Which Way WANA?

Report on Plenary 3 of the 13th Rhodes Forum.
By Chandra Muzaffar, President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

The Plenary Session was moderated by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar. He began by explaining the significance of the theme underscored by the wars and conflicts in the region in the midst of multiple, overlapping crises. He then introduced the five speakers.

The first speaker was Dr. Ali Allawi, a former Minister in the Iraqi government (2003-2006) and an author. He talked of the factors that contributed towards the multiple conflicts in WANA including sectarian politics, the growing socio-economic gap between elites and masses and the demographic explosion. The situation had become so complex that only a conference that brought all the actors within and without the region together in a sort of ‘Congress of Vienna’ type of meeting would be able to offer some solutions.

The second speaker was Professor Elena Savicheva an expert in International Relations and lecturer from Russia who argued that issues related to security lay at the root of many of the crises in WANA which was a major market for arms sales. Any attempt at resolving the crises must take into account the changing balance of power in the region.

The third speaker was Professor Jean Bricmont, an academic and political analyst from Belgium who spoke of the impact of Western interests and ideologies upon WANA. Their impact could be seen in Syria, among other places, which has descended into anarchy.

The fourth speaker was Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a scholar and activist from Palestine who traced some of the historical developments that have shaped the politics of his land. He was of the view that the remedy in Palestine under Israeli occupation for decades, and in many other conflict ridden states in WANA, lies in popular resistance. Apathy was the biggest enemy of justice.

The fifth and final speaker was Professor Richard Falk a scholar and human rights advocate from the United States and Turkey who analyzed the impact of the Sykes- Picot Agreement, the Balfour Declaration, the creation of Israel, the end of the Cold War, the 9-11 attack, Tahrir Square and the Arab uprisings upon WANA today. He also pointed out that WANA is one of the most ecologically vulnerable regions on earth. While it would continue to be blighted by sectarian politics and US helmed hegemony, he saw a glimmer of hope in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in relation to the Palestinian struggle for liberation.

About sixty minutes was set aside for interaction with the other participants. A number of them made comments and asked questions. The five speakers responded to the comments and questions.

The moderator then summed up the proceedings. He drew the attention of the session to the unique interplay of national, regional and global factors in the evolution of politics and economics in WANA. There was merit in the proposal to hold a conference that will address the root causes of the crises and conflicts in the region. The World Public Forum, he felt, should take up the suggestion. It would be in the interest of peace and security in the region and the world if the proposed conference could also focus upon the total elimination of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction in WANA.

19 October 2015.