A member of the Iraqi forces guards a checkpoint in the northern city of Baiji on November 27. Two years after ISIS jihadists were forced from this one-time industrial hub, Baiji remains a devastated ghost city. Photo: Mahmud Saleh | AFP
On Saturday, after more than three years of gruesome war against ISIS, the Iraqi prime minister stood triumphantly in front of his troops and proclaimed victory.
"As we reached this spot, we declare the war against the terrorists of ISIS is now over," said Haider al-Abadi.
In December 2016, four months into the battle for Iraq’s second-largest city, US Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend said in an interview with The Daily Beast that it could take two years to clear ISIS from Mosul, Raqqa, and the desert areas of Iraq and Syria.
Since the Mosul offensive ended in July, victories over ISIS have come quickly — faster than even the top coalition commander had estimated.
To make that happen Arabs, Kurds, other Iraqi communities, and their international partners made tremendous sacrifices. And all who sacrificed deserve due recognition for their heroism.
Naming the battle as a civil war, insurgency, conflict, or fight against terrorism is immaterial — it was simply another cog in Iraq's wheel of wars. Domestic, regional and international players each had their own interests at play.
Of course, the end of ISIS's sectarian-fueled terror in Iraq may never be over. Daily reports pour in of tribal attacks in Nineveh province, long insurgencies continue to be waged Diyala and Salahaddin provinces, and Shiite offices in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu have and will continue to be targeted.
"The United States joins the Government of Iraq in stressing that Iraq's liberation does not mean the fight against terrorism, and even against ISIS, in Iraq is over," read a US statement on Sunday.
Coalition troops remain stationed in Iraq and the US Congress has reauthorized nearly $1.2 billion in 2018 Iraq Train & Equip funding.
The US-led anti-ISIS coalition will in the near future downplay the attacks and the narrative to supporting Iraq in counter-terrorism operations. But as history shows, there will likely be another large conflict in Iraq, as there always has been because the status quo in Baghdad never truly changes.
Additionally, Kurdish and Shiite factions have clashed while Baghdad has refused international mediation with those same envoys unwilling to use hard diplomacy to avoid making Abadi appear weak as he looks to retain his post in May.
The lack of power-sharing in Baghdad has been at the heart of most conflicts in Iraq and the international community is mostly to blame — from the creation of Iraq, blind support for Baathists despite Saddam’s ruthless atrocities, abandonment of Kurds, and now unquestioning support for a continuation of Abadi's Shiite government which unjustly and ambiguously leverages a de facto US-guaranteed constitution. The millions of dollars thrown into reconstruction projects will mean nothing if earnest and meaningful reconciliation is not forced upon Baghdad by the international community.
There will be another uprising against the government in Baghdad because the fantasyland of Iraq is unable to stand on its own without the interest of the West which will dwindle as it always has after all previous conflicts.
The people of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region do not want any more proclamations of winning wars. They want a lasting declaration of peace that ensures a future unnecessary of war.
To accomplish that, the West must be as truly committed to building peace as it is to winning wars because that cannot be guaranteed by regional countries. The same pressure exerted and attention given to the war on ISIS must continue without turning a blind eye to Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah’s ever-growing influences throughout Iraq and not ignoring the well-founded complaints of Iraq’s minority Sunni Arab, Kurdish, and other currently disenfranchised communities.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.