Friday, October 14, 2016

ISIS crushes rebellion in Mosul before the battle even begins.

An ISIS fighter mans an anit-aircraft gun in Mosul. Reuters. 

ISIS has crushed a rebellion in their de facto Iraqi capital of Mosul. Reuters. One of the group's commanders was attempting to switch sides and fight for the Iraqi security forces when the battle of Mosul occurs. This commander, along with 58 other suspected plotters, were executed by drowning. The leader was reportedly a local aide to ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is the overall leader of ISIS. The plotters planned to undermine ISIS defenses in the city but were caught when a cell phone message indicated that they were stockpiling weapons. The rebellion comes on the eve of a major operation to liberate the city from ISIS by Iraqi forces with heavy US support. 

My Comment:
It's about time I wrote up a post that wasn't related to the election. This one is fairly important. The battle for Mosul is going to be one of the most important battles against ISIS to date. It's a huge city, with more then 2 million residents under normal circumstances. It's the largest city by far that we will have tried to take back from ISIS and it is shaping up to be a huge battle.

It's very disappointing that these plotters were found and executed. Not on a moral level of course. To be honest, I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for them. They are after all ISIS terrorists, but even worse, they were traitors as well. Loyalty means something to me, even if it is loyalty to a cause as evil and stupid as radical Islam. It's clear that these men were trying to find an "out" and it sounds as if the Iraqi government was going to give them one. 

With that being said, it still would have been a good thing if these men hadn't been found out. Though I have no idea what the Iraqi government would do with them after the battle, had they managed to survive they could have had an impact on an already tough battle. 

What could they have accomplished? Well, for one, they could have murdered their commanders, thus throwing the entire defense of Mosul into chaos. They could have also opened up corridors for Iraqi troops to enter the city and bypass defenses. I am guessing they could have also tipped off Iraqi troops about locations of booby traps and mines. None of those things put together would have won the battle alone, but they would have all lessened friendly casualties and perhaps shortened the battle a great deal. 

That is obviously not going to happen now. And I would be extremely surprised if any more rebellions occur in Mosul. Anyone who is even thinking of it knows what happened to the last group of people to try. They may face certain death on the front lines, but that's probably better then what ISIS would do to them. There may be a few people that will think they are going to die anyways, but they are going to be way too afraid to talk to anyone now. 

Mosul is going to be a terrible battle regardless. ISIS has spent a long time fortifying the city and making sure it's defenses are strong. US airstrikes have helped to counter that advantage, but they aren't anywhere near enough. For one thing, the United States tends to take extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties. ISIS is using human shields to make sure that certain targets are not hit. That reluctance to bomb targets that are near civilians means that many of ISIS's defenses are going to be untouched when the battle begins. 

But that's the $10,000 question. When does the battle of Mosul begin? It won't happen right away. Iraq still has to clear out a lot of the smaller villages and towns between the front lines and Mosul. These towns and cities will take time to clear, which could delay the offensive further. And even when they are taken it will take time to breach the outer defenses of the city before Iraqi troops can reach the city proper. 

What happens then? Stalingrad, Iraqi style. It will be a close range, urban fight, with only limited air support from the United States. Iraqi troops will have to rely on their own fighting spirit and they are going to take heavy casualties, not only from ISIS gunmen, but from their armor, vehicles, mines and traps as well. Many Iraqi troops will die and thousands of civilians will probably die as well. It will be a bloodbath, much like the Syrian battle of Aleppo, with massive casualties on all sides.  

Can Iraq pull it off? I am not sure. The Iraqi army isn't in great shape anymore. Even with the addition of Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish allies, they might simply lack the forces to clear Mosul of ISIS entirely. And given how poorly they have preformed in the past, it is even possible that ISIS will be able to mount a counterattack that will blunt this offensive. I don't think it is likely, but it is possible. And I just can't see anyone else coming to help. Maybe a new US president will commit ground troops, but that's an outcome that is as unlikely as it is unpopular.  

The likely outcome is that ISIS loses the battle for Mosul. It is going to take a long time, I am guessing we will have a new president sworn in before it is fully liberated. But it is most likely going to happen. And that is horrible news for ISIS. Not only will they lose a lot of troops defending the city, they will lose the tax base and prestige they had by controlling it as well. With Mosul gone, their power base in Iraq will largely evaporate, with only a few smaller outposts remaining. It won't be a killing blow, but it will cripple ISIS operations in Iraq. 

Still, any such victory is a long way off. Mosul is going to be a brutal and hard fought battle. It will take months to win and it could even leave Iraq in worse shape than it is now. Mosul could very well bleed the Iraqi army dry and leave them with little forces to drive the remainder of ISIS out of Iraq. Though ISIS has also been bled dry, they could use the weakness that the massive casualties that Iraq is going to take in this battle to rise like a phoenix at a later date. And I don't doubt for a minute that even if Mosul is liberated, the war will continue. It might not be the conventional war it is now, but the terrorism and raids that have been committed across Iraq will keep happening. ISIS in Iraq will go underground... 

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