Why we should not celebrate Mosul's "liberation"

With Iraq’s second largest city free from Islamic State, there are many concerns which will be raised about the city’s future. Mosul is now under the full control of the Iraqi government and Baghdad's first step should be rebuild a fully liable government which responds to the needs of population. However this control will swiftly become an illusion as Iraqi security forces face multiple problems in the wake of the siege. 

As many specialists have highlighted, the indiscriminate use of militias and armed thugs is seriously undermining any efforts to realise this objective. As demonstrated by events in Falluja, similar incidents are being repeated and multiple Sunni areas across Iraq after the United States left the country in 2011. There are no signs that attitudes within Baghdad towards the Sunnis are changing. Another problem emerging are tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government over Kirkuk's future which could be a catalyst for the revival of Islamic State and former Baathist soldiers of Saddam’s former regime who supported the jihādist fighters.

There are many reports emerging from Mosul on the ground indicating that torture and displacement by force has been systematically used by militias and the Iraqi military against civilians in order to control the city and uproot IS soldiers hidden amongst the population. On top of that, religious and jihādist rhetoric has driven many Shi’a soldiers and militias fighters as they pushed into the city of Mosul during the siege with many political parties (with the exception of Muqtada al-Sadr and Sistani) framing the conflict as a sectarian one between Sunni and Shi’a. No real political plan is underway which will set out how to include the Sunni communities in the future administration of Mosul. The resentment against political and sectarian segregation were the predominant reasons which turned the Sunni community against the central government in Baghdad during 2013 and 2014. With no political plan, mistakes will be repeated. 

Similarly, according to a recent statement from the U.N, the western part of Mosul has been totally destroyed and it will take at least five years and billions of dollars to rebuild the neighbourhoods ravaged by the battle. The airport, railway station and university were all but destroyed. With both the Kurdish and Shi’a governments in financial crisis it will be a major uphill battle to raise the funds and channel it into rebuilding Mosul’s shattered communities, particularly as Iraq buckles under rampant corruption and when the government can barely meet the needs of the wider population. 

Where will Mosul’s civilians go in the meantime? What job prospects are there, particularly for the young? Who will take care of them and their families? Ultimately, the answers may come from the same organisation which sacked Mosul and drove the Iraqi military from the city and the rest of northern and western Iraq between 2013 and 2014; Islamic State. The Gulf Wars are far from finished. 

Nino Orto