How to Talk About War A Path Forward in Iraq
- Iraq is a humanitarian catastrophe, with elements far beyond a war and occupation. The country is crippled by sectarian violence, death squads, kidnappings and criminal gangs. Deteriorating basic services, including a collapse of the health care system, lack of electricity and potable water, and personal and economic insecurity, makes orderly daily life for Iraqis nearly impossible. Military blockades and raids, sieges, secret detention centers, and imprisonment without charge or trial have caused many to leave Iraq.
- The refugee and displacement crisis is a regional and international issue with no military solution. Foreign military intervention has exacerbated the humanitarian catastrophe. A comprehensive regional political solution is essential for a future of peace in Iraq, the region, and the U.S.
- More than 4.5 million Iraqis have been displaced by the war and occupation; more than 2 million have left the country seeking safety. This represents the largest refugee flow in the Middle East since the establishment of Israel and the forced displacement of Palestinians in 1948. The people and governments of the region are responding to the crisis of Iraqi refugees through the experience of a Palestinian refugee population that has grown over 60 years of exile and remains a source of regional unrest.
- The path to peace in Iraq must include creating conditions for the safe and voluntary return of Iraqi displaced, including those displaced internally and refugees outside the country. Security, legal support, and economic opportunities are not yet available in Iraq. Poor living conditions, as well as a lack of legal status and economic opportunities within host countries are pushing Iraqis to return.
- The U.S. has a binding moral and legal responsibility to all Iraqis. The complete withdrawal of U.S. and Coalition forces is a moral and political necessity and an important first step. Diplomacy and support for new UN, Arab League and other regional political initiatives are necessary next steps. Substantial long-term and transparent funding for humanitarian relief, reparations, and Iraqi-led reconstruction efforts will then begin to fulfill the needs and hopes of Iraqis.
- Humanitarian necessity dictates significant refugee resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees to other countries. Pressure to grant asylum to Iraqi refugees will continue to grow as Jordan and Syria feel the strain of supporting more than 2 million refugees. The United States should lead by example. It should accept the largest number of refugees and provide substantial assistance to humanitarian agencies helping refugees. The U.S. also should provide direct financial support to the countries hosting the largest number of refugees.
- In U.S. advocacy efforts, primary attention must be paid to building relationships with Iraqis and listening to what they have to say. Only the Iraqi people can establish security and build a future for their country. This includes Iraqi refugees and the internally displaced, who are critical players in Iraq's future. It is an important step toward regional stability.