Senior Iranian political analyst Sadeq Maleki has, in an interview with the Vaghaye Ettefaghieh daily newspaper, weighed in on the possible ramifications of the full liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul. The following is the full text of the analytical piece:
No one should get that elated, nor should one become fearful. Neither would the recapture of Mosul sound the death knell for ISIS, nor would its conquest mean the return of tranquility to Iraq. People in Mesopotamia will not become Iraqis in the true sense of the word until they realize the meaning of their identity in terms of being Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds. Iraq has not yet managed to push back its religious and sectarian boundaries and define the Iraqi identity for itself at national and transnational levels.
Although in the operation to purge terrorists form Mosul, Iraqi army troops and the [predominantly Shiite] People’s Mobilization Forces (also known as the Popular Mobilization Units or PMU) are accompanied by nomads and Sunni forces as well, this solidarity will not last if it is only the result of the circumstances and a common enemy, and will not be able to bring about stability, peace, and above all, national unity.
Right the day after Mosul falls to Iraqi troops, players in the battlefield will, instead of caring about Iraq, begin to hijack the triumph to serve their religious and sectarian interests.
Shiites, as the main power players in Iraq, have largely overcome the initial inexperience associated with power transfer in the country. Nevertheless, they still cannot, in practice, manifest the behaviour that would represent numerical democracy in the arena of running the country.
Differences still remain among Kurds who are regarded as the second key factor, having a big share of numerical democracy. They regard independence as something more than a cause, and take advantage of it to regulate their internal relations, the Erbil-Baghdad behavior, and regional as well as global equations.
Sunnis are desperate when it comes to thinking and taking action. They have adopted numerous strategies, from surrendering to ISIS to getting close to Kurds to playing with Shiites. However, none of those approaches has made their wishes come true.
Iraq under Saddam Hussein is gone. Accepting this would be one of the key elements for players who care about Iraq, not about themselves. Any change is coupled with pain, but the pain cannot be cured by negating the reality; rather, it can be cured by accepting treatment principles. As long as Iraqis focus on foreign resources rather than local potential, neither will Iraq be organized, nor will there be an Iraq after all. Washington, Ankara and Tehran, none can provide the remedy for Iraq’s maladies. As long as national awareness is not shaped at a level beyond sectarian and religious interests, the country will be more gripped by foreign equations rather than domestic ones.
Rather than focusing on Iraq, the two recent gatherings of Sunnis in Ankara mostly served the interests that would pave the way for the emergence of ISIS in Iraq or would make Mosul fall to ISIS militants. Iraq and Iraqis should be freed from this game.
The day after the fall of Mosul, we will see Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites asking for their share. If we are optimistic, their demands will be a reason for talks, and if pessimistic, their demands will trigger fresh war and conflict. The day after the fall of Mosul could be a day when the intimacy between Kurds and Sunnis will begin to fade, and instead, Shiites and Sunnis will start to get closer based on an Arab-oriented scenario. In an Iraq where Mosul is liberated, no one will be the winner. Iraq and Iraqis need to understand this strategic point that a civil war has no winners. Yesterday, Mosul fell, and today it was conquered, but the scars of that fall and conquest can set the stage for another fall and conquest.
Iraqis should put an end to falls and conquests. Instead of conquering battlefields, Iraqis should change mentalities and win one another’s hearts. As long as Iraqis think of war more than peace in order to bring about changes, Iraq and Iraqis will not get to see tranquility. The point is that neither Tehran nor Ankara has been the winner in Iraq. Those who regard Tehran as the winner have returned to 10 years ago and are comparing the circumstances at that time with those of today. Although Turkey has not achieved all its objectives in Iraq, it has changed the situation against Iran with its inappropriate policies. Well, this analysis shouldn’t please Turkey after all!
Today, the threat emanating from Turkey’s interference in Iraq and spilling over to Syria, has jeopardized Turkey’s key interests and territorial integrity more than Iran’s. The outbreak of civil war in Turkey is mainly due to Ankara’s wrong calculations regarding Iraq or Syria. Erdogan, who accuses his allies of hatching plots against Turkey at national, regional and international levels, should look at himself as well, and rather than being entrapped by the conspiracy theory, begin to change his behaviour and move forward based on collective interests with a view to Iraq.
If the conquest of Mosul can win Iraqis’ hearts rather than seize territory, then it can lay the groundwork for bringing Iraqis closer together, and replace the Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish mentality with a view to Ankara, Tehran and Washington, make Iraqis deserve national identity, and bring about tranquility to Iraq as well as to the region.