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Fecteau: After Mosul

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Backed by United States-led coalition airstrikes, the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters continue to push closer to the last Islamic State controlled Iraqi city of Mosul; victory appears imminent. For a city of almost a million, serious concerns remain over the potential for a severe humanitarian crisis that would exacerbate instability. 

The Islamic State has a plan. It is essentially keeping the urban population hostage increasing the possibility of civilian loss of life. This is something the group can use for propaganda purposes (e.g. the west’s war against Islam). In addition, because of the high potential for insecurity after the Battle for Mosul, there is a lofty possibility for a refugee crisis.  

The predominantly Sunni dominated Mosul has constantly been a tough area for the Iraqi government.  In the past, the democratically elected Shia-led Iraqi government failed to address the concerns of the population thereafter. This mess produced a vacuum in the region filled by the Islamic State, generating global serious security concerns.  

With little faith in their government, the Sunnis acquiesced to the Islamic State.  Some even turned over their weapons to the less organized, and sparsely equipped Islamic State fighters. The Sunnis preferred the extreme, brutal rule of the Islamic State over that of the corrupt, incompetent Iraqi government (says a lot, doesn’t it?).   

If Mosul can be reasonably secured with a recognizable, representative government installed, perhaps there is still hope. This will require compromise and dialogue, and international engagement. 

If not, diverse, yet volatile cities like Mosul will probably pose threats to regional and global stability. The Islamic State or some other extremist organization will likely, again, gain a foothold in the region, committing horrendous acts of terror in the process. 

Whether by pushing for a more inclusive Iraqi government or mitigating the humanitarian crisis, the international community, especially the United States, has a vital role to play. Extremists prey on the disenfranchised and vulnerable. From the ashes of this battle, these groups will likely attempt to regenerate to fill its ranks. We cannot let that happen. 

Hopefully, after the dust settles and the battle is over, history will not repeat itself.  In the short term, the international community needs to address the forthcoming humanitarian crisis to mitigate the potential for radicalism. In the long-term, the international community must bring some of these belligerent factions together to reconcile, and bring about a lasting peace in Iraq.  

Cities like Mosul can be a testament to the international community’s failure, or a symbol of hope for the future. I prefer the latter.  

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island lost to state Senator Jamie Doyle in 2016’s Democratic primary. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq war veteran. 


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