Dutch peace organisation PAX is highly concerned that there is no peacebuilding strategy to complement military operations combating ISIS. The US-led coalition against ISIS (the coalition) supports the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga by bombarding ISIS positions, but if the coalition wants the re-conquest of Mosul province to be a step towards a more peaceful Iraq, it must begin preparing a peacebuilding operation in Mosul province now. Without it, there is a serious risk of gross human rights violations, revenge operations and further ethnic cleansing if the province and city of Mosul are recaptured, laying the ground for further conflict. The behaviour so far of the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga, and in particular the Shia militias fighting ISIS is reason for concern. If Mosul city is attacked by the different anti-ISIS forces, a peacebuilding plan should support the protection for the hundreds of thousands Sunni civilians currently living under ISIS control at risk of becoming trapped. As long as there is no resolution between the central Government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government for the disputed status of recaptured areas, the risk of further violent conflict remains high.
The UN, the EU and states participating in the coalition should commit to an ambitious, long-term peacebuilding plan in Mosul and Ninewa and allocate sufficient financial resources and diplomatic capacity to implement it. Such a plan should include the following elements:
- Bring the Government of Iraq (GoI), the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and all relevant local stakeholders to the negotiation table to agree on a process for the two governments to find a solution for the disputed areas, in particular the Ninewa plain. This should be an inclusive process, with the participation of women, representatives from all minorities, and internally displaced persons (IDP) communities in these areas guaranteed.
- In preparation for a peacebuilding operation, a trustworthy information network and system in ISIS-controlled areas must be established.
- Require that the GoI and KRG establish meaningful measures to prevent revenge operations, ethnic cleansing, forced or denied return of IDPs, and land grabbing in the disputed territories. The coalition should condemn such actions and use its leverage to prevent any more from taking place.
- Require that the GoI and the KRG, in consultation with representatives of IDP communities, come to an agreement on secure and peaceful return of the IDPs.
- Sunni Arab combatants willing to defect from ISIS should be offered a way out by the GoI and the KRG, including reintegration of fighters and transitional justice.
- Preparations must be made for the rehabilitation of local and provincial governance in Mosul and the Ninewa plain. Local governments in exile and representatives of the communities in exile as well as those who remained under ISIS rule will need to come to agreements for effective and representative local governments that can be trusted by the communities. With the high level of diversity in Mosul province, the approach to trust-building needs to be decentralized and bottom-up.
- An inclusive, community-based approach must be taken for the organization of security in the areas re-conquered on ISIS. All forces, militias and local protection units set up before or during the conflict should ultimately be brought under the control of legitimate authorities.
- An inclusive approach to governance and security also requires meaningful steps for the inclusion of women and girls and the protection of their rights and security at all levels. There should be a strong emphasis on the interaction between women, local authorities and security stakeholders to maximize structural improvements to women’s security, particularly at the local level.
March 30, 2015
For more information, download here the first Iraq Alert of PAX.