Liberation of Mosul, Return of Iraq

The state of ISIS was not expected to live long. Neither Iraq can bear a cancerous tumor of this kind, nor the Kurdistan region can accept such a dangerous neighbor.

The countries of the region cannot be lenient towards it. The world cannot tolerate it. Al-Baghdadi’s state raised everyone’s concerns. It had to be eradicated, and this is what happened.

From the very beginning, experts said that the terrorist state’s fall would be inevitable. Terrorism makes a fatal mistake when it has a well-known location that can be prayed. Terrorism is powerful when it is concealed and unpredicted, and when it does not have a specific “billing” address to hold it accountable for its doings.

Iraqi authorities have the right to celebrate the victory. ISIS’ control over Mosul was a serious threat to the country’s stability and existence. It was a project of an open massacre and a permanent sedition.

One does not exaggerate when saying that the achieved victory has erased a painful memory three years ago, when entire divisions of the Iraqi Army surrendered to ISIS and enabled the terrorist group to seize a full arsenal of modern American weapons.

The Iraqi Army made great sacrifices to wipe out that image and save the city and the country. The Peshmerga forces, in turn, paid a heavy price to thwart ISIS’ dream of consolidating its presence in the region and across the borders with Iran, Turkey and Syria.

Haider al-Abadi had the right to salute the forces celebrating victory. He is the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. His tenure and his experience were certainly dangled on the outcome of the Mosul battle. Today, he can say that the army was defeated under his predecessor, but won under his reign. Mosul fell in the era of Maliki and was restored in the era of Abadi.

The victory of Mosul has uplifted his legitimacy within his own party and at the national level. This is not a small matter for anyone who knows the story of the thorny relationship between the current prime minister and his predecessor, who remained dominant in political life despite leaving the office in the wake of the Mosul disaster.

When talking about defeating ISIS, it is necessary to pay attention to developments that preceded the invasion of Mosul. The truth is that the terrorist group was practically the result of a number of mistakes, factional politics and regional intervention that have accompanied the rift in the Iraqi structure and the relations between the country’s components.

ISIS was born on a scene that has witnessed wrong decisions and provocative policies. One must not forget the decision of Paul Bremer to dissolve the Iraqi army followed by a decision to uproot the Baath party, which has led the soldiers of Saddam Hussein’s army into the wings of the resistance, then into the hands of “jihadist” organizations, and to Baghdadi’s terrorist group.

ISIS also emerged because the winning team, which was Shi’ite, did not rush to place its victory at the disposal of a state-for-all project. Part of that team has dealt with victory as a means to settle a historical account, which paved the way for the establishment of a new injustice based on the revenge of a previous discrimination.

Neither the winning team has well managed its victory nor the defeated team has used the best policy to reduce its losses.

There is a striking fact in this context. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, a delegation of Sunni Arab activists visited Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani to discuss the future of Iraq. During the meeting, Barzani advised the members of the delegation to form a body to speak in their name and express their concerns and fears to other components.

Barzani stressed before the delegation that it was important to spare Iraq a bloody clash between its constituents. He said Sunni Arabs should consider their position in the new Iraq because returning to the past was impossible.

He noted that the Iraqi Constitution provides for the right to establish regions that keep Iraq unified but reduce the causes of rift and collision between the country’s factions. He also said that the Arab Sunnis should think about their future because they would have to pay the price for any divisions among them.

Arab Sunni leaders failed to agree. Some of them were drifted by the new situation and were tempted by the gains, while others were attached to the dream of turning the clock back.

As the Sunni presence in the military and security institutions and decision-making circles has dropped, and as Iran bolstered its role in managing Iraq, part of the Sunni public opinion was attracted to suicide options and ISIS found a window to infiltrate into the country.

This is not meant to underestimate the victory that has sparked an Arab, Islamic and international relief. What is meant to say is that the defeat of ISIS militants does not imply the end of the terrorist group, which might become more dangerous when it loses its known address. The victory over an ISIS militant may be easier than the victory of the idea of ISIS itself.

The permanent triumph over the conditions that facilitated the birth of ISIS necessitates reforms, reevaluation of policies and the building of a state of institutions in Iraq. This means the adoption of the principle of citizenship and national partnership and respect for the Constitution, as well as reinstating the state authority and its ability to make decisions in Baghdad.

In order to prevent the reemergence of “ISIS” and to deter the birth of a similar or more dangerous group, Abadi must turn the Mosul victory into an opportunity to build an Iraqi state on the basis of reconciliation and partnership – a basis that transcends sectarian and confessional considerations.

Haider al-Abadi should pay attention to his watch. Difficulties are colossal and the pressure is great. But turning the Mosul battle into an imminent return of Iraq deserves this journey: the return of Iraq as a normal state after the restoration of relations between all of its components.

If this spirit prevails in Baghdad, it will certainly be possible to find a formula to keep the Kurdistan region part of Iraq, even if the Kurdish component said its word in the referendum.

The return of Iraq is an urgent Iraqi necessity and an Arab and regional requisite. The rift in the Iraqi society has unleashed the appetite of non-Arab countries in the region. Moreover, conflicts within the Arab Sunni community have led to disintegration and fragmentation and transformed the country into an arena for local and foreign militias.

Latest statements by the authorities over the necessity to treat all Iraqis equally before the law should encourage Abadi to go further in this attempt.

Mosul’s liberation is not enough. Iraq must return to its unity and institutions, freedom of decision and respect for its borders. Iraq is not a peripheral country, neither in geography nor in history. It is only through the vigilance of the Iraqi spirit, away from feelings of intolerance and narrowness that the Iraqi entity is preserved and the return of ISIS is prevented.

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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