So, here we are again. Blogging about devastation in Iraq.
At the moment, a religious extremist militia is seizing control over much of the North and West of the country including one of the worlds oldest cities, Mosul.
I’ve written a lot about Iraq in the past. Commenting on the Iraq war was why I started blogging in the first place, back in 2005.
This is perhaps the most serious strategic upheaval that has occurred in Iraq since the civil war of 2006/07, the resultant US troop surge and eventual ‘withdrawal’ of international combat forces.
There have been elections. There have been some significant protests. There have been far too many random explosions. There has also been a variety of sectarian political manoeuvring. Then Vice President of Iraq Tariq al-Hashimi, the most senior Sunni in the Iraqi Government, was even sentenced to death after being charged with murder in 2011 and later found ‘guilty in absentia’.
But this is a whole other kettle of fish. ISIS are no joke.
They are a fierce and effective fighting force, with battle hardened leaders who have seen constant fighting since the US invasion of Iraq. Arguably they are more experienced at fighting this modern form of Guerrilla Warfare than anyone else in the globe.
On top of that, they have a fanatical base of loyalists quite ready to die and commit murder for their ’cause’. But what is their cause?
What do ISIS want, why have they hit this particular part of Iraq and why now??
I don’t claim to have all the answers and I haven’t been following the development of ISIS in as much detail as I formerly followed militia developments in Iraq; however, there are a few things I know about this for sure.
- ISIS aims to establish a global Caliphate starting in Iraq and Syria, then spreading across the entire world through force.
- The fight to stop ISIS is a very different fight to the kind of sectarian tit-for-tat the Government is used to dealing with in post-occupation Iraq. ISIS have no interest in coming to political agreements with the Iraqi Government. They are only interested in seizing it’s territory.
- Christians, Yazidi, Turkomen, Kurds and Shia in Mosul and the areas surrounding will be ‘purged’ every single day that ISIS is allowed to operate in these areas.
So why Mosul?
Because Mosul has long been a weak point for the Iraqi Government post-Saddam. Iraq’s second biggest city, the population of Mosul is predominantly Sunni. The brunt of sectarian exclusionism and US-backed “de-baathification” programs hit hard in Mosul. Virtually nothing has improved in Mosul since the invasion of 2003, in fact my friends there tell me circumstances have degraded continually. Corruption and violence is rife.
The place was already a tinderbox. But more over, it’s a soft-target.
ISIS can waltz into town with their guns blazing and after not long be in control of the whole place. There is no co-ordinated Shia militia to resist as there might be further south. Government supply lines from Baghdad are easily disrupted. Additionally, there have long been extremist jihadi elements at work in Mosul, so they also have allies there.
But Mosul is also important for other reasons. These people want to purge the area of Christians, Yazidis and other religions which have called this part of Iraq home for millennia.
But why now?
Well, right now Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in negotiations with other Iraqi parties to secure another term in power for his government. A return of al-Maliki is the last thing ISIS want. They’re seizing this moment of vulnerability to try and show Maliki offers nothing to the Sunni populations of Iraq, not even protection.
But they’re not just hoping to topple Maliki.
They’re hoping to topple the whole Iraqi Government. They want to create an entirely new state. They’re not running in elections. They care not for elections. They want a state in which religious authorities dictate laws and make all important decisions.
We should all be worried about the rise of ISIS in Mosul.
And here’s a rap I wrote about the Iraq war, back in 2009.