Rabat - In the face of an enemy that was greater than their combined distrust of one another, Iraq’s Sunnis, Shias and Kurds united to drive ISIS out of their territory.
Rabat – In the face of an enemy that was greater than their combined distrust of one another, Iraq’s Sunnis, Shias and Kurds united to drive ISIS out of their territory.
Commander of the US-led coalition, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, called ISIS a “brutal and evil enemy” following the Iraqi Prime Minister’s declaration of “total victory” over the terror group in Mosul on Monday evening.
When Haider al-Abadi celebrated the hard-won victory with his troops, he also acknowledged there are huge challenges ahead, not just for Mosul but for all of Iraq. One can only assume that, beyond massive infrastructure repair and mind-bending rebuilding, Al-Abadi was also thinking of old divisions possibly taking root once again.
Regional, ethnic and secular differences simmer just below the surface in Iraq and have done so for as long as anyone can remember. Since the demise of Sadam Hussein, in particular, Sunnis in Iraq have felt marginalized and largely ignored by Shia-controlled authorities. The challenge going forward will be to encourage open and inclusive dialogue between both groups to better build on the national Iraqi identity which emerged from the struggle against ISIS. Experts agree that Al-Abadi is much better suited to this task than he predecessor was and add that he has already taken the first step in the right direction, by simply admitting the issue exists and needs to be addressed.
Also worth considering, is the current status of the Kurds in Iraq who have long disputed ownership of certain land in the country. Those disputes were to have been settled in a referendum which suffered eternal delay. As a result of the war with ISIS, however, the Kurds now find themselves in control of large areas near the Ninevah plain, east of Mosul. What happens to these areas now, especially in light of the Kurdish independence vote in September, is a key consideration for a country in dire need of a firm footpath to internal stability.
Lastly, there are the militia groups which sprang up out of necessity throughout the country. Now that ISIS is on the run and the country could soon see itself freed from its ISIS death grip, what will happen to these groups must be considered a key component to first creating and then preserving a peaceful and stable Iraq out of the ashes. Some of these groups promised to disband after ISIS’ defeat. Whether or not they will remember those promises remains to be seen.
One thing is certain, the rebuilding of Mosul and Iraq at large is a daunting task. The new national identity is fragile. There is opportunity here, however, to forge a brand new Iraq, united out of the ashes of indescribable and shared suffering.