Washington D.C. was the host, on July 20th, of an anti-ISIS meeting, where Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter received more than 30 leaders, representing their nations, to discuss the next steps in the fight against the “Islamic State,” including, in particular, efforts by the coalitions led by the United States to liberate the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria from its domination.
After the battle of Fallujah last month, the main objective for the Iraqi government and its allies became Mosul, the second largest Iraqi city, which was occupied by ISIS in a spectacular way at the end of June 2014, after a questionable withdrawal of the Iraqi army from the city.
On the ground, the matter is more complicated than it seems in Washington, like most issues in the region. When will the Mosul battle be waged? Who will participate in the attack? … and what about the day after the liberation? … Which of the three Iraqi components; the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds; will be in charge?
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense, issued a statement addressing the American aid to Kurdistan, saying that the memorandum signed with the central government doesn’t permit building military bases from foreign countries and stipulates the withdrawal of the Kurdish militia “the Peshmerga” from liberated areas according to a set timetable. The ministry of “Peshmerga” responded by rejecting Baghdad’s request to withdraw its forces from the territory it occupies in the Ninawa district, in northwestern Iraq, saying that they are part of the Kurdish Homeland after defeating ISIS, and threatening to suspend their coordination with the Iraqi army, which might lead to the postponement of the whole operation. “…The guns of the ‘Peshmerga’ are not for hire, they are used by the decision of the people of Kurdistan and to serve their interest … and if they think in Baghdad that we take orders from them, they are mistaken,” continued the Kurdish declaration.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad distanced the American administration from the “memorandum” dispute, considering it as an Iraqi political matter.
In a declaration to the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, a representative of the Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, the Democratic Party said that any difference will negatively effect in liberating Mosul and may delay it. The Iraqi army doesn’t have the capacity to achieve the task alone. The “Peshmerga” is encircling the city and it can’t be dismissed, because it is the main force in the coalition. He added that the Peshmerga will not withdraw from areas it has liberated because they form part of the Kurdish entity, and that’s not negotiable. They dominate 40 percent of the Ninawa district in the disputed territory.
About Mosul, he said that it is subject to political consideration. It is difficult to achieve an agreement about it between Sunnis and Shiites, especially because the population, mostly Sunni, rejects the participating of the Shias’s forces of Popular Mobilization in the liberation of Mosul. As for the Kurds, they represent an important component and the district cannot be managed without their participation.
From the other side the “Righteous brigades,” who are a Shiite military organization, warned of the outcome of involving the “Peshmerga” in the Mosul battle, and insisted on the participation of the “Popular Mobilization” forces to guarantee victory and abort the territorial ambitions of the Kurds.
Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdish enclave expressed disappointment to Johnathan Khon of the American embassy in Baghdad, for the improper treatment of the Iraqi government of the “Peshmerga” and for not inviting them to the Washington meeting, despite the fact that they form an essential force in the fight against ISIS.
In the battle for Mosul and Al-Raqqa, international and regional powers with their interests will be involved. The external presence and influence, in the past, as in the future, will add more complication to the picture. The population in the region is paying the price since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.
For the people of Syria and Iraq, as it is still the case for the Palestinians, there is no end in sight for their tragedies.