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Lydia Samarbakhsh: NATO Encourages its Members to Aggressively Stockpile Weapons

Translated Friday 7 April 2017, by Arwen Dewey

Lydia Samarbakhsh, Director of the International Department of the French Communist Party (PCF)

This communist leader believes that instead of conducting military operations on foreign soil, France should be promoting a policy of peace based on negotiated solutions and human rights advocacy.

Do current military operations in Libya and Mali meet the objectives of peace?

Lydia Samarbakhsh: Every time foreign operations are authorized, it’s done without first establishing a political framework for a return to peace. Sometimes these operations are even undertaken without regard for international law, such as the situation with Libya. Ever since France rejoined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s integrated command under Nicolas Sarkozy, there has been a noticeable shift in the French government. The defense doctrine has been separated from the framework of foreign policy, and a simultaneous effort has been made to rebuild France’s international might based on our economic power. This has meant turning foreign trade over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Under Hollande’s mandate, The Ministry of Defense has prioritized making far-reaching decisions to intervene abroad in the name of fighting terrorism, without prior discussion in Parliament.

What would a peace policy look like?

Lydia Samarbakhsh: Peace is a political project. It is a continual search for long-term solutions on which a future can be built for all people. The definition we use is close to that of the United Nations Development Program: collective security in every domain, specifically human, democratic, economic and social rights. To accomplish this, we must adopt a whole new diplomatic approach. The political framework must take precedence over the military. Priority must be given to negotiation. It’s not about switching from one set of alliances to another. The goal of our diplomacy must be to obtain results that correspond to reconciling the interests of all parties. It has to be, as Bertrand Badie says, a diplomacy of differences and not of self-interest. In response to Donald Trump’s decision to increase the United States’ military budget, France should reconsider the framework of NATO, which encourages its members to stockpile arms and maintain an aggressive attitude towards certain countries. France should suggest beginning the process of disarmament and the decommissioning of weapons of mass destruction.

In that case, how can we deal with severe crises like the one in Mali, or conflicts in which non-governmental individuals are implicated?

Lydia Samarbakhsh: Interventions abroad are always presented as responses to urgent situations, but they are actually the fruit of a lengthy process. It’s true that crisis situations do occur to which we have to respond, but in the case of Mali, we let a lot of time go by before conflict finally broke out. Generally, violent non-governmental groups take advantage of the self- destruction of the societies in which they have developed. That can be counteracted through development policies. When we see groups like ISIS in Syria or Iraq, it’s clear that even when Coalition bombing helps, the decisive element in getting them to abandon their military positions is the activism of the locals. Outside of ISIS, the main difficulty in Syria today is the need for the various parties to come to a mutual agreement on who should be involved in the discussion to find a political solution.

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