Political solution in Syria and Iraq essential for anti-ISIS campaign

The coalition airstrikes against ISIS are beginning to yield results, having stalled ISIS’s momentum in Iraq. Nevertheless, the campaign will only be sucessful over the long term if the international community chooses to pursue a strategy that incorporates systematic solutions to the problems in Iraq and the civil war in Syria. This position was articulated in a letter to the House of Representatives sent by Ministers Bert Koenders (Foreign Affairs), Jeanine Hennis (Defence) and Liliane Ploumen (Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation) regarding the Dutch commitment to the anti-ISIS campaign and regional stability. The Netherlands is contributing to efforts in the region through military and diplomatic assistance and development cooperation.

The coalition’s air campaign, combined with Iraqi and Kurdish ground operations, have put ISIS on the defensive in various locations. However, despite the international community’s  support for the Iraqi government under al-Abadi and its militarily coalition to fight ISIS, there is no shared vision for Syria. The Netherlands is urging the coalition partners to develop a common vision on the long-term agenda for the campaign against ISIS and the restoration of stability in Iraq and Syria. The ministers believe these two challenges are inextricably entwined.

In the government’s view, that long-term agenda should include the following four points: support for an inclusive government in Iraq, support for a political solution in Syria, investment in a constructive role for key actors in the region and a tough approach to ISIS (in the form of a contribution to the coalition).

The ministers also wrote that the Netherlands will be providing military training to Peshmerga units in Erbil and units of the Iraqi Special Operation Forces in Baghdad. The Dutch trainers will not take part in combat situations. Preparations for the Dutch contribution to the training mission are in full swing. The Netherlands takes the view that cooperation with coalition partners is important to ensure that its efforts are in keeping with the campaign plan and Iraq’s needs. The Netherlands will be working closely with Germany in Erbil (and is already doing so in the current preparatory phase) and with the United States in Baghdad.

The ministers conclude the letter with an announcement that a fact-finding mission carried out by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence last week examined the opportunities and risks associated with providing support to moderate armed opposition groups in northern and southern Syria. On the basis of the findings, the government is currently examining the options for supplying food, basic necessities and medicines.