Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

The Escalated Militancy in Iraq and Syria

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The Escalated Militancy in Iraq and Syria

The Syria’s interminable war resulted in large-scale casualties and destruction. Syrians are left at the mercy of violence which stems from men’s megalomania and radical ideology. The sufferings of civilians under war will outrage the collective conscience as people, including women and children, are riddled with bullets on the grounds of their race, color and faith. The militant fighters fish in the troubled waters and inflict heavy casualties upon non-combatants.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group is believed to play the most destructive role through exercising its fundamental mindset. Moreover, the warring sides do not pay heed to the humanitarian law which results in more casualties. In other words, the rights, liberty and dignity of civilians are violated by warring parties and the tragedies caused by ISIL group is beyond description. About 465,000 people have been reportedly killed and missing in Syria’s civil war. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said recently that it had documented the deaths of more than 321,000 people since the start of the war and more than 145,000 others had been reported as missing. According to this report, the government forces and their allies had killed more than 83,500 civilians, including more than 27,500 in air strikes and 14,600 under torture in prison and rebel shelling had killed more than 7,000 non-combatants.

Even though the UN-brokered talks between rival sides in the Syrian conflict resumed in Geneva, the prospects for a breakthrough remain slim, amid ongoing violence across the Syria. Recently, rebels were advancing in Hama Province, as part of their biggest offensive against government forces in months. The city of Hama remained under government control but the opposition has gained ground in the countryside; rebels have seized 11 villages and several ammunition depots since last week.

A report, published last week by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), found the Syrian government “deliberately” restricted humanitarian access to besieged populations. “As the conflict enters its seventh year, Syrian authorities continue to deliberately and illegally manipulate UN humanitarian access, arbitrarily limiting, restricting and denying aid deliveries in order to ensure the continued suffering of besieged populations,” the report said.

It is not only Syria which suffers from the venom of the ISIL group but also Iraq. Iraqi army on Sunday resumed operations against ISIL in Mosul after a one-day pause, amid growing concerns over an escalating civilian death toll as fierce fighting spreads to the city’s most densely populated areas. The offensive was briefly put on hold after local officials and residents in west Mosul said suspected coalition air raids last week had killed scores of civilians at the ISIL-held al-Jadida district. According to Iraqi authorities, more than 200,000 people have fled west Mosul since the operation to retake the area was launched on February 19, but the United Nations has said that about 600,000 are still present inside the city.

This week Iraqi prime-minister Haider al-Abadi concluded his first meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, with Trump praising the “unprecedented cooperation” between the two countries in combating the ISIL.

Trump had promised to finish off ISIL thirty days into his presidency, but the battle for Mosul itself has dragged on longer than he anticipated. Trump’s account of his meeting with Abadi indicates that he was focused on the military aspect of the conflict, however, little was revealed about what post-conflict strategies, if any, the leaders discussed, such as the humanitarian crises and reconstruction of formerly ISIL-held territories.

The tragic aspect of the war in Iraq and Syria is the salient point which is believed to be a stain on the collective conscience. To one’s unmitigated chagrin, the escalated militancy in the two countries will increase the casualties. No wonder, even if the Syrian freedom fighters win the battle, it will be a pyrrhic victory for the Syrian nation. The destruction and casualties are indescribable.

After all, the post-war Syria will not be stable either due to the firm foothold of the ISIL group. Since terrorist groups are used as political pawns, they seek to destabilize countries in one way or another. For instance, the political turbulence continues in Afghanistan even after the downfall of the Taliban’s regime. Similarly, Iraq has been changed into a war-torn countries after the fall of Saddam’s regime – the turmoil will continue in post-ISIL Iraq too for the formation of multi-groups there. In other words, the problem is that Iraq’s military forces are numerous, ranging from the regular army, the Ministry of Interior forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, to the myriad of Shia militias and Arab Sunni tribal militias that have emerged since 2014, subsumed under the al-hashd al-shaabi or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). In brief, a pressing issue that looms on the horizon related to Iraq’s post-ISIL recovery is the number of various Iraqi armed forces and the possibility of these forces turning on each other. What will happen to the myriad Iraqi militias that emerged in response to the ISIL invasion of 2014?

The International community will have to broker the peace talks between the rival sides in Syria so as to decrease the casualties. Furthermore, the US President must focus on rooting out the ISIL militants as he vowed so. Beyond that, the world must intensify its counter-terrorism mechanism to stop violence and bloodshed and protect the human rights and freedoms.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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