After Victory in Mosul, Iraq Is on the Verge of Political Collapse That May Be More Daunting Than ISIS

After Victory in Mosul, Iraq Is on the Verge of Political Collapse That May Be More Daunting Than ISIS

With the fall of Mosul, the Islamic State has lost its most important  operations base and the foundation for the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.  So, now what? Eurasia Group's Middle East practice head Hani Sabra looks to the challenges that the Iraqi government will now have to confront.

The Iraqi government's reclamation of country's second-largest city is a  milestone achievement that will force IS to continue its transition  into a terrorist organization with further limited resources and  capacity.

Despite this achievement, and the heavy loss of life on both sides, the  Iraqi army still faces a significant challenge in liberating large areas  of the country that remain under IS control. Recent reporting from  Mosul of piles of hair indicate that many Iraqi IS fighters hastily  shaved their beards, ditched their weapons, and disappeared into the  community.

There is no agreement on a new political order for the country, and the  Iraqi government knows it. Kurdish forces now control territories  disputed by the central government and are aiming to organize an  independence referendum that includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Moreover, the Shia-dominated Popular Mobilization Units have become a  formidable force that will become another arm of the Iraqi state.

And while the Islamic State pressured the Sunni community in Mosul to  tamp down its disputes with the central government, as fighting dies  down, Sunni political factions will compete with one another to define  their roles in Iraq. New political voices will emerge in the process

But the most significant long-term challenge facing the Iraqi state will  be stability. The international community is not focused on, or  committed to, a comprehensive plan to support the Iraqi government. The  US is still narrowly focused on the military dimension of the war on IS and appears less interested in committing resources to reconstruction  and deep involvement in conflict prevention. The Iraqi government also  lacks the capacity to conduct a large-scale reconstruction and  stabilization effort, and a Shia-centric government will not move  quickly to reward or transfer funds to Sunni areas.

Mosul is an ancient state and was long Iraq's most diverse metropolis.  After three years of IS occupation and months of house-to-house  bloodshed, it is free.  But once the dusts settles in Mosul, the state,  like the rest of the country, will have to confront challenges as  daunting, if not as deadly, as life under the Islamic State. 

This article was originally published at Eurasia Live.