The Iraqi Advance and the Question of What Next

It seems that slowly but inexorably the  Iraq army is pushing back the Da’esh forces. It is  also apparent that the enthusiasm among young Muslim men from all over the world to join the ISIS has dwindled, as has the Islamic State  access to large amount of cash. This is not to say that the ISIS is on its last legs. I see an 12 to 18 month campaign to retake Mosul from the  ISIS, who will then regroup in what is left of their territory in Syria.

The retaking of Mosul will go a long way toward ending the  illusion of an Islamic Caliphate but not the Islamist movement that will be kept alive by radical Sunni clerics throughout the world. World wide Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and  Arab Gulf states money will still provide the sanctuary needed for these militants to operate quietly within Western societies,  facilitated by “Islamic Study Centers,” academics and politicians on their payroll ( or infected with terminal political correctness)

As the Iraqi forces have pushed further into the Sunni heartland of Anbar province, the Iraqi  population has become animated and more  involved in the   operations by the Iraqi army. This evidenced by a move from Facebook posts to a much more active use of twitter accounts to chronicle the advances of the Iraqi army. In fact the Iraqi use of social media is a gold mine of tuning into the trends within the Iraqi population. One particularly good wordpress site that follows social media in Iraq is prarabway.wordpress.com. It is in English and Arabic.

What follows the fall of Mosul to the anti Da’esh forces? There is one single truth that stands out.  What ever the Kurds retake from the Da’esh will not be given back to the Iraqi forces. The Kurds will not  shed blood for the Iraqi state. Hopefully the Kurds will not get greedy and hope to expand their borders beyond their traditional areas. If they do they will inevitably come in to collision with the Iraqi forces and the war will  continue.

Just what are the “great powers”  envisioning after a Mosul recapture? And what will be the moves of the neighboring  Middle Eastern states?

Despite Iraqi Shi’a gratitude for Iranian help thriugh the dark years of Saddam. and their assistance in containing the Da’aesh movement, The Iraqi  Shi’a are not only Arabs but as some scholars put it, among the heart of Arabism. In fact as one of the best scholars on Iraqi shi’ism ( Yitzhak   Nakash) wrote, many of the Shi’a of Iraq are fairly recent converts from Sunnism to  Shi’ism. partly in opposition to the hated Ottoman rule of Iraq, and later the British.  It should also be remembered that 80% of the rank and file of the Iraqi army that fought against  Shi’a  Iran  were also Shi’a.They resent foreign rule and while the Basra region evidences a large measure of Iranian influence, once the ISIS and Ba’athist menace is removed, the reliance on Iran will diminish. The Iranians know this and that is why they will do all within their power to ensure that a resurgent, unified Iraq is no longer on their border. Their support for the Talabani clan in Kurdistan will assist the Kurds in their independence move, a prospect looming large in the clouded and megalomanic view of the new Sultan, Erdogan. Turkey cannot allow an independent Kurdistan on its border, especially one with oil riches. On the other hand Iran cannot allow a unified Iraq on its border. Turkey and Iran will be jockeying for power in the Middle East. Unfortunately the U.S.” Nuclear agreement” with Iran and misplaced faith in Erdogan has created two colliding egos in the same playing ( battle) field.

Syria, despite its Shi’a offshoot ruling elite , the Alawi, does not view a resurgent Iraq with favor either. Despite being both being ruled by Ba’athist regimes in the 70’s and 80’s they were constantly at one another throats. King Abdullah, of  Jordan, who once complained about  the menace of the Shi’a axis, and under his father always favored the Sunni regime, cannot be thrilled about a Shi’a dominated Iraq either.

Further south the picture gets even dicier, with all the Gulf States fearing a Shi’a Iraq,. which in their one dimensional sectarian minds they see as in the Iranian axis. For example the two mouthpieces for their regimes,  al Jazeera  ( Qatar) and al Arabiya ( Saudi Arabia), usually opposed to one another, are both soft pedaling Iraqi army gains.

IZ t rally baghdad2

So there you have it…..as the “Caliphate ” collapses, the old rivalries heat up. What are the plans gentlemen. Is it as General Franks( commander of the forces that invaded/liberated Iraq)  once explained to his staff, “You take care  of tomorrow and I’ll take care of today.”

isis territoryThe incredibly shrinking Islamic State

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About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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