With new developments in Mosul come new concerns. The massive military operation launched on 17 October to take back Mosul, one of the most important strongholds of ISIS, continues. It is the most comprehensive military operation on Iraqi soil since the US invasion in 2003. A force of 100,000, consisting of the Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga, Shiite militias, Sunni and tribal forces, as well as US military advisers, are participating in the operation from land while the international coalition forces led by the US provide air support by bombing targets in the city. The fact that the parties that have disagreements, dissensions and serious differences among each other have come together for a common purpose is indeed noteworthy.
Although the Iraqi Army could not advance as fast as the Iraqi Prime Minister Ibadi expected by the beginning of this year, it had taken control of the eastern side of Mosul divided into two by River Tigris but it sustained heavy losses in the bloody urban skirmishes against ISIS. The Baghdad government has not made any clear statements regarding their losses. According to experts, however, the death toll in the nonstop suicide bombings, bomb traps, ambushes and raids conducted by ISIS have reached into the thousands. The operation is suffering devastating losses as the radical organization has been preparing for urban warfare since the summer of 2014, when the city was captured, to the present date.
The western side of Mosul, still controlled by ISIS, is under siege from all sides. The narrow ancient streets of the region, combined with its high population density are, in a way, the harbinger of the sufferings to come. Considering the fact that 750,000 innocent civilians live in the western section of the city, almost half of whom are children, the gravity of the situation is understood better. The statement by Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the international coalition, confirms these estimates: "There is still a long way to go before [IS] is completely eliminated from Iraq, and the fight for western Mosul is likely to be even tougher than the eastern side."
The number of the civilians who lost their lives in the ruined streets and buildings of Iraq's second largest city remains unknown. But one thing is certain and that is the fact that infants, children, women and the elderly trapped in the middle of war are in a dire situation. The inhibitants of the city have been largely deprived of basic needs, such as clean water, basic food items, medicine, electricity, and fuel. In the words of Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, "The reports from inside western Mosul are distressing... all the evidence points to a sharply deteriorating situation.”
And Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Representative in Iraq, defines the situation as "dramatic and horrific."
In the mean time, about 200,000 Mosul residents, who have left the city and settled in camps, now live under harsh winter conditions riddled with various problems and troubles. One of these problems is the UN agency, The World Food Programme, reducing food rations by 50 percent, citing insufficient funding as the reason.
Giving an entire family the food supply of one person is indeed a conscience-troubling situation. Moreover, the risk of a new humanitarian crisis that might be caused by a possible increase in the number of refugees with the escalation of war cannot be disregarded.
There is also the fact that many people are profoundly mistaken about the Mosul operation: It is the fallacy that all these difficulties and troubles are short-lived and that the problem will be completely solved once Mosul is recaptured. It is almost impossible to achieve permanent peace, tranquility, stability and prosperity unless the atmosphere and conditions that give rise to ISIS and similar radical organizations are completely eliminated.
Despite being Muslim-majority areas, Nineveh Governorate and its capital Mosul are home to peoples from various religions, sects and ethnic backgrounds such as Kurds, Shi’a Arabs, Sunnis and Shiite Turkmen, Christians and Yazidis, in addition to the Sunni Arabs that make up the majority of the population. Among the parties, there is a fierce and ongoing rivalry and struggle between the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds regarding exactly who will take control of Mosul. The attempts of the regional countries aimed at producing a solution have typically proven inefficient. Thus, the lack of a solution gives the Western powers the opportunity to intervene in the region.
As it would be remembered, the Shiaization policy, the sectarian and oppressive practices pursued by the former central government of Iraq, played a significant role in ISIS’ capture of such a big city as Mosul with remarkable ease. In the case of unity and solidarity among the concerned parties, no terrorist organization, no radical group, could have found any living space or even been able to touch Mosul, nor could they have even imagined such an attempt. It is therefore important to draw lessons from the past and not repeat the same mistakes.
There are some indispensable and crucial matters that should be addressed during both the ongoing operations and the post-ISIS period: Be it Sunni or Shi'a, no extremist or pro-violence groups, no acts of revenge, no practices that offend fundamental rights and freedoms should be enabled in any way. Otherwise, it may well give rise to new terrorist organizations, which, in turn, may lead to new suffering, losses, massacres and catastrophes; or further, the conflicts may escalate into a civil war that can encompass the whole of Iraq.
There is only one way to prevent this disaster and establish the long-awaited atmosphere of peace, tranquility, stability and prosperity: The alliance of the countries of the region, particularly Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and the unity and solidarity of all the peoples living in Mosul under the leadership of these countries. It should not be forgotten that all the parties here are Muslims and all Muslims are brothers, regardless of their sect, ethnic origin, or countries. This is not as difficult as some make it out to be so long as the peoples of the region cast aside their self-interest, ethnic, sectarian and ideological differences in order to pursue a genuinely noble cause: In fact, carrying on conflicts, disputes and wars is the far more difficult thing to do. If the concerned parties are able to coalesce for a military operation why can they not coalesce for love, friendship, brotherhood, peace, and thus, for an ultimately beneficial solution?
Adnan Oktar's piece in Al Bilad & EKurd Daily: