We must fight all forms of terrorism to defeat it and restore peace and stability and leave no room for hypocrisy and doubt
The Chilcot Report on the 2003 invasion of Iraq has finally come out, only to be forgotten. The inquiry, however, raised important points about one of the most controversial interventions in recent history. The U.K. government, under orders from then Prime Minister Tony Blair, the report concluded, had acted on false intelligence to participate in the invasion without exhausting peaceful options first.
It is hardly a secret that the current wave of terror and insecurity that is sweeping through Europe and the United States is a direct result of the 2003 invasion, for which Blair half-heartedly apologized.
The U.S.-led coalition's main mistake was to overthrow a dictator for economic and political gain even though the occupied country's people were not prepared for change and without a clear road map for the occupation's aftermath. Pandora's box was opened in Baghdad and Iraq became the first country to start exporting terrorism to the world.
The governments that occupied Iraq in the early 2000s ended up making another mistake by implementing the exact opposite of their interventionist policies a decade later. At a time when the Arab Spring revolutions sent shockwaves through North Africa and the Middle East, the West did not stand in solidarity with popular pro-democracy movements. They turned a blind eye to attempts by authoritarian regimes to crack down on the peaceful opposition. In Syria, Bashar Assad's crimes against his country's citizens, including the use of chemical weapons, received no serious response from the international community. In the end, the violent crackdown on the moderate opposition created a power vacuum that terrorist organizations including DAESH filled.
DAESH was born and raised in Iraq. And the civil war in Syria made it possible for them to become who they are today.
Today, the entire world pays the price for mistakes committed in 2003 and again during the Arab Spring. Last month, 45 innocent people died in a bomb attack at Istanbul's Atatürk International Airport on June 28. Days later, a suicide attack in Baghdad claimed more than 200 lives. On July 4, six more people died in an attempted assault against the Prophet Muhammad's tomb in the holy city of Medina. Finally, what appears to be a DAESH attack killed at least 84 people in Nice, France.
What must be done? Which guidelines must we follow to fight terrorism more effectively?
First of all, let us correctly and honestly identify what we are up against. This is a wave of terror. Terrorism has no religion, race or nationality. Whatever terrorists pretend to be, terrorism targets all religions alike. These attacks make it clear that DAESH and other terrorist organizations disproportionately target Muslims around the world. If Western politicians tolerate and engage in Islamophobia by ignoring cold, hard facts, the fight against terrorism cannot continue. Quite the contrary, targeting Muslims will push ordinary people toward terrorist groups.
Instead of treating the symptoms, we must address the root causes of terrorism. All terrorist groups, including DAESH and the PKK, adapt to changing circumstances and find new ways to kill people. When governments adopt tighter measures to prevent bombings, they use vehicles to kill innocent people instead, as in Nice. As long as we ignore the big picture, governments will desperately try to catch up with terrorists. In Iraq, we desperately need a government that does not engage in sectarianism and alienate Sunni Muslims. In Syria, the regime of Bashar Assad must be replaced with a system of government based on equal representation. Those who argue that DAESH will get stronger if Assad leaves conveniently ignore that they strengthen one another.
We must fight all forms of terrorism to defeat it and restore peace and stability. There is no room for hypocrisy and doubt in this fight. We must keep an equal distance from all groups that consider violence legitimate, limit their activities and fight them. Last week, European Parliament hosted a photo exhibition on northern Syria, celebrating the PKK - a terrorist organization according to Turkey, the European Union and the United States. There is no rational explanation for a European institution to advertise terrorism and for terrorist groups to continue activities across the continent. The European Union and relevant institutions must reconsider their stance on terrorism. If we cannot stand together against all forms of terrorism, we will not be able to stop more people in Washington, Paris or Istanbul from getting hurt.