Don’t aban­don Iraq again

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

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.

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