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Islamic Militant Attack on Mosul Part of Bigger Plans, Analysts Say

By Judit Neurink 11/6/2014
Families fleeing Mosul toward the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw
Families fleeing Mosul toward the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Because it had been a flashpoint in the conflict between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis Mosul, Iraq’s second city, had a fortified presence of the Iraqi army and police. Yet, fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) did not need much time or effort to capture the city.

There was no major battle, analysts contacted by Rudaw say. The Iraqi army simply melted away. The same happened in Fallujah earlier this year, and ISIS has been in control of that city ever since. It happened again when ISIS fighters moved from Mosul into Kirkuk: the entire 47th brigade fled from Hawija.

“The officers left the checkpoints,” says Abbas Muslim, a lawyer from Mosul. “And if the officers do not fight, the soldiers will not fight, either.”

There are reports that the military was ordered out. But in Mosul the soldiers left most of their weapons behind, and opened the way for ISIS to help themselves to the helicopters and other military equipment at the military airport just outside town. The jihadists unlocked prisons, releasing members and sympathizers who would join the fight.

Many in Iraq wonder how it is possible that their army could fail so badly.

“Our soldiers are not professional,” says Muslim. But he wonders if that is the real explanation. He might speak for many when he declares that “the unexpected collapse of the army can only be explained if it is part of a bigger plan.”

A number of developments have been considered as odd. Muslim mentions how 500,000 people left the city within two days.

“Like in 1991, we were told by the media that the security would collapse, even before it did. People heard it and fled their neighborhoods. Not because of the violence around them, as ISIS would only arrive 24 hours later, but because they were made scared.”

People saw Iraqi Parliament Chairman Osama al-Nujaifi answer questions after news that Mosul had fallen. But where was Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who among wide powers he has given himself also heads the Ministry of Defence?

When he finally spoke, the premier called for a State of Emergency – impossible to impose without army and police in the city. And he asked for help from outside while -- apart from taking delivery of the first F-16 fighter from the United States -- he has refused American military help time and again.

And then Maliki called on all capable Iraqis to pick up arms and fight the ISIS -- in fact inciting militias to become active again.

He could have asked the Kurds to send in the Peshmarga forces, but he did not. And the Kurds could not reply to a request from the governor of Mosul for military help, as they first need the okay from Baghdad.

That there was a plan, people say, can be seen from the fact that many VIPs left Mosul before ISIS entered. Were they informed beforehand? Possibly, as local anti-Maliki activists are known to have sided with radical Muslims, and former army officers made deals with al-Qaida.

ISIS, which was born in Iraq under the wings of the most radical fighters in al-Qaida, has been diminished in Syria over the past months. It has been eyeing Iraq as the alternative for its vision of an Islamic Caliphate. That is why it got a hold on Fallujah and is still trying to conquer Ramadi.

Some analysts say that capturing Mosul means a change of plan.

“They decided to take the northern route to Baghdad, when things did not work out in Ramadi,” says journalist Khidher Domle, who is specialized in war and peace issues. The new route passes by Kirkuk and Tikrit; the first battles are already being fought around Kirkuk.

So who is helping ISIS to the new equipment the fighters were showing off when entering Mosul? The TV images of the long column of vehicles mounted with rocket launchers and guns have greatly impressed many civilians.

The answer, says Domle, is Iran: “It wants to open a big gap between the Sunnis and Shiites. You can hear most people, even the more simple ones, say that Iran is behind it.”

Iran has been supporting Maliki ever since he came to office some eight years ago. What has he got to gain by the chaos that ISIS is causing? It could help unite the Shiites behind him, out of fear that ISIS will also take over Baghdad and rob them of their power. And that could be helpful in forming the awaited new government, as the Kurds and Sunnis have not been willing to work with Maliki again.

There are some indications the chaos is controlled. In Mosul, guards have been placed at the banks and the government buildings. But the office holding details of the population was burned down, erasing information about who is registered and owns possessions in the city. And what to make of the fact that the Kurdish-held eastern neighborhoods were left untouched by ISIS?

What a risk Maliki is taking, if this analysis is correct. People in Baghdad are now worried about when ISIS will reach the city. Within days, they fear, considering the progress the militants have made so far. While militias are getting ready to receive them warmly, civilians must decide to leave, or stay and sit it out.


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KIM | 11/6/2014
Time to reclaim all Kurdish areas back now. We got our economic independence. This will take 1-2 years. Last is independence.
HerKurdEbin | 11/6/2014
"And what to make of the fact that the Kurdish-held eastern neighborhoods were left untouched by ISIS?" If isis threathens Kurds directly the Peshmerga will crush the whole of isis in a matter of days and annex the Kurdish regions in Mosul, isis knows Kurds are no arabs, Kurds wont leave their post even if they are up against 1v1000 they will wait behind a corner wait for them to pass put the AK-47 on full auto and take as many isis thugs down with them. Kurds are no arabs.
Gerdi | 11/6/2014
What the hell the Iraqi army have deserted all parts of Kerkuk which was under their command! they are literally forcing Kurdish hands because we will not wait for ISIL to pour into Kerkuk, they already have started to in some arab populated regions. Mosul was very different because we had no claim on Arab lands outside our control there, Kerkuk is all Kurdish but some parts inhabited by illegal Arab settlers and we will not have it fall under ISIL.
Hersh | 11/6/2014
The reason why ISIL didn't attack Kurdish areas in Mosul is they don't want to open two fronts, they've learned a little from Syria. If this is ploy by Iran then yes it is to make the shiites rally behind Malaki and when they are 100% behind him he can move all he's forces to defeat the sunni's first then probably attack kurds, no regional or world power will complain because none of them want a break up of Iraq or see groups like ISIL in controll. The fact he refuses help from both the US and Kurds says it all, the question is what will Turkey do if Malaki attacks Kurds? I don't think they will sit by and allow such a thing when they have billions invested here.
Shexmus Amed | 11/6/2014
Peshmerga ought to stay out of this for as long as ISIS stay clear of Kurdish territory. On the other hand, there is a hell of a lot of heavy weapons out there that will be of better use in the hands of Kurdish forces than either the Iraqi army or the ISIS. It is unbelievable to think the Iraqi army abandoned arms and gear to equip several divisions in the hands of the enemy as they beat a chaotic retreat.
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