The pope’s door is always open to ISIS. Why America’s should be, too.

December 8, 2014

Hamas fighter speaks on the phone as he sits inside the personal meeting hall of President Abbas after they captured his headquarters in Gaza

Pope Francis strayed into controversy recently when he said that, while he supported military action against Islamic State, he also would not rule out speaking to the group if it would help bring peace to Syria and Iraq. “It is difficult, one could say almost impossible, but the door is always open,” he said.

Many questioned whether the Pope had taken leave of his senses. But he is not being contradictory, or foolish, in supporting military action now and, at the same time, advocating for a diplomatic end goal for the future.

I have studied the conflicts between governments and armed groups over the last thirty years, and the pattern is always the same. Every time we meet a new terrorist group we say we will never talk to them, and yet pretty much every time we end up doing so. This is especially true if they have genuine political support, as the so called ‘Islamic State’ appear to have.

People say that Islamic State is quite different from previous groups — more bloodthirsty, more irrational and more nihilistic. But that is what we say every time we meet a new group.

When I left the British government in 2008 I said, on the basis of my experience of dealing with the Irish Republican Army for a decade, that we should talk to Hamas, to the Taliban and even to al Qaeda. The Foreign Office predictably dismissed the idea. They said that while it was fine to talk to the IRA and the Palestine Liberation Organization, these new groups were beyond the pale.

In the six years since then, the U.S. and Israeli governments have negotiated a ceasefire with Hamas, the U.S. government has negotiated a prisoner swap with the Taliban and the former head of MI5 has suggested we should be talking to al Qaeda.

If so much can change in just six years, who is to say that we will not be talking to Islamic State at some point too?

People ask what we would negotiate with Islamic State about. Their demand for a universal caliphate is completely unacceptable. But so was the demand of Free Aceh Movement (or GAM) in Indonesia for an independent Aceh, and the demand of the IRA for a united Ireland, made at gunpoint and without regard for the wishes of the majority Northern Ireland’s population.

When we sat down with them, however, it turned out that there were other things they wanted: like a power-sharing government, Equal opportunities and the use of the Irish language.

The same could be true of Islamic State.

The Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria have legitimate grievances about the way they were treated by the sectarian governments of Nouri al-Maliki, and the way they continue to be treated under Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Unless those grievances are properly addressed, there won’t be a lasting peace settlement in either country.

I am not suggesting for a minute that the West should sit down and try to negotiate with Ibrahim al Baghdadi now, even if he were prepared to do so.
That would be ludicrous, as the conditions are not present at the moment for such negotiations to succeed.

But in past conflicts, governments have opened up secret channels to terrorist groups using intelligence services. Those channels have allowed negotiations to take place at a later, more propitious time.

The British government opened a channel to the IRA in 1972 and it was finally used by John Major in 1991-1993 to bring about a ceasefire and peace negotiations.

People underestimate how long it takes to build trust and educate armed groups about what is realistic and what is not. Negotiations themselves are only possible when there is a military stalemate. One could envisage a situation where a secret channel is opened up to Islamic State and, eventually, negotiations take place once they have been adequately checked militarily.

If history is anything to go by, a combination of military pressure and offering a political way out through negotiations is likely to be the only way of getting to a lasting settlement. Keeping the door open, as Pope Francis suggests, is a good idea after all.

PHOTO: Call me, maybe? A Hamas fighter speaks on the phone as he sits inside the personal meeting hall of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after they captured his headquarters in Gaza June 15, 2007.  REUTERS/Suhaib Salem 



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Let’s compare Catholic doctrine with biblical truth and see what is the truth .Acts 2 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved…..
.Canon 30: “If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.” means damned.What the bible says “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5).”And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Col. 2:13-14) Catholicsm again burdensome false meriting salvation by works.Canon 24:”If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also Increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.”What the bible says Hebrews 10 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who have been set apart and have been sanctified.
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:1-3).”Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. .James in the book of James writes not contrary to Paul but in spiritual unity of inspired truth .James speak to the already saved and assured heaven bound believer.James speak works are the result of being forgiven by faith in Jesus .James does not says works produces or increases salvation as Catholicism false proclaims.Jesus does NOT forgive us only a little bit and then we have to make us the rest . Romans 3 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.(Gal. 5:1-3) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.That is slavery to doing works .1 John 1 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. You can have absolute assurance of heaven if you simply do that scripture says..But Catholics reject God word and replace it with Catholicism man made ideologies…Scripture loudly says we are forgiven by faith of all our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.Folks no need for the blasphemy of Purgatory. Lastly the catholic church has never recanted on the Council of Trent: Canons on Justification. Jesus gives forgiveness as a free gift because He went to the cross and won your a pardon. Being catholic does not gain you anything.but sorry in death because you reject the free gift God offers .Here we see what authority Jesus yields to and what authority he uses to prove Himself truth Jesus says it is written .Written as in scripture as the sola scriptura . Jesus does not quote some tradition either..Folks the bible is the only source of truth .We should use Jesus as the example how to know truth ..Luke 4 And the devil said unto him, if thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it become bread.(Psalm 91:11)4 And Jesus answered unto him, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.(Deuteronomy 8:3)8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.(Deuteronomy 6:13 / Deuteronomy 10:20)10 for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee:
(Psalm 91:11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways)
11 and, On their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God.(Deuteronomy 6:16) Now dear Catholics you say because your church says that Mary had no other children .Your church says any time the word brother is used in relationship to Jesus it means just mean fellow believer .Yet do you believe Jesus lied ? Comes down to who you accept as truth God word or your church .Note these brothers of Jesus did not believe him .So how can they be fellow believers.of verse 3 and 5 .John 7 – After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am notb going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.There is only one who is the Rock .If we look at biblical scriptures as to who is the Rock ? Psalms 78:35
And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer. Genesis 49:24
But his bow remained firm, And his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
Deuteronomy 32:15″But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked– You are grown fat, thick, and sleek– Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation.2 Samuel 23:3
What’s the Biblical problem with Catholicism . 7/1057_01.asp

Posted by freewillchoose | Report as abusive

Oh sure, just give ’em visas. The rest can simply swim or walk across the border. We’ll all a roaring party & sing Hava Nagila.

Posted by reallynow_ | Report as abusive

Negotiations with IS would only result in the establishment of a caliphate. Who wants that besides them? How does the rest of the world, or even the Middle East benefit from those negotiations? I don’t see any benefit to talking.

Posted by ScreenName1978 | Report as abusive

I guess we should have held serious meaningful discussions with Hitler too. Of course that probably means you would be writing your column in German, assuming you were ever born.

Posted by Tarheel72 | Report as abusive

This Topic comes from honorable news agency, but sometimes lately some columns and writers confuses their own interest with ideas and illusions in order to send a represented political messages and (public opinion shield) like foreign policy statements. timely and regionally by one picture that does not represent the actual facts in the name of “Irish” Powell!

Speaking on Middle East i guess some people still got an idea that the differences in Christians doctrines is a key of solution or a pressure!

Posted by ALSUKHON | Report as abusive

Great ideas and analysis Jonathan Powell. I think we should be talking and negotiating and reasoning with ISIS to try to empathize and hear their legitimate grievances. Why don’t you head on over to do the talking.

Posted by fredh123 | Report as abusive

I cannot believe the Pope said this. The time to talk is not after they attacked and murdered innocent women and children.

Posted by Prox | Report as abusive

I cannot believe the Pope said something so stupid. Dialog is not after foreign fighters go to a country and take parts of it, murder innocent women and children, and force the excuse for a religion on others.

Posted by Prox | Report as abusive

It’s simply not credible or believable that the US, NATO and over sixty of the world’s most technologically and militarily advanced nations couldn’t crush ISIL like a cockroach under their communal heel if they really wanted to…..It seems they just don’t want to. Why?

Posted by zac48 | Report as abusive

The assumption is that Islamic State will want to talk. Part of the mindset of Islamic State is that they don’t talk to Infedels, period. The recent split from Al Quieda was due to Al Quidas willingness to do some talking at least. They may use western computing power an altered encryption techniques to conduct their business in secret, import millions of pounds or dollars worth of Pringles, (according to the FT) supporting the despised democracies and a despicable human rights and opportunities provided by The multinationals that own the brand, (in their view), but at the same time, they won’t talk and continue (to use the true meaning of the old English saying) in their bloody minded way, refusing point blank to see the insane notion of unbelievable suffering in this life for a Pringles and Virgin inspired life in Martydom. What a way to go! Their love of Pringles will only be undermined by their desire to behead the entire non Muslim production staff should their “culture” ever reach Belguim, causing a self inflicted shortage of their favourite snack. At that small juncture, Islamic State may realise all they have and will achieve is the turning of the world into a desert on all levels and a return to famine, disease and pestilence.

Posted by MyFreedomToday | Report as abusive

…rather like keeping the door,open for a conversation with Satan, I should think.

Posted by Redford | Report as abusive

Powell has made the very thing he wants inadvisable. Private discussions go on all the time. Once the fact of discussions hit the media, they are no longer private and posturing starts taking place on both sides, trashing the goals of private discussions.

Posted by Yaakovweeeeeee | Report as abusive

This is not just some group with a different agenda than our own. This is a group that literally beheads children (and of course men and women too). This is not a group to negotiate with. This is a group to wipe from the face of the earth. If there is such as thing as pure evil, this IS personifies it.

Posted by PNW_ | Report as abusive