Iraq Has One Chance to Save Mosul, And It Might Screw It Up

WIB front October 21, 2016 0

Kurdish peshmerga during an exercise on Oct. 12, 2016. U.S. Army photo Podcast — who takes control, who rebuilds and what becomes of the Islamic State by MATTHEW GAULT...
Kurdish peshmerga during an exercise on Oct. 12, 2016. U.S. Army photo

Podcast — who takes control, who rebuilds and what becomes of the Islamic State

by MATTHEW GAULT

Mosul is an ancient city. The Greeks encountered it in 401 B.C. It was a center of manufacturing and trade in the Middle Ages. It plays an important role in the oil trade today. It’s also the de facto Iraqi capital of the Islamic State. Out of a population of between 1.5 million and two million, 4,000 to 8,000 are armed extremists.

They now face a combined military force in the tens of thousands, backed up by some of the world’s great military powers, including the United States. The Iraqi army and special forces, Kurdish peshmerga and Shi’ite militias trained by Iran have descended on the city to crush the Islamic State.

A Pentagon-led coalition is also lending support from the air, dropping bombs and spotting targets. In all, some 66 countries are participating in the fight against the Islamic State. The list includes Western nations such as the United States, France, Britain, Denmark and Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia.

Everyone believes Mosul will fall, though opinions differ on how bitter the fight will be and how long it will take. What no one knows is how bad things will be once the fighting stops. How many will flee the fighting and become refugees in a region flooded by them?

Who will rule the city when the fighting ends? The official Iraqi government, Shi’ite militias and the Kurds have all shed each others’ blood in the past.

Peter Van Buren, a diplomat with more than two decades of experience, is not optimistic. This week on War College, Van Buren walks through the ins and outs of the Mosul offensive and how he lost hope for the future.