On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi eccentrically declared the liberation of Mosul from ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) on state TV. After a nearly nine month long battle, the Iraqi Forces in cooperation with Kurdish Peshmerga, American Special Forces, and other militia groups , successfully managed to recapture the ISIL’s second-largest holding in Iraq, and ISIL’s “second capital”. Truth be told, there are still small pockets of ISIL fighters in the city, but the core of the group’s activity has been terminated. It will not be much longer until Iraqi commandos manage to completely rid the city the militants, but the true question at hand, what is to come? How will Iraqis and The Middle East respond to the victory overall? How will ISIL be affected by it? Without a doubt, the reconquest of Mosul will have a positive effect on the mindset of Arabs in the heart of the conflict, but how far can this victory go? Was the Mosul operation a representation of how the Arab World should deal with the threat of ISIS?
ISIL ON THEIR LAST LEG
The military logistics of the battle and their results are now known with Mosul re-captured and high casualties on both sides. Around 800 Iraqi coalition forces lost their lives and over 2000 ISIL militants were killed. The victory is a great morale boost in the fight against the self-proclaimed Caliphate, but also a devastating blow to ISIL’s war machinery. Mosul’s rich oil fields funded the ISIL’s efforts for years. The militants were engaged in trade not only with private buyers, but countries which concluded deals with the so called Caliphate out of necessity. Since the capture of the city, Mosul has probably been one of the most vital, if not the most vital resource to the Islamic State’s success. With the city’s oil out of the picture, ISIL’s financial resources will be severely weakened and stretched thin.
Losing the city damages the terrorist group’s campaign of radicalization. Abu Bakhr Al-Baghdadi declared the creation of the “caliphate” in Mosul, and claimed heavenly guidance and protection for the efforts of the terror organization. That image has been shattered, ISIL cannot claim divine benediction any longer. Their efforts to corrupt the minds of youth with false nonsense are now broken in half. An organization running for their lives, after losing their ideological capital, will not seem as appealing to even the most radical youth. People now see a clearer image of the Islamic State and its destined destructive fate. Recruitment of fresh militants will be discouraged and their manpower will suffer gravely. In that aspect, the loss of Mosul for ISIL is not just a devastating result, it is a tragedy to their ideological and military campaign.
Lastly, from a strategic viewpoint, ISIL is walking with only one leg. Mosul is relatively close to the Syrian border, the city provided the terrorist group a way of supplying weaponry, ammunition, and ease of intel exchange. Mosul was the connecting dot of the Islamic State’s territorial possessions in Syria and Iraq, the city facilitated movement of troops and objects. By retaking the city, Iraq and coalition forces have somewhat isolated ISIL’s holding’s in Syria from those in Iraq. This classic divide and conquer strategy makes fighting on the two fronts easier, seeing as the “Caliphate” will find it difficult to coordinate with their Syrian counterparts and vice versa. Iraqis are hopeful for further military success, and there is no doubt the Iraqi government will continue their offensive against the terrorists, but the hope for the Middle East goes much further than simply the military aspect.
A SYMBOLIC VICTORY
The effort to recapture Mosul was a combined resolve which included factions who have historically detested each other. Apart from the Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga and Turkish Special Forces, some reports indicated the presence of Hezbollah as well. What does this mean? These factions apart from fighting ISIL, have also been struggling against each other. The Turks and Kurds are involved in a frontal war in Syria, while Iraqis and Kurds have not had a very peaceful history between each other either. Hezbollah’s Shia militants do not see eye to eye with the Iraqi or Kurdish Sunnis, and so on. However, what made the battle for Mosul such a beacon of hope was the willingness of all the factions to put aside their differences and concentrate their efforts on their common enemy. It proved successful. Maybe the success would spread even further in the region if a strategy of cooperation instead of altercation was applied across the Levant. The battle goes to show Middle Easterners are capable of driving terrorism out with a combined effort, it shows they are willing to work together, and the victory of Mosul is the main fruit of their teamwork.
The best way to discourage radicalization is to encourage mutual coexistence and understanding. For many, a source of radicalization is also their nationalist sentiment, seeing as the Middle East has not seen peace since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was drawn out. Relevant governments and The West need to utilize the success in Mosul as a political tool of unification and prove that Middle Easterner’s can achieve peace and prosperity together rather than divided. At the end of the day, nationalism will not feed families nor keep them safe, and Middle Easterners will understand the importance of accepting each other’s differences.
So yes, I would say the Middle East has hope, and Mosul was a result of what could come if the Kurds, Arabs, Turks, Sunnis, and Shias all worked for the benefit of their homes, instead of their individual agendas. It would diminish radicalization, and promote safety and serenity. It is up to the World Powers and Middle Easterners to cultivate this climate of cooperation in order to have a stable region and a brighter future.
By: Rex Nazarko
Image Credit: Business Insider