Research studiesعاجل

Preparing for Post-ISIL Iraq

Democratic Arab Center

In the worst-case scenario, the number of ISIL fighters encircled in Mosul is around 6000. The number of troops preparing to attack the city is around 45,000. The inhabitants of Mosul are generally divided: some seek to get rid of the terrorists and are ready to play an active role in the fight, while the majority are terrified of both, the attackers and the attacked.

Yet, the important dimension of the battle of Mosul remains political. Ultimately, any war is meant to achieve a political-strategic goal. What is required from the battle of Mosul is the destruction of an active terrorist group. This is a fair justification for the fight. But if the goal stops at this limit, it would be a replay of the 2006 surge or of Afghanistan, which has been ongoing since 2001. What should emerge in Mosul, and all of Nineveh Province, in the post-ISIL era, is an example to inspire all Iraqis about the future of their country.

The set of strategic dynamics surrounding the fight for Mosul is determined by the general crises in the region. We see a rising Russia in the Middle East, to the extent of embarking on an unannounced initiative to settle the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.  That is to say, to end the conflict between Iran and the Arabs through quiet contacts with specific Arab capitals.

We also see a rising Iran that is determined to establish a land bridge between Tehran and the south of Lebanon by piercing through Iraq and Syria.

We also see a Kurdish region in the north of Iraq that will come under increasing attacks the moment the battle of Mosul ends. All the while, Iran’s IRGC will try to “consolidate” its gains on the ground in Iraq.

And we see an encircled Turkey that tries to create a larger space for its regional moves and deals with the direct threats which emerge on its southern borders, represented by the increasing role of the PKK.

The Obama Administration was awed by the complexity of the situation and stood in the middle of the ring, watching quick events rolling by. Finally, it decided to follow a strategy that focuses on fighting ISIL as the framework for an active US role, just as previous administrations did in Afghanistan and during the surge. All of this will soon behind us. What will be ahead of us is the agonizing question: What should follow Mosul in order to prevent the emergence of yet another ISIL, as this barbaric group itself was a variation of its ancestors, Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

The most problematic issue in post-Mosul Iraq is sectarianism. This problem will not be solved swiftly by a decree. It is rooted in two complex factors: public culture and regional strategic conflicts. Neither lends itself to an easy or quick solution.

The way to deal with this problem is to buy time and get the population, with its different sects, to heal from the dark ISIL years. The current attempt to squeeze Iraq’s Kurdistan is a way to block any Kurdish role in rebuilding Iraq’s unity. Iraq’s former Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has just accused Iraq’s Kurdistan of being a hub for Israeli and American spies. KRG President Masoud Barzani is being criticized for everything, from “collaborating” with the Turks, to being an American “agent,” to working with the Mossad. Accusations are repeated publicly by Maliki and the rest of Iran’s stooges in Baghdad. Barzani may emerge in the post-Mosul era as the most wanted man in Iraq by all sectarian forces.

We see now certain encouraging signs from Abadi’s government in the area of administering Mosul after ISIL. Baghdad does not seem like it will repeat previous mistakes. It is reported that Baghdad is ready for a constructive dialogue with Erbil, related to the implementation of self-administered regions in Kurdistan and elsewhere. For such a step to be comprehensive, central Iraq should be included.

An assortment of sectarian forces, starting from ISIL itself to some groups in the Shia militia, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), to Nouri Al Maliki and his supporters, all are getting ready to keep as many minefields as possible to shake the future of Iraq.

ISIL is actively forming underground networks in Mosul to be activated the moment the organization is defeated militarily. The organization gathered the passports and IDs of most inhabitants, probably in order to use those documents for future terrorist operations.

For those in Mosul who dare to revolt against ISIL, the organization showed its intentions when it executed 22 youth by electrocution in a public square on October 27. On the other hand, ISIL is forcefully circulating a story that says a battalion called “Al Sham Battalion” has already arrived from Mosul to Syria, and that this allegedly powerful group of fighters will flip the course of the battle.

Several things can be concluded from this story headlining all ISIL social media accounts. One is the possibility that ISIL fighters in Mosul understand already that they have no chance to even survive; Al Sham Battalion will allegedly give them the possibility to win. Another is that it may be a method to stop the fighters from attempting to flee the battlefield.

Maliki and the PMF are amassing forces south and west of Mosul in order to interfere if orders arrive from the IRGC’s Qassem Suliemani.

But the unshakable fact is that Mosul is about to be liberated. There is some hope that the Nineveh Province will turn into a model for an alternative future for Iraq. All that needs to be done is to silence sectarian stooges in the PMF and in Baghdad, and to realize that the future of the country will be made by its’ people, without exclusion.

Source : Middle East Briefing

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