David French wonders why the defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (or ISIS) isn’t a bigger story.
Remember how debates about ISIS dominated the presidential primaries? Remember how Donald Trump and Ted Cruz ratcheted up their rhetoric until they both seemed to promise that they’d commit warcrimes, like carpet bombing and torture, to defeat the deadly threat? ISIS was often the most important and most prominent story in the world.
Since Iraqi troops seized back Mosul last month, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has been reduced to the area around Raqqa in Syria. Predominantly Kurdish forces are attempting to take the city, protected by Western airpower. Authorities estimate the number of Islamist fighters has dwindled from the thousands to the hundreds.
The Western-backed effort to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq is making headway. The self-proclaimed caliphate has lost two-thirds of its territory. The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second city, is well underway.
As David Downing reported here on Sunday, Mosul could make a quick economic recovery once it is entirely liberated from the self-declared Islamic State by Iraqi government forces.
Not only is the city, once Iraq’s second largest, a hub for northern Iraqi industry and trade; it’s also situated close to major oil and natural gas reserves. The potential for further economic expansion could be close at hand.
The battle will not be over quickly, though. It has been estimated it will take another three to five months to rout the Islamic State from eastern Mosul.
Once the militants are defeated, internal and sectarian divisions could resurface. A Shia-Sunni divide seems inevitable. Mosul being a Sunni majority town doesn’t help the cause for peaceful settlement. Friction between religious groups can hurt reconstruction efforts, especially with the involvement of Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s sanctioned Shia fighters. We are looking at a “game of thrones” mentality where a balance of factions in this enclave becomes quite a task. Read more “Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State”
There are some 100,000 troops involved in the conquest (or reconquest, depending on your perspective) of Mosul. On the surface, the battle is meant to restore the Iraqi government to its full writ; a Baghdad-united Shia and Sunni realm, a nation state on the way to functionality. In other words, a normal country.
Careful observation reveals a more wretched future. The Islamic State may be doomed, but that hardly means peace for Iraq. There are too many who want a piece of this particular pie.