In the wake of the liberation of the city of Mosul, Director of the Center of Study of the Middle East at SGIS, Feisal Istrabadi told Judy Woodruff on the PBS News Hour “it’s a psychological and an ideological, huge blow to ISIL.”
The Iraqi city of Mosul has been held by militants of the Islamic State since 2014, and its liberation marks a significant regression in the advancement of ISIS as a terrorist regime. Istrabadi said that although this was a major setback for the terrorist organization, they still have the capability to advance.
“But the main fear that I have now is that ISIL becomes a classical terrorist organization, as al-Qaida was before, able to pull off attacks of varying size in Baghdad and other places” Istrabadi said. “And we’re already seeing that it is metamorphosing into that kind of an organization. And that again is deeply disturbing.”
Woodruff countered with “And how well-equipped is the government of Iraq to deal with that?” According to Istrabadi, the ability to repel these attacks has not been easily acquired. “You have to have perfect intelligence and a perfect ability to respond” he said. “And, unfortunately, neither the Iraqi government now, nor the Americans when they had a large presence, have been able to control that.” But the way Istrabadi sees it, the Iraqi government cannot prevent ISIS from making a comeback without the coming together of the Iraqi political classes. “The ultimate solution for this problem has to be political” Istrabadi said.
He added that the answer to preventing further development of ISIL is multidirectional. “It has to be an Iraqi project in the first instance. But the United States is a part of the process. The international community needs to encourage these three tracks, sort of the immediate humanitarian relief, the physical rebuilding of the country, and, more importantly, the political rebuilding of the country. That is going to be sort of a multipronged effort that has to occur simultaneously. And the Iraqis will need the support of the international community” Istrabadi said.
He remains hopeful however, that the international community is capable. Without the support of this effort from the international community, Istrabadi says we could be condemning the Middle East to an “endless cycle of violence.”
“The failure of the Iraqis to do this,” he said, “the failure of the international community to support this effort will mean that, just as al-Qaida left ISIL, this incarnation of ISIL will lead to ISIL 2.0, 3.0, 4.0.”