FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Isis’s 17-Suicide Car Bomb Attack in Mosul

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis and self-declared Caliph, escaped from the siege of Mosul two months ago when the road to the west was briefly re-opened by a fierce counter attack by Isis fighters, according to a senior Kurdish official.

“Isis used 17 suicide car bombs from Mosul and some of their units from Syria to clear the road leading out of Mosul for a few hours,” said Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, in an interview with The Independent. He says that he and other Kurdish leaders believe that Isis would only carry out such an elaborate operation, in which they suffered heavy casualties, in order to bring al-Baghdadi to safety.

The escape took place after the fall of east Mosul and before the Iraqi security forces began their final attack on Isis-held west Mosul on 19 February. Mr Hussein says that Isis “brought 300 of their fighters from Syria and it was a very fierce fight.” The only possible escape route out of Mosul for Isis is to the west, through territory held by the Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militia who were forced to retreat, enabling Isis briefly to gain control of the road.

“I believe myself that they freed al-Baghdadi,” says Mr Hussein saying that the Isis unit from Syria returned there immediately and monitoring of Isis radio traffic showed that they were jubilant that they had carried out a successful operation. Al-Baghdadi, who became leader of Isis in 2010, is the movement’s iconic leader who led it to a series of spectacular victories including the seizure of Mosul in 2014. His death or capture would be a further body blow to the movement, which has lost much of its territory in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Hussein said that he expected Isis to survive after the fall of Mosul, where its fighters still hold the Old City which the UN says has a population of 400,000. “But I don’t think they will survive as a state,” he said. He expects Isis will revert to being a guerrilla-type organisation carrying out terror attacks but without its previous resources. Despite its current implosion, it still has sanctuaries in different parts of Iraq and Syria where it can try to regenerate itself.

A serious problem in Iraq is that there is no political plan for sharing power or running the regained territory after the fall of Mosul and the defeat of Isis. Mr Hussein said that Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is expected in Irbil on Tuesday to see the status of the anti-Isis campaign for himself. Mr Kushner arrived in Baghdad on Monday, accompanying the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, and saw the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

When Mr Kushner does arrive in Irbil, he will find a situation which is bewilderingly complex even by the standards of Iraqi politics, and poses questions that may prove insoluble. When the offensive against Isis started on 17 October last year, it followed a military agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi central government whereby the Kurdish Peshmerga would play only a limited military role, taking part of the Nineveh Plain east of Mosul. But there was no political agreement on how long term security can be provided to the mosaic of different parties, militias, sects and ethnic communities living in and around Mosul.

Mr Hussein says that there was no political plan for post-Isis Mosul put forward last year, because it would have raised divisive issues that might have prevented a military campaign against Isis. It is unclear who will hold power in Mosul in the long term or what will happen to Kurds and Christians who were forced out of the city. A short drive across the Nineveh Plain reveals political and sectarian rivalries and hatreds stopping any return to normality. There is not much sign of the Iraqi army and most checkpoints are manned by the Hashd al-Shaabi, often recruited from the Kurdish speaking Shia minority known as the Shabak.

The Sunni Arab population of Mosul has been traumatised by the six month siege, which is far from ended and is destroying a large part of the city. Mr Hussein says that it was a serious mistake in the planning of the Mosul operation to believe that Isis would be defeated quickly or the population might rise up against the jihadis. “There was an idea in Baghdad that there would be an uprising against Isis,” says Mr Hussein. The optimistic conviction that this would happen, and over-confidence about how quickly Isis could be defeated, led to the government telling people in the city to stay in their houses, a miscalculation that is leading to heavy civilian loss of life.

Mr Hussein does not doubt that Isis will eventually be defeated in Mosul. But, unless there is an agreement about what to do next, he says the “logic of war” will take over and everybody will hold onto territory they have already taken. Driving around government-held east Mosul there is a noticeable lack of local police or any other security forces to replace elite military detachments. like the Counter-Terrorism Service, that have moved into west Mosul to fight Isis there.

In the plains around Mosul, insecurity is even greater with many towns and villages, recaptured from Isis last year, still deserted. The Christian town of Qaraqosh, for example, retaken from Isis at that time, remains empty and without electricity or fresh water. Yohanna Towaya, a local Christian leader, says the community “will not go back unless they are guaranteed protection by the KRG and the Baghdad government.” He says that “two or three Christian families are leaving KRG each day for Lebanon or Australia.” Everywhere there are predatory militias on the payroll of different masters staking their claim to power, money or land , something which exacerbates the deep distrust felt by all communities in northern Iraq towards each other.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail