The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

ICG’s Joost Hiltermann laments letting Syria war go on too long; Forgets 2011 “Slow-motion Suicide” report

Anne Barnard quotes Crisis Group’s Joost Hiltermann in her recent piece on Syria as saying: “We’ve thrown values by the wayside, but also not been able to act in our own interests, because we let things go too long,” said Joost Hiltermann, a Dutch citizen who is the Middle East director for the International Crisis Group…”

Unfortunately there is no reference to Crisis Group’s key, 2011 report entitled “The Syrian Regime’s Slow-motion Suicide” (imagine, this was the title in the early months of the revolt) which helped prepare the ground for precisely that which Joost is now lamenting.

Indeed, the Slow-motion Suicide report, authored by Peter Harling, staked out a morally and strategically deficient vision of the gathering Syria conflict (especially for a conflict mitigation NGO) – saying there was little the international community could do.. in the summer of 2011. This position ultimately paved the way for Noah Bonsey’s 2015 Crisis Group report calling for an acceleration of the armed conflict through US military-led intervention.

I wrote about both of these turns by ICG in 2015, but also wrote a NY Times op-ed along similar lines in February 2012 where I specifically took out reference to Crisis Group after a series of back and forth discussions with Rob Malley and Peter. By 2015, however, in my view ICG needed to come in for specific criticism.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/when-ngos-call-for-interven…

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In July 2011, a mere four months into the Syria revolt, the venerable, Brussels-based conflict-mitigation NGO, International Crisis Group (ICG), released a lengthy report with the provocative title, “The Syrian Regime’s Slow-motion Suicide.”

“The situation has reached an apparent stalemate,” the report’s authors declared, “but it would be wrong to bet on the status quo enduring. Economic conditions are worsening; should they reach breaking point the regime could well collapse. Predominantly Allawite security forces are overworked, underpaid and increasingly worried. They could conclude that the regime is unsalvageable and defect, precipitating its end.”

By projecting such certainty that the regime was essentially in its death-throes, and then ignoring any serious discussion about how Russia, Iran or Lebanon’s Hezbollah might possibly intervene to change the calculus (the trio are barely mentioned in the report), ICG laid an important intellectual plank for the erroneous assumption that was then gathering steam in so many world capitals: It was just a matter of time before the regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad imploded.

Regrettably, ICG’s overconfidence in regime suicide not only encouraged the premature and disastrous rejection of diplomacy that has helped prolong the Syria war. It also essentially abdicated the main role for which peace, promotion, and conflict mitigation NGOs exist in the first place: Advocating for strong international engagement and negotiated solutions that regard the safety of civilian populations as paramount.

“The international community’s options remain limited,” the report concluded. “The world’s cautious attitude has been a source of deep frustration and even anger for the protesters. That is entirely understandable, yet such caution might well be a blessing in disguise. The regime is unlikely to respond to international pressures, regardless of their provenance. Ultimately, the burden lies with the protesters…”

Should a leading NGO dedicated to active, international involvement in crises simply throw up its hands and say there isn’t much outside actors can do other than watch? And might not good-faith diplomacy — instead of a false choice between military intervention or passivity — offer the best way to minimize any fallout if the regime doesn’t end up committing suicide?… Read on at HuffPost
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“In Syria, We Need to Bargain with the Devil”/New York Times, February 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/…/in-syria-we-need-to-bargain-with-t…

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

April 25, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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