WASHINGTON — A former Iraq mayor applied lessons from his time dealing with al Qaida to the current ISIS threat, and said that success depends on gaining trust and intelligence from the Iraqi public.
“If we win the people we win the battle,” said Maj. Gen. Najim Abed al-Jabouri on Wednesday at an event hosted by the New America Foundation. “We have to listen to their concerns and we cannot hold them guilty for the crimes of ISIS that they did not have anything to do with.”
Jabouri was the Mayor of Tel Afar, Iraq, from 2005 to 2008, including when, according to him, al Qaida was defeated in 2006. He acknowledged that the situation is different today, but said the same principles apply.
He explained that before 2005, the people of Iraq had little trust in both Iraqi and American security forces, and were unwilling to cooperate or share important information.
However, Jabouri said that Americans worked with Iraqi forces to restrain “bad behavior,” and “once the people learned to trust the Americans and the Iraqi forces, they provided good intelligence that helped the security forces target al Qaida with precision and less damage to their population.”
He argued that military “operations against ISIS must be driven by good intelligence so that the operation can target ISIS without harming the people.”
This sort of intelligence, according to Jabouri, “will only come once the people trust the security forces in it to provide information,” but said that American forces will be more welcomed now than in 2005.
“The people are desperate for help, and they will be glad for American support,” he said.
He explained that ISIS has captured a lot of territory and showed they are a serious threat, but have also “made many mistakes that turned the local people against them,” such as “killing many respected Iraqi military officers living near Mosul,” and “being harsh to the people.”
As suggested, Jabouri thinks it will be difficult to defeat ISIS without the help of American forces, but if they are defeated in Mosul and Tel Afar, “they cannot hold onto Iraq.”
But “most importantly,” he claimed the Sunni people will not fight against ISIS for the long term until there is an end to the De-Baathification law, which is “used not to exclude the Baath, but to exclude Sunnis.”
“As long as this law is used against the Sunni people there will not be true reconciliation in Iraq… And every other Sunni area will not be safe from ISIS,” Jabouri concluded.
“As I said before, if we win the people we win the battle.”