By Mick Krever, CNN
Al-Qaeda and other jihadis are just a “bloodthirsty nuisance,” not an “existential threat” to the world, Jeremy Greenstock, former UK Ambassador to the United Nations and Special Envoy for Iraq, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
Jihadis may be attractive to Syrians wishing to get rid of Bashar al-Assad, he said, but few people like the extremist policies they would implement once in power.
In neighboring Iraq, al Qaeda-linked militants, tribal fighters, and government forces have been battling for control of Falluja, the site of heavy fighting in 2004.
“The people of Iraq don’t want [al Qaeda or jihadis] in the long term,” Greenstock said.
And despite the recent violence, he said that U.S. President Barack Obama was right to pull the American military out of the country.
“All intervention achieves – and sometimes it’s worth it – is to freeze the state of a country, maybe get rid of somebody…and then when we go it all starts going again.”
“We don’t have the power to change all the historical roots of what creates that country.”
Most of the blame of the American failure to secure Iraq lays at the desks of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, he alleged.
“They didn’t focus on security at the start; they lost it,” he said. “I don’t think it could have been retrieved in 2010, 2011 when the forces left.”
With the country once again in turmoil, the former ambassador called on that country’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to form an inclusive path forward for the country.
“The Sunnis feel very disaffected from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, and have done for some years since the Americans left, and before.”
“[Prime Minister Maliki] hasn’t wooed them much up to now, has he?”
They should not be “a lot of little streams,” he said, “but trying to forge big rivers of political opinion across local borders and tribal borders.”
The situation in Iraq is very complex, Greenstock told Amanpour, and affected in large measure also by the civil war raging in neighboring Syria.
“There are more foreign jihadists in Syria looking to beat up the people they don’t like: the West, the Syrian government, anybody against an Islamic State.”
“These are bloodthirsty, at least to me un-Islamic people…looking for any opportunity to spread their murderous violence.”