A key fight in a protracted war against extremis. But will victory bring peace, or terror storms across Europe?
Mosul, it is argued, was swept under IS control with ease because of an insufficient state apparatus weakened by American/Western policies of de-Baathification. The ongoing Battle for Mosul, a city in the north of Iraq on the River Tigris with a population of 1.5 million, intensified last month and is the latest in a series of key battles between IS and the state of Iraq. The effort to retake the city that has been under IS control since June 2014 (with the city’s Great Mosque being the site of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s proclamation of the Islamic State) has seen the largest deployment of Iraqi troops within Iraq since the invasion of Iraq by Western coalition forces in 2003. The numbers suggest that the coalition of Iraqi, Iraqi Kurds, Turkish and Western forces outnumbers IS forces by around ten to one. The fate of this city could hold great sway over the future of this relentless conflict that is stinging the heart of the Middle East.
The consensus of reportage suggests that IS know the city better than their opposition, with reports telling of IS trenches all around the city and tyres burning to blur satellite and drone images. Civilians are being used as human shields — despite CNN footage which shows white flags waving from windows and above walls. Anonymous blogger and self-proclaimed historian ‘Mosul Eye’ is operating within Mosul while being hunted down by IS forces. So far, IS has not been halted and they are in a strong position with three divisions worth of American munitions which they seized upon taking the city.
And yet, if the coalition does indeed take back Mosul in order to achieve stability in the Mosul region, it is imperative that the tensions between Iraq and Turkey are eased. In the words of analyst Nehad Ismail:
‘The next battle for Mosul will be charting its political course after the military operation. If the various Iraqi players and the regional powers don’t agree, not only is Mosul doomed but so is Iraq itself. The country will be fragment into three states; Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish. Preventing that is the challenge once ISIS has been run out of town’.
So let’s assume that an Iraqi-led coalition takes back Mosul, pushing IS back into the vacuum of Syria, where do we go from this point? Whatever the outcome, this scenario has and will continue to create more refugees. Another facet to the Mosul question is the need to consider IS’ response if the city is taken (if you are to take a sensationalist, Eurocentric view of the catastrophe). Recent trends suggest that, aside from the atrocities in the region, attacks based in Europe occur when the group is struggling territorially in Iraq and Syria. Being pushed out of Iraq will surely trigger a response of this nature, and given the importance IS puts on propaganda (as do, of course, Western forces) this could add fuel to an IS fire that is dwindling on the Eastern front. IS could switch focus to the capital of Aleppo, a place where Syria’s Ministry of Tourism recently released a promotional video advertising luxury resorts and great weather.
Channel 4 and Al Jazeera have been live streaming the battle for Mosul; a completely novel approach to war coverage. This is something I wouldn’t be surprised to see as an episode on Black Mirror. People have been able to comment and leave emojis on a live stream of the battle, but it’s still considered illegal if I use the internet to stream Legally Blonde 2?
Capitalism does have a ludicrous disposition sometimes.
Regardless of the outcome, people are being displaced by the thousands and many others are losing their lives. Battle wages on and this, though certainly not the end of the Syrian War, is a key fight against Islamic extremism.