Iraq's political and social dilemmas come to the fore

A victory in Tal Afar will surely require Iraq to find solutions to its political and social dilemmas

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Published: Sun 20 Aug 2017, 10:32 PM

Last updated: Mon 21 Aug 2017, 12:32 AM

After a nine-month toil to free Mosul from Daesh, Iraqi forces are replenished enough for the next offensive. But it is not going to be an easy ride for Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi who, dressed in military uniform, stood in front of an Iraqi flag and map of the country to announce "the start of an operation to free Tal Afar". In the first place, Daesh fighters have not shown the propensity to flee. The estimated 2,000 fighters believed to be in Tal Afar could put up strong resistance like they did in Mosul. Moreover, with Iraq's Shia militias announcing participation in the battle in the Sunni-dominated Tal Afar, the country will have to deal with sectarian and regional tensions. Tens of thousands have already fled Tal Afar after a stepped-up campaign of airstrikes and troop build-up, which is threatening to compound a humanitarian crisis sparked by the Mosul operation.

Tal Afar, located strategically near the Syrian border, is ideal for the movement of militants and weapons, making the territory one among the Daesh headquarters in Iraq. Residents in the Sunni stronghold areas of the town are deeply sceptical of the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. Turkey had already warned Iraq that military operations in Mosul should not lead to demographic changes. Now there are possibilities that once Tal Afar - home to Shias and Sunni ethnic Turkmen - is liberated from Daesh, Iraqi forces will push out the Sunnis or the ethnic Turkmen. Add to this is the fact that Mosul has been reduced to ruins, and so will Tal Afar be, which talks of the daunting task ahead for Iraq. Both territories will have to be restored to make them livable. A victory in Tal Afar will surely require Iraq to find solutions to its political and social dilemmas. But the fact remains that the only way to defeat Daesh is to pull apart its 'caliphate'. And that can be achieved only by recapturing all lost territories.

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