By Scott Taylor
With Daesh having been pushed out of Fallujah and Ramadi, everyone knows that the next big allied assault will be to recapture Mosul, and it is expected to come soon. Since Daesh’s lightning offensive in the spring of 2014 into Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, this urban centre of two million residents has been the crown jewel in the evildoers’ self-proclaimed caliphate.
Canadians will be playing a role in that offensive, both as trainers of Kurdish fighters and with the provision of a military field hospital. Given the overwhelming airpower provided by the U.S.-led coalition and the vast U.S.-supplied arsenal for the ground troops, Daesh defenders won’t be able to hold the city for any appreciable length of time.
However, the biggest challenge facing allied troops will be what to do with Mosul after Daesh is defeated.
Most of Mosul’s inhabitants are Sunni Arabs and there is a small Kurdish community in the eastern district. The allied attacking force will consist of Iranian-trained Shiite Arab militias, U.S.-trained Shiite Arab troops, Kurdish militias (some trained by Canadians), and Iraqi Turkmen troops trained by Turkey.
Given the atrocities committed by Shiite militias following the recapture of Fallujah and Ramadi, there is speculation these forces will not be allowed inside Mosul. In fact, given the savage Shiite versus Sunni bloodletting that has been ongoing in Iraq for the past 13 years since the U.S. invasion, it seems unlikely that any combination of the attacking elements will be able to placate Mosul’s Sunni Arab residents.
Furthermore, memories are still fresh enough to recall that when Daesh first approached Mosul, the U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi army simply fled the city. It was painfully obvious that the fix was in, and that Daesh had cut a deal with Sunni Arab sympathizers in command positions within the U.S.-trained Iraqi military.
What very few people seem to recall is that this was not the first time this occurred in Mosul.
Following their invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. had made the mistake of rewarding their Kurdish allies at the expense of Mosul’s Sunni Arabs. That resentment boiled over in November 2004, when the American military was bogged down in a major offensive against insurgents in Fallujah.
With U.S. combat resources committed further south, the Sunni insurgents rose up en masse in Mosul. The 1,500 U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi security forces not only didn’t fight back, they instead opened the front gates to their fortress-like police stations and handed the Sunni insurgents the keys to the armouries. U.S. troops hunkered down at their sprawling military airfield while the insurgents went on a rampage, driving their recently acquired U.S.-built Hummers and brandishing brand new assault rifles and body armour, also courtesy of Uncle Sam.
The insurgents’ first targets were the Kurdish political offices that had been established after the U.S. invasion. With unchecked abandon, Sunni zealots executed prisoners in public beheadings. The U.S. eventually sent a combat battalion back from the assault on Fallujah to restore order.
As the Americans rolled in, the insurgents melted back into the general population rather than fight a hopeless stand. Of course, they took their weapons and a vast stock of ammunition with them and the western districts of Mosul remained insurgent hubs for the remainder of the U.S. occupation.
Now, our Canadian special forces trainers are eager to fight their way into Mosul alongside their Kurdish trainees while sporting Kurdish flags on their Canadian uniforms. That’s right, folks. Our soldiers will be wearing the symbol of what Mosul’s Sunni Arab residents see as a hated hostile entity.
Getting into Mosul will be the easy part. We need to plan for the aftermath.
A good start would be to order our soldiers to remove the flag of Kurdistan from their sleeves. Canada’s stated foreign policy remains supportive of a unified Iraq after Daesh is defeated, not the creation of a breakaway Kurdish state.