Iraq faces vast challenges in securing, rebuilding Mosul

With Mosul in ruins and nearly a million displaced, Iraq now faces the enormous task of restoring order and rebuilding its second city. (AFP)
Updated 03 August 2017
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Iraq faces vast challenges in securing, rebuilding Mosul

MOSUL: With Mosul in ruins and nearly a million displaced, Iraq now faces the enormous task of restoring order and rebuilding its second city after driving out Daesh.
After eight months of gruelling fighting against Daesh, Iraqi forces are in control of Mosul.
But the famed Old City has been reduced to rubble and the iconic leaning minaret of its Al-Nuri mosque, the image of which adorns the 10,000 dinar note, lies in ruins.
The ancient, crowded alleys have become a silent maze of stone and iron skeletons, marked by mountains of rubble, craters and burned-out cars emitting a putrid odour of decaying bodies.
“The price of freedom is very high,” said Omar Fadel, a municipality employee who returned a month ago to his neighborhood of old Sinaaya, close to the ruins of the Al-Nuri mosque.
“We lost our houses, our money and above all, people, our loved ones.”
Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said that Mosul represents “the biggest stabilization challenge the UN has ever faced — the scale, the complexity, the scope of it.”
Out of 54 residential quarters, “15 are destroyed, 23 moderately damaged, 16 lightly damaged,” she said.
In eight months of combat, 948,000 people fled their houses, far beyond the UN’s most pessimistic predictions of 750,000 displaced.
Like Fadel, some have already returned. But 320,000 are still living in camps and another 384,000 are staying with relatives or in mosques, living on humanitarian aid, according to the UN.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared the city “liberated” on July 9, but the threat of violence has not disappeared. An unknown number of jihadists mingled with the flood of civilians fleeing the fighting.
With few resources, “the local police can’t, at this stage, hold the area,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, a security official at the provincial council of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital.
The job of securing the city might be entrusted to a “joint force” made up of Iraq’s counterterrorism service, the federal police and the army, which led the battle, a US adviser to the federal police said.
Authorities also set up a provincial intelligence center, the first in Iraq, two months ago to “locate terrorist bases and sleeping cells, arrest and hand suspects over to the judiciary,” Ibrahim said.
Meanwhile, workers have begun the tough task of clearing the damage left by the fighting, revealing hundreds of civilians buried under the rubble.
The streets need to be cleared of explosive devices left by the jihadists.
Next begins the work of rebuilding. The UN says the first phase of “stabilization” — providing infrastructure, housing, education and a police force — will cost at least $707 million.
“In the heavily damaged districts that are almost completely destroyed, we have to expect that this will take months, if not years,” Grande said.
“The families who come from those districts — we are talking about 230,000 to 240,000 families — will probably not be able to go back to their homes for a very long time.”
The UN has called for more international aid to help reconstruct the city, but less than half the aid needed for 2017 has been donated so far.
Mosul residents do not want to see rebuilding efforts confined to Iraq’s government, which is seen as corrupt, sectarian and distant.
In Baghdad, “they think that all of Mosul is Daesh,” said Issam Hassan, a young man in an east Mosul market.
Political analyst Ziad Al-Zinjari said he was “not optimistic” about Mosul’s future.
“There are signs that the city will go back to square one, that the same mistakes will be repeated,” he said.
Many fear that “corrupt people and thieves” will take over important posts, armed groups will emerge again and the authorities are “lagging behind in the reconstruction and resumption of public services,” he added.
Despite the defeat suffered by Daesh, the groups that united to fight it could easily splinter as rivalries re-emerge.
Civil society activist Majed Al-Husseini said that unless Mosul is declared a disaster zone and foreign organizations are involved in reconstruction, “political conflicts will bring back murders in the streets.”
“Shiite militias are setting up in the city, which the Sunni majority sees as a provocation... the Kurds have their sights on the disputed areas (and) Sunni politicians have conflicts between them for personal interests,” he said.
Years of rule by Daesh has also created divisions.
Some pro-government tribes are demanding “compensation” from other tribes who had pledged allegiance to the jihadists before they will allow them back into the city.
“The most important national priority is national reconciliation,” Grande said.
But on both sides of the Tigris river dividing Mosul, residents say communal divisions are mainly a political creation.
“The city’s architecture will never be the same again, but the spirit of Mosul, the solidarity of the inhabitants, will not change.”


Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

Updated 53 min 43 sec ago

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be canceled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organizations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behavior,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.