Don’t abandon Iraq again
Mosul has fallen.
These three words are cause for celebration but also concern around the world.
Mosul, the battle-scarred Iraqi city where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi imperiously proclaimed his Islamic State caliphate three years ago and the tragic stage for so many of his atrocities was officially liberated by the Iraqi army on Monday.
Mosul, once a terrifying symbol of Islamic State might has become a graveyard for the group’s vainglorious ambitions to establish a Middle Eastern theocracy.
Mosul, retaken just days after the July 4 capture of the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa in nearby Syria, is part of a one-two knockout punch that has floored the despicable extremist group.
If you hate tyranny, love freedom and believe in inalienable human rights, you should rejoice at this news.
Victory was made possible in both cases by an American-led international coalition that provided air and logistical support to local military forces.
In Mosul, Canada’s Armed Forces played a vital advisory role in helping Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish militia. While the debate will continue over whether Canada’s contribution included combat activity, the fall of Mosul vindicates the commitment to Iraq by the current Trudeau Liberals as well as the Harper Conservatives before them.
Have no doubt: The Islamic State was responsible for crimes against humanity that will stain the history of the 21st century.
Its members imposed a reign of terror on millions of people, turned women into sex slaves, mercilessly persecuted religious minorities, burned prisoners alive in cages and committed mass beheadings.
Not satisfied with spreading like a plague over northern Syria and through Iraq to the outskirts of Baghdad, the Islamic State inspired jihadist attacks in Europe, America, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Now, its little empire is shrinking and may disappear.
Yet its recent defeats will not ensure peace for Iraq or Syria. Rather, they usher in a new period of ethnic, religious and political tensions as well as possibly new military conflicts.
Mosul needs urgent help. Much of it lies in ruins and 900,000 of its inhabitants have fled. Many have no homes to return to. But Iraq’s challenges go beyond Mosul’s city limits. While the Islamic State cancer has been excised in Mosul and Raqqa, it could metastasize into another terrorist group that emerges elsewhere in the region.
Many Kurds who fought to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq want to create their own separate, independent country and their nationalist dreams could fuel new regional instability.
Meanwhile, Iran has ambitions to consolidate its power in the region — which could provoke more conflict.
The international community which, led by the United States, was instrumental in defeating the Islamic State, must now find ways to help Iraq establish a government that offers a meaningful place for the region’s competing ethnic, cultural and religious groups — and those efforts must include Sunni Arabs.
Rebuilding Iraq should be as much a part of the international agenda as was liberating it.
The world can only hope Donald Trump, the distracted and erratic American president, will realize this.