Kawa Hasan, head of the Brussels-based EastWest Institute
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region—If Iraq fails to effectively address its internal crises, the country’s sectarian confrontations will inevitably strengthen ISIS into an even more radical group, director of Middle East and North Africa Program at EastWest Institute's Brussels Office warns.
Kawa Hasan was in Kurdistan in March as part of a research group sponsored by the Atlantic Council, a US-based think-tank, says the long-lasting disputes in Iraq need “radical and serious solutions” without which the country could face even more brutal forms of militant groups.
“There are many conflicts within both Kurdistan region and Iraq as there are many disputes between Iraq and Kurdistan and Iraq and its neighbors, all of which need serious and radical solutions,” Hasan told Rudaw.
The research group, which is chaired by the former US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, is planned to finalize its report by the end of this year and submit it to the White House officials later.
Hasan does not foresee a final defeat for ISIS militants in Iraq in 2016 and fears it could take longer because of ideological and military strengths of the group.
“It is impossible to know when the ISIS could be defeated given the uncertainty of course of events in Iraq and Kurdistan and what could happen in Mosul and Raqqa,” Hasan says referring to the long-anticipated offensives to retake the two ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
A militant Sunni group, the ISIS has widely capitalized on the Sunni sentiments of marginalization in Iraq where the government has predominantly been Shiite and often accused of maintaining exclusionary policies against the country’s disfranchised Sunnis.
In his recent video message Iraq’s toppled Vice President, Izzat Duri, called on fellow Sunnis to rally behind Saudi Arabia’s efforts against what he called Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq, an indication of wider sectarian tensions in the region.
“Unless they line up on the Arab battlefront under the flag of the Arab coalition led by the Saudi kingdom, the fire of Persians will burn them sooner or later, and God and history will curse them,” said Duri who served as one of the closest men to the former ruler Saddam Hussein for decades.
But Kawa Hasan believes the political elite in Iraq is divided into two camps with some of them favoring a majority-run cabinet instead of the current consensus government.
“Almost all political leaders in Iraq and Kurdistan say that ISIS should be annihilated and the country should be run in a different fashion because the current system has failed,” he says after meetings with top Iraqi and Kurdish officials including Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi.