Despite these setbacks, there is growing awareness among civil society organisations of the need to address Iraq’s environmental issues. Groups like Nature Iraq and Waterkeepers Iraq as well as Save the Tigris and Save the Euphrates campaigns are working tirelessly and often under pressure to raise environmental issues both on a national and international level.
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The first, still best, option – repatriation of foreign nationals – is arguably a quickly closing window. Even then, questions would remain about what should happen to Iraqi and Syrian nationals, and what role the West should play in resolving their situation. But European powers must avoid taking the third option they’d been exercising by default – doing nothing, and waiting for circumstances to change.
If the Kurds really want to stand up to the forces that are trying to bring them to their knees, whether it is the Syrian regime, the Turkish state or any other entity, they will have to unite. But as long as their commercial and ideological aspirations for the future of a Kurdish homeland are not aligned, they do not stand a chance.
If the 2015 movement could be deemed as characteristic of a ‘new civil society’, the specificities of the Iraqi context structured by political and sectarian violence make the rejection of identity politics, especially sectarian identity and religion, central. For Iraqi protesters individual freedom, especially the freedom not to belong to a religious and sectarian group is considered as essential as economic equality.
In a matter of days, the US’ role and position in the war in Syria has been thrown into disarray, a relatively stable area of the country has turned into a battlefield, IS, which was all but eliminated, may be rallying, and Moscow and Damascus seem to be in a stronger position than they have for years. In the eight-year war in Syria, a new chapter has just begun.
It is not so much that Trump is fulfilling his election vow to pull US troops from Syria that is concerning. It is the way he is doing it: without any apparent strategy, without any protection for the forces the US army has been cooperating with in the war against ISIS since 2014 and without any concern for the rights of Kurds (and other minorities) in a post-war Syria. This leaves the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) and the SDF highly vulnerable. And it leaves the local population open to ethnic cleansing.