Wed 19 Jun 2019

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A letter to James F. Jeffrey Special Representative for Syria Engagement

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The Honorable James F. Jeffrey
Special Representative for Syria Engagement & Special Envoy for the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS.

CC:

U.S. Embassy Damascus
The Global Coalition against Daesh

Re: Next steps to fight ISIS in Syria

Dear Mr.  Ambassador,

Please allow me to congratulate you on the victory against ISIS, and to thank you on behalf of many Syrians, including families of those slaughtered and kidnapped by ISIS, for the great efforts the US and The Global Coalition has made to finish ISIS in Syria.

In your 25 March special briefing on ISIS’s territorial defeat and next steps in Syria, you stated clearly that: “This is not the end of the fight against ISIS. That will go on, but it will be a different kind of fight.”

The new different kind of fight includes, as you stated “working to deal with the immediate situation – humanitarian, reconstruction, and stability – and essentially counterinsurgency against ISIS.”

This commitment to continue the fight against ISIS is appreciated, welcomed and necessary to root out ISIS. However, allow me please to raise two crucial issues that were not mentioned in the briefing and were not approached by the reporters who asked you more than 30 questions.

  • ISIS kidnapped, slaughtered and killed thousands of Syrians. No real steps were taken to address this humanitarian issue. Such as making efforts to find out the fate of those disappeared by ISIS, whose families are still waiting for, and demanding any piece of information about their fate. Steps that could be taken to address this issue, include creating a special unit to investigate the fate of those kidnapped by ISIS, and a plan to reach the victims’ families, to try to end their suffering, help then find out the fate of their loved ones, and find a closure to their pains. Among the mechanisms of outreaching to families, is through Syrian media and documentation groups.
  • I worked for USAID/Chemonics in 2013, and witnessed the huge support that was provided to millions of Syrians by the American people. I learnt then one of the most important principles in American foreign policy: “to win the hearts and minds”. This principle does not seem to be included in the next steps to finish ISIS. The US stated numbers of civilian causality, “at least 1124 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes.” In addition to the latest reports on big number of civilian deaths in the last battle against ISIS in Baghouz. The human “collateral damage” in the war on ISIS, are the victims whose lives were sacrificed to root out ISIS from among civilians and civil objects, including those who were used by its fighters as human shields. Those “accidental causalities” are forgotten, and their families are not addressed. Addressing injustices is essential in winning-hearts-and-minds strategy, as you know. However, leaving them unaddressed undermines the ideological fight against extremism and provide ISIS with one of its favourite recruiting tools: Injustice. Which would contribute to keeping ISIS alive.

Sincerely,

Mansour Omari
Syrian journalist and rights defender
On behalf of Syrian families


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