MIDDLE EAST

After the liberation of Mosul, what now for Iraq’s Sunnis?

Mosul has been liberated from ISIS (ISIS) at last, after three years of brutal occupation by the pitiless so called jihadists; but at what cost? Like Ramadi and Fallujah before it, Mosul has been reduced to ruins. Barely a single building has been left intact. These great, ancient Iraqi cities have been obliterated. 800,000 people have been rendered homeless from Mosul alone, millions when you count the refugees who fled from Ramadi and Fallujah. Thousands of innocent Sunni civilians have been killed, and tens of thousands among them were injured.

Now sprawling refugee camps and flimsy canvas tents provide a home to families who have lost everything. And what do these people have in common… they are Sunnis. It was their cruel mistreatment and repression by the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki that sparked the uprising in al-Anbar and Nineveh provinces four years ago.

Maliki was a puppet of the Islamic fundamentalist Shiite mullahs in Tehran. The ensuing civil war sucked in ISIS from neighboring Syria and the jihadists quickly captured around one third of Iraq’s geographical territory. In 2014 the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the creation of what he described as a caliphate from the pulpit of the 900-year-old al-Nuri mosque with its famous leaning minaret in Mosul. Even that renowned and venerated mosque has now been reduced to rubble.

Quick to exploit the situation, the Kurdish Peshmerga used the excuse of fighting ISIS to grab the city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields, long a disputed territory between Baghdad and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government).

Struan Stevenson

But as the celebrations at the ousting of ISIS from Mosul have begun, so too has another dilemma in Iraq’s recent tortured history. Rebuilding these ruined cities will cost tens of billions of dollars and take years. But there is no money. Maliki and his government plundered the Iraqi treasury. Their corruption was on an industrial scale. The vast resources of this oil-rich country simply vanished into hidden bank accounts and to paying private militias. Then the global price of oil collapsed and ISIS seized some of the country’s most lucrative fields. Quick to exploit the situation, the Kurdish Peshmerga used the excuse of fighting ISIS to grab the city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields, long a disputed territory between Baghdad and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government). And now the KRG President, Massoud Barzani, has called for a referendum on independence to be held in September, when it is almost certain a resounding ‘YES’ vote will propel Iraq further towards economic crisis and create a new political flashpoint.

Iran should not be part of the solution

Few Western powers are willing to send millions in foreign aid into this black hole of corruption and weak governance, so the dispossessed Sunnis will remain homeless and destitute, their collective grievances against the Shiite government bubbling under the surface. The seeds are being sown once again for the kind of insurgency that kick-started the whole conflict in the first place and the only ultimate winner is Iran. The Iranian Regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the body responsible for extra-territorial operations - the terrorist-listed Quds Force, are the main vehicles for Iran’s aggressive expansionism in the Middle East. The IRGC has for decades been carrying out terrorist attacks across the zone, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. Iran cannot be part of the solution to the conflicts raging in these countries. It is part of the problem. Iran exports terror and one of its key strategic objectives is to dominate Iraq.

On 10 July 2017, General Qasem Soleimani, hardline commander of the Quds Force, admitted that Ayatollah Khamenei has always insisted on supporting Iraq. He confirmed that Iran’s Ministry of Defense had produced large quantities of arms and sent them to Iraq. President Hassan Rowhani, a so-called “moderate”, proclaimed that the Iranian economy was used to run the wars in Iraq and Syria and added: “In the hardest economic conditions we helped the nations of Iraq and Syria. Who provides the salaries and arms for these people? Who provided the weapons Iraq needed and the money during the sanctions? It is also the same in Syria.”

President Trump should blacklist the IRGC and its affiliated militias in Iraq. He must also compel the Iraqi government to disband all Iraqi Shiite militia groups who are exploiting the government’s budget, military equipment and weapons and demand the creation of an inclusive Iraqi army that does not discriminate against Sunnis and other minorities.

Struan Stevenson

Now that ISIS has suffered a series of defeats in Iraq, the Iranian regime, together with the Iraqi government, is trying to move the American forces out of the country, so that no obstacles remain in the way of Iran’s total domination. Such a situation would without doubt lead to the re-emergence of ISIS in the future. The US must remain in Iraq as a fair arbiter and not repeat the mistake made by Obama in 2011 when he ordered the complete withdrawal of US military forces, laying the groundwork for a sectarian civil war.

Against this background President Trump should blacklist the IRGC and its affiliated militias in Iraq. He must also compel the Iraqi government to disband all Iraqi Shiite militia groups who are exploiting the government’s budget, military equipment and weapons and demand the creation of an inclusive Iraqi army that does not discriminate against Sunnis and other minorities. Only after these measures have been successfully concluded should foreign aid be generated for the comprehensive rebuilding of Iraq’s ruined cities.

_______________________
Struan Stevenson is president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an award-winning author and international lecturer on the Middle East.

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Last Update: Tuesday, 18 July 2017 KSA 19:09 - GMT 16:09
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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