by Paul Gadalla
Rai Insights Contributor
Beirut: Despite the cheers over the defeat of ISIS in Mosul, it is a toothless victory. Although the notorious terrorist organization has been routed out of Iraq’s third-largest city, the causes for how the city fell into ISIS’s hands still remain. With no long-term political settlement or security plan for the city, it is doomed to witness a security vacuum.
Although Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi visited the city as a sign that that city is now under government control, Mosul has a long road ahead of it. The city is now an empty shell riddled with land mines, which could take years to clear. But this is one of many grievances the city faces on the road to stability.
In June of this year, the Iraqi government unveiled a $100 billion dollar plan for the reconstruction of the city but this so far is only on paper and international aid has been sparse. Mosul will need years of reconstruction but who will be behind the reconstruction in the city? The Iraqi government? The Peshmerga? All the different coalition forces? And who will be behind security in the city? The army which had been accused of abusing citizens in Mosul and then abandoning them to ISIS? Shiite paramilitary organizations that have been accused of massacring Sunni towns? Kurdish forces whose political backers are pushing for independence?
Mosul fell, along with large swathes of Sunni Arab to ISIS for a variety of reasons in 2014. The lingering problem was Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki’s pro-Iran pro-Shiite stances and actions that infuriated Iraq’s once dominant Sunny minority. Citizens had accused the government of ill treatment by its army which largely fell apart once ISIS made its push in Iraq not to mention political grievances towards Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government. Mosul was ripe for the taking by the notorious jihadi group as citizens were looking for better rule of law and less corruption, something ISIS via its propaganda organs offered. ISIS, like anywhere it went, wreaked havoc and drove out the city’s ancient Christian community. It’s s not to say the people of Mosul loved ISIS and wanted them to stay but many are fearful of the coming aftermath of the liberation of the city.
Thanks to American-led blunders, the local population already has a reason to be distrustful. According to a report by Amnesty International, US-led coalition forces killed nearly 6,000 civilians and that coalition forces did not adequately avoid civilian deaths. It is already acknowledged that in one US-led airstrike over 100 civilians were killed. The report also notes that the coalition used bombs with a wide impact area, which no doubt would cause more casualties in a densely packed city:
“[The Iraqi army and US-led coalition] continued to rely upon imprecise, explosive weapons, ignoring the ever-growing toll of civilian death and injuries.”
With such a high civilian death toll, how do coalition forces expect to regain the trust of nearly 700,000 displaced Mosul natives? It more or less seems coalition forces were bent on creating a show of force against ISIS rather than seeking a long-term solution that would ensure the jihadi group would not return.
Besides American-led blunders, the Iraqi government has not made serious steps in securing Mosul for the long term. Already a worrying sign was citizens of Baghdad spurning Sunni refugees fleeing from ISIS controlled areas. Even worse is documented attacks by the government-backed Popular Mobilization forces against Sunni towns in their fight against ISIS. These forces have backing from the government yet no clear command structure or accountability but are extremely sectarian in their slogans as many are backed by Shiite clerics. This is already on top of Iraq’s endemic corruption, which could greatly delay any necessary funds for reconstruction.
There are also fears of land grabs by Kurdish forces. The autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq has previously made calls for a referendum on independence. There already have been previous reports that lands taken by the Peshmerga in Northern Iraq will most likely stay under Kurdish control or their allies.
Already Yezidis fear returning to their villages although ISIS has been driven out due to conflicts between Kurish factions and the Iraqi government. If the Iraqi government and the various religious and sectarian factions do not meet a pact for the city to move forward any real plans to rebuild the city will merely remain as plans.
*Paul Gadalla is a New York native communication specialist and aspiring political analyst based in Beirut, Lebanon