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The crisis in Baghdad and the liberation of Mosul

By Paul Iddon 1/5/2016
Protesters pressure the Iraqi government to implement reforms. AP photo.
Protesters pressure the Iraqi government to implement reforms. AP photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Less than a fortnight ago US President Barack Obama declared that by the end of this year conditions would be right for the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city which has been an Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold since it was captured in June 2014.    

But on Saturday Iraq’s government – a key partner that Washington has been talking to about preparations for Mosul’s liberation – was fighting for its own survival.

A massive wave of protesters – most loyalists of the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who time and again has demonstrated his overarching influence over Iraqi politics – stormed the parliament in Baghdad, angered that their months-long pro-reform protests had been ignored.

They moved after Sadr – who said he was tired of a corrupt government that would not act on its promise of throwing out corrupt ministers for technocrats – warned he could “destroy” the government.

The storming of the legislature came after nearly a year of demonstrations, as Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and a parliament wracked by factional infighting, failed to reach agreement on reforms.

Obama said last month that he expects to see Mosul liberated soon.

“My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall," the US president said.

Only late last week, US Vice President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Baghdad to lend support to the embattled Abadi and discuss plans for the Mosul operation.

Following his 90-minute meeting with Abadi on Thursday Biden said he was “very optimistic,” after discussing “plans in store for Mosul and coordination going on with all of our friends here.”  

The vice president also said that Iraq’s progress against ISIS is “real” and “serious.”

Biden had been, reportedly according to a senior US administration official, hoping that some progress could be made on Mosul before the extremely hot Iraqi summer.

Abadi tweeted in late March that the “first stage of our offensive” to “liberate areas surrounding Mosul” had begun.

Iraqi forces have been fighting ISIS for weeks on the Makhmour front south of Erbil, and offensive considered an important prelude to the Mosul battle.

But in those areas, despite close US air and artillery support, progress has been slow. The momentum may slow down even more with the political paralysis now prevailing in Baghdad.

In comments that now seem prescient, a senior US official who traveled with Biden told the LA Times last Thursday that, “It’s our sense that if momentum is lost in the campaign, it’s more likely to happen on the political side than the military side.”

Meanwhile the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, which have been bravely fighting ISIS without the heavier and more modern weapons the US has provided to the Iraqi Army, have been clear that they will not lead the battle for Mosul or attempt to retake the city on their own.

With the political paralysis now gripping Baghdad, Iraq’s second-largest city may yet remain the militants’ stronghold in Iraq for some more time to come.

Paul Iddon is a Rudaw reporter based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region.


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K | 1/5/2016
I believe that the Kurdish forces should liberate Mosul in order to end the suffering thousands of Kurds and Christians. Mosul belongs to Kurdistan; only after the first world war the British made Mosul as a gift to their appointed Arab king. In the past 100 years of Arabisation and Turkisation of parts Kurdistan, policy of anfal and destruction of Kurdish culture and language the people that have been brought to these Kurdish places believes that the place belongs to them. We have to be ruthless to take our lands back but we have to be democratic and civilised not to oppress the minorities and we shall create equal opportunities for all. But liberating Mosul and hand it back to the Baghdad regime will be the most foolish thing to do.
tyler | 1/5/2016
From me over here in the USA to you all in Iraq/Syria. Good luck and be safe. Sorry we kinda made things worse, but it was prity bad anyway:P
FAUthman | 1/5/2016
I disagree. The political track is totally separate from the military. What is happening in Makhmour in preparations for Mosul has nothing to do with the mess in parliament. In fact it is almost to Abadi`s advantage to have a dysfunctional parliament in the conduct of the war on ISIS esp in Misul. The executive branch can then function with freedom being independent of the legislature.
giuseppe | 1/5/2016
for some one may be it is like to jump out of the flying pan into the fire
T.I. | 1/5/2016
The solution to clear Iraq and Syria of ISIL has been staring the Americans in the face all along. The Peshmerga and the YPG will be willing to take Mosul and Raqqa from ISIL if they're armed and equipped with the same amount of modern/heavy weapons and the same gear as the "Iraqi" army. In fact they can clear most of Iraq and Syria of ISIL. The price would be full recognition of the Rojava federal state in Syria and the confederate Kurdish state which has all the Kurdish territories included in confederate Iraq. It's the bargain of the century and will cost the Americans a fraction of what they've wasted on the Iraqi forces and so called moderate opposition in Syria.

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