P4, former CENTCOM Commander lays it out to play it out...
Can the post-Islamic State effort resolve the squabbling likely to arise over numerous issues and bring lasting stability to one of Iraq’s most diverse and challenging provinces? Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.
U.S. forces today obviously lack the authority, remit and sheer numbers of the U.S. elements in Iraq in 2003. They also do not have the mandate that we had in the early days. But the enabling forces that the U.S.-led coalition has provided for Iraqi elements over the past year — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, advisers, logistical elements, and precision strike platforms, in particular — have been instrumental in the successes enjoyed by the Iraqis in Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, Baiji, Qayyarah and a host of other battle sites.
Leaders of the various Iraqi elements will likely have their own militias, and there will be endless rounds of brinkmanship on the road to post-Islamic State boundaries, governing structures and distribution of power and resources. If those challenges are not enough, others will emanate from Iran and the Shiite militias it supports, from Turkey and Iraq’s Sunni Arab neighbors, from the Kurdish Regional Government that understandably wants to retain the disputed internal boundary areas that its peshmerga now largely control, and so on.
In the case of Mosul, Nineveh’s Sunni Arabs, in particular, will need considerable reassurances that their interests will be adequately represented in the new Mosul and Nineveh. But so will the Kurdish citizens of Nineveh (of multiple political parties), as well as Shiite Arabs, Shiite and Sunni Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Shabak and numerous tribes.
The best vehicle for carrying this out would be a provincial council like the one set up in 2003, and through a similarly inclusive process. Importantly, Shiite militias should play no role in post-Islamic State security and governance. Because Nineveh and the other Sunni Arab provinces lack significant energy resources and the leverage they provide, Kurdish-style constitutional autonomy is not a viable option. Nonetheless, Baghdad and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will need to be prepared to make more explicit commitments about levels of resourcing, and also perhaps grant the region greater autonomy in determining spending priorities. The task facing Abadi is exceedingly complex, but the only way forward is to squarely face the challenges, work to build relationships and press the many disparate parties to find common ground on the issues — aided by the U.S.-led coalition.
The process to resolve post-Islamic State issues will be difficult and intense. But having enabled the defeat of the Islamic State and having provided the largest amount of assets to ensure further successes and reconstruction initiatives, the United States, together with its numerous coalition partners, will have considerable influence over the resolution of the issues.
It will have to exercise that influence.