Protect civilians in fight against Islamic State, report cautions


While defeating Islamic State in northern Iraq. would remove a formidable threat, religious minorities and other civilians remain at risk and could face further atrocities, according to a new report from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

Long-standing territorial disputes, sectarian tensions existing prior to the Islamic State, and the large number of armed militias create a high risk for successor extremist groups, revenge killings against Sunni Arabs, and continued violence against religious and ethnic minorities by a weakened Islamic State, says the report, “Communities At Risk:

The analysis lays out strategies to protect targeted groups and counter the political climate and lack of stability that allowed IS to flourish. It also outlines several options that could be immediately employed to mitigate these risks, but which require a sustained and dedicated response over the medium-long term from the US and its coalition partners, including, in part:

  • Providing physical security to all people living in Ninewa, including by using forces trained in civilian protection;
  • Investing in stabilization, reconstruction, and reconciliation to address immediate risks and long-term drivers of violence;
  • Pursuing justice and accountability for the thousands of victims of Islamic State violence in northern Iraq by starting prosecutions for crimes such as murder and sexual assault;
  • Compelling the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Authority to find a durable political solution for the disputed territory between them.

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

A 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, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance NGO.

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