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Will Mosul remain under military rule after liberation from IS?

Iraqi politicians have proposed appointing a military governor for Mosul after its liberation to prevent the city from falling back into the hands of terrorists.
Members of Iraqi special police force stand during clashes with Islamic State fighters in al-Shura, south of Mosul, Iraq October 29, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2QZ1T

BAGHDAD — Jasim Mohammed Jaafar, a member of parliament close to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and a leader of the Shiite National Alliance, told local media Oct. 20 that the proposal to appoint a military governor in Mosul after its liberation from the Islamic State (IS) is a realistic solution that Abadi seeks to bring about.

The political forces are focused on this proposal, particularly since some of them believe that the security conditions and regional ambitions in Ninevah province require a customary military rule that would put the security situation under control and protect Iraq's second-largest city in terms of population from fragmentation and partition.

The other parties are all ears when it comes to this perspective, with every advancement of the Iraqi forces battling IS to restore the city and with the Turkish interference in Iraqi affairs and the future of Ninevah.

In an interview on Al-Ahed satellite TV Oct. 31, Kadhim al-Shammari, the head of Al-Watnayh coalition, said that his bloc supports “the appointment of a military governor for Mosul, as a part of Abadi’s constitutional powers.”

Jaafar told Al-Monitor, “The only solution to protect the future of Mosul lies in Abadi’s proposal during the National Alliance’s meeting on Oct. 17. The proposal provides for selecting a citizen of the city who would be widely acceptable by the various political parties and not affiliated with any of the political parties to serve as military governor in Ninevah. His task would be to govern Ninevah militarily, until the provincial councils are elected, hopefully next year.”

Through this proposal, Abadi seeks to distance Mosul from the regional and local conflict that started to escalate, especially following Qasem Soleimani’s visit to military units taking part in the operation to liberate Mosul, said Asia News Aug. 1, which is affiliated with the Iraqi National Congress. Some observers interpreted this news as a response to the Turkish intervention in Iraq and stated ambitions in Mosul, particularly in light of the weak and timid statements on the part of the Iraqi government.

Taking into account all of these considerations, which seem logical, Abdul Aziz Ithawi, a member of the Al-Nahrain Center for Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Such a call is contrary to the constitution and is an overlook of all powers granted to the prime minister.” He ruled out the possibility that Abadi would make “such a move.”

In light of the conflict flaring in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region, there are several proposals to guarantee the future of the disputed city. The Kurds believe that declaring Sinjar an independent province is a logical solution that would meet the partners’ desires. The Turkmens and Christians perceive that turning Tal Afar and the Ninevah Plains into provinces will ease the fears of the political partners. Also, former Governor of Ninevah province Atheel al-Nujaifi desires to turn Ninevah into an independent region.

Yet Ninevah provincial council member Hossam Abbar told Al-Monitor that a political dialogue based on common foundations is “the best solution to break the impasse in Ninevah.” He added that the appointment of a military governor in Mosul is “a legal violation and overlook of the rights of [the party entitled] to form the local government in the province, which is originally formed in accordance with the law and constitution.”

This view is in line with that of parliamentarian for Ninevah province Jamila Obeidi. She refuses any action or decision by the central government before Ninevah is completely free. Obeidi told Al-Monitor, “There must be an extensive and comprehensive discussion with all political forces on Abadi’s project.” She argued, “It is a critical issue and is everyone's concern.”

She added, “It seems that Abadi has concerns about publicly putting forward this proposal, out of fear of causing reactions that could affect the course of the events in the battle.” She concluded that the city's residents will agree on any solution that could preserve the city and warned against the appointment of a figure hailing from outside Ninevah.

This proposal seems acceptable for some Sunni parties in the Iraqi National Forces Alliance. Raad al-Dahlaki, a member of parliament of the alliance, said that there is a need to listen to the Iraqi National Forces Alliance’s perspective in regard to the selection of a military governor for Ninevah.

Dahlaki stressed to Al-Monitor the alliance's rejection of any scenario for Ninevah province before its liberation, saying, “The National Forces Alliance does not oppose any proposal that would serve the interest of the city and its people.”

According to legal expert Tareq Harb, the military governor does not have authority over civilians and his task is purely military, similarly to the tasks of the military operations’ chief.

In case Abadi fails to appoint the Mosul military governor, other scenarios will be put forward to manage the city, including that the former governor takes over his previous tasks, which is rejected by some parties that accuse Nujaifi of collaborating with neighboring countries. Moreover, the provincial council could resume its work and hold elections to choose a new governor. This would be accompanied with the federal police, which will be under the command of the commander in chief of the armed forces, taking control over the city, out of fear of any conflict between local officials and the forces there.

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