Iraq itself remains markedly unstable. Isis sleeper cells have already emerged to attack supposedly safe areas of Mosul – and as Dr Dylan O’Driscoll of Manchester University’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute points out, Iraqi society has become increasingly militarised.
The formalisation of Shia militias into the government-aligned Popular Mobilisation Units has stoked fear among Sunni communities in northern Iraq, many of whom have accused the PMU of carrying out ‘revenge’ attacks on their men and boys during Operation Inherent Resolve to retake Mosul.
Christian and Yazidi armed units have emerged – and no group trusts another. “Another pressing issue is the recent call for a referendum for independence by the Kurds,” Dr O’Driscoll said in an email.
“Every faction [is] linked to a militia of some kind. The competition between militias for the support of the population builds divides in a society that needs to come together to address the wider political and structural problems,” he added.