Skip to content

After Mosul…What Next For Syria and Iraq?

July 26, 2017

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi (C) declaring Mosul’s liberation from Islamic state control in central Mosul city, northern Iraq, on July 10, 2017

KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. July 25, 2017. R. Prince. Notes. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. July 25, 2017. R. Prince. Notes. 

Sitting in a Middle Eastern restaurant, not far from the University of Denver in 2013, a former colleague, who had “drunk the cool aid of humanitarian intervention” (and still imbibes), pontificated how Assad’s Syria would fall in a month, just like Khadaffi did in Libya. Didn’t happen. This year (2017) alone, already, first Aleppo, in western Syria, is liberated from ISIL-al Nusra, seven months later, Mosul in Western Iraq follows suit. As in such urban fighting, the damage is horrendous, but this is war and these are VICTORIES, not defeats for progressive forces, as Washington’s plans of partition for both Syria and Iraq continue to dissolve. 

Intro Remarks: 

As we have done in past shows over seven years, our goal tonight is to deconstruct  mainstream narratives and then actually discern what is actually transpiring with U.S. Middle East policy.

We want to begin with discussing some aspects of the recent Aspen Security Forum that was just completed (July 19-22, 2017) as they relate to developments in the Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria. This is a follow-up on another important annual gathering of “strategic thinkers” – the Herzliya Conference in Israel (which took place June 20-22, 2017

Then we want to discuss the liberation of Mosul, Iraq from ISIL that was completed earlier this month (July, 2017) and how it shifted the balance of power in the region, its implications for Iraq, Syria, ISIL and U.S. policy. ISIL, al Nusra are little other than the mechanisms used to partition the region by global (U.S., UK, France) and regional (Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia) hegemons. Partitioning (what were) strong centralized states (Libya, Iraq, Syria) into smaller units makes them more manageable for energy consortiums, and core-economy governments.

U.S. plans to partition both Syria and Iraq are in disarray, given the gains made on the ground (Aleppo) by the Syrian military and the liberation of Mosul by Iraqi forces.

The Aspen Security Forum:

Let’s start off with some brief comments on a conference that was just completed here in Colorado – The Aspen Security Forum.

The Aspen Security Forum brings together rather prominent (in their own minds anyway) military, political and media leaders to talk about foreign policy.

  • – It is an annual event considered “informal” however sometimes the discussions that take place here have a way of being translated into policy as was the case of the discussions in Aspen which preceded the 2006 Israeli flawed invasion of Lebanon.
  • – It might be going too far to say that the 2006 invasion was planned in Aspen…but it was seriously discussed. My sense is that the military/political leaders floated the idea here to see the reaction and then proceeded. Anyway, I’m interested in the discussions concerning Syria in the recently completed meeting, (July 19-22, 2017)  where certain shifts in U.S. policies were discussed and reflected, essentially that the U.S. and its proxies are losing the war in Syria.

Where the Middle East is concerned, specifically Syria and Iraq, one notes a number themes that were contiunally repeated:

• No self-criticism for the U.S. role in having been mainly responsible for the whole mess (the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq), no criticism of U.S. policy in Syria, Iraq. No one accepts responsibility

• Main concern – nothing short of an obsession: how does the U.S. push out the Russians

• Partitioning Syria remains the U.S. goal, only the tactics have changed.

An analysis that appeared in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper two days ago, on Sunday, July 23, 2017, reflects some of the Aspen discussion:

  • – It argues that the Trump Administration is steering of the diplomatic process has officially been transferred to Russia and Iran, while Turkey, the Saudis, Qatar and the UAE are expected to keep funding their pet militias, pointlessly extending the fighting. [This is overstated; the U.S. still runs the show, just shifting tactical considerations. It also runs counter to what is a considerable U.S. troop buildup in the region, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan].
  • – that the Trump Administration is reducing its role in resolving the conflict… [- Again overstated…but – the situation on the ground in Syria has so shifted away from U.S.-Saudi (and company) – ISIL-like control that no doubt U.S. position in Syrian conflict is continually weakening. What is happening here is not so much a reduction in the U.S. role as a shift in the balance of forces in Syria towards the Syrian government (Assad) and its allies (Iran, Russia) and a relative loss of influence of the U.S. and its regional proxies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, al Nusra, ISIL, etc.]
  • – Aleppo is liberated from ISIL-al Nusra in January, now Mosul in n. Iraq. six months later. [U.S. underestimated Assad government’s staying power, domestic base of support, the impact of Iranian, Russian support and exaggerated the fighting abilities of its proxies]
  • – Washington still seems to cling to the allusion of partitioning Syria though, although the means to do so becomes less feasible. In the end, Trump’s policy on Syria is looking more and more like Obama’s. No U.S. long-term plan other than bringing down Assad which is failing.

The Battle for Mosul, Iraq

We want to zero in on an event covered, but hardly, in the mainstream media here – the liberation of Mosul, Iraq from the hands of ISIL.

– The “Battle for Mosul” is over. ISIS has been defeated and kicked out after a long, vicious battle..- Battle raged from October 16, 2016 to July 10 2017 – nearly nine months. It was liberated from ISIS after nine months of fighting with the city having been virtually destroyed by street to street fighting and U.S. directed bombings – more on this later.

What U.S. coverage there has been, has focused on the humanitarian tragedy, downplaying that most of the destruction was done by ISIL. On the other hand, the political consequences of the Mosul victory have hardly been discussed in the main stream media in the U.S.

If one looks closely at the politics of the battle – the way that ISIL easily – too easily – captured the city, the terrible destruction of the city itself over the nine month period it took to liberate it, what emerges from the confusion is a certain pattern: that in a way somewhat similar to how Washington wants to partition Syria, it also wanted to partition Iraq in order to weaken.

The original population of 2.5 million has fallen to approximately 1.5 million after two years of ISIL rule.

What U.S. coverage there has been, has focused on the humanitarian tragedy, downplaying that most of the destruction was done by ISIL. On the other hand, the political consequences of the Mosul victory have hardly been discussed in the main stream media in the U.S.

If one looks closely at the politics of the battle – the way that ISIL easily – too easily – captured the city, the terrible destruction of the city itself over the nine month period it took to liberate it, what emerges from the confusion is a certain pattern: that in a way somewhat similar to how Washington wants to partition Syria, it also wanted to partition Iraq in order to weaken.

Major city in northern Iraq…

The majority of Mosul’s population were Arabs, with Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens, Kurds, Yazidis, Shabakis, Mandaeans, Kawliya, Circassians in addition to other, smaller ethnic minorities. In religious terms, mainstream Sunni Islam was the largest religion, but with a significant number of followers of the Salafi movement and Christianity (the latter followed by the Assyrians and Armenians), as well as Shia Islam, Sufism, Yazidism, Shabakism, Yarsanism and Mandaeism.

– early estimates are that 40,000 lost their lives – although this is a conservative figure given the fact that many bodies still lie underneath the rubble. Some 900,000 people were displaced by the fighting.
– It was the largest deployment of Iraqi troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.The battle was also the world’s single largest military operation in nearly 15 years, as well as being the most brutal urban battle since World War II.
– It was estimated that removing the explosives from Mosul and repairing the city over the next 5 years would require $50 billion dollars (2017 USD),[85] while Mosul’s Old City alone would cost about $1 billion USD to repair.

ISIL abuses…

• Fears that civilians could be used as human shields by ISIL were realized as it was confirmed the group had been abducting civilians from villages for this purpose, which received widespread condemnation from human rights groups and the United Nations Security Council. There were many other examples of this.

• ISIL has reportedly threatened to execute civilians trying to flee. Snipers, landmines, toxic weapons and trenches are preventing people from attempting to escape. Shortly after the battle began, news surfaced of ISIL kidnapping and executing civilians in Mosul. There are Pentagon reports that ISIL was using civilians as human shields and holding people against their will in the city. Thousands died in mass executions

• The International Business Times reported that ISIL has forced boys from Mosul as young as 12 to fight for them, and that ISIL had trained the children to “behead prisoners and make suicide bombs”.

• An Iraqi intelligence source stated on 21 October that ISIL executed 284 men and boys abducted from Mosul for the purpose of using them as human shields. This was the first of many mass killings of civiliansThe civilians were shot and put in a mass grave.

• 26 October, CNN reported that ISIL has been carrying out “retribution killings” of civilians as revenge for others welcoming Iraqi and Peshmerga troops in villages restored under government control.

• According to Ravina Shamdasani, of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ISIL executed 232 people near Mosul in late October for defying its orders and had taken tens of thousands of people to use as human shields against advancing Iraqi forces. She claimed that ISIL “executed 42 civilians in Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul. Also on Wednesday, ISIL executed 190 former Iraqi Security Forces for refusing to join them, in the Al Ghazlani base near Mosul.”

• In October 2016, Iraqi government has launched a military operation in Mosul to eject ISIL. Based on reports provided by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, more than a million residents in Mosul are at risk and many of them were killed or used as human shields against the advance of Iraqi army., and Iraqi troops which captured 1,500 civilians from mosques and schools in the Dybka refugee camp.

History of the struggle between ISIL and Iraq shows some curious patterns. Classic case of liberating a city by destroying it…

• ISIL seized the city in June of 2014 essentially without a fight as the Iraqi general in charge of the city withdrew his troops without a fight. The general who ordered the withdrawal, Lieutenant Mahdi Gharawi who had been in close cooperation with the U.S. military forces in Iraq, was charged with dereliction of duty. Gharawi is an accused torturer who was once targeted by the U.S. military and the Iraqi criminal justice system. And so ISIL took over.• In 2016, 2017 as the fighting to retake the city heated up, ISIL leadership retreated from the city towards Rakka …protected by U.S. Apache helicopters.

• Even as the attempt to liberate Mosul intensified, curious, U.S. role in which civilians in Mosul got caught in a catch-22. U.S. military dropped flyers urging civilians to flee before massive bombing campaign but ISIL threatened to kill anyone trying to escape the city. If they stay they got bombed by the Americans; if they left they got killed by ISIL

Mosul Consequences:

  • Effort to slice off Mosul region from Iraq, weaken its national unity has failed; its national integrity remains in place.
  • As Iraq regains most of its territory in the western regions near its border with Syria, it forces ISIL/al Nusra into smaller areas of eastern Syria. Pressed from the Syrian military from the west, Iraqi forces from the east, the Kurds from the north, is area of control, activity is constantly shrinking.

Mosul In Ruins…Photo Credit. Felipe Dana, AP. The price of victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: