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The Position of Armed Groups in the Future of Mosul

 
Monday, 07 November 2016 09:58
 
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by Kamaran Mohammad (from Erbil, KRG)
EPOS Insights

 

In the Mosul offensive, there exist different forms of local armed actors and groups, including Iraqi security forces, Peshmerga, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, Sunni Tribal Mobilization, al-Hashd al-Watani, a National Mobilization of Turkmen, armed Yazidi groups, the Nineveh Plain Protection Units and also PKK. These forces do not only represent their communities and local power dynamics, but they also represent complicated regional power rivalry; the ongoing controversy over Turkey’s present and possible participation in the military offensive in Bashiqa, a war of words between the Baghdad government and the Turkish government are a clear example of the regional struggle for power in the city. Interestingly, there are also differences and disagreements within all these organizations, and they have not kept quiet.

The fact of the matter is none of them can alone shape the politics and future of the city. Among people and local actors, there is no consensus about what the future of the region should look like, and non-military aspects of post-ISIS Mosul have not been addressed yet. There exist very fragmented and contradicted visions, balance of power in the region has already been changed, or it has to be changed in order to encourage the various components of the attacking force to cooperate even under the 'security dilemma'.

Mosul has already been a battleground for internal rival components and external powers. For all these reasons, different partition projects emerged; the most controversial one is the project of many Sunni elements of Mosul to create an independent region for Mosul with different independent administrations. This project has clearly been backed by Turkey. On the other side, minorities from Mosul call for independent administration in post-ISIS. All other actors have their own projects, but the problem is all these projects are represented by military groups, and to a large extent (with some differences in their form and content)they have the ability to exercise power over civilians in their own social and territorial context, and they also enjoy legitimacy and they can shape 'decision-making, agenda setting and thought control'.

While there has been a good coordination between different attacking forces in the Mosul offensive especially between KRG and Baghdad, competing strategic visions and contradicted future destinations are much more complicated than this. What is going on in the province of Nineveh gives us important sights to analyze many issues in Iraq in a wider context. The role of armed groups goes beyond a simple and mere analysis of the retaking of the city from ISIS. Also, the military coordination between KRG and Baghdad is not very strong or at best is temporary; it is not supported by a genuine political agreement. In another word, it looks more tactical than strategic.

ISIS as a common enemy to all these forces has forced them to be united at least in the battlefield, and at the same time US has been able to regulate borders, roles and responsibilities of all these armed groups. The question is how can these forces participate in rebuilding and governing Mosul? Can they be reintegrated into formal army and state institutions? Rebuilding Mosul and all other liberated areas requires a national and comprehensive strategy, and realistic and careful sequencing of security priorities.

All actors know that the liberation of Mosul started with no vision and common understanding of Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) of non-state armed groups and other sectors of post-ISIS Mosul reconstruction. This has created a self-help environment, where all groups use their own way (military way) to maintain their security. In the long run, it will create a power imbalance between groups and communities. Thus, from a war-related standpoint, one of the first steps towards restoring security in Mosul will be the move towards DDR. Not only in the context of Mosul, but in the whole country, getting arms off the hands of these armed groups, dismantling their organization structures and getting them back into normal life and state institutions is extremely hard, if not impossible.

The anarchical structure of Mosul makes very hard for all these forces to find common interests. Thus, the US and allies of Iraq, as they have interests and leverage as well to increase the possibility of cooperation between these forces, by creating an environment where these actors feel that the gains from mutual cooperation are high. Then the security dilemma will be ameliorated.'Discourse analysis' tell us that ISIS was not the only reason for the rise of these armed groups, but these forces fear each other, and do not trust each other, because they know each other. Power imbalances exist in a social setting as well, that is, when there are asymmetrical relations of power among persons, institutions or states.

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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s

Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2016 10:12
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