US: ‘Decentralization’ should follow IS’ defeat in Mosul

A senior State Department official provided Kurdistan24 an exclusive assessment of the current state of the war against the Islamic State (IS) and the political order that should follow its defeat.

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – A senior State Department official provided Kurdistan24 an exclusive assessment of the current state of the war against the Islamic State (IS) and the political order that should follow its defeat.

This official explained that Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk had “very important and substantive meetings” in Erbil with President Masoud Barzani and in Washington with the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council Masrour Barzani.

The talks involved “our common efforts” against IS and US support for the Peshmerga, as well as cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil and between the Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces.

Before traveling to Erbil, McGurk met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The visits were part of “our constant regular engagement,” this official said.

He noted the US-led military campaign gets a lot of attention, but “our diplomatic efforts to keep things moving in the right way are quite intense.”

He highlighted the progress the coalition has made toward defeating IS.

In 2013, foreign fighters were pouring into Syria: some 40,000 insurgents from 110 countries around the world.

From Syria, they moved into Iraq. The “political dysfunction” in Baghdad—when Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister—then contributed significantly to IS’ rise.

Now, the border between Turkey and Syria has been largely sealed.

In Iraq, the State Department is now “focused very much” on stabilization programs—projects that make those areas liberated from IS habitable again and make it possible for residents to return to their homes.

Some 200 stabilization projects have been identified around Mosul. In East Mosul, 250,000 children are back in school, while Italy is leading the effort there to train local police forces.

As for the political future of that area, this official suggested “decentralization” would be the basis for the new political order after IS’ defeat.

Decentralization is the policy of the Abadi government, he explained, and it is “very different” from its predecessor.

Decentralization “means to give more authority to the provincial councils, the governors, and the local authorities, because they know their areas best.”

That, of course, is a principle underlying US governance. However, this official was careful to note decentralization “is interwoven in the Iraqi constitution, so this is their system.”

“You can’t have everything too centralized because then nothing works,” he said. “It just builds up pressure throughout the society.”

On this issue—the political future of Mosul and Nineveh Province more broadly—there seems to be some difference with Erbil as if US ideas do not go far enough.

Following President Barzani’s last meeting with McGurk, on May 15, the president’s office issued a statement, noting Barzani had “reiterated his position of the significance of planning for post-liberation Mosul.”

The operation to liberate Raqqa is proceeding as planned, particularly after President Donald Trump’s recent authorization of arms deliveries directly to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara finally seems reconciled to the US decision. As this official remarked, “After President Erdogan’s visit here last week, I think it’s understood what we plan to do.”

He repeated Washington’s thinking behind the US reliance on the YPG: it is the only local force that can liberate Raqqa in the near term.

Indeed, the YPG is now “within a few kilometers” of Raqqa city limits, he said.

Raqqa has been the “hub” for IS’ “foreign fighters and their external plotting efforts,” he explained.

Raqqa’s relatively swift liberation is “critical to the national security” of many parties, including “our European partners.”

Sadly, Monday’s suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people and which IS then claimed, only seems to underscore the point.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany