Security & Stability In The Levant - London - 11 January 2017

Round Tables - Past

 

On 11th January, the Aremea Foundation and the Next Century Foundation hosted an initial round-table event with a number of senior decision-makers and analysts. The event, titled ‘Security and Stability in the Levant”, was chaired by William Morris of the Next Century Foundation and aimed at discussing some of the key issues facing the Levant region in the year ahead. Mr William Morris started the discussion by addressing the dynamic history of the Levant and the varied problems that the region now faces.

 

Beginning with Israel and Palestine, Mr Morris highlighted the disillusionment felt by both Palestinians and Israelis over the lack of a meaningful peace process. He went on to highlight the fractured nature of politics in Lebanon that has led to an inefficient government that is unable to serve the needs of its own people.

On Syria, Mr Morris noted the divisions that carve up the nation and the multitude of actors that vie for control. Particular focus was laid upon the current fight against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. With ongoing fighting in Mosul and future operations in areas such as the Syrian city of Raqqa, Mr Morris noted, “Defeating ISIS militarily is insufficient to defeat their ideology. Syria deserves a better future, as does Iraq, as does the Middle East, as does the world as a whole. It is to be hoped that we can all contribute something to bringing about this better tomorrow.”

Mr Darwish speaks on Syrian talks.

Mr Adel Darwish, seasoned journalist and political commentator, continued the discussion by highlighting the talks due to start 23 January 2017 in Astana between Syrian government and many armed opposition and their backers in a settlement process sponsored by Russia.

He stated that the participation of Turkey, Iran and possible Gulf Arab states had raised hopes of an end to the bloody conflict and that the talks were part of a comprehensive plan which started with the Russian Turkish imposed ceasefire on 30 December 2016. Mr Darwish noted the significance of the talks being held under the Russian sphere of influence in Khazakstan and that it highlighted who will take the lead international role in Syria.

The discussion that followed was held off-the-record as to foster genuine debate and enable guests to speak freely. The discussion started with a focus on the current fight against Islamic State in light of a new American administration. The complex geopolitics of the region were highlighted with a particular focus of the new dynamics that may occur between the United States, Russia, Iran and Turkey in the wake of President Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

It was widely agreed that there may be a level of continuity to US Middle East policy as it had taken a back seat to Russia in the last year and because of the difficulty in derailing the P+5-Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Discussion of post-conflict scenarios in Syria.

The debate then shifted on the ongoing conflict in Syria and tried to identify realistic and positive post-conflict scenarios. The broad consensus was that a decentralised system was imperative for there to be any peace in Syria.  While the pretence of a democratic system in Syria was identified as favourable, it was widely agreed that there needed to be a realistic approach to the Syrian situation. This was understood as the possible need to tolerate the current Syrian establishment in some shape or form until the local and geopolitical dynamics change.

The weakness of Iraq’s democratic institutions was debated at length. There was agreement over the need for effective post-conflict planning, which included the effective administration of newly liberated areas. Reconstruction, reconciliation, effective governance and Sunni engagement were all solutions given to the political and social problems that face post-conflict Iraq.

There was a broad consensus that conquering IS terrorism cannot be achieved by separate efforts of every country, but rather collectively.

 


 

This round-table discussion was the first in a series of meetings and events to discuss specific policy issues and identify pragmatic solutions to a wide array of issues that the Middle East is facing. It was agreed that these meetings should result in the drafting of a working paper that could be sent to specific actors in the international community as to better inform their decision making.

Amongst those attending this initial meeting were, Rt Hon Lord Hamilton; Sir Harold Walker; Adel Darwish, Middle East News; William Morris, Secretary General, Next Century Foundation; Charles Bennet, Head of the European Atlantic Group; Mr Philip Raheb, Embassy of Oman; Jose Mingorance, Embassy of Spain; Elisabeth Jones, UK independence Party; George Butler, War Artist; Reverend Larry Wright; Jonathan Mueller, Former US State Department; Samuel Morris, Political Analyst.