Showing posts tagged as "peter harling"
Showing posts tagged peter harling
"As things stand, the regime cannot reconquer, it cannot reconcile, it cannot reform and it cannot rebuild."
—Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria project director, in Reuters’ “Analysis: Syrian war seen dragging on for years”
Watch Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Iraq, Lebanon and Syria Project Director, discuss the Shia-Sunni rift and plans for an international peace conference on Syria with Cyril Vanier on France 24
Syria crisis: truce in Aleppo | The Guardian’s Middle East Live
By Matthew Weaver
The conflict in Syria could drag on for years and a quick decisive battle for Damascus looks increasingly unlikely, according to a gloomy assessment co-authored by one of the most respected Syria watchers.
Damascus-based researcher Peter Harling director of the Middle East programme at the International Crisis Group says the conflict is proceeding with “perverse predictability” with both sides becoming increasingly ruthless and sectarian.
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr
The Syrian Heartbreak | Middle East Research and Information Project
By Peter Harling, Sarah Birke
There was a distinctive sense of national pride in Syria. It flowed from the confidence of a civilization dating back to the times of the earliest alphabets and visible in the country’s wealth of archaeological sites, including some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It came from the depth of local culture. It stemmed from the music of Syrian Arabic, the elegance of Syrian manners, the finesse of Syrian cuisine and the sincerity of Syrian hospitality. It proceeded from modern geopolitics, too, as Damascus carved out for itself a role bigger and bolder than its scarce resources should have allowed. In particular, and despite tremendous pressure, Damascus stood firm on the Palestinian cause, which Syrians feel more strongly about than anyone, perhaps, except the Palestinians. The regime may have been a conveniently quiescent foe for Israel, but Syria was, on the map of the Arab world, the only state still “resisting.”
Syrian pride, too, fostered a strong national identity and a calm self-assurance, even among Palestinian refugees, chased from what is now Israel, who blended in over the years — in stark contrast to the ostracism their kin experience elsewhere in the region. Such equipoise was on display when in 2006 large numbers of people fleeing violence in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq were absorbed with rare ease into a society that seemed to know and accept itself well enough to open its arms to others. Friction occurred, as in any refugee crisis, but remarkably little considering sectarian tensions and the sheer scale of the influx.
Syrians have lost much in the conflict they are now locked into, with no way back and little sign of a way forward, either for supporters of President Bashar al-Asad or for the assorted opposition forces. Syrians are paying an exorbitant price for the impasse. The country’s urban fabric is being ripped apart. In the large and lively city of Homs, Sunni neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble and the mainly Christian area around the central market pounded into dust. The industrial powerhouse Aleppo is following a similar path, as may the capital, Damascus. Architectural heritage has been razed or looted, removing a key source of that singular national pride, not to mention of revenue from future tourism. Families, businesses and religious organizations have been displaced or torn asunder by death or unbridgeable divisions of opinion.
Photo: Flickr/Beshr O
"They couldn’t just reject [al-Qaeda in] Iraq and say nothing beyond that – so they compensated the rebuttal by reaching out to something which has more legitimacy in that particular universe of theirs."
—Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Syria analyst, in the Financial Times’ “Global Insight: Syria’s jihadis deal blow to rebel cause”
The new normal in Baghdad | Le Monde diplomatique
by Peter Harling
After violence that shattered hundreds of thousands of lives and left nearly everyone with a tragic story to tell, life in Iraq has settled into a strange normality — with no discernible direction or clear future. “How do you make sense of the last ten years?” said a novelist, who is trying to do just that. “The problem is not the starting point, but where to end. To write the history of the Algerian civil war, you had to wait till it was over. Here, we are still in the middle of a sequence of events whose outcome we cannot see.” The structure of his novel, in which each chapter relates to a different year, means he remains hostage to a political system that continues to keep the country in suspense.
A decade after the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains in crisis, although you wouldn’t know it from visiting Baghdad. The suicide attacks, car bombs and other explosive devices used, and abused, by the resistance and sectarian militias are much rarer than they were a few years ago, leading the world’s media to lose much of its interest in Iraq.
Traffic is easing its way through the maze of roadblocks and concrete barriers that had made it a nightmare. Many Iraqis who fled the violence in 2006 and took refuge in Kurdistan, or abroad, have returned. Those who stood accused of “collaborating” with the US are fitting back into society. The high cost of living doesn’t stop the new recipients of oil money from frantic consumerism. Indeed there’s more of a bustle in the shopping streets than in the corridors of power, where politicians on all sides react to the latest political tussle with remarkable nonchalance.
Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s detractors have been growing as he has accumulated powers. His trial of strength with the Kurdish leadership in the northeast of the country, over oil revenue and disputed territories, did help him rally support among the Arab population, both Shia and Sunni, establishing him as the defender of their interests and, more generally, of the country’s integrity. But then he overreached himself by using the “terrorism” argument to push aside politicians such as Rafi al-Issawi, his Sunni deputy, in a political system where senior government posts are allocated on ethno-sectarian lines. This led to huge popular protests against Al-Maliki, which forced Sunni politicians whom he had co-opted to distance themselves from him.
That in turn almost inevitably rekindled Shia identity politics, in a society still scarred by sectarian violence, particularly rife between 2006 and 2008. But not everyone in this diverse Shia community is an ally of Al-Maliki, since his personal power increases by reducing the influence of his rivals.
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr
Paris tente de relancer l’opposition syrienne, sans illusions | l’Orient le Jour
Mais la communauté internationale semble résignée à l’attentisme. “C’est un conflit qui pour l’instant n’a été coûteux que pour les Syriens, pas pour les acteurs extérieurs. Pour le moment ces derniers se contentent de regarder, de voir où ça mène et de prendre quelques mesures velléitaires en attendant. Et personne ne cherche sérieusement une solution”, estime Peter Harling, spécialiste de la Syrie à l’International Crisis Group.
Qui ne voit pas non plus d’issue à court terme du côté des protagonistes syriens. “Pour l’instant, les gens les plus raisonnables sont pris en otages par les éléments les plus radicaux”, du côté du régime comme de l’opposition, relève-t-il.
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr
Fate of Kurdish minority at present rests in Syria: report | The Daily Star
As fighting continued Tuesday between anti-government rebels and the Kurdish population in northeast Syria, International Crisis Group released a report contending that the minority’s “fate at present rests in Syria.”
Although describing the conflict as an opportunity for the minority group to “rectify historic wrongs and push for more autonomy,” the Crisis Group emphasized that it is with “Syrians that [the Kurds] must negotiate their role in the coming order and ensure, at long last, respect for their basic rights.”
Photo: Jan Sefti/Flickr
Syria’s Kurds: A Struggle Within a Struggle
Erbil/Damascus/Brussels | 22 Jan 2013
Syria’s conflict gives its Kurdish population an opening to rectify historic wrongs and push for more autonomy, but facing internal divisions, poor ties with the non-Kurdish opposition and regional rivalries , its challenge is to articulate clear, unified and achievable demands.
Syria’s Kurds: A Struggle Within a Struggle, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines the growing influence of Kurdish factions in Syria while warning against entanglement in the broader regional battle over Kurdish independence.
“For the foreseeable future, the fate of Syria’s Kurds lies in Syria and rests on their ability to manage relations with the surrounding society and an emerging, pluralistic political scene”, says Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Syria, Egypt and Lebanon Project Director. “They express specific fears and general demands, but need to engage broader society and define a platform to serve as a basis for negotiations”.
Syria’s conflict has given its Kurds an opportunity to escape from a long period of systemic discrimination. Hoping to avoid a new battlefront and banking on Arab-Kurdish divisions to further muddy the picture, the regime largely left Kurds alone. In turn, Syrian Kurdish factions, many with ties to Kurdish groups based in Turkey or northern Iraq, took advantage of the regime’s preoccupation. This is the case in particular of the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, PYD), the Syrian offshoot of Turkey’s PKK insurgency, whose military wing has ousted government officials and security forces from many majority-Kurd areas.
Yet, several factors should give Kurdish leaders pause. Kurdish factions are deeply divided over goals and tactics, as well as more petty rivalries. Some accuse the PYD, the largest and most influential group, of being overly dependent on the PKK. Other Kurdish groups are a motley collection of smaller parties that, unlike the PYD, lack an effective military presence within Syria.
Kurdish factions compete not only with each other but also with the non-Kurdish opposition, whose predominantly Arab nationalist and Islamist narratives alienate many Kurds. In turn, Kurds have raised suspicions about their ultimate goals and notably their willingness to remain part of Syria. The more the conflict drags on, the more ethnic tensions build. Already, there are turf battles between PYD fighters and opposition armed groups. Worse clashes may come.
Finally, the Syrian conflict has exacerbated the undeclared fight for the heart and soul of the Kurdish national movement in the four countries (Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran) across which it is divided. Syrian Kurdish parties, like their regional patrons, have different views on tactics: whether to extract concessions by force or engagement and compromise.
“By and large, Syria’s Kurds already have made strides in their quest for greater rights by being masters of their own areas for the first time in the history of modern Syria”, says Maria Fantappie, Crisis Group’s Middle East Analyst. “They plan to parlay new freedoms into constitutional guarantees in the new order that eventually will emerge. But that will only be possible if their parties and youth groups coordinate, reach out to broader Syrian society and make their struggle for Kurdish national rights part of the larger struggle for citizenship in Syria”.