Iraqi forces are planning an assault on the northern city of Mosul, hoping to retake it from Islamic State fighters, the spokesman for the country’s counter-terrorism unit said on Monday.
“The new tactic of launching a quick attack shrouded by secrecy proved successful and we are determined to keep following the new assault tactics with help of intelligence provided by Americans,” spokesman Sabah Nouri told Reuters.
“The peshmerga machine is now working . . . As time goes on the peshmerga morale and experience is growing,”said Roj Nuri Shawes, a senior Kurdish official and outgoing deputy prime minister of Iraq who is now on one of the front lines outside the regional capital of Erbil. “What’s Isis doing? It’s defending,” he told the Financial Times:
Mr Shawes said the limited US air strikes have played a critical role in emboldening the peshmerga, who have also received help from Iraqi forces as well as hundreds of fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK).
The United States on Monday targeted two Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, including the Islamic State spokesman, following similar actions by the U.N. Security Council last week, Reuters adds:
Some observers believe the fight against ISIS may become a catalyst for reviving moderate Sunnis.
Supplying arms to forces fighting the Islamic State and dropping bombs, do not address “the substance” of the IS threat in Iraq and Syria, said Laith Kubba (left), director of the Middle East and North Africa program of the US-based National Endowment for Democracy. An adviser of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Kubba said that it takes more political will and “real regional strategy” for the US to defeat the IS. “Short-term containment does not work,” he said.
Armed movements driven by an ideology like that of ISIS are expansionist as well as eliminationist, writes The New Yorker’s George Packer:
There is always a new enemy to defeat, a new threat to the dream of purifying the world. The Islamic State, whose success makes it a magnet for jihadists around the globe, has recruited hundreds of suicide bombers, who could carry out operations across the region. Its many hundred fighters holding European or American passports will eventually return home with training, skills, and the arrogance of battlefield victory. It’s hard to believe that the ambitions of ISIS will remain confined to the boundaries of the Tigris and Euphrates.
Nouri al-Maliki’s announcement that he is stepping aside as Iraq’s Prime Minister, after completely changing direction in the last 24 hours is welcome said Kubba. His 180 degree turn is good news, he tells News Radio.
Michael Stephens, deputy director at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies spoke to Al Jazeera about the significance of Mosul Dam:
“Mosul Dam controls a lot of the water going into Baghdad, and it is one of the main water collection points for northern Iraq. It also produces hydro-electric power so it is of big strategic importance.”
“The Islamic State group are focused on securing water and food in any area they attack. It’s in line with the group’s strategy of trying to control bigger areas of infrastructure, so they can declare that their operation is working. They decided that they wanted something that gives them more leverage.”
“Rather than destroying it the question is would they maintain it properly: i.e. keep electricity and water services running for the population? They wouldn’t blow up the hand that feeds them. But there are questions as to the groups suitability to maintain it.”
“For the Peshmerga the significance is less strategic. It is more an issue of pride. They were clearly struggling and needed support.”
“[New Prime Minister] Abadi is trying to show power by ordering the retake of the dam.”
Only President Obama can explain to the public why containing and defeating ISIS requires deep, steady, patient engagement, Packer contends:
But fully absorbing the lessons of the past should mean being able to think clearly about going forward: Find partners, internationally and locally, and don’t get out in front of them. Understand the complexity and the importance of politics. Locate the elusive ground between overreacting and underreacting. Pay attention to other people’s nightmares, because they might be contagious.