Fall of Mosul

What is going on in Syria is horribly distressing.  But let not that be a distraction for the events in Iraq where Al-Qaeda licensees, ISIS, are no more settling for freak bomb explosions.  They now have big plans of taking over entire cities within the Sunni majority areas of Iraq, identical to their failed but ongoing strategy in Syria.  To make matters worse, unlike the gallantry steadily shown by the Syrian Arab Army, what the Iraqi Army recently displayed in Mosul was extreme cowardice.  If that doesn't change fast, the goal of ISIS to expand its grip may not eventually be a failure in Iraq.

On June 9th the target was Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city of 1.5 million and the capital of the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh.  Mosul is only 250 miles north of Baghdad and close to the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The city was taken by surprise.  Witnesses saw pitched  battles between the Iraqi army and  ISIS.  Military tanks  trying to combat black banner-waving militants flooded the streets of Mosul  filled with burned cars, shattered buildings and black smoke.  It didn't take long for  ISIS to seize the provincial government  headquarters, all security bases and several other major government buildings.  The  governor of the province residing in Mosul had no other choice but to  flee the city as did at least half a million residents of Mosul.  Thousands of Iraqis  living in Mosul have abandoned their homes.  A resident of Mosul told Wall Street Journal: "The whole of Mosul collapsed today. We’ve fled our homes and neighborhoods, and we’re looking for God’s mercy. We are waiting to die."  -  (Mahmoud Al Taie).   The exodus of refugees in cars and on foot from Mosul heading for Erbil, Kirkuk or Baghdad present the same painful images as the fleeing of civilians in Syria.

The bitter-sweet joke is that Nouri Al-Malki  is reportedly requesting the White House for US drone pilots and US airmen to  return and confront ISIS.  After sending tons of sophisticated  weapons to its Al Qaeda buddies in Libya and Syria, the US is now being  called to handle its Frankenstein.

In his excellent piece, Black flags over Mosul, author Michael Whitney writes (excerpts):

"The fall of Mosul is not a minor setback that can be corrected by deploying special ops and lobbing a few bombs on targets in Mosul. It is a complete policy collapse  that illustrates the shortcomings of the abysmal War on Terror. The American invasion and occupation of Iraq is entirely responsible for the problems that plague Iraq today.  .. 

The unexpected jihadi blitz has left President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy in tatters and created a crisis of incalculable magnitude. The administration will now be forced to focus its attention and resources on this new flashpoint hoping that it can prevent the makeshift militia from marching on Baghdad and toppling the regime of Nouri al Maliki.  The unexpected jihadi blitz has left President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy in tatters and created a crisis of incalculable magnitude. The administration will now be forced to focus its attention and resources on this new flashpoint hoping that it can prevent the makeshift militia from marching on Baghdad and toppling the regime of Nouri al Maliki. 

Events on the ground are moving at breakneck speed as the extremists have expanded their grip to Saddam’s birthplace in Tikrit and north to Baiji, home to Iraq’s biggest refinery." 

Though White House spend over $20 training Iraqi security forces, reportedly they left their weapons and fled as soon as Al-Qaeda began approaching Mosul.  Al-Qaeda is now in possession of Iraq military helicopters and tanks abandoned by Iraqi soldiers. ..

Obama and Bush have achieved what bin Laden only could have dreamt of, a city of two million people falling into the hands of his extremist spawn while Washington gazes helplessly from the sidelines. That’s what you call failure with a capital “F”.  Let’s face it: If the ISIS starts taking out pipelines and oil installations around Mosul, it’s Game-Over USA.  Oil futures will spike, markets will crash, and the global economy will slump back into a severe recession. Obama has a very small window to reverse the current dynamic or there’s going to be hell to pay.  .... 

The report suggests that the ISIS is not a ragtag amalgam of rabid fanatics, but a highly-motivated and disciplined modern militia with clearly outlined political and territorial objectives. If this is the case, then it is likely that they will not march on Baghdad after all, but will tighten their grip on the predominantly Sunni areas establishing a state within a state. And this is precisely why the Obama administration may choose to stay out of the conflagration altogether, because the goals of the ISIS coincide with a similar US plan to create a “soft partition” that dates back to 2006.   According to the New York Times the “so-called soft-partition plan ….calls for dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions…There would be a loose Kurdistan, a loose Shiastan and a loose Sunnistan, all under a big, if weak, Iraq umbrella.”


New York Times stated: "The militants freed thousands of prisoners and took over military bases, police stations, banks and provincial headquarters, before raising the black flag of the jihadi group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria over public buildings. The bodies of soldiers, police officers and civilians lay scattered in the streets.  Having consolidated control over Sunni-dominated Nineveh Province, armed gunmen were heading on the main road to Baghdad, Iraqi officials said, and had already taken over parts of Salahuddin Province."

Bloomberg writes: "Dead bodies are scattered around western Mosul due to the fighting. The city is empty and most shops are closed." .....  "Fighters from a breakaway al-Qaeda group are in position to seize Iraqi energy infrastructure after taking control of Mosul in a strike that highlights Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s weakening grip on the country. …A day after guerrillas drove police and soldiers from the nation’s second-biggest city, there were conflicting reports on the situation in Baiji, north of Baghdad and home to Iraq’s biggest refinery"

ISIS is working precisely according to its title that describes its goal of establishing a joint caliphate in Iraq and Syria.  In 2011, the Syrian war was seen exclusively as a Syrian problem.  By 2012 it became a regional problem as its ramifications began spilling on to neighboring countries.  What we are watching now are some significant moves that are changing the geography of the region and redefining the Iraq / Syria borders.  Probably, this could be just the beginning.  ISIS is already active in Syria.  It's coordination with its comrades in Mosul will likely help to simplify its mission and add to its strength.   Not to mention, ISIS is already in control of one of the major oil refineries of Iraq  at Baiji.   According to reports, Baiji wasn't captured with guns and bullets.  ISIS took control of it by a single phone call, ordering the Iraqi police and army to put down their weapons and get out of Baiji.  

The US forces trained the Iraqi security typically in their own 'style.'  Thus, pre and post Saddam Iraq can only be described as a country that has gone  'from despotism to despotism.'  Torture and sexual abuse that was commonplace in prisons such as Abu Ghareeb during the American occupation are carried out by local Iraqi forces 'skilfully' trained by the Americans and British.  Rape has become a common threat for female prisoners.  The Sunnis have been blatantly at the receiving end and often victims of awful atrocities by government forces mostly in places like Salahuddin and Anbar.  As soon as the occupying troops left, Nouri al-Malki wasted no time targeting Iraq's prominent Sunnis.  Men and women are randomly detained for many alleged reasons such as terrorism, assisting potential terrorists, or simply "security threats" or as hostages to pressure their relatives to admit crimes they never committed.  

Could such gross violations in post-Saddam Iraq have worked in favor of ISIS?   It's a difficult question to answer considering the fact that ISIS is no less a bunch of savage sectarian fanatics which has been ostracized by some major groups within Al-Qaeda itself for its egocentric and monopolizing attitude.  But there seems to be no other explanation for the battlefield triumphs of ISIS, except that the hatred for Shiia-dominated Iraq by the country's Sunni community has surpassed its hatred for ISIS.
There is much talk from the Iraqi government of a counter-attack to retake Mosul by "special anti-terrorist troops"  and it's also optimistic on getting help from the peshmerga Kurdish fighters.   But the Iraqi government bragged similar claims when ISIS captured Fallujah in January of 2014 and seized control of Ramadi.  Yet it failed to retake Fallujah where Sunni anger against Nouri Al-Malki's government played an instrumental role benefiting ISIS, even though Fallujah is a much smaller city than Mosul. 

With the fall of Fallujah and Mosul, and ISIS in control of Tikrit and Baiji, the plan of "soft partitions" upheld by both the US and al-Qaeda seems to be moving ahead unhindered.