DOIU – Fight against ISIL

Fight against ISILNews stories are circulating as Iraqand#39s army prepares for a major offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Many regional and international media outlets mention the participation of thousands of American military aisers in the training of Iraqi troops.

However, with the grim memory of the Iraqi troops fleeing when ISIL showed up at the gates of Mosul and Tikrit, leaving behind precious American weapons, there are reasons to be skeptical.In addition to the Iraqi army regulars, whose combat readiness is not certain, there are two other military or paramilitary forces that will be there to help.

One of them is the Iranian-backed Shiite militia of Iraq, and the other is the Kurdish peshmerga force — the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The problem is that none of these forces have a common aim or sense of solidarity, which means that fighting to push ISIL back will not be a concerted effort but rather a series of local strikes that are somewhat dispersed.

Both the Kurds and the Sunnis are afraid that Shiites may act vindictively and conduct a bloody reprisal against ISIL militants and local Sunni forces that support ISIL. Another concern is whether the victorious Shiites will leave Sunni towns to be managed by Sunnis.

If they do not, the seeds of sectarian violence may be sown. The Baghdad government seems to have no answers for this possible scenario.

The Americans have been training some 30,000 Iraqi troops for a counter-offensive against ISIL in Tikrit. If the operation proves to be a success, the next target will be Mosul — the countryand#39s second-largest city and the current ISIL capital in Iraq.

How the peshmerga army will fare is unknown as their two previous performances do not provide a clear indication. First, there is the question of whether they will retreat as the Iraqi army did.

In the face of the ISIL attack last August in Sinjar and on the Nineveh plains, the peshmerga abandoned the Yazidis in the first incident and Christians in the second, leaving them to be slaughtered and have their women sold. To compensate for that shame, the peshmerga made successful counter-attacks, taking back much of Sinjar, and also contributed to the defense of Kobani in Syria with a small contingent.

The second is somewhat more heroic, defending their homeland with critical help from their allies. This incident made it more obvious that without American aerial surveillance and Iranand#39s ground support, the KRGand#39s survival will be a very bloody struggle for existence.

It must also be mentioned that Turkeyand#39s hesitance to assist has disappointed the KRG leadership and infuriated the Kurdish people.Given these facts, it is questionable whether the Kurds will participate in the probable house-to-house urban warfare in Tikrit and Mosul.

Most probably the peshmerga will prefer to defend their own territory and have promised to cut off ISILand#39S supply and reinforcement routes while the Iraqi army troops and Shiite militia contingents carry on the fight in and around Mosul.However, experts in various fields stress that the battle for Tikrit and Mosul is not going to be easy.

They have a prior example in mind. In 2004, the US battled al-Qaeda with two well-trained and well-equipped Marine brigades in coordination with a very able air force to recapture the relatively small town of Fallujah in Iraqand#39s Anbar province.

It took two months to clear al-Qaeda militants from the town, which was almost demolished during the process.Tikrit is the birthplace of Saddam Hussein and symbolically important for the Baath Party, many members of which are supportive of ISIL as the defender of the Sunni population.

Mosul is a very large city that is set up as a huge improvised explosive device by the entrenched ISIL militants.Let us say that both Tikrit and Mosul are taken back from ISIL.

How will the conditions that have created this brutal organization be eliminated, together with its appeal, which attracts militants from all over the world? How will the captured Sunni-majority cities with mixed populations be managed without further alienating their populations so that they will not yield to similar organizations? And finally, how will an Iraqi government be established with sovereign borders and a single government that represents all the people of Iraq who are suspicious, even contemptuous, of each other.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman