Combatting terrorism in Europe by fighting IS in Syria and Iraq

After the terrible attacks committed in Brussels it is clear that Europe needs to reassess its approach against terrorism. Apart from the need for action in Europe, it is obvious that IS needs to be defeated first in Syria and after that in Iraq. The attraction this terrorist organisation has, lies in the very fact that it occupies a territory that it calls a 'caliphate'.

It is clear that defeating IS in these countries is certainly not the end of the struggle against terrorism. Much needs to be done in terms of integration and education to fight terrorism in Europe. However, this is insufficient if IS can continue to encourage and plan terrorism in Europe from its bases in Syria and Iraq and use these locations to spread elsewhere.

The ECPM has repeatedly and consistently called for direct support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as they are by far the most effective force against IS on the ground. Furthermore, they share European values and explicitly reject any form of Islamism. Defeating IS in Syria will also lead to its defeat in Iraq.

The European Parliament has explicitly stated that those minorities that have experienced genocide under IS need military support. The European Parliament also expressed explicitly the need to support the Syriac Military Council which is the Syriac Christian component of the SDF. They are the forces of the Federation of North-Syria which means that areas liberated by them will be included in this emerging democracy that respects and implements fundamental freedoms.

This means that supporting the SDF will not only defeat IS but also replace it with a real and existing alternative governance that protects and respects minorities and grants them a political role and gives women equal freedoms and rights, including political rights. Supporting SDF leads to a deeper and much-needed cultural change in the Middle East itself which will also help to overcome integration challenges in Europe itself.

The US has already recognised the need to support the SDF and has actively been doing so. We agree with their call to EU Member States to join their campaign in Syria with much more force than currently.

The SDF is now at only 30 kilometres distance from IS capital Raqqa. But they need additional support to take this and other remaining IS controlled areas. Now, more than ever, is the moment for the EU Member States to act. 

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