ANALYSIS: A joint strategy needs to be developed against ISIL
A burnt vehicle belonging to Iraqi security forces is pictured at a checkpoint in east Mosul, one day after radical Sunni Muslim insurgents seized control of the city, June 11, 2014. REUTERS/StringerWhile seeking an answer to the question of how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) so suddenly captured Mosul, it has been argued that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deliberately handed over the city to ISIL.
Leaving aside the conspiracies, let us try to understand the story: The sectarian clashes that began in 2003 with the American occupation, the Baathists and former soldiers given their marching orders, the Sunni tribes that wanted to settle accounts with the Shiites in power, and the Gulf countries pouring in money to break the influence of Iran have all presented the country with a violent situation.
Sahwa, which was formed by the U.S. with Sunni tribes against al-Qaeda, has considerably repressed the jihadist militants. The withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, the Syrian front, and the fact that al-Maliki forgot the Sunnis, have provided the opportunity for ISIL to grow.
The organization was overlooked because it fought with al-Maliki on one side and the Syrian regime on the other side, as well as with the Kurds in Rojava [northern Syria]. ISIL even established an emirate in Syria’s Rakka city, thus becoming Turkey’s neighbor. Now, two border posts are under ISIL’s control. Those who ask, “How did Mosul fall?” should draw the logistic line starting from Turkey.
The new strategy of ISIL is developing on a bow starting from Mosul, where it has settled for years, going on to Anbar, then on to Syria and then along the Euphrates to reach Turkey. ISIL’s financial source comes from donations from the global al-Qaeda network, taxes it collects in Mosul and the oil it has seized in Syria. The oil that ISIL is refining is being sold in Turkey. The number of plastic pipelines that the Turkish Armed Forces has found on the border is countless. For this reason, making ISIL fail depends first on reviewing our Syrian policies.
Other derivatives of al-Qaeda - al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham - only recently, while they were capturing Kessab, used Turkey’s borders. If such supports continue, no new discourse or no updated terror organization lists would work.
Those who think that this threat only concerns al-Maliki are wrong. This threat is forcing those hostile sides to involuntarily cooperate with each other. The Kurdish administration, which is aware that the next target will be itself; Turkey, which is currently in disputes with Baghdad, the Iraq army of which already has been defeated; and the U.S. administration, all have to meet at a joint strategy. Moreover, for these efforts to be successful, the policies toward Rojava, which has been left to the mercy of ISIL for a long time, need to be altered.
The place where ISIL will strike while withdrawing from Mosul is Rojava, with its recently acquired weapons from Mosul. Naturally, a strategy that is focused only on Iraq may not yield results. Indeed, when and if they support the Iraqi army, the Kurds will expect concessions, such as the holding of the postponed referendum, a solution to the crisis about oil revenues, the approval of oil exportation directly through Turkey, and the annexation of disputed regions such as Mosul and Selahaddin. The Sunni tribes who have permitted ISIL to grow also want to regain their former status. It is difficult for the Iraqi army to win this war without the support of Kurdish Peshmarga forces and the Sunni tribes.
When based on a positive scenario, it is possible to turn the crisis into an opportunity to solve a dozen issues between Ankara and Baghdad, Arbil and Baghdad, west and south Kurdistan, Sunni tribes and Baghdad. A pessimistic scenario, on the other hand, offers endless chaos. If a joint strategy is not developed against ISIL, then Iraq may be separated between Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the middle triangle and Shiites in the south.
* The analysis by Fehim Taştekin, a columnist and chief editor of foreign news at daily Radikal, has been published by daily Hürriyet on June 12, 2014.