After Mosul: state-building means democratic state-building



A dispute between Iraq and Turkey has emerged as a dramatic geopolitical sideshow to the complicated military campaign to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State, with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan trying to ramp up an involvement in Iraq that has already alarmed the Iraqi government, The New York Times reports:

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former American ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, warned in a recent article in The National Interest that Turkey and Iraq may be heading for war. He wrote that there was a “danger of a war within a war that could damage the prospects for retaking and stabilizing Mosul.”

zalmay2A successful campaign in Mosul has the potential to be an important milestone in the process of reconciliation, but only if the post-campaign period is given due attention, including issues of local governance, argued Khalilzad (right), a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance NGO.

If such campaigns as the current offensive to retake Mosul are to succeed in the long term, state-building is the only way to make real progress in defeating Islamic State, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to University of Chicago professor and Nobel Laureate Roger B. Myerson and J. Kael Weston, formerly a State Department official in Iraq and Afghanistan and the author of “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Knopf).

mirror-bookshotRecent history in the Middle East—from Pakistan to Yemen to Syria—has shown that ungoverned, unstable areas can incubate global threats, they write for The Wall Street Journal, offering several tips for state-building done right:

Forget imperialism. In centuries past, military planners worried far less about postwar rebuilding. Victory was often followed by outright conquest. But trying to install some friendly autocrat after a U.S. intervention won’t work anymore: It would stoke distrust, invite uprisings, increase tensions with other major powers and alarm many Americans unwilling to get into the business of permanent occupation. U.S. interests are better served by cultivating legitimate leaders. Today, successful state-building means democratic state-building.

Avoid centralization. To establish a government that can stand on its own, the U.S. must help national leaders to develop the political support necessary to fend off insurgents, opportunists and nasty neighbors. A new government must find and cultivate active allies in every part of the country, and these allies must be confident, in turn, that their loyalty can earn them long-term rewards and security. ….

Push for power-sharing. A key to evading this trap is a federal constitution that distributes power between the national and local governments. Too often in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. policy-makers focused on developing the capabilities of the national government from the top down. Constitutional provisions that grant considerable power to elected municipal and provincial governments can help to ensure that there are leaders in every part of the country with a real stake in the new government. These local governments must be funded equitably, too, especially when it comes to sharing national resources, like Iraq’s oil fields. RTWT

A freelance video journalist covering the battle against the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Mosul, Iraq for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was critically injured in a mortar attack October 20, the group reports:

Rasool Mahmood [above], who was covering the military campaign against IS in Iraq for RFE/RL’s service to Iran, Radio Farda, was reporting from the front lines of the push to retake the country’s second largest city from IS militants when he was wounded by a mortar in a counter attack by IS fighters against Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces….Mahmood’s coverage of the battle for Mosul has included exclusive video and photo reports from the battlefield, as well as exclusive interviews, including with the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Peshmerga forces. Several of Mahmood’s reports for Radio Farda have been picked up by CNN, Time magazine, USA Today and other international media outlets.

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for Mahmood and his family.

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