Date: 26th October 2016
MERI Forum 2016
In this panel:
Rafe Al-Esawi, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Iraq
Atheel Al-Nujaifi, Former Governor of Mosul
Kenneth Gross, US Consul General in Erbil
Michael Knights, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, USA
Dylan O’Driscoll, Middle East Research Institute (Chair)
This is a summary of the panel discussion, please find the full video of the debates and Q&A below.
The Islamic State (IS) has been controlling Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, since 10 June 2014 and great damage, both physical and societal, has been caused by their occupation. Therefore, the approach to the post-liberation dynamics has to be multifaceted and has to extend beyond a military solution to include a framework that addresses governance, security, reconciliation and reconstruction. Moreover, the factors that led to the rise of IS, including Sunni marginalisation and the wider governance system, need to be addressed in order to prevent the return of radical entities representing Sunni grievances. The panel aimed to address these different elements with the aim of giving a comprehensive outlook on the post-IS future of Mosul and the impact this may have on wider Iraqi politics.
Dylan O’Driscoll introduced the panel by acknowledging the current achievements of the military operation in Mosul, but stressing the importance of post-IS dynamics to frame the discussion including issues of governance and security and power-sharing issues with the central government.
The underlying causes of IS were discussed by Rafe Al-Esawi, emphasising the role of Sunni marginalisation. Michael Knights also elaborated on the conditions which led to IS, citing the period between 2011 and 2014 when “bad decisions and appointments led to destabilisation”, a period which, he argues, was characterised by “chronic division and disunity”.
In terms of post-IS governance, the panellists presented a range of viewpoints. Atheel Al-Nujaifi argued that there are two post-IS phases: the first is the immediate aftermath of the liberation, for which “there is no clear vision actually”. The second phase involves rebuilding Mosul. He outlined a range of scenarios which this could entail, before advocating for Nineveh as a federal region – a “geographical region not a sectarian region” – which “needs a constitution regulating relationship with Baghdad and Erbil”. Rafe Al-Esawi stressed that “division is not the solution” and that there needs to be a differentiation between the state and religion, although there are Sunni political leaders who can participate in the political process. Kenneth Gross outlined the role that the US will undertake throughout the liberation and in its aftermath, including providing funds, humanitarian assistance, assisting IDPs and supporting the KRG and Iraqi government. However he argued that the government of Iraq should take responsibility for rebuilding security.
Challenges were highlighted throughout the discussion: for example Al-Esawi argued that if the same mistakes of the past are repeated “the result will be worse than ISIS”. However, Michael Knights also presented this unique situation as an “opportunity”: “For the first time ever, Iraqi forces can be seen as liberators in Mosul”.