By Chloé Maurel*
The Nice massacre of July 14, 2016, after the slaughter at Bataclan November 13, 2015 and those of Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher in Paris’ Porte de Vincennes in January 2015, confirms once again, in the eyes of many of our compatriots, we are engaged in a war.
Indeed, France is clearly engaged militarily in Syria and Iraq, and in a crescendo fashion: since the beginning of operation “Chammal” in September 2014, France has carried out more than 4,000 sorties and conducted more 600 airstrikes, killing about 1,100 people. And President Hollande recently said he wanted to further intensify the airstrikes.
Rather than intensify air strikes that have killed tens of innocent civilians, including women and children, we must stop them, in Iraq and Syria! Otherwise we shall be caught in a downward spiral, that of a war that will hit more and more civilians who have nothing to do with all this, in Syria and France.
And this could well lead to a collapse of French society, a closing in of communities on themselves, growing xenophobia, and even the arrival of fascism to power! This is what the Islamists and the extreme right want: to divide society, exacerbate divisions and hatred: between Muslims and non-Muslims among Westerners and refugees…
It is not France’s job to be world policeman; there is an international organization that was created for it that’s over seventy years old: it is called the UN! It was founded precisely to prevent such abuses occurring. The United Nations is often accused of impotence and inefficiency, and it is true that it is often insufficiently effective or short-circuited by other bodies (NATO, G7, OECD …), but it is ours, nation states, and it is up to us, the people, to push to make sure the UN is given the role that was assigned to it by the United Nations Charter in 1945.
The UN created in 1948 the casques bleus, the “blue helmets”, who since their inception have been engaged in sixty peacekeeping missions, and have often helped solve difficult conflicts. They have also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Beyond peacekeeping, the UN is also able to make “peace” (peacebuilding) as theorized by its Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1992, that is to say, help a country to (re) construct, in the long run, the rule of law, democracy, organizing elections, etc. Since 2001, the UN has developed the idea of the “responsibility to protect”, which says that if a State is unable to protect its population, it is up to the international community, that is, the UN, to do it. So the UN is uniquely placed to intervene in the Syrian conflict.
Instead of spending huge sums on weapons and those deadly strikes overseas, France should devote more money to fund public services such as health, education, culture, and to create jobs … This would reduce the divisions in society, the feelings, experienced by many French people, of of exclusion, frustration and bitterness which leads many young people to seek refuge in the Islamic radicalization, and others to adopt xenophobic reflexes and listen to fascist sirens.
In addition, there is a contradiction in the attitude of France as President Hollande says he wants to fight against Daech; yet he has good relations with Saudi Arabia, a country that defends Wahhabism, a puritanical and sectarian strain of Islam on which Daech feeds. In March 2016 President Hollande awarded the Legion of Honour to Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also interior minister of his country, yet nothing justified this decoration. In addition, France has concluded major arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
As has been stated by the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud, Saudi Arabia is simply the clean and respectable face of Daech. “Daech Black, Daech White. The first slaughters, kills, stones, (…) and hates (…) women and non-Muslim countries. The second is better dressed and cleaner, but it does the same thing. The “Islamic State” and Saudi Arabia. In its fight against terrorism, the West wages war against one while shaking hands with the other.” In support of Daoud’s views, in an article published by Le Monde November 17, 2015, historians Sophie Bessis and Mohamed Harbi have shown the existence of an ideological affiliation between Daech and Saudi Arabia.
It is therefore necessary that France and other Western countries put an end to their contradictory approach. Maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia, which is the bed of jihadism, while selling weapons (indirectly of course, but still) to Daech and buying oil (indirectly admittedly, but still) oil to Daech. If all Western countries cut financing to Daech and stop selling it weapons, and if one assigns to the UN mission to restore peace in Syria and organize elections there and the coming to power a democratic government, we can diffuse this dangerous mess.
* PhD in history, UN expert