The so-called Islamic State (IS) is losing ground in both Iraq and Syria but its suicide missions have continued to target civilians. Last week’s bombings in Baghdad and Basra restaurants which have claimed scores of civilians were indications that the terrorist group will survive irrespective of the political and military developments in the country.
Though its existence as a fighting force is on the verge of ending, the possibility of morphing into a guerilla force capable of ambushing army units and carrying out suicide missions will continue, say political commentators.
But other rebel groups including the Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Al Nusra Front are gaining ground. Unlike the IS, Al Nusra Front appears more sympathetic to people’s concerns and does not seem to subscribe to the harsh laws and thus it is considered the ‘lesser evil’ than IS.
Al Nusra has tried to win public support. Many victims of IS and Iraqi Shi’ite militias are joining Al Nusra Front.
This is a grave security concern.
As the Iraqi army progresses and ‘liberates’ towns and cities, a corresponding ethnic cleansing and sectarian crimes being carried out by the Iran-backed Shi’ite militias continue. Iraqis flee the IS and the incoming Iraqi army and the net result is the liberated places turn into ghost towns. What is liberated becomes a piece of land of strategic importance.
Once flourishing and big cities including Tikrit and Ramadi, which were ‘liberated’ from the grips of IS by the Iraqi and Iran-backed militias, are turned to military garrisons and military command centres, with little or no civilian activity.
Until now, Iraq has been a battleground of sectarian animosity with no winners and losers, the blood-letting continues unabated. It needs quick fix.
This vicious cycle of violence should be broken, so that the rays of hope for peaceful co-existence among the different ethno-religious groups can be revived.
The country needs to change course. The recent attempt by Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to reshuffle the cabinet and include technocrats as part of the reform demanded by political parties is an encouraging step in the right direction.
But given the contrasting views held by politicians regarding the reshuffle, the way forward doesn’t seem easy.
The cabinet reshuffles, if implemented, will not only make the government secular and inclusive but also can minimise the meddling of both the Iraqi clerics and Iran’s Ayatollahs in Iraqi political life.