As the discussions on the operation on Mosul continue, so do military activity and dispatching in the region. The Iraqi army has started significant military dispatching especially from the Kirkuk line towards the Hawija front.
There were intense aerial attacks and helicopter activity in the same region yesterday (October 13). Hawija is considered the most important gate for the liberation of Mosul.
The dispatching towards Hawija is an important development, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an operation on Mosul. Some sources say the operation will start in the last 10 days of October, but the military and political developments on the ground are not suitable for this operation yet. The conditions have yet to be met.
It looks like the political consensus and military preparation for the liberation of Mosul will take some time. The question of how Mosul will be taken from ISIS and who will control it after it’s been taken hasn’t been answered yet. The issue is not resolved at the tables, and therefore can’t be reflected on the battle field. The military force that can carry out such an operation has not been formed yet in any case.
REASONS PREVENTING THE OPERATION
There are three basic factors that constitute obstacles for the Mosul operation and thus allow the ISIS invasion to continue.
One: Conflict of interest among local, regional and international forces, and political and diplomatic disagreements they cause.
Two: The threat from Turkey and its local partners towards the region.
Three: More than one million civilians in the operation grounds. Protecting these civilians and relocating them to safe zones.
One can list many more issues as continuation on these three fundamental topics. The big picture emerges more clearly when the positions from each party is analyzed.
THE US AND THE INTERNATIONAL COALITION
The preparations for the possible operation on Mosul are carried out by the coalition led by the US. The US is in contact with all parties in the region but the Baghdad administration is stated as the political respondent. For the US, conducting an operation on ISIS is bigger than gathering the forces in the region around a table and “convincing” them. They want a joint operation with the Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and other forces. They want Mosul to be controlled by Baghdad. And as always, they are trying to pose themselves as the “saviour power” to consolidate their interests in the region. The coalition isn’t acting independently from Washington politics.
THE BAGHDAD ADMINISTRATION
Abadi’s government naturally works in harmony with the US and Iran. They accept Iran’s Heshti Shabi militia forces to take part in the operation to some extent. They also have an agreement with the Southern Kurdistan administration. Although they have not officially announced this yet, Baghdad also accepts some local regional forces trained by the PKK guerrillas to take part in the operation. The duty of these forces is to protect the lands they live on and to push back the ISIS threat.
Turkey is in a position to pose a great threat to the current situation in Mosul and its future. The soldiers they have stationed in Bashiqa and the groups called Hashdi Vatani they have trained are as dangerous as ISIS. Turkey wants Mosul to be turned over to Sunni Arab forces called Hashdi Vatani. These groups are ideologically no different than ISIS. In several areas, they are mixed with ISIS and they are in alliance.
Ankara’s only ally in Mosul are the Nuceyfis, family of the former Governor of Mosul. They organized the Hashdi Vatani over the Nuceyfi family and their contacts. Former Mosul Governor Asil Nuceyfi is the man who turned the city over to ISIS in one night. Asil Nuceyfi had met with Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara one week before he handed Mosul over to ISIS. He stayed in Hewler, Ankara and Istanbul after the invasion of Mosul.
The men Turkey calls “Mosulis we trained” are the Hashdi Vatani, and they are loyal to the former governor Asil Nuceyfi who was removed from duty by the Baghdad administration. They have no official standing in Iraq. Turkey wants to control Mosul over these groups.
At the base of Turkey’s Mosul politics, there are of course the Kurds. The Turkish administration wants to update the Ankara Treaty made with the UK in 1926. There is only one condition at the heart of this treaty: There should be no Kurds in Mosul, the city should remain in the control of Sunni Arabs.
But in the current situation, no force in the region, nor the Baghdad administration, Iran, US or the Coalition, want Turkey to take part in the Mosul operation. Turkey not taking part in the operation means them losing their influence over the region too. The only groups that want Turkey there are the KDP and the Nuceyfis. Turkey taking part in the operation under such circumstances will not bring stability to the region, on the contrary, it will make things worse. Not taking part will be a bigger obsession. In either case, Turkey loses.
Iran is involved in the Mosul case over Baghdad, they have to. Iran will never accept the Sunni forces backed by Turkey to control Mosul. Iran must have influence over Mosul, even if they don’t control it. If they lose in Mosul, they will have lost in Iraq in general. Iran’s influence will only be limited to Baghdad, Basra and partially in Southern Kurdistan. This will hurt Iran’s position in the region. In the current situation, there is no serious and vocal opposition to Iran being in Mosul.
Southern Kurdistan administration is fragmented on the Mosul operation. PUK forces are more in line with the Baghdad administration, while KDP conducts Turkey-guided politics. This position of the KDP hurts the Kurds in general. There have been some meetings among Kurds for the KDP to leave this position, but these have not yielded results yet. If KDP continues to be in Turkey’s shadow over Mosul, they will lose big. And this will be harmful for Kurds. Another effort by the KDP is to prevent PKK forces taking part in the Mosul operation.
THE PKK AND DEMOCRATIC MOSUL
PKK guerrillas are positioned in Kirkuk and to the south. With them are a large group of guerrilla forces to fight ISIS in the Maxmur region. The guerrilla forces that moved to the region to liberate Shengal from ISIS remain in their positions. The guerrilla forces state that they will take part in the Mosul operation if there is an agreement.
If there is an operation in the Hawija region, the guerrilla forces will play an effective role there. This is because of the fact that it isn’t realistic to carry out a military operation against ISIS in the region without the guerrilla. The same is true for the Tal Afar front in the Shengal direction. Due to their positions, it is imperative that the PKK forces or the local forces trained by the guerrilla take part in this operation.
The Baghdad administration is rumored to want PKK to take part in the operation. But the opposition from Turkey and Iran in this matter puts Baghdad in a difficult position. Then again, it is said that the Shengal forces who came together around Öcalan’s ideology and formed their defense units and some other groups will be taking part in the operation, and that they are preparing for it. PKK offers the other Kurdish forces that Kurds take part in the Mosul operation under a “Joint Command”, but the KDP’s negative approach causes Kurds to miss this opportunity. Despite all, PKK is trying to minimise all tension with the KDP to avoid falling into Ankara’s trap.
PKK sources have a perspective for the future of Mosul. According to this, the administration should be left to the locals after Mosul has been liberated. They propose a “Democratic Mosul” model that will include all groups, like Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, and others to remove the current conflicts and clashes.
In summary: The liberation of Mosul is not going to happen in the short term. Even if the operation starts, the “Mosul Issue” will continue. And in conjunction, the military, political and diplomatic tensions will deepen.