“And construct an enduring peace which is respectful of Democracy and Human Rights”
The following seven proposals are the starting point to redirect State strategies to confront the new phenomenon of jihadism. We believe that we find ourselves having to make a false choice between our security and our rights and liberties. We face a challenge that requires both an increase in the efficacy of State actions and a reaffirmation of our unquestionable compromise with democracy and human rights, within and beyond, our national borders.
We call on the Government to convene all political and social actors to a Peace Council, so as to respond to this challenge as a group, with a long-term strategy that is efficient in its form and coherent with our democratic values in its content.
1. Close off the financial sources and logistic supply lines that support Islamic State (IS)
IS is mostly financed by private donations from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Kuwait (European countries’ strategic partners), through extortion and kidnappings that don’t appear in the media, the sale of art objects from areas under their control, revenue from taxes imposed on civilians and traders and, particularly, from illegal oil sales in the areas of Iraq and Syria under their control. Besides, most of the military equipment used by IS is manufactured in the West: European arms sold to Saudi Arabia, or arms from the US supplied initially to the Free Syrian Army which find their way into the hands of Islamic State. Several NGOs taking part in the “Control Arms” campaign (AI, Oxfam, Greenpeace) have denounced the fact that Spain sold arms to Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia during the “Arab spring”, all within a framework where arms embargoes to countries in conflict are not respected. It is therefore essential to implement an effective and immediate arms embargo, not only on IS, but also on anyone who may support them and promote sectarianism in the Middle East; impose an embargo on the purchase of illegal oil; and investigate and put an end to private donations to IS, often from the Gulf countries, by establishing stricter controls on the flow of bank transactions between that area and Europe. An integral strategic approach to European security must ensure an immediate stop to the sale of arms to areas of conflict, the implementation of a gradual disarmament strategy by all actors and must facilitate any necessary means to end the illegal trafficking of arms and natural resources which feed Islamic State’s coffers.
2. Neutralise Islamic State’s recruitment and indoctrination networks
Most terrorists taking part in attacks in Europe are European, in some cases third or fourth generation Europeans. In order to face this radicalisation phenomenon we must improve the coordination of intelligence services and neutralise online recruitment networks. However, legal or policing measures by themselves will not be enough to solve the problem. When someone is prepared to commit self-immolation, judicial measures are of no effect. It is therefore essential to implement integral strategies that counter radicalisation in order to fight violent extremism in all its manifestations. The best way to combat extremism is to ensure that people can feel part of a cohesive society, and to provide social and economic opportunities in vulnerable communities, in Europe as well as in countries that suffer these conditions. Given that integration is a multidirectional process, we must support those religious figures who preach moderation, and investigate the sources of those who do not. We must strengthen strategies that promote cohesion and the social inclusion of persons of diverse cultural, ethnic, and national origins and promote, particularly, the role of education as the only means to offer young people an alternative future, away from radicalism and violence. Fighting inequality and establishing economic and social protection measures that do not exclude anyone provide the surest way to avoid radicalisation in Europe.
3. Support democratic forces in the Arab world
The fight against Islamic State cannot be carried out only in Europe. The only way to finish with IS is by defending democracy in the Arab world. We had an opportunity with the Arab revolutions in 2011 and we ended up, as always, supporting dictatorships or engaging in bombings that only serve to feed the spiral of violence, chaos and, in the last instance, the extremist radicalisation that fuels jihadism. Either we change our international policy or ISIS will continue to grow and to kill people around the world. We must change our approach and support wholeheartedly the democratic forces in the Arab world.
4. Strengthen civil society in Syria and Iraq
Iraq and Syria are the stronghold of Islamic State. The main victims of IS are the local populations themselves, as we’ve recently seen in Beirut, Baghdad, Ankara, and many other towns; and only these populations can defeat IS on the ground, as happened with Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007. Therefore, in the short-term we must strengthen and advise local forces to tackle IS on the ground. Additionally, it is necessary to support democratic processes in the region, as only a strong civil society can stop the rise of fundamentalism. In the past, in Iraq or Afghanistan, the so-called ‘pro-democracy’ policies have served to conceal disastrous foreign military interventions, or have failed due to the lack of civil society involvement. Any democratic process must be led by the demands of Syrian civil society, both domestic and in exile, the work of the Local Coordination Committees, and other grassroots movements in Iraq and other countries, seeking solutions based on democracy, human rights, and non-intervention. Likewise, it is necessary to put pressure on the Iraqi government, within the framework of the current EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (2012) to end the sectarian policies that marginalise part of the population, to fight corruption effectively, and to disarm the armed militias (both IS and Shia).
5. End the wars in Syria and Iraq
War is not the answer: the European war in Syria will not defeat Islamic State. We have seen it in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. War only brings more war. To fight IS in Syria and Iraq we must end the war (from which they feed and which strengthens them, as military interventions contribute to increase the sectarian spiral and favour the de facto partition of the region into influence areas). This requires of a resolute European action that involves itself deeply, and as soon as possible, in a political dialogue with all the stakeholders: US and Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and the rest of the countries involved in the regional war which is currently being fought in Syria. After the failure of the two negotiation rounds in Geneva, the Vienna talks can be the beginning of a just solution to the conflict in Syria. The first goal must be to stop the conflict and its consequences for civil populations. In order to do so, it is necessary to declare an arms embargo for all parties in the region, agreed and pressured by EU countries together with the quintet (US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey); to end immediately the regime bombings against civil populations (including indiscriminate attacks and the use of chemical weapons); to open humanitarian corridors for civil populations fleeing or returning to their homes; and to demand the permanent cessation of any external intervention without UN backing. The immediate goal must be a transitional government with elements of the al-Assad regime and key opposition figures, as well as starting a transitional justice process to judge the crimes over the past years of conflict.
6. Protect refugees
The Paris attacks should not change our perspective on the suffering of those fleeing war. The hundreds of thousands that wait at Europe’s gates flee precisely from that: from the horror and the violence, from the international and local bombings, and from death. We cannot fall in the trap of confusing victims and perpetrators, guilty and innocent. The worst threat on democracy in Europe is the rise of xenophobia, racism, and authoritarianism. We must fight against xenophobia, racism, and islamophobia; our reaction to brutality must be a relentless commitment to democracy, freedom, and human rights.
7. End human trafficking mafias
The best way to ensure that no terrorists enter Europe is to stop human trafficking mafias. The best way of protecting everybody’s safety is therefore to articulate safe and legal gateways into Europe. That’s why it’s necessary to reopen the possibility of requesting international protection and humanitarian visas in the Spanish embassies and consulates in origin and transit countries, in order to stop border-crossing irregularities and boost the use of safe entry channels. Furthermore, it is necessary to meet the needs of the refugees in Europe and neighbouring countries, especially with regards to education, healthcare, food, and jobs. Only 6% of the refugees fleeing Syria have reached Europe; to take care of them is not just a legal and humanitarian obligation; it will also prevent the formation of a lost generation which, among other things, might become the future breeding ground for extremist ideologies.