Pathways to Peace in Syria and Iraq

pathways panel

On March 10th, The Rideau Institute, Group of 78, and CIC jointly hosted a public forum  entitled Pathways to Peace in Syria and Iraq,  featuring panelists Payam Akhavan, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University; Marina Ottaway, Senior Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Mokhtar Lamani, Former Head of the Office of the UN-Arab League of States Joint Special Representative for Syria in Damascus; Sebastien Beaulieu, Director for Middle East Relations, Global Affairs Canada; and moderator Paul Dewar, former MP for Ottawa Centre. 

The following summary outlines a few of the highlights from the wide-ranging panel and audience discussion. 

Marina Ottaway cited two big reasons why all the various peacemaking efforts in Syria have borne so little fruit to this point. The first is the lack of a “mutually hurting stalemate” whereby all sides realize that they cannot win militarily.  The second is the lack of focus on mechanisms to bring extremely disparate groups together in a new governance structure. 

Calling for “inclusive democratic institutions” in her view will go nowhere without a move away from the current centralized, “top down” state structures to provide for greater autonomy at the local level.  The issue is much more complex than Sunni, Shia, and Kurds because there are many sub-divisions within each of these three groups.  If real solutions are to be found, discussion of new, more decentralized governance structures must be facilitated among these groups.

But the peace process itself cannot move forward without progress first being made in convincing all sides that they must unite against Islamic State.  Here the regional and international backers of the various factions have a huge role to play.  Russia, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey must all stop supporting their various proxies and make it clear that the only way forward is at the negotiating table.

Mokhtar Lamani underscored the complexities on the ground and the “new realities” created because of the length of the conflicts and the many, disastrous mistakes made by international actors in Iraq, from the US-led invasion onward. He noted that 70% of ISIL fighters in Iraq are Iraqi, the result of the vicious sectarianism practiced by the al Maliki government, while only 20% of ISIL fighters in Syria are Syrian.  He decried the extremist nature of the Shia militias fighting against ISIL in Iraq, which he characterized as “at least as dangerous” as ISIL.

Like Marina Ottaway, he highlighted the conflicting agendas of the regional and international actors in Syria and how “removed” from the realities on the ground were the Russians and Americans.  The focus in both Iraq and Syria, he too urged, has to be on isolating ISIL. To do this in Iraq there must be “inclusive national reconciliation efforts”, including reaching out to the cadre of disaffected former officers in Saddam Hussein’s army who have joined up with ISIL.  In Syria, that means allowing Al Nusra and related fighters to join the peace process as well.

In summation he asked:

Why is the international community not planning a Summit to develop a multifaceted strategy to promote a culture of respect?

Payam  Akhavan focused on the fundamental importance of accountability mechanisms in Syria and Iraq for egregious human rights abuses.  This does not necessarily mean recourse to the International Criminal Court, but could include mechanisms such as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Audience members underscored the importance of civil society involvement in the peace negotiations, leading Canadian diplomat Sebastien Beaulieu to highlight Canadian support for civil society and women at the negotiating table.

In summing up, Peggy Mason for the Rideau Institute raised three points:

The first key issue is how the conflicting agendas of the international and regional backers of the parties to the civil war in Syria are preventing the achievement of a ‘hurting stalemate’ and in turn any hope of isolating Islamic State.

The second is the importance in the peace negotiations of finding the right balance between peace and justice and the vital role of civil society, including women to this end.

In that regard she noted that the UN Special Envoy and peace mediator for Syria, Steffan de Mistura,  has established a series of Advisory Groups composed of civil society members, including one specifically of women, and that this is a step towards their greater inclusion in the peace process.

The third is the need for deep thinking on how to promote inclusive national reconciliation in Iraq and whether more decentralized power structures might contribute to such efforts in both Iraq and Syria.

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8 Responses to “Pathways to Peace in Syria and Iraq”

  1. Payam Akhavan is a CIA assetApril 25, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    Payam Akhavan is a CIA asset and close to zionist government of Canada? Why this criminal has no quarrel with the crimes against humanity in Israel, US crimes in many countries, no word on selling billions of dollars canadian arms to Saudi Araiba which goes againt population of Yemen, on behalf of US/Israel government, yet he is part of the empire’s propaganda machine against the enemies of the zionism and imperialism? The people of Canada must be ashmed of themselves who have not said one word against this imposter and servant of the western intelligence services. Some of the ignorant and illiterate ‘human right’ organization of Canada asking their ignorant poeple to read Payam Akhavan biased paper to ‘understand’ what is going on in the ME, which is criminal. People of the region know WHO Akhavan is and everyone of them exposed this CIA agent. Document Center is funded by US government and other zionist war criminals. He is close and work with another CIA organization, Brouman fundation supported by NED. You should educate yourself on this empire servant who is supporting Moslim holocaust by the axis of evil US-Canada-Britain-Israel. Shame on ignorant people who are silent.

  2. Down with Akhavan war criminalApril 25, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    How a war criminal and CIA asset, Payam Akhavan can work for peace? Payam Akhavan is working closely with Canadian and US and Israelis’ government to topple regional government for “greater Israel”. He is buddies with Irwin Cotler, a zionist pro MEK a terrorist organization that US-Canada-Israel support against Iran. How this criminal can work for ‘peace’, where he like other neocon wants to bomb Syria, like he supported bombing Libya and Iraq. He is a Canadian and he is living in Canada since he was a boy of 8, but when he signs the CIA petition against Assad with other sell out, he signs it from ‘Iran’. Don’t trust this war criminal. He must be arrested and put on trial for his services for the necons and zionist war criminals. He is a criminal, criminal, criminal

  3. Down with Akhavan war criminalApril 25, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    Why no one talks about Payam Akhavan a war criminal in the service of the empire and Israeli government? He is a CIA asset. Down with the criminal west that even the so called “human rights” organization either are part of their government intelligence services or ignorant and in many cases protect war criminals like Payam Akhavan the behind licker of the criminal west and its actors, Canada and US and Israelis governments, the war criminals. Payam akhavan is a war criminal must be arrested and shot.

  4. Jacob RempelMarch 22, 2016 at 11:02 pm #

    “OUR SIDE” started all the wars — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and across the Red Sea into African countries. Not one of these victim countries has ever landed one soldier on USA soil , or Canada’s or any NATO country’s soil. Before these wars, these countries were at peace with all of our countries. We all know that the US Regime invaded all these countries, and that not Canada and not NATO should have joined the wars. Now all the victim countries are devastated and in civil wars. Canada should withdraw entirely and call upon the United Nations to do what we organized the UN for — to make peace and keep peace.

  5. Louisa McCutcheonMarch 20, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    The peple of the world are losing thier say with thier goverments. That is not democracy. HOWEVER THE PEOPLE ARE WAKING UP. I hope I live long enough to see the results of that. I am a belive and I pray that that day will come. We were given free choice, God will help,us only if we make the Right choice

  6. Louisa McCutcheonMarch 20, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    I am over seventry and haves see what war does or rather does not do. It solves certainly does not bring Peace. If we kill children and thier family’s we had better kill them all because those who are left will hate us for generations to come. If we fine a way to Pease for all.. We will be blessed by all ,except those who abuse power

  7. Horst KlausMarch 11, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    Right from the beginning to much emahsize was given to the opponents of Bashar Al Assad. The western desire was to get rid of him under all circumstances and help all the opponents. “Slight” mistake – one unknown quantity , ISIS was overlooked and they were supported too. We also did not want Syria’s long-time ally, Russia to get involved , another mistake – and now we are stock with IS and millions of refugees. However the Russian involvement seems to start making a difference and the cooperation with Russia by the U.S. may mean the start of an end , we hope!

  8. John RabideauMarch 11, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

    In my opinion the true issues to be addressed are the nefarious actions of the hidden hand of the Khazarian overlords of this planet (Very short version…)

    Until they are addressed openly and directly and removed as the true controllers of this planet nothing will change except the black ops minions they control…

    From my vantage point the Khazarian Families still have you all exactly where they want you…

    That is, threading carefully while avoiding the real substance of who and what really needs to be dealt with several levels below the real elite problem makers…

    Otherwise : For me this is a nice piece of “Top Down” work…
    I thought you were supposed to be changing that???