Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Building Democracies in the Middle East: Canada's New Task

Almost ten years after a continuous stable one-sided policy of the Government of Canada under the leadership of Stephen Harper, the Justin era started with promises of drastic changes on the international scene beginning with a return to a much peace oriented role of the Canadian involvement in the world and specifically in the Middle East.

Is this doable?

Many argue that it is, especially that Canada seems to have lost lots of its previous prestige in the world due to the Harper international politics.

While this might be true in a way, it is also true that Harper's policy did shed light on Canada's capabilities in participating in different regions in the World and especially in the Middle East. Hence, since 2006 "rescue mission" in Lebanon that would have not taken place had Paul Martin's government acknowledged the importance growing Canadian community outside Canada and increased the Canadian embassy's preparedness in an unstable country, and until the F-18 active participation against ISIL, the Canadian forces have tested their capacities in new rapid deployment methods and their effectiveness.

Is Trudeau's government capable of attaining the announced objective?

Certainly not and for a reason, there is no clear plan neither from Canada nor from the entire allied forces against ISIL. Worse, in different areas where the US and Canadian forces worked and helped rebuild a certain peace in Iraq and in Afghanistan, things seem to worsen after their withdrawal due to a perfect ignorance of the degree of corruption of those who were left behind after the training...

No Clear Plan for Peace

Today, Canada needs to think differently and away from any speculation. None of the allied countries advanced a clear vision towards finding a real peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria and Iraq. None of the previous and current US allies saw an interest to explain to the US that their policy in taking down a dictator with the total absence of alternative could bring the country to its divide and civil war. None of these allies seem to understand that we, Westerners, cannot impose our democracy in a land where this term is unknown and where no opposition can stand a single chance. None of them understood that the victims of yesterday would become today's executioners and avenge their owns in different ways instead of recuperating and assimilating the others to build a new peaceful relationship...

Today, there is still a possibility that Canada can use to distinguish itself from all other allied countries and gain back its prestigious peace oriented policies. Indeed, a few days ago, Foreign Affairs Minister, the Honourable Stephane Dion was asked if the Trudeau promises will be fulfilled in Iraq. His answer was unclear. According to him this "withdrawal" process can take some time to find what other allied government think about the role Canada should play, and that Canada awaits to decide upon certain proposals and suggestions that were offered to it after Trudeau stated that Canada will stop its active bombardment mission against ISIL.

Canada's New Role...

Why should we wait for other countries to decide for us what we can do when we can play a major peaceful role? Did anyone suggested a comprehensive plan that could be discussed by all concerned Syrian parties in the current peace talks in Geneva? It is no secret that Middle Eastern countries are multiethnic and multi-religions ones and therefore everyone among them aims at taking power and oppressing the other in return of previous prosecutions it lived under that other. 

Well, I argue that this could be the major point upon which Canada should focus to convince all parties to accept each other as a full member of a new nation to be built today before any further step. 

The second step would be asking all parties representing all communities to sit around a table and decide whether they want to live together once and for all or create their own, and that issue concerns Kurds, Arabs Sunnis and Shiites, as well as the Christians. None can be forced to live with the other unless convinced. 

For this to happen, each party should be guaranteed access to power and to wealth in a new vision based on a bicameral stable representation capable of defending the rights of all in a rule of law system. As for the last step, sharing the power can be accessible to all via the musical chair formula where each of the major institutions of the country can switch its president at the same time so all can assume all political tasks for the common good.

Of course reaching this idealistic formula, would take some time to convince all parties to accept each other and this is where Canada's role should start and the focus put on. Needless to say if this succeeds, this new Constitutional model can be adapted and exported to different countries of the region , such as Iraq, Lebanon, and also in Libya and other African countries.

Alain-Michel Ayache
Center for Contemporary Religious Studies

University of Sherbrooke

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