Liberating Mosul: Pre and Post Factors for Consideration

Project Description

Full Title: Liberating Mosul: Pre and Post Factors for Consideration
Project in Brief: The aim of this project is to develop recommendations for the various actors involved in the liberation of Mosul. The key point being that the structural and political issues need to be addressed alongside the military plan for Mosul and before any military engagement. Additionally, this project places importance on the development of a detailed post-conflict reconstruction plan.
Term: 2016
Most Recent: Publications and Events


The plan in Iraq is to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) before the end of 2016, although realistically this is more likely to take place in 2017. There is one key issue with this plan – the offensive does nothing to address the structural failures in Iraq that led to IS’ rise. Moreover, there is no proposal for the governance of the people being ‘liberated’ from IS. Without addressing these issues, history will repeat itself and IS will either return or morph into another radicalised entity looking to represent marginalised Sunnis.

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, is under pressure to show action against IS due to scores of suicide bombs in Baghdad and his failure to implement reforms. The precarious position of Abadi – and the central government of Iraq in general – optimises the chaos in Iraq, which further highlights the difficulty of implementing a successful post-IS solution. The uprising of Sunnis and the acceptance of IS by many of the local population was due to political sideling and authoritarian (majority sectarian) actions by the central government. These issues need to be addressed, however, currently a cabinet cannot even be agreed upon by the Iraqi parliament.

Sunnis don’t trust the Iraqi army, due to its deadly actions against Sunni protestors between 2012 and 2013.  They also do not trust the peshmerga, due to what is seen as land grabs in the disputed territories and Kurdish secessionist desires. Additionally, Sunnis don’t trust the Shiite militias, due to their loyalty to their Shiite spiritual leaders, their links to Iran, and because they fear revenge by these militias for the actions of IS. A fear that is justified giving the brutal actions of Hashd al-Shaabi in Tikrit and the reported actions in Fallujah. Currently there are not enough Sunni forces to enter and take a city, thus leaving forces that are not trusted by the local people to enter. If Iraq cannot provide political answers for those living under IS and can also not send in trusted military forces, it is not ready to defeat IS. Any actions under these circumstances will only create animosity and will not address the core issues behind the rise of IS, therefore making any victory merely symbolic – and a weak symbol at that. Consequently, it is imperative that a plan heavily focused on Sunni involvement in the planning and development of post-liberation Mosul.

The Project:

 The aim of this project is to develop a framework for post-IS Mosul. Any plan has to include actions taken before and during the offensive, as having Sunni forces involved in undertaking the battle within the city and developing the political capacity of Sunni leaders to manage the city post-IS is intrinsic to the success of the operation. Moreover, the role that Sunnis play at the central level also needs to be addressed, as this is part of the wider issue facing Sunnis in Iraq.

This research project aims to examine the necessary steps that need to be taken both before and after any offensive against IS in Mosul, and will include an analysis of what needs to be done for both Sunni forces and politicians to become legitimate, supported representatives of the Sunni population. The importance of political institutions is paramount to alleviate conflict and prevent secessionist tendencies from arising and thus these must be developed, both locally and nationally, to counteract the current issues of contention. Therefore, the project will analyse how best to develop Sunni political institutions at a local level, as well as examining the power relations between local and national institutions.

Although the focus of the project will be on local Sunni institutions, the success of these institutions rely on adequate Sunni national representation; therefore, the research will recommend that in order to rectify the rise of authoritarianism and the linked issues, Iraq needs to adopt liberal consociational power sharing, to operate alongside federalism. The examination of power sharing will also include the power relation between the centre and the regions and how to develop this to ensure ethnic accommodation, whilst at the same time not encouraging secession. Although the project will examine and develop theories with regards to power geopolitics, the research itself will be very practical and will be policy focused.

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The post-conflict issues that will arise in Mosul and Nineveh will also be examined in this project. Thus, proposals will be developed for reconciliation and bringing guilty parties to justice. Reconciliation and rule of law are imperative, as it is important that Nineveh does not get caught up in a circle of revenge. Another important issue is the education of the youth, as they have been denied a proper education under IS, systems need to be developed to deal with these dynamics. Alongside this, it is important to develop deradicalisation programmes and post-traumatic stress programmes in order to address and prevent the issues that will arise in the future. This project will also examine the post conflict reconstruction needs of Mosul, as well as the important issue of dealing with those internally displaced due to the fight against IS in Mosul.

The fieldwork for this project will involve key political actors from Mosul and the surrounding areas and will analyse their grievances and goals. MERI is uniquely placed to carry out this research, as we have access to the key political actors from Mosul; including the provincial council, governor, both current and former Mosul MPs, and the Sunni militias. This access allows us to create an understanding of the political issues of Sunnis and the minority groups, as well as what is necessary to bring them back to the broader political table. Paired with the author’s theoretical knowledge on both power sharing and federalism, this access allows for us to develop concrete, feasible, theoretically-placed options for the future of Mosul. MERI is also well placed for the dissemination of this research, as we routinely hold seminars, workshops and conferences involving the key political actors of Iraq. The output for this project would be an academic article, three op-eds, a report (translated into Arabic) to be distributed amongst key political actors, a workshop with these actors to discuss the findings, and finally a policy paper taking into account feedback from the workshop.

Publications and Events

Private: The Future of Mosul: Before, During, and After the Liberation
Governing Nineveh After the Islamic State: A Solution for All Components
Roundtable on “The Future of Mosul: Before, During, and After the Liberation”
And the Marginalisation goes on: Iraq and the Politics of Domination
The Battle for Mosul: Pre and Post ‘Liberation’ Planning
Liberating Mosul and the Future of Ninewa
Defeating the Islamic State will take more than Gunpowder

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