What does the liberation of Mosul mean for the fight with ISIS and for Iraq?

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Iraqi PM Heidar al-Abadi celebrates the liberation of Mosul. Credit: http://www.pmo.iq

Peter MansoorChair in Military History, Ohio State University

The defeat of ISIS in Mosul should be seen as the end of the beginning of the war against the group, rather than the beginning of the end. The humanitarian crisis caused by the fighting needs to be resolved, and ISIS still needs to be defeated in the other towns in Iraq where it has taken root. Of course, that battles against ISIS in Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria continue to rage as well. Perhaps most importantly, Prime Minister Abadi needs to craft a political solution to integrate the Sunni Arabs of Iraq back into the body politic to prevent the reemergence of ISIS or a successor group and stabilize Iraq for the long term.

James  LutzProfessor of Political Science, Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne

The defeat of ISIS in Mosul is only the beginning.  ISIS will still be able to launch attacks in other parts of the country and continue to make attempts to disrupt the government and the country.  Al Qaeda was able to continue its attacks and in many ways launch the global jihad after being defeated in Afghanistan.  That experience would suggest that ISIS will continue to be active, to inspire lone wolf attacks, and to use the internet in efforts to radicalize potential recruits.

ISIS has connections with other extremist groups in Africa and South Asia, so it is not going to disappear.  Some of these are even franchise groups with closer links to the current leadership.

The potential for disruption in Iraq is probably greater because of the targeting of Shia Muslims as apostates.

Iraq will be more settled with the re-capture of Mosul.  As ISIS does become less powerful, the internal contradictions in Iraq will become more obvious.  The Kurds have been important in stemming the tide of the ISIS advance three years ago and in helping to take back the city.  It will be difficult for the government to deal with requests for greater autonomy.  Greater autonomy for Iraq’s Kurds will raise issues with the Turkish government that is still in conflict with its Kurdish population.

Another issue is the increased influence of Iran with the central government since Iran provided resources to help defeat ISIS.  The Iranians had their own reasons for battling ISIS include the attacks on Shias and to help its ally, the Al-Assad regime in Syria.  Increased Iranian influence will be multifaceted.  It may provide the necessary stability but could exacerbate relationships between Shia and Sunni in Iraq.

Iraq has a long road ahead to stability.  The rule of Saddam Hussein, the occupation, the conflicts within the country, the divisions among Kurds and Shia Arab and Sunni Arab, and the long conflict with ISIS have demonstrated the fragility of the country and the difficulties of creating a national, inclusive society that will operate without conflict.

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