Combine and Conquer, Divide and Squabble
"There were less than ten Daesh in the village."
"But they were running around like rats in and out of tunnels and surprising us with suicide attacks and snipers."
Lt. Mehsen Gardi, Kurdish Peshmerga commander
"Daesh is disoriented they don’t know whether to expect attacks from the east or west or north."
"It won’t be a spectacular attack on Mosul itself. It will be very cautious. It is a high-risk operation for everybody."
Hoshiyar Zebari, senior Kurdish official
Courage restored, shored by the U.S.-led coalition that has been responsible for covering fire power from the air, Iraq once again boasts its battlefield prowess. Even as it has pointedly directed Iraqi Kurds -- who have never fled in disarray from any conflict challenge, standing their ground and fighting effectively in a refusal to surrender any of their sovereignty to their heritage lands -- to encircle Mosul and retake small towns around the city along with Iran-loyal Shiite militias, the government has given firm directions that only its forces are permitted to enter Mosul.
And the president of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, has lost no time stating with pride on the very first day of engagement with ISIL, that a "turning point to the war against terrorism" has already evidenced itself. He speaks triumphantly of a 200 square kilometre geographic area, along with a half-dozen villages that have been taken from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as the initial stages of Mosul liberation becomes a reality.
The complete and speedy ousting of ISIL from its caliphate on the Iraqi portion of a huge swath of land the terrorists have captured over the past several years is being predicted by Iraqi, Kurdish, French, American and Canadian generals in Iraq. They do caution, however, that the initial gains have been occasioned in an open terrain and in villages on the outskirts of the huge sprawl of Mosul with its remaining million or so population. Once entry to the city itself occurs, the situation will be far different.
When deadly ambushes are likelier to occur, when well-placed snipers will take their toll, when passionately barbaric Islamists will celebrate their death by suicide while martyring themselves in the process of bombing government military to achieve the satisfaction of joining the roster of Islamist heroes for the audacity of their vision against tall odds, along with the determination to carry through to a successful conclusion as many deaths as possible.
Islamist terrorists all seem to play from a familiar handbook, one common to Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Islamic State, not to mention the 'legitimate' government of the Syrian regime, all of whom take great pride in using civilians they hold in thrall, as shields. To that end, just as Hamas ordered Gazans to defy Israeli military leaflets urging civilians to vacate buildings slated to be bombed, it appears that ISIL is doing likewise, only coercing citizens of Mosul to move into buildings known to be bombing targets.
Once the courageous, dauntless Iraqi military has breached the ISIL outer defences to approach the interior of Mosul, the city will present as a ferocious challenge, an tight urban maze of tunnels, booby-trapped buildings, lurking suicide bombers awaiting opportunity, and expert marksmen sitting on rooftops looking forward avidly to the chance to pick off challengers to ISIL supremacy through quick aim and direct, critical hits.
The 30,000-strong combined force of Iraqi military, Shiite militias and Kurdish troops vastly outnumbers the jihadis' fighting strength. The Kurdish Peshmerga fight with confidence and the strength of knowing that what they wrench back from ISIL will fit neatly into Kurdistan, their ancient homeland, not yet fully and legally recognized internationally. They hope their courage on the battlefield will lead to sympathy for their cause that will translate to international pressure on Iraq to recognize the legitimacy of Kurdistan.
In the background is the reality that Shiite militias harbour a deadly hatred for the million or so Sunnis who chose to remain in Mosul while the Islamic State fundamentalists administered it. This alienation from greater Iraq rests at the feet of the Shiite majority who have in effect reversed the situation of Saddam's minority Sunni Iraqi demographic that oppressed their Shiite counterparts, with the current government representing the interests of the majority Iraqi Shias doing the very same to the now-deprived Sunnis of Iraq.
The deposed Sunnis who had the upper hand while Saddam remained in power, now loathe the Iraqi Shiites who have returned the compliment, refusing, even under initial pressure from the United States administration, to apportion equality among the three major groups; Iraqi Sunnis, Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Kurds, leaving all three suspicious of one another and prepared to exact vengeance at the first opportunity in an inherited display of sectarian dysfunction leading to violence. The coalition battling the Islamic State is just representative of the same syndrome on overdrive.