Why Canada should not fight ISIS in Syria
by RimaAlha on May 10, 2015 - 10:34pm
On March 30 2015, Canada decided to extend its fight against the Islamic state in Syria. This important decision created an ongoing discussion in the Medias about its validity. Several analysts doubt the efficacy of the extension while others believe there is no better alternative. Such an intervention would have many impacts on Canada’s position in the world or on the evolution of the Islamic state in the Middle East. However, the real question we should ask ourselves as Canadians is: Should we even fight ISIS in Syria? In fact, a lot of undesirable consequences may result from this fight, and we should be aware of all these implications before taking any side.
In the article "Al Qaeda in Iraq's (AQI) Rebirth and the Syrian Jihad's Coming Failure" written by Anthony Celso, the way extremist groups evolved in the Middle East is described. Al Qaeda (AQI)’s influence was near failure before American troops departed from Iraq and civil war started in Syria. Since then, AQI took advantage of the tumultuous situation of the region and Syria subdivided into confessional communities. For example, Sunni jihadists fight against Alawites, who they consider as infidels. Thus, Syria is now “the number one jihadist battleground in the world” (Celso par. 1). However, as Celso explains well, even if the jihadist presence is very strong, it does not have much chance to overcome their enemies. For a start, the past demonstrates many failures due to the strong mobilization of local opponents: 1980 in Syria, 1990 in Egypt, in Libya and in Algeria are good examples. Actually, Kurdish Brigades, Christians, Assad’s army, Hezbollah and Alawites face ISIS, Al Nusra and Al Qaeda. Moreover, Islamist forces can fracture at any time: they are not solidly assembled. As Nicolas Hénin described during his interview with BBC, part of ISIS are young people with good intentions who were forced to do irreversible acts (Williamson par.11). They sometimes doubt their own actions and are not sure of their validity. Any exterior factor can affect them too: “if the jihadists see Assad’s forces gaining ground and local resistance to their rule mounting, they may fracture” (Celso par. 2). Similarly, the present force of jihadists comes from their ability to attract young minds from around the world. However, foreign people among an authentic Islamic population can alienate the latter and prevent ISIS to have complete control on them. Thus, even if jihadists seem like the number one threat in Syria, they are likely to fail among themselves, without Canada’s participation.
The history of Canada military’s interventions with the UN is analyzed in the article "Canada's Continuing Engagement with United Nations Peace Operations” written by Cristina G. Badescu. Since the end of the Second World War, Canada has been a “leader in international peacekeeping” (Badescu par. 2). Canada exhibited its capacity to keep a stable international peaceful system by its multiple contributions. In the late 1990s, human security became primordial over the security of the states. However, since Afghanistan, Canada’s contributions to UN peacekeeping decreased to 180 military and police personnel compared to Pakistan with its 10 580 contributes, Bangladesh 9 458 and India 8 752. Canada’s new preference for hybrid (non-UN) operations can have negative consequences for the UN. Distinguishing between UN and non-UN operations is important in those cases. Intervention in Syria against ISIS is a non-UN operation. Even if those missions give the opportunity to act sooner during difficult conflicts such as ISIS presence, the lack of financial and material commitment from Western countries to the UN prevent the organization’s ability to keep peace and security. Furthermore, this new intervention has much resemblance with the one in Afghanistan, which is seen as a disaster in Canada's military history. In the previous journal article I wrote (WAR: The Complete Opposition), I remind an interesting point the journalist L. Ian MacDonald explains in his article “As wars go, Syria is pretty safe for Harper — so far”. Expanding war in Syria would mean repeating the same mistakes we did in Afghanistan. The NPD reminds us that we could send humanitarian aid instead as we always did. The Canadian public should have a say in their own country's military operations as well. In fact, “the idea that Canada serves, or ought to serve, as an international guardian of peace lingers in the public's assessments of current commitments to peace operations” (Badescu par. 34). 47% of Canadian population perceived the mission's in Afghanistan as related to war while only 28% saw it as a peacekeeping operation. And Canada lost more soldiers in Aghanistan than in the UN operations of the last 60 years. Therefore, Canada’s wish to contribute militarily can be replaced by contributing to the United Nations.
In the article "Syria: The Hope and Challenges of Mediation", Mahmood Monshipouri clarifies the different problems that should be solved in the Fertile Crescent before attacking any crisis in Syria. Due to the Arab Spring in 2011, the pseudo moderate camp composed of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt collapsed and revived the tensions between many confessional groups. Under those circumstances, the opposition between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia is more intense than ever. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE supply in arms and money the Free Syrian Army and Islamic Front while Iran supports the “Assad regime at virtually any cost” (Monshipouri par.16). No stability in Syria can be found in any way if there is no coordination among Middle Eastern powers. Another point Nicolas Hénin talked about briefly during his passage at “Tout le Monde en Parle” on April 12th is the reaction of the Syrian population to Canada’s intervention. In brief, he reminds us that, in the Syrian sky, Canadian Bombardiers and Syrian helicopters are both present. The regime is killing its own population and Canadians are ignoring these acts because their mandate is only the Islamic State. This is not only immoral, but it gives the very bad impression to the Syrian population that there is complicity, “un complot”, planning to destroy them. Hence, between the Occident and the Syrian regime, who will Syrians embrace? The Islamic State (Jihad Academy 13:24). It is simply counterproductive.
In brief, entering in Syria with a robust army to eradicate the Islamic state may not be such a good idea. Of course, a deeper research in the three areas which are studies in Islam, more precisely extremism, studies in Canada’s military history and studies in Middle Eastern’s relations will answer the question in more details. However, with the limited number of means and words we have for such a complex subject, we can still answer the question. We may reject the idea of a military intervention, but other solutions are available. As stated earlier, Canada was a protector of human security two decades ago. Instead of having as an objective destroying the Islamic State, we should focus on helping Syrians who are surrounded by the Assad’s regime and jihadists. Eliminating ISIS is a good consequence of assisting Syrians, but it does not work the other way around. 2 million of them are refugees, especially on the borders or in neighboring countries. Sending humanitarian help is an option, changing our foreign policy is another one. In contrast with Denmark, Germany and Sweden who opened their door to Syrian refugees, Canada made it very difficult for them to immigrate here. These changes would save them and consequently help our cause. Our main goal should be human security, as it was in the 1990s.
Badescu, Cristina G. "Canada's Continuing Engagement with United Nations Peace Operations." Canadian Foreign Policy 16.2 (2010): 45-IV. ProQuest. Web. 10 May 2015.
Celso, Anthony. "Al Qaeda in Iraq's (AQI) Rebirth and the Syrian Jihad's Coming Failure." Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs. N.p., 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 May 2015.
"Jihad Academy: Nos Erreurs Face à L'État Islamique, 2015, Nicolas Hénin." YouTube. Ed. Radiocanada. YouTube, 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 May 2015.
MacDonald, Ian L. "As Wars Go, Syria Is Pretty Safe for Harper - so Far." IPolitics. IPolitics, 24 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 May 2015.
Monshipouri, Mahmood, and Erich Wieger. "Syria: The Hope and Challenges of Mediation." ProQuest Research Library. SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, Mar.-Apr. 2014. Web. 10 May 2015.
Williamson, Lucy. "Islamic State Ex-hostage Hénin." BBC News. BBC News, 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 May 2015.