It’s a thorny issue. What to do with members of proscribed terror groups captured in Syria who are citizens of Europe or North America?
The US government, as well as the British and French, among others, assert they don't want to take back nationals who are accused of being members of various jihadist terror groups, like Daesh or al-Nusra Front*.
With the nearly eight-year Syrian war finally coming to an end, thousands of jihadis have been detained in various prison or refugee camps. Many of them are nationals from the US, Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, among up to as many as 80 countries, from where they travelled to fight in Syria to overthrow the government. Further complicating the problem are wives and children born to militants.
President Donald Trump has urged European states to take back up to 800 jihadists whom the Americans claim to be in the custody of US-backed Kurdish militia. Washington, though, does not want to repatriate its own jihadists from Syria. Trump recently gave orders to block the return of 24-year-old US-born woman, Hoda Muthana, who had years ago ran away to Syria to marry a Daesh fighter — joining the legion of Western so-called "jihadi brides".
Another case is that of British teenager Shamima Begum who absconded to Syria when she was 15, to marry a member of Daesh. Her third child, a newborn baby boy, died only a few weeks ago in a refugee camp after the British government stripped Begum of citizenship, thus barring her return to Britain.
However, the issue is this: why should Syria be burdened with the huge problem of detaining thousands of foreign jihadists and their families? The humanitarian and legal problems of dealing with such people will run into hundreds of millions of dollars, a financial burden that war-torn Syria cannot afford.
Christopher Black, a Canadian international lawyer, says that the Syrian authorities are legally entitled to deport any foreign nationals whom they suspect of involvement in terrorism and related crimes.
"If Syrian nationals are suspected of terrorism offenses, then they should be tried in Syrian courts or reintegrated back into that society," comments Black.
"For foreign fighters brought into Syria, they can be deported back to their countries of origin, their families with them. I doubt that Syria wants them on its hands."
The fact is that the vast majority — if not all — of foreign jihadis entered Syria illegally through smuggling routes from Turkey. It is therefore not the Syrian government's responsibility to accommodate them in any kind of pre-trial process. As is normal international protocol, foreign citizens who enter any country illegally without required immigration documents are subject to deportation back to their country of origin.
The US and European states deport "illegals" all the time. Why should Syria also not be able to carry out such measures, especially when the "illegals" concerned are suspected of involvement in gross crimes?
Some commentators adopt a confused self-righteous attitude, like their own governments. The superficial logic goes: these jihadists and their brides chose the path of terrorism, so to hell with them, let them rot in detention camps in Syria.
But hold on a moment. Why should Western states be allowed to make Syria a dumping ground for their terrorists? Syria endured eight years of a criminal covert war for regime change which was orchestrated by Washington, London, Paris and other despotic powers. Syria was deliberately set up as a magnet by these powers to draw in foreign jihadis to do the dirty work of regime change. In the process of this vile scheme, Syria was plunged into murderous mayhem and national destruction.
It was only thanks to military operation by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah that defeated the US-led foreign conspiracy to turn Syria into a failed state.
Now that the dirty war has ended in failure for the Western powers to overthrow the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad, these same Western powers are trying to wash their hands of the terrorists they contaminated the country with.
It may seem all very self-righteous for the US, Britain, France, and so on, to strip their citizens of nationality and leave them stranded in Syria. But that's not being "self-righteous". It's cynically offloading your covert foot-soldiers to give Syria another postwar headache.
Last week, the US, Britain and France announced in a joint statement that they would not be contributing any financial funds to Syria for postwar reconstruction. Some estimates reckon the country would require at least $200 billion to repair the destruction of cities, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Well, that's rich. These Western powers masterminded and orchestrated the war for regime change in Syria, and now they are haughtily saying they are walking away from responsibility to reconstruct the country. They should be paying $200 billion and much more in reparations for the war crimes against Syria, not demurring about whether or not to help the country.
Similarly, the US and its allies are trying to walk from the problem of terrorists they have infiltrated Syria with. The thousands of these militants and their families should be deported back to where they come from to face justice there. Syria should not become a dumping ground for Western states that mobilized terrorism for their geopolitical machinations.
*Daesh [ISIL, the Islamic State, IS], al-Nusra Front — terrorist organisations banned in Russia.