The Geopolitical Threats in Post-IS Mosul

The re-emergence of IS is the most dangerous threat that Mosul's inhabitants fear.

In 2014, IS controlled Mosul city. That terror group was able to exploit the conditions of this city to its advantage. Thus, it extended its hegemony over Mosul city for two years. In 2017, the Iraqi army launched a successful operation to liberate Mosul. Consequently, its residents thought that a new and a different phase will begin in their city. But unfortunately, there is now plenty of evidence affirming that there are new challenges looming. 

The re-emergence of IS is the most dangerous threat that Mosul's inhabitants fear. Recently, terrorists have managed to commit many crimes in Mosul. They also returned to recruit fighters from this city. As well, many reports released to confirm that IS' sleeper cells are now more active than before, and they constitute a potential menace to the Iraqi forces. Therefore, the residents of Mosul, especially the minorities such as the Yazidis, say that their city might fall once again in the hands of terrorists. 

Competition for dominating Mosul city is still ongoing among the Iraqi parties. The Kurdish parties, which withdrew their troops from Mosul city in the aftermath of IS' assaults, are currently calling for their return to the areas they had been spreading. The Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad does not like to give the Kurdish parties any chance to reach this dream for geopolitical reasons. They think that these parties would like to re-deploy their military forces in Mosul and in Kirkuk as well to support their plan of independence from Iraq. This might lead to putting the fate of Mosul city at stake. If any conflict erupts, Mosul city will suffer a lot.

In light of this affair, there is a kind of division among Mosul's tribes. Some Arab tribes in this city want the Kurdish forces to return to their previous places. They say that these forces know well the geography of this province, and they have a comprehensive view towards its security vulnerabilities. Sheikh Muzahim al-Hweit, the spokesperson for Mosul's Arab tribes assured: " Kurdish Peshmerga forces must return to and patrol their region due to a rise in terrorist activities and the local population's past experience with stability under Kurdish security."  This does not express the whole tribal opinions towards this issue. Some other tribesmen refuse this statement. Instead, they say that just Iraqi forces must be welcomed in Mosul city. This might lead to the accusations of treason and the local hostility among these tribes. In this scenario, fighting between them is greatly  expected in this city, where weapons are spreading widely and used in any simple  tribal problem. 

The presence of the PKK in Mosul constitutes a source of a headache to many parties. When the Iraqi and Kurdish forces retreated from Sinjar district of Mosul, the Yazidi faced a genocide. The PKK entered into that place to save those innocent people from the cruelty of IS. This led to increasing the popular sympathy with the PKK. Ankara, Erbil, and Baghdad all think that PKK must leave Mosul city. They believe that it represents a jeopardy to their national security. Thus, Turkey is presently targeting them militarily. If the PKK continues in its refusal to the Iraqi call for evacuating its posts in Mosul, that might result in complicating the Iraqi-Turkish relations and might lead to a confrontation between the PKK and the Iraqi forces. This will cast a shadow on Mosul and its fragile security situation.  

The Turkish troops, stationed at Bashiqa camp in Mosul under the pretext of fighting IS, is another risk to Mosul city and its security. Turkey still has historical allegations in Mosul and confirms that someday it will annex Mosul to its geography. Thus, it might use this existence for this purpose in case Mosul faced any internal turbulence.

Moreover, it might support some political parties at the expense of the others in this city to increase the level of mess. In this way, it will be able to justify its futuristic presence in Mosul. If it clashed with the popular Mobilization Units, this might also lead to generate a huge regional conflict with Iran on the Mosul's territory. Therefore, Iraq must use all possible means for more negotiations with Turkey to end this matter before it is too late.

Last but not least, the social geography of Mosul city, especially in the wake of defeat IS, is still brittle that Mosul's residents talk openly about their fears against each other. I remember that I read in the Guardian an appeal from a Yazidi person to the Iraqi authority, in which he complained of the absence of trust among Mosul's demographic components. To describe his sentiments towards the others during IS' control of Mosul, he said: "They were our neighbors and now they are our killers" How to reestablish peaceful relations in this vulnerable social environment is an urgent task that we all must take into account. Otherwise, we will face many more violent reactions in this population diverse city. This might cause creating separate ghettoes for every nationality or religion. This scene, in the end, would destroy the geographical unity of Mosul and then the unity of Iraq in the long term. 

Nations that fail in predicting their future and do not prepare themselves well to counter their challenges are more prone to face setbacks and losses. Here, we would like to warn the Iraqi parties of the dangers that Mosul city will suffer from in the future. If they neglect these matters, many bad outcomes will appear in the Iraqi geopolitical sphere. Now, it is the crucial time for them to set suitable solutions to all of these threats. 

Diyari Salih is an Iraqi academic, Ph.D. in Political Geography, Baghdad, Post-Doctorate in International Relations, Warsaw, Focuses on the Geopolitical Issues in Iraq.