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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1921

Fall of Mosul: challenge before Iraqis outweighs the victory

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

Mosul in Iraq, the second largest city, has fallen – and in full ruins; Raqqa in Syria will suffer the same fate in the next few weeks, sounding the death knell for the ambition of the ISIS in their quest for establishing a mythical caliphate encompassing Iraq and a large part of Syria.

There are implicit indications that the extremists have been dealt a major blow with the fall of Mosul: the terrorist attacks in the Western capitals are on the wane; gay Muslims started tying the ‘knot’ in the West while defying the cultural taboo; moderate Islamic priests started coming out against extremism from the places where the phenomenon is potentially active, as never before.

The fall of Mosul and the similar fate that will befall on Raqqa are, of course, two major setbacks for the ISIS, a recovery from which may not be easy. Since the last remnants of ISIS in Mosul chose to surrender without much of a fight instead of martyrdom, it is fair to assume that the top layer of the leadership has been totally vanquished completely while leaving the rank and file in complete disarray.

Although, Iraqi troops appeared to have taken every feasible measure to minimize civilian casualties, the fate of some Sunni, ISIS fighters at the hands of Shia led Iraqi army could lead to the dissension among the Iraqi Sunnis once again, which more or less contributed to the formation of the ISIS in the first place, after Sadaam Hussain being toppled.

Sadaam Hussain may be a brutal dictator; but he certainly was not a coward: he led from the front, fought against his enemies on the battlefield along with his sons; he didn’t run away and slipped into a neighbouring country to save his skin; he faced the gallows as a real man while asking the executioner not to blindfold him.

The Americans underestimated Sadaam’s influence in the post-Sadaam era and the whole world paid a heavy, collective price for it in a few years: the former disbanded the Sunni-led army leaving a vacuum to be filled with hastily-trained Shia substitutes; they removed Sadaam loyalists from the levers of power and Iraqi Baath party that Sadaam used to represent, was treated on a par with a criminal outfit, to name but a few.

The speed at which Mosul fell three years ago at the hands of IS shows the latter was not short of strategic military guidance. It is not just the possession of military hardware that did the trick; high, ranking Sunni military officers may have helped the extremists vent their frustration at the hands of Shia.

Adding insult to the injury, Nouri al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, made endless policy decisions without being sensitive to Sunni feelings.

It is not just the foot soldiers who brought about the defeat of ISIS in Mosul; Western air strikes made a big impact too. In this context, the present Iraqi government has a duty, not to marginalize the Sunni population in Mosul or anywhere in order to address the serious issue.

If the coalition of forces that fought against ISIS is a cricket team, the soldiers from different ethnic backgrounds played in unison to keep the score of the rival to a minimum. So, the Iraqi authorities cannot afford to be blindsided by the sentiments of the victory to ignore the sensitivities of the ethnic groups who lent their support to achieve the goal – once again.

Just after the victory, the American commander who coordinated the American involvement in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, didn’t mince his words, when he said that if the ethnic issues are not addressed ISIS-2 would be back from the ashes of the defeat.

It may be an indication to the Iraq authorities that the repeat of past mistakes is not acceptable. They will dare ignore it, especially when a new president is in the Oval Office, who follows the developments in the Middle East with a keen eye - and determination.

- Asian Tribune -

Fall of Mosul: challenge before Iraqis outweighs the victory
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