Helmut Krieger: My first question is about Idlib. In Western media the current situation in the province is portrayed as a war between a jihadist militia (Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, HTS) and regime forces supported by the Russian Air Force. In this picture, the more than three million civilians living in the province are almost forgotten. What is your point of view on the current situation in Idlib?
Rabie Nasr: Idlib represents the continuation of the military strategy of all key actors. It is clear that Russian and Iranian support of the regime involves taking control of the whole territory of Syria, including the northwest and the northeast. At the same time, it is a gradual strategy to control the country by force. Furthermore, Idlib is very crowded, with millions of civilians. And due to the narrative supported both internally and externally that the province is under control of HTS, the civilians will suffer in this military confrontation in a more miserable way than in any other region. In general, the situation in Idlib is a by-product of the Syrian conflict. So far, we don’t have any agreement on an international level about how to end this conflict. Each of the key actors on the international scene blames the others. We have no active intervention by the EU, for example, to actively bring an exit strategy to end the war. This behavior is not just related to Syria. It is related to other countries as well, including Libya, Yemen and Sudan. At the same time, the world will suffer from these conflicts and they will create other conflicts in the future. I don’t see an in-depth commitment towards resolving these conflicts in any sustainable way.
Helmut Krieger: Does this include reconstruction efforts in the country after the war as well? Will they just be designed to be a perpetuation of the war by other means?
Rabie Nasr: Yes, first of all in the Syrian case, we don’t have any kind of constraints on the warring parties, nor, I think, in the other cases. So, we didn’t have lessons learnt from Syria so far about how to deal with armed conflicts, how to deal with oppressors, and even how to deal with extremism. The way of dealing with the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is a shallow and arrogant way of dealing with the idea of extremism. That is why I don’t think we are approaching the end of these conflicts.