North Iraq: Liberation or permanent occupation? – July 17, 2017

On the 10th of this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the Iraqi city of Mosul was “liberated” by the terrorist organization ISIS. This announcement came after more than nine months of fighting by Iraqi and Kurdish forces alongside the International Coalition for Combating Terrorism. These forces have lost a great number of fighters and heavy military equipment, as the number of Iraqi army dead and sectarian militias fighting at its side in the Mosul battle are estimated at over 35.000 soldiers. It is a huge number if we take into account the number of ISIS fighters on the opposing side, which does not exceed 3.000 and fought until last breath. On the other hand, the number of civilian casualties during the battles as a result of the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Iranian sectarian militias against the Muslims who were trying to escape, as well as the air bombings of the international coalition, has exceeded 10,000, while the missing and wounded number many thousands. It is the fifth time this year that the Prime Minister of the Iraqi government proclaims the victory over ISIS in Mosul. This time, victory seems more real, since the terrorist organization has lost 98% of the city’s neighborhoods.

The city of Mosul is of strategic and historical significance for Iraq. It is the first large city to be captured by ISIS at the end of 2013, which then expanded to the center of Iraq to gain control of almost 35% of the Iraqi territory in mid-2014. The organization benefited from Mosul strategic position, to link the eastern part of Syria to northern and central Iraq. ISIS also put in possession the tremendous financial reserves it found at the Central bank of the city, which exceeded one billion dollars. The organization finally took advantage of high-quality oil mined in the countryside. Therefore, Mosul’s loss to ISIS will be an important turning point for the future of the organization in general.

Mosul, after ISIS, will no longer be like before. The terrorist organization will try to transfer its military and administrative structure outside of Iraq and Syria as a last resort before the final end. But the most important point now is the future of the city, as well as the reconstruction of infrastructure, estimated at more than 5 billion dollars.

The conflict does not end here, as the international forces will enter into a new struggle between each other about who will control the city. Iran, which has the largest influence on Iraqi territory and the Iraqi government, is preparing the redesign of the oil and gas pipelines connecting it to the Mediterranean and the European continent. Turkey, on the other hand, who has established a military base two years ago in the north of the city, expects to play a major role in the training and equipping of Iraqi Sunni tribes. Nonetheless, the US will have the final word about its future.

After the loss of the city of Mosul, the existence of ISIS on Iraqi territory is a matter of time. Raqqa battle, which began last month, paved the way for its end in Syria as well. This point was at the top of the debates of the Russian and US Presidents during the recent G20 summit. The two Presidents discussed the future of Syria and Iraq in the after ISIS era. Leaked information says the choice of division is becoming more and more likely. The biggest loser, of course, will be the people of this region.