FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Exaggerated Victories: The Mosul Effect

The need to tick off the tactical and strategic boxes in the interminable war against Islamic State is so pressing it acquires the quality of ham acting, where generals and leaders become thespians of exaggerated promise before the camera.

Nothing typified this more than the euphoric statements outlined by the Iraqi leadership in the aftermath of its efforts to retake Mosul after nine months of fighting. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was almost shrill in declaring victory on Monday, making the all too optimistic assertion that the Caliphate was dead, that terrorism had been quashed.

What Islamic State did do was represent a tailored common enemy, a convenient point of unity that kept Iraq’s traditionally murderous sectarianism at bay. The faux Caliphate, in many ways, supplied a temporary necessity, a cloak of consensus.

It kept the Sunni-Shia divide in check, though it never resolved it. Gains made by ISIS in 2014 came more easily largely given the Sunni-majority population’s feeling of neglect in the post-invasion era. But it went deeper, given the more dominant Shia presence in Baghdad.

Now, the Kurdish forces stand out as a force to be reckoned with, a situation that Baghdad will find hard to avoid. A Kurdish independence referendum is also slated for September. As if these niggling points were not enough, oil revenue, and its disputed regime of distribution, plays a part.

Much scepticism should be shovelled onto triumphalism, and notions of a noble battle waged by the forces of light against those of pure darkness obscure the pattern of crimes committed by a number of forces.

At issue here are the instrumental methods used in battle. Iraqi forces and members of the coalition deployed, to considerable extent, Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions in densely populated civilian areas. Air strikes were also used.

In the words of an Amnesty International report released on Tuesday, “Even in attacks that seem to have struck their intended military target, the use of unsuitable weapons or failure to take other necessary precautions resulted in needless loss of civilian lives and in some cases appears to have constituted disproportionate attacks.”

The Islamic State forces made happy use of civilians, and also restricted civilian movement, condemning the effectiveness of any leaflet drops warning of imminent attacks. This, in addition to their more traditional methods of brutality inflicted on the populace.

A cosmopolitan town has also been emptied – some 897,000 people have been displaced, a point that puts it at risk of de-Sunnification. The city that will spring up from the rubble is bound to look different from that which preceded its seizure by Islamic State, one less colourful, and in all likelihood less pluralistic.

Much of this will depend on the calculus of retribution that tends to take effect in the aftermath of such victories. In the sectarian, religious game, scores are always settled, while the law is kept taped and muzzled. Mosul risks becoming yet another powder keg of resentment dotting Iraq’s devastated landscape.

It also risks becoming another example of reconstruction failure. (Ramadi and Falluja remain pictures of post-ISIS devastation.) The rebuilding phase, if history is an example to go on, risks falling into a quagmire of faulty finance, economic woe, corruption and security. And there is much reconstruction to take place, with three-quarters of the city’s roads destroyed, most of its bridges and 65 percent of its electrical infrastructure.

Money supplied is often money denied, with special political interests sucking the available funds before they can go into tangible efforts at reconstruction. The more one looks at the agenda to rebuild, the more one is struck by the fact that government institutions remain the problem.

“We need a lot of money,” claimed a glum Emad al-Rashidi, advisor to the governor of Nineveh province, “and we don’t get much help from the world, because the money is stolen by policymakers that pretend they are rebuilding Mosul.”

The begging bowl, as a matter of fact, is a big one. It is being passed around even as the city smoulders. A plethora of partners and agencies are involved, giving it the impression of an industry in need of oiling. The UNHCR, for instance, has demanded $126 million in funding to perform its necessary work.

The Special Inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction has claimed that the $60 billion in US funds spent over 10 years has produced little, while the Iraqi government’s own effort over $138 billion fared little better. Such efforts, ruinously delayed, will provide sweet music for the next militant upsurge.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 20, 2019
Robert Hunziker
The Dangerous Methane Mystery
David Schultz
The Intellectual Origins of the Trump Presidency and the Construction of Contemporary American Politics
Sabri Öncü
Thus Spoke the Bond Market
Gary Leupp
Japanese and German Doubts on U.S. Drumbeat Towards Iran War
Binoy Kampmark
The Fragility of Democracy: Hong Kong, China and the Extradition Bill
Doug Johnson
On the Morning Consult Poll, Margins of Error, and the Undecideds in the Democratic Primary
Laura Flanders
In Barcelona, Being a Fearless City Mayor Means Letting the People Decide
Martha Rosenberg
Humor: Stop These Language Abuses
Jim Goodman
Current Farm Crisis Offers Opportunity For Change
Cesar Chelala
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
Kim C. Domenico
Lessons from D.H. : A Soul-based Anarchist Vision for Peace-making
Jesse Jackson
Mobilizing the Poor People’s Campaign
Wim Laven
We Need Evidence-Based Decision Making
Cesar Chelala
Health Consequences of Overwork
June 19, 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor
Kenneth Surin
In China Again
Stephen Cooper
Abolishing the Death Penalty Requires Morality
George Ochenski
The DNC Can’t Be Allowed to Ignore the Climate Crisis
John W. Whitehead
The Omnipresent Surveillance State
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
Guaidó’s Star Fades as His Envoys to Colombia Allegedly Commit Fraud With Humanitarian Funds for Venezuela
Dave Lindorff
What About Venezuela’s Hacked Power Grid?
Howard Lisnoff
Try Not to Look Away
Binoy Kampmark
Matters of Water: Dubious Approvals and the Adani Carmichael Mine
Karl Grossman
The Battle to Stop the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, Revisited
Kani Xulam
Farting in a Turkish Mosque
Dean Baker
New Manufacturing Jobs are Not Union Jobs
Elizabeth Keyes
“I Can’t Believe Alcohol Is Stronger Than Love”
June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail