Veterans Call For Diplomacy in Iraq, Not More U.S. Bases and Troops

6/12/2015

Veterans For Peace Proposes Concrete Steps for Diplomatic Solution to Middle East Wars

Veterans For Peace is dismayed by news that the Obama administration is sending 450 more troops to Iraq, and is considering building additional U.S. bases in the war torn country.

We remind President Obama of his own words, as reported by many news outlets in August 2014:

"There is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq… The only lasting solution is for Iraqis to come together and form an inclusive government."

Veterans For Peace calls on the President to bring all the troops home now and to use diplomacy instead of more violence to address the fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Last summer it seems the President understood that the future of Iraq is in the hands of the people in the region,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace.  “Has that changed in less than a year? The answer is NO.”

Veterans For Peace has issued the following analysis, which includes concrete steps that can be taken to end the violence in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East.

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, followed by eight years of military occupation, is the primary reason Iraq is in shambles in the first place.  ISIL would not even exist if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq. Continuing military intervention will only serve to worsen an already dire situation.

The U.S. already has 3,000 so-called “advisors “on the ground in Iraq. These troops, combined with U.S. weaponry and air power, have not kept ISIL at bay. In fact, ISIL has grown and expanded during the last year. 

The central government of Iraq has not been able to inspire the people of Iraq to come together against ISIL. It is unlikely that additional U.S. personnel on the ground will motivate positive change for the people of Iraq.

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq set into motion a decade of violent resistance. Violence has become the norm as the answer to political differences. ISIL thrives on violence and death, while using anti-West propaganda as a means to recruit and unify its followers.  More violence and death from the U.S. will not diminish ISIL. It is more likely to change the tactical situation for the worse, as ISIL will advertise that the U.S. is sending more troops to fight them and that they – ISIL – will soon be in combat against the U.S. The U.S. is playing into the narrative ISIL uses to recruit.

In the year of the 40th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, one would think the U.S. government would have learned by now that U.S. military power cannot bring to closure issues that call for political solutions. In Vietnam, advisors eventually swelled to more troops and direct combat. The central government could not motivate the common people of Vietnam to stand with it. The U.S. stayed in Vietnam to save face, resulting in the unnecessary death of millions of Vietnamese and 58,000 U.S. soldiers. In the end, U.S. military power was not the answer to a lasting peace. The people of Vietnam had to find that between themselves. The U.S. faces a similar situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While the U.S. should not be a prisoner of the past, it is foolish not to learn from it.

Solutions to the situation in Iraq are not simple, but there are ways to address this challenge that do not include U.S. military action:

  1. Stop the airstrikes.  The Sunni leaders and militia, who President Obama acknowledges must be persuaded to break with ISIL, see the U.S. as acting as the air force for the Kurds and Shia against Sunnis. The driving force for the Sunni-ISIL alliance is the alienation of Sunnis from Baghdad by the recent U.S.-backed Iraqi governments. Bombing Sunnis will not help to mend this relationship.
  2. Stop sending troops to Iraq and stop sending more weapons that fuel the conflict killing more civilians and ignoring human rights violations committed by “allies.” This includes pressuring countries to stop supporting and selling arms to ISIL and stopping all black market weapons sales.
  3. Make diplomacy the number one priority.  Since it is clear there is no military solution, the U.S. must seriously engage with everyone in the region, including Iran, who is needed to force the Iraqi government to be more inclusive with Sunni leaders. Without an inclusive government in Iraq there is no way to effectively confront ISIL.
  4. Initiate new diplomatic efforts in the United Nations.  Use diplomatic and financial pressure to stop countries from financing and arming ISIL and other fighters in Syria. An arms embargo on all sides should be on the long-term agenda.
  5. Restart UN negotiations to end the civil war in Syria.  Set aside preconceived demands and work to end the violence. Once that is achieved the people of Syria can begin to chart their destiny.
  6. Massively increase humanitarian efforts through the UN and any other means. Real and effective efforts to relieve the suffering of hundreds of thousands of refugees from war will go a long way in convincing people to break with ISIL. More U.S. bombings and killings will only confirm that the U.S. is the enemy of Islam.
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