The Iraqi army started a large operation to liberate Mosul from Islamic State jihadists. But the forces, in total some 40,000, are still several dozen kilometers away from the city limits. They will have to capture several towns and villages and pass many IED obstacles before coming near to the center and house to house fighting. It might take many month to eliminated the last stay-behind ISIS cells in Mosul.
About one million civilians live in Mosul. Many, many more than in east-Aleppo. Many of them were sympathetic with the new overlords when ISIS stormed in two years ago. French, American, Kurdish, Iraqi and Turkish artillery are pounding them now. Airstrikes attack even the smallest fighting position. When the city will be conquered it will likely be destroyed. The imminent fight over Mosul might be the reason why John Kerry dialed down his hypocritical howling over east-Aleppo in Syria which is under attack from Syrian and Russian forces.
The attack on Mosul proceeds on three axes. From the north Kurdish Peshmerga under U.S. special force advisors lead the fighting. Iraqi forces attack from the east and south. The way to the west, towards Syria, is open. The intend of the U.S. is to let ISIS fighters, several thousand of them, flee to Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in Syria. They are needed there to further destroy the Syrian state.
We pointed out here that this move will create the “Salafist principality” the U.S. and its allies have striven to install in east-Syria since 2012. The “mistake” of the U.S. bombing of Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor was in support of that plan. Other commentators finally catch up with that conclusion.
The Turks are openly talking about such an escape plan for ISIS in Mosul. The Turkish news agency Anadolu published this “sensitive” operations plan. Point 4 says:
An escape corridor into Syria will be left for Daesh so they can vacate Mosul
Two points in the Turkish plan will not come true.
The Iraqi government has ordered that no Turkish troops take part in the Mosul operation and will designate them as enemies should they try.
The Sunni “Nineveh Guard”, trained by Turkey, paid by the Saudis and led by the former Anbar governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, will also be excluded.
It was the Saudi proxy al-Nujaifi who practically handed Anbar over to ISIS by ordering his troops to flee when ISIS attacked. He and his Saudi and Turkish sponsors want to create an independent Sunni statelet in west Iraq just like the Kurds created their own entity within north Iraq.
The U.S. hopes that the influx of ISIS fighters into Syria will keep the Russians and Iranians trapped in the “quagmire” Obama prescribed and finally destroy the Syrian state. It seems to have mostly given up on other plans. The U.S. military now acknowledges that fighting the Russian air defense in Syria would be a real challenge:
“It’s not like we’ve had any shoot at an F-35,” the official said of the next-generation U.S. fighter jet. “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.”
There is a “no-fly zone” over west-Syria and it is the Russians who control it. All U.S. and Turkish talk about such a zone is moot. The Obama administration has for now also given up on other plans. The recent National Security Council meeting deferred on further decisions:
Consideration of other alternatives, including the shipment of arms to U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria, and an increase in the quantity and quality of weapons supplied to opposition fighters in Aleppo and elsewhere, were deferred until later, officials said. U.S. military action to stop Syrian and Russian bombing of civilians was even further down the list of possibilities.
The only U.S. “hope” for its Syria plans is now the facilitation of another ISIS influx. That and the CIA coordinated actions of its allies. The Saudis Foreign Minister announced that his country will increase weapons flow to its al-Qaeda proxies in Syria. The “rebels” are still receiving TOW anti-tank missiles and other heavy weapons.
Turkish proxy forces, some Syrians, some “Turkmen” from Chechnya and elsewhere, have taken Dabiq from ISIS. The village is said to become a focal point of a future apocalyptic Christian-Muslim battle. A lot of “western” commentators pointed to that as a reason why ISIS would fight for it. But that battle is only predicted for the period after the return of the Mahdi which has not been announced. The current ideological value of Dabiq is therefore low and, like in Jarablus, ISIS cooperated well and moved out before the Turkish proxies moved in.
The Russians had allowed Turkey to enter Syria only within a limit of some 15 kilometers south of the Turkish border. Heavy artillery would have to stay on the Turkish side. The sole original purpose of the Turkish invasion was to prevent a Kurdish corridor from the eastern Kurdish areas in Syria to Afrin in the west. Such a corridor would have limited ISIS access to Turkey.
The Kurdish corridor has been prevented and ISIS access to Turkish controlled areas and Turkey itself is as open as ever. The Turkish military sees this as sufficient for its aims:
Taking control of Dabiq had eliminated the threat to Turkey from rockets fired by the jihadists, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a written statement.
The Turkish military wants to halt the operation. But Erdogan and his proxies forces want to go further south and west to attack the Syrian army encirclement of east-Aleppo:
President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Sunday Dabiq’s liberation was a “strategic and symbolic victory” against Islamic State.He told Reuters it was important strategically that the Turkey-backed forces continue their advance toward the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab.
To move to al-Bab Turkish artillery, with its units relying on conscripts, would have to move south of the Turkish-Syrian border. Any attack on them by the Syrian or Russian forces would thus become legal. Kurdish guerilla would be a constant threat. This explains the new split between the Turkish military and political forces. It will be interesting to watch how that dispute develops.
For Thursday the Russian command announced a unilateral temporary ceasefire in east-Aleppo to let the Jihadis move out. British and other special forces, said to be embedded with al-Qaeda, will be happy for the chance to leave.
In Iraq some Shia militia are moving towards Tal Afar to cut of the ISIS path to the west. Russia promised to take political and military measures should it detect an ISIS move. In east-Syria the Russian and Syrian air-forces, Hizbullah and more Shia militia from Iraq are now preparing surprises for the expected ISIS influx from Mosul. How much can they risk when the U.S. provides further air-support for the ISIS move?