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The War After the War
The War After the War
The Insurrection in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado
The Insurrection in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado

The War After the War

Originally published in Foreign Policy

The Islamic State stands on the brink of a twin defeat. Mosul, the largest city under its control, has almost entirely fallen from its grasp, and Kurdish-led forces are advancing into its de facto capital of Raqqa. Now, as the saying goes, comes the hard part. The Islamic State’s territorial setbacks have introduced new questions about the basic future of the Middle East. Crisis Group's Robert Malley was one of six policymakers and regional experts assembled by Foreign Policy to answer these new questions.

For most of the United States’ allies in the Middle East, the war against the Islamic State never was the primary concern. Even as Western nations decreed this struggle a universal priority, these nations largely humored Washington, echoed its alarm, joined its international coalition — and looked the other way. Almost from the start, their gaze was fixed on the wars after the war against the Islamic State.

For Turkey, what mattered was the fight against Kurds, and for Kurds a self-determination struggle; for Saudi Arabia and Iran, their regional contest took priority; within the Sunni Arab world, competition between the more Islamist (Qatar and Turkey) and the less so (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates) was viewed as existential; among Iraqis, a sectarian and ethnic race for post-conflict spoils had pride of place. The counter-Islamic State campaign always served as an imperfect cover for regional conflicts and contradictions. With the Islamic State increasingly in the rearview mirror, these will be laid bare.

When the dust settles, Washington will confront a Middle East struggling with familiar demons. It will also face its own familiar dilemma: How deeply should it get involved? Allies will plead for it to leap into the fray. They know Washington’s current predilections and will cater to them, dressing up raw power plays in more appealing garb. President Donald Trump’s administration is preoccupied with countering terrorism, combating Iran, and — no less important — doing whatever former President Barack Obama did not. That’s how America’s allies will frame their respective pursuits.

There is evidence already. Saudi Arabia and the UAE presented their war in Yemen as pushback against Tehran and their attempt to bring Qatar to heel as an anti-Iranian and anti-terrorist gambit. Syria’s Kurds, fearful of being jettisoned by Washington once their utility in the anti-Islamic State fight is exhausted, champion themselves as long-term bulwarks against Iranian influence and Turkish-inspired Islamism — while Ankara paints those same Kurds with a broad terrorist brush. Egypt masquerades its indiscriminate intolerance of all Islamists as a holy battle against terrorism.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

Podcast / Africa

The Insurrection in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and guest co-host Comfort Ero talk to Crisis Group’s Deputy Africa Director Dino Mahtani about the violence in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado region, Maputo’s response and prospects for a regional intervention.

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and guest co-host Comfort Ero, our Interim Vice President and Africa Program Director, talk to Crisis Group’s Deputy Africa Director Dino Mahtani about the insurrection unfolding in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region. The militants - known locally as al-Shabab, and now labelled by the U.S. as a branch of the Islamic State - have been terrorising the population for years now without clearly stating their demands. Dino talks about who they really are and what their interests might be. He also discusses the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Maputo coming up in two weeks’ time, when the bloc plans to lobby for the deployment of a regional force, amid growing fears that the conflict could spread beyond the borders of Mozambique. Dino unpacks the government’s response to al-Shabab, its turn to Rwanda for military support as it attempts to diversify its security partners, and what the next steps should be.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.


Interim President
Interim Vice President & Program Director, Africa
Deputy Director, Africa Program