 2016 could see the emergence of new regional conflicts. Russia’s intervention in Syria has raised the possibility of conflict between Turkey and Russia, which could spread to the Kurdish areas and Central Asia. He also highlighted the growing tensions in the Nile region of Egypt.

Managing rather than ending regional conflicts

Prince Turki said there is currently too much focus on managing regional conflicts, rather than ending them. Citing the examples of Palestine and Syria, Prince Turki said: “We need to end these conflicts. We know the solutions. We have the resources but there is no political will. US Secretary of State, has visited the region 50 times but still there is no solution in sight.”

He also highlighted the possibility that 2016 could be the year of frozen conflicts. Drawing on the example of Yemen, he said: “We must be prepared to accept that no military victories are possible.”

Prince Turki also questioned the wisdom behind the decision to lift sanctions on Iran in return for Iran’s promise not to develop nuclear weapons. “Had Iran agreed to a nuclear-free region that would have been the perfect solution. However, as things stand, we cannot take the agreement for granted. Will Iran continue with its nuclear-military industry? We do not know. We must prepare ourselves so that we do not have to ask for help when the agreement comes to an end.”

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