What I say to the UK Foreign Office on ISIS

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
What I say to the UK Foreign Office on ISIS
Russia firmly supports the efforts of the Iraqi government to combat terrorism in all its aspects. It is necessary to unite the efforts of the country’s political movements and parties to confront the common threat posed by the IS terrorist group.

We have been consistently combating terrorism and helping other countries, including by providing significant assistance to Syria, Iraq and other regional states to strengthen their combat capabilities. Russia will continue these efforts, but will not be involved in any coalitions formed outside the UN Security Council and violating international law. From the very beginning of the “Arab Spring” we have been warning against encouraging extremists and urging the creation of a united front to counter the growing threat of terrorism.

However, until recently our Western partners preferred to “ignore” the ISIS’s terrorist nature, when its militants fought mainly with the government troops in Syria. Besides, those countries denied the fact that the root cause of the terrorism spread in the region was the 2003 Iraq aggression, when the country was bombed and invaded without any authorization from the UN Security Council.

There is serious doubt about the legitimacy of the coalition’s airstrikes in the region. Such steps can be carried out only with approval of the UN Security Council or an unequivocal consent of the country on whose territory airstrikes are applied. The latter is the case with Iraq, but even there the operation would have been more credible if it had been backed by the UNSC. As for Syria, we are talking about a direct violation of the sovereignty of the country, no matter how hard our Western partners are trying to come up with any international legal justification. Moreover, the coalition’s actions there are used by extremists to foment further radicalization.

There is an urgent need for a deep and comprehensive analysis of the terrorism problem and the reasons for its expansion, including in the Middle East and North Africa. We need an inclusive, collective anti-terror strategy under the auspices of the UNSC, not a narrowly-focused coalition.

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