After ISIS: How to Win the Peace in Iraq and Libya

After ISIS: How to Win the Peace in Iraq and Libya

By Hayder al-Khoei & Ellie Geranmayeh & Mattia Toaldo
04th January, 2017



  • ISIS has suffered significant setbacks in both Iraq and Libya with the battles for Mosul and Sirte representing potential turning-points.
  • Without a clear political strategy to guide post-ISIS efforts, these military gains could quickly be lost. Both countries could again become breeding grounds for conflict and extremism, exacerbating European security and migration challenges. This risk is especially high for Iraq given the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
  • The new US administration is likely to invest less energy than its predecessors in strengthening political orders which provide stability. European states must step up their own efforts.
  • Iraq will need increased efforts on representative power-sharing, including deeper decentralisation, locally directed reconstruction, and security sector reform.
  • In Libya, Europeans should focus on broadening the local and international coalition supporting the UN-backed political agreement, in part through economic tools. They should also focus increased economic recovery efforts on the reconstruction of Sirte and Benghazi.


In Iraq:

  • Refocus from humanitarian aid to economic development: the EU and its member states should agree on a timeline to gradually shift existing economic stabilisation funds for Iraq towards development programmes that aim to promote job creation and long-term investment in the country.
  • Support decentralisation efforts led by Baghdad: European actors should support the Iraqi central government in its efforts to roll out a process of decentralisation.
  • Push for political progress within the KRG: European states should, for example, press for greater transparency in government spending and oil exports.
  • Reform the security sector: European member states should work together with the central government through increased financial aid and training to bolster and professionalise the Iraqi security and intelligence apparatus.
  • Fill potential gaps in US-Iran channels: European member states such as the UK, France and Germany will become important players in defusing areas of tensions between Tehran and Washington that could provoke over-reactions against one another’s military positions in Iraq.

In Libya:

  • Strengthen the political coalition behind Tripoli’s government: the EU and its member states, through bilateral and multilateral mediation and engagement with Libyan political actors, could work to expand the coalition-backing unity efforts.
  • Help Libyans build a decentralised state: the EU should help to (1) unlock funds from the central government for municipalities; (2) encourage coordination and provide advice and recommendations on best practice; (3) promote capacity-building through ‘on the job training’ in Europe for Libyan civil servants.
  • Support deep reconciliation efforts: EU member states should provide logistical support or ‘adopt’ tracks of dialogue similar to those pursued in the past by countries undergoing democratic transition, like Spain or Bulgaria.
  • Pursue military de-escalation: the EU and its member states should support efforts to reach a military deal between different actors in western and southern Libya.
  • Conclude an economic deal to keep the country united: the EU and its member states must give concrete support to a deal that saves the country from economic collapse while addressing the legitimate concerns of eastern Libya about marginalisation within a unified Libya.
  • Do not forget Sirte (and Benghazi): de-mining, humanitarian relief, and building the conditions for the safe return of IDPs are priorities not just for Sirte’s residents but also for the stability of the rest of western Libya.
  • Deal with regional powers and Russia through the UNSC, and set up an EU member state ‘contact group’: its main policy should be to preserve the ‘architecture’ of resolutions and agreements negotiated by the UN and approved by the UNSC over the past two years with the support of the US, Egypt and Russia.

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