Carnegie’s Renad Mansour spoke with Laura Kyle on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, alongside Matthew Glanville, former special adviser to the governor of Anbar Province, and Matthew Henman, head of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, to discuss the Iraqi army’s offensive to retake Fallujah from the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Mansour argued that Mosul was more of a symbolic target to retake than Fallujah. Previously, he explained, strategists thought that the way to defeat the Islamic State was to retake Mosul and then move onwards, given that the Islamic State had declared it’s self-described caliphate after taking the Mosul. Iraqi military strategies have had to change, however, with the Islamic State’s return to asymmetric warfare tactics, such as suicide bombings and targeting Baghdad directly.
Mansour pointed out that Fallujah is a somewhat of a quagmire and that occupiers have often faced difficulties in retaking the city. He argued that Iraqi state forces must find a way to win the hearts and minds of Fallujah residents. A significant amount of the Fallujah population support the Islamic State, he explained, which means that a viable alternative needs to be established and the Iraqi forces must convince the population that it is a better option.
Mansour added that there are lessons to be learned from Ramadi, particularly with regards to reconciliation. He argued that the Shia paramilitary groups, particularly those close to Maliki and Iran, cannot serve a large role in reconciliation or liberation, and that there should be a renewed focus on emergining leaders.