Source: Brookings Institute (Saban Center for Middle East Policy)

We must secure military gains in Iraq with a political victory, argue Michael O’Hanlon and Sara Allawi. Otherwise, we risk the emergence of an ISIS 2.0 among embittered Sunni populations. With Mosul and other key cities now liberated from the horrible scourge of ISIS, Iraq stands at a crucial crossroads. Iraqis and Americans have squandered historic opportunities to build a new, stable and prosperous country together before. We must not let that happen again.

The key danger, as before, is this: Extremism combined with sectarianism build on each other in a vicious spiral. That dynamic, in the absence of a functional state, further polarizes populations within Iraq and produces and endless cycles of violence, which creates opportunities for foreign meddling and a deepening of the kinds of resentments and paranoias that led to the emergence of ISIS—and even al-Qaida before that. We must secure military gains with a political victory. Otherwise, we risk the emergence of an ISIS 2.0 among embittered Sunni populations.  Unfortunately, early indications are unpromising. Notably, after three years of atrocious governance by ISIS, and more than a year of intense fighting in which Iraqis teamed with coalition airpower and advisors liberated the city, Mosul continues to lie in ruins.  READ MORE…

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