The Battle for Mosul: The Islamic State’s Last Chance to Control Northern Iraq

Jason Schwartz ’17, Staff Writer

Over the last month, the Iraqi military and Kurdish militias have retaken parts of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which has been under the control of ISIS, the notorious Radical Islamic terrorist organization.  The Iraqi forces and Kurdish militias–including the Peshmerga–are well-equipped and have more men than ISIS.  ISIS, despite coping with a small army and facing constant attacks, has kept Mosul under their rule.  Nevertheless, the Islamic State is dealing with their last stand in Mosul.  

For over two years, ISIS has occupied the city of Mosul and made it the de facto capital of the Islamic State.  Mosul is a strategic city as it is located in the heart of the Islamic world.  In fact, Mosul is within close proximity of several cities in the Levant and in the Arabian Peninsula.  Also, Mosul has been an important source of funds for ISIS.  When ISIS sacked Mosul, its leaders seized millions of dollars from banks and industries throughout the city and put that capital into ISIS’s accounts.  As a result, ISIS has been able to grow their army and upgrade their artillery at the cost of the Iraqi economy.  However, opponents of ISIS are formidable and eager to destroy the Islamic State.

At 90,000 strong, the Iraqi military and Kurdish militias are leading a successful offensive against ISIS.  Their strategy is to attack Mosul from two different directions; the Iraqi military is approaching from the south while the Kurdish armies are nearing the city from the northeast.  As of October 24, 2016, CNN reported that ISIS has suffered over 800 deaths and has lost control of 78 villages and neighborhoods surrounding downtown Mosul.  Also, Iraqi troops have retaken Gogjali, a town not far from Mosul that is home to a strategic air-base.  This capture puts the Iraqis in a good position as they are within missile-striking distance of Mosul.  On November 2, 2016, Iraqi troops were within a few kilometers of the Mosul city center.  However, ISIS has dug in and has no plans to surrender.

ISIS has used despicable methods to retaliate against the opposition.  The caliphate will do anything in its power to defend its last major stronghold, including forcing the innocent citizens of Mosul to suffer.  According to Euronews, ISIS has made the citizens of Mosul “human shields.”  By doing so, they forced citizens to become suicide bombers and to operate cars armed with time-bombs.  ISIS has declared that any citizen who attempts to flee Mosul will be subject to immediate execution.  Also, ISIS has destroyed multiple sulfur plants around the Mosul metropolitan area, releasing toxic fumes into the air in order to slow down their opponents’ mission.  As a result, most of the residents of Mosul and many Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers around Mosul have become severely ill.  Furthermore, ISIS has set a plethora of mines, boobytraps, and tall barriers across Mosul, making it harder for Iraqi troops to advance into the city.  

The Battle for Mosul will likely result in a decisive ISIS loss.   It is worth noting that this conflict is the first time the Iraqis and the Kurds have fought on the same side.  Their shared hatred of ISIS is extreme and trumps any previous resentments they have had against one another.  Considering this common ground, their immense numbers, and their hefty supply of weapons, the Iraqis and the Kurds are bound to remove ISIS from Iraq.  The end of the Battle of Mosul will bring ISIS one step closer to defeat.

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