Balance of Power: Islamic State’s Most Humiliating Defeat

Iraq Proclaims Mosul Liberated

Three years after the Iraqi military fled in disarray before a brutal offensive that alerted the world to Islamic State’s territorial ambitions, Mosul is back in government hands.

It’s a symbolic blow for the jihadist group, which has now lost its second-most important bastion in the Middle East and faces total defeat in Iraq.

But the job of putting a traumatized city — and nation — back together is just starting. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government is weak and underfunded as oil, its chief revenue source, suffers a three-year price slump. Iraq needs as much as $100 billion to rebuild areas destroyed by fighting, including $1 billion just for Mosul.

Some of the conditions that gave rise to Islamic State remain. For starters there’s the divide between Sunni tribes and a Shiite majority that exploded after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ended Saddam Hussein’s rule. It's also unclear how Kurdish claims to disputed cities, and their push for independence, will play out.

The jihadists are beaten for now but they’ll look for any opportunity to stage a comeback.

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Children hold Iraq's national flag in Mosul on July 9, 2017.
Photographer: FADEL SENNA/AFP

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Photographer: Michael Campanella/Getty Images Europe
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