Today, much is said about the phenomenon of terrorism and how to prevent or eradicate it. The international community has, at least, come to this common belief that this problem should be as quickly and effectively as possible. Therefore, is no doubt about the necessity of eradicating this phenomenon; but how?
I believe we have to pay attention to three fundamental points:
First, the epicenter of the formation and development of terrorism is instability and insecurity. Therefore, the first step would be to try to bring back stability, security, and peace to the society. Cessation of hostilities is the starting point of restoring peace.
Second, restoring peace and stability in critical points in the world and hence in the Middle East is linked with agreeing upon a set of common principles and regional and collective cooperation.
Third, although terrorist groups should be effectively weakened and destroyed, one cannot encounter them relying solely on military hardware; also, they will not be contained via unilateral measures by any power, rather effective, successful combat against this sinister phenomenon requires a collective will, an all-out approach and dealing with the social, cultural and universal roots which pave the ground for this sinister phenomenon.
The question is whether this collective will exist or not. Aren’t the terrorist groups being instrumentally used? There is a grave concern and doubt that certain effective players in important regional crises, including the one in Syria, are instrumentally using terrorism, while terrorists do not consider themselves instruments and this that they have independent projects for themselves and the whole world.
This is the truth that the Syrian crisis is a complicated one. Certain regional and international players think that everything in Syria will be finished within a short period of time. These players did not pay attention to the internal realities of Syria and the complexity of the situation; therefore they adopted wrong policies that failed, hence leading to the expansion of terrorism.
Today, the Syrian crisis is a compound and multidimensional one. Certain swathes of this country have been occupied, and it is not clear under what international law this occupation has taken place. Parts of the country are being militarily attacked and again it is not clear under what international law this attack is happening. Kurds in the north of Syria are pursuing their own storyline. Terrorists and armed groups in Idlib Province and the south have created their own special situation. Daesh or ISIL has occupied Raqqa and besieged Deir Ez-Zor in eastern Syria.
In this turbulent situation, through precise and professional analysis, the Islamic Republic of Iran has come to this conclusion that the Syrian crisis has no military solution; hence it put forward a 4-point proposal for the future of Syria and put on its agenda the pursuit of the political process. We believe that what is pivotal in Syria is maintaining the governance structure. All influential players in Syria should act as facilitators of the political process in order to make the stances of the Government and the opposition closer to each other, refraining from direct intervention.
We believe that the political solution should be a moderate one based on intra-Syrian talks. In Syria, we need gradual trust-building between the Government and the opposition. Both parties should recognize each other, and finally both feel that they have won. Astana Talks took place based on the same logic. The primary aim is to defuse the crisis and conflicts in Syria. In our view, implementing the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities is the starting point of entering a political process.
By creating the Astana process, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation, and the Republic of Turkey try to establish a ceasefire in centers of conflict, hence paving the way for distinguishing between terrorists and opposition forces. Their aim is for armed opposition forces to stand by the Syrian army to counter ISIL and Nusra Front. Of course, there are major obstacles to implement this plan because certain opposition groups are closely cooperating with Nusra Front and ISIL. Turkey plays a very significant role in this situation.
According to Astana Agreement, the four conflict zones have been identified and called “de-escalation areas”: Idlib Province, north of Homs, Rif Demashq (the countryside of Damascus), and southern region, by the Jordanian border.
The next objective is the arrival of humanitarian aid in these zones, which would be easily possible if peace and ceasefire were established.
In our view, Astana Talks is a positive step and a new trend aimed at putting an end to the Syrian crisis, which is quite promising. It is considered a turning point in the Syrian crisis. For the first time, the representatives of the Syrian Government and the Opposition forces sat around the same table and negotiated. Iran, Russia, and Turkey were also present. Of course, the Syrian delegation showed sensitiveness to the presence of the Turkish delegation, and the armed groups were concerned about Iran’s presence. Nonetheless, both sides sat in front of each other and talked, which was considered a positive and important development both in terms of form and in terms of content. These talks were held for four rounds, the results of which were relatively successful, and that’s a good sign. The ceasefire has endured, while efforts are made so that it lasts further. In the past, and agreement between the US and Russia for establishing a ceasefire lasted only for a week.
Another important point is that Astana Talks has not substituted other international efforts such as Geneva Talks, but rather it complements and facilitates them. The presence of UN representatives in Astana is a sign of such cooperation.
In the last four rounds, documents concerning the establishment and consolidation of the ceasefire in four regions in Syria, a monitoring bylaw and commitment guarantee thereof, settling the issue of prisoners and exchange of hostages as well as mine cleaning of historical sites have been discussed by the three countries and are being finally approved.
How the monitoring forces should be present in the four de-escalation zones, and whether these monitoring forces should be only from Iran, Russia, and Turkey from other countries as well will be discussed in the 5th Astana Talks.
Our approach towards this issue is positive. We are determined to continue with peace and serenity until we reach a final agreement. We are still optimistic about the future.
Note: This paper was presented during the International Conference “Evolutions in Fighting Terrorism and the New Challenges of the Middle East”, held in Bucharest on the 5th of July 2017.