Global Migration & Politics
Analysis and commentary on the politics of the Middle East, of the power games that defines the region, and the economic, religious and ethnic problems the region is often facing.

IS has fallen in Mosul – now what?

Just three years ago, on June 29, 2014, the self-named Kalif Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi stood on the pulpit in the mosque of Mosul and proclaimed the Caliphate Islamic State (IS). Exactly 3 years later on June 29, 2017, the Iraqi authorities declared that IS in Mosul had fallen. The symbolism certainly was not to bde overlooked.

Although the victory over IS in Mosul is certainly of military importance, it is primarily of symbolic value. The symbolic value that the coalition forces could occupy Mosul’s mosque on the very third anniversary of the self-proclaimed caliphate is important.

No cause of the problem, but symptom of the problem

But the loss of Islamic state in Mosul is not enough in itself to believe that some balance will now be restored in the Middle East.

For a terrorist organization such as Islamic State is not the cause  of the problems in Iraq and Syria. Rather, Islamic State is a symptom of the problems these countries are struggling with.

The fact that IS has disappeared from the city does not mean that Mosul’s hard-troubled civilian population can now breathe easily. In fact, it may just be the opposite.Other stakeholders are ready to take over the power in the area. I have described in previous blog posts how, among other things, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a major political interest in the area. The Kurdish autonomy in Nordirak also has an interest in incorporating Mosul into its autonomous territories, while the Iraqi government obviously wants the city to remain under Iraqi rule.

The fact that Mosul is a cultural, ethnic and religious melting pot does not make the relationship less complicated because any actor with taste for power and control of the area can point a potential conflict to a sectarian one of the kind. For example, Turkey will be able to justify its interference with the interest in protecting the civilian Turkmen civilian population. It has Erdogan previously done quite clearly towards the Iraqi government, which for the same reason has banned the presence of Turkish troops in the area. Similarly, the Kurds from the autonomous community could argue to protect the Kurdish civilian population in the city. And what about the Shi Muslim population? And all the other minority groups who in the past lived in peaceful coexistence in the city through generations? For every minority in the city, there will be an external actor who will assume the task of protecting this particular population and thus trying to take over the city.

Mosul – a symbol of an Iraqi nightmare

In other words, there are many actors with each their agenda on the run to put their impressions on the political agenda of the future of Mosul. The city thus represents, in its own right, the complete horror scenario for the Iraqi government. For if the country is unable to maintain the city in Iraqi hands after the liberation from IS, the city will become a new battlefield for many – external political actors in the region. And in this context, IS is the smallest of all the subjects.

It is therefore essential for the government of Iraq to fully control the city as soon as possible.

However, the task requires far more than taking over the city’s mosque, and catching up the last IS forces or capturing them. So far, the price of having been on the gate has been extremely high not only in civilian casualties; Over 850,000 people are believed to have fled from the area, and much of the city’s infrastructure has been shot down and together. A reconstruction work is therefore expected of dimensions ahead. A task that includes restoring electricity and water supply, food, shelter and medical care, ensuring peace and stability, reopening roads, schools and hospitals, and on a more abstract – but equally important level – securing political freedom and human rights . In other words, it is a society that needs to be restored and restored to ensure peace in the area.

It was precisely in that situation – with an Iraqi state that had fallen – that IS three years ago took its momentum and got settled in Iraq. In a political, economic and security vacuum where the state failed to protect its citizens, IS found its foothold. And if the Iraqi state is unable to lift the task this time either, others and new forces are running to take on that task. That is certainly a real risk, which can give even the most tanned politicians in the region a sweat at the nose tip.

In other words, there are many actors with each their agenda on the run to put their impressions on the political agenda of the future of Mosul. The city thus represents, in its own right, the complete horror scenario for the Iraqi government. For if the country is unable to maintain the city in Iraqi hands after the liberation from IS, the city will become a new battlefield for many – external political actors in the region. And in this context, IS is the smallest of all the subjects.

It is therefore essential for the government of Iraq to fully control the city as soon as possible.

However, the task requires far more than taking over the city’s mosque, and catching up the last IS forces or capturing them. So far, the price of having been on the gate has been extremely high not only in civilian casualties; Over 850,000 people are believed to have fled from the area, and much of the city’s infrastructure has been shot down and together. A reconstruction work is therefore expected of dimensions ahead. A task that includes restoring electricity and water supply, food, shelter and medical care, ensuring peace and stability, reopening roads, schools and hospitals, and on a more abstract – but equally important level – securing political freedom and human rights . In other words, it is a society that needs to be restored and restored to ensure peace in the area.

It was precisely in that situation – with an Iraqi state that had fallen – that IS three years ago took its momentum and got settled in Iraq. In a political, economic and security vacuum where the state failed to protect its citizens, IS found its foothold. And if the Iraqi state is unable to lift the task this time either, others and new forces are running to take on that task. That is certainly a real risk, which can give even the most tanned politicians in the region a sweat at the nose tip.

A squeezed organization is a dangerous organization

There are still some smaller enclaves of IS groups back in Iraq. Although the so-called capital of the Caliphate, Raqqa in Syria, is still under the control of IS, the group is also under severe military pressure from the coalition forces. Not only has IS lost at least 60% of its past Territory, but up to 80% of their revenue, primarily from oil revenues, tax collection, smuggling routes, confiscation and extortion. In other words, it is an extremely weakened organization that gets harder to resist the military efforts of coalition forces against the organization’s high-rise in Raqqa.

With both loss of territory and revenue of so significant size, it looks unlike the organization’s further existence.

It is likely that the organization will be resolved by the end of the year.

But a pressed terrorist organization – for three years, has created its image with the most terrifying and deeply perverted attacks on the civilian population in its conduct throughout the region – is a dangerous organization.

It is therefore expected that the group will launch more terrorist attacks, including suicide attacks in both the Middle East and Europe, in the next few months, primarily as a desperate attempt to regain momentum and potentially recruit new recruits, but as much as a symbol on the group’s driving force to spread scare in civil society, and appear as a real power factor in the region.

And while it may seem tempting to be excited about the victory of the coalition forces over IS in Mosul this week, it is important to keep in mind that this victory primarily has a symbolic value. The forthcoming real policy work will be of far greater and decisive importance to the city’s future.

In other words, it is too early to celebrate the fact that IS has fallen in Mosul.

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