With the beginning of separate offensives against the Islamic State (IS) in Fallujah and Raqqa many analysts are highlighting that this is the beginning of the end of IS, with Mosul next in the sights. However, there is one key issue with this analysis; these offensives do nothing to address the structural failures in both Iraq and Syria that led to IS’ rise. Moreover, there is no valid plan 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 offensive in Fallujah happens as 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 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) actionsby the central government. These issues need to be addressed, but how can they when a cabinet cannot even be agreed uponby the Iraqi parliament?
Sunnis rightly don’t trust the Iraqi army, due to its deadly actions against Sunni protestors between 2012 and 2013. 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 – there has already been reports of similar actions in Fallujah.
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