20 October 2016

Update from the war (the real one)

While Americans have understandably been focused on our own election campaign, a few days ago one of the critical battles in the war against Dâ'ish (ISIL) began.  Over the weekend an all-out push to recapture the city of Mosul was launched by the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and some independent militias, backed by US air support.

With a population (in normal times) of almost two million, Mosul is the largest city ever held by Dâ'ish and the only significant one still in its hands other than its "capital" Raqqa in Syria.  Mosul lies in an area rich in antiquities -- the ruins of Nineveh are just across the Tigris from it -- although of course much of that heritage has been destroyed by Dâ'ish during the occupation because of its pagan roots.  The Mosul area produces oil and includes the Mosul dam, one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the Middle East.  President Obama himself recently emphasized the importance of the battle.

There is little doubt that the liberation effort will succeed.  The attacking forces amount to over 100,000 soldiers, while the Dâ'ish fighters holding the city number only about 5,000 and are so demoralized that a week ago some of them tried to rebel against their own leaders.  Indeed, the Iraqi government has already said that the operation is proceeding faster than expected.

But there are potential problems that go beyond simply winning.  Will civilian suffering -- whether from the fighting or from Dâ'ish scorched-earth tactics -- be so great as to poison the well of future national reconciliation?  Will the predominantly-Shiite Iraqi military commit atrocities against Sunni civilians (as happened in some earlier battles)?  Even after the city is recaptured, will intergroup rivalries just lead to further conflict in the future?  Mosul is close to the border between the Kurdish autonomous area and Iraq proper, and its population is a mix of several groups.  Such problems are not limited to the Middle East.  Recall how the end of World War II led to atrocities in eastern Europe almost as horrific as those of the war itself, as brutalized ethnic groups settled scores and the victorious USSR carried out some of the largest forced population transfers in history.

There's also the problem of Turkey, a major regional military power (and NATO member) whose increasingly authoritarian Islamist regime is aggressively hostile to our Kurdish allies.

In the unlikely event that Mosul falls before Nov. 8, the battle might have some impact on our election, in that a major victory against Dâ'ish would vindicate Obama's Middle East policy and thus help Hillary Clinton.  But in any event the mess in Iraq and Syria will remain an ongoing problem for her Presidency, even after Dâ'ish is finally destroyed.  The defeat of Nazi Germany was a great victory over evil, but it did not mean the end of difficult problems in Europe.  The same will be true of the defeat of Dâ'ish.

[Image:  Mosul in peacetime, showing the Tigris river in the foreground]

5 Comments:

Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I been following this somewhat too, so Thanx for your view here, which you know more about than me. I feel sorry for what Iraq has had to go through (of course, I was against the invasion, but mainly for our costs and time involved). I dont know what to think of this ISIL, ISIS? (or the correct way with a "d" that you use) ... I mean Infidel ... when I look back at our defeat of the Nazi's for instance (with the help of Russia of course and some other allies) ... it is so different to me as far as kind of having it territorially contained (if that makes sense?), when I look at ISIS on the other hand ... I see them as a 'movement', with no real territorial identity, just roaming around I reckon ... being that I thought, even with the defeat of ISIS for instance in this large Iraqi city, as well as like you say of certain cells within ISIS retaliating against their leadership (which is alwayz going to happen too ... even the Nazi's had strong internal issues), I see many that I think, will start other small groups (hopefully I'm wrong) ... and because of anger of the west and our values for example, also of their defeat, and their quest for retaliation, I think they will simply respond with an increase in terror attacks in the usual places of European countries, the U.S. etc ... they are severely brainwashed in their religion , and breed this thinking/ mindset within their families/ children and circles ... which is a little different to me than dealing with a territorially contained standing army ... if that makes any sense?

As far as President Clinton on dealing with this, I have no idea on what she may do ... like I said in the past, I frankly dont know how she stands on much (I can only go on where she stood on previous moves), so it's a toss up to me. But, she is really going to have her hands full ... maybe not having to deal with the financial mess magnitude that Obama had to deal with when he first entered office, but still, a real mess on so many issues as well.

21 October, 2016 07:56  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

Nailed it, Infidel.

21 October, 2016 09:52  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

Thank you for that information, Infidel. I feel such shame for what the destruction we've wrought on the people and the legacy of early human civilization. I'm hopeful for the Clinton presidency. What choice is there?

21 October, 2016 10:45  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

when I look at ISIS on the other hand ... I see them as a 'movement', with no real territorial identity, just roaming around I reckon

Well, it does stand for "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria". Their goal is to establish a territorial state and they do control a chunk of territory (though steadily shrinking). When that state is destroyed, we may well be left with a few troublemakers roaming around (as individual neo-Nazis still exist today), but the main problem will be over.

22 October, 2016 02:57  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I see your point here, it is positive to destroy at the home base I reckon, they got pretty large actually, but no telling if they did manage a successful Islamic State, they would probably try to move into other territories, forced by those with that hardcore devotion and ideology to preserving it like a culture of sort. I can imagine though, internal troubles in a movement like that ... I know damn well, that deep down, alot of folks in these groups/ armies probably hate alot of the rules, look at some of the laws they enforce on people, that's some hardcore rules ... even their own are bound to get tired of it. I viewed some video on how they run around town like a judge and jury on the spot, trying to find people not obeying the strict Islamic law, it looked worse than being in prison! But yeah ... in fact, today there is a pretty strong neo- Nazi type following as well.

22 October, 2016 04:40  

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