April 7, 2015, Cairo, Egypt—Former United Nations peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says that negotiations to resolve internal disputes in Syria and in Iraq are critical to ensuring the defeat of the radical group known as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). “Bombing will yield absolutely no results if it is not part of a political process,” Brahimi said in an interview with the Cairo Review of Global Affairs published today.Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat who previously served as a UN mediator in Haiti, South Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, worked as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy in Syria from 2012 until last year. He said that ISIS, or Daesh in Arabic, can be defeated militarily, but that will not happen quickly without political progress in Syria and in Iraq.
“If they continue to prosper and to dig deep in the two countries for another five or more years from now, I don’t know if you are not forced to talk to them,” he said. “Daesh will be defeated, but it will be defeated faster if there is a political process. You’ve got to have a political solution that is accepted by not all, but most of the people in Syria.”
Brahimi said that international mediation failed to end the Syrian civil war because the Syrian opposition mistakenly believed that President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime was on the verge of collapse. His efforts were further hampered, he explained, by disagreement in the UN Security Council, failure to properly utilize Russian influence in Syria, and the opposition’s disunity and deep suspicion about Brahimi’s mediation.
“For more than a year, the official opposition—the people who were outside, in Istanbul and elsewhere—were extremely suspicious of us,” Brahimi recounted. “Their friends, their supporters, were telling them, ‘Bashar is gone. He’s finished. It’s just a question of weeks.’ I was saying that Bashar is not leaving. We were saying, ‘No, we need a negotiated settlement.’”
Brahimi said his mediation efforts stood a better chance if Washington and Moscow had worked together more effectively. But he said the UN Security Council became “paralyzed” on the issue, in part due to a feeling by Russia and other member states that they had been tricked into adopting a UN resolution for the Libyan crisis that resulted in a Western military campaign to overthrew the regime of Muammar Gadhafi.
“It was unfortunate that people did not go to the Russians from day one and try to work with them to see how the Syrians could be helped to solve their crisis,” Brahimi said.
Brahimi’s comments appear in the Spring 2015 issue of the Cairo Review, which features “Special Report: Resolving Conflicts.”
To read the full interview with Lakhdar Brahimi and “Special Report: Resolving Conflicts,” go to www.thecairoreview.com.
The Cairo Review of Global Affairs is the quarterly journal of AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). The journal is available online at www.thecairoreview.com.
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