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Iraq Crisis: Capture of Mosul Ushers in the Birth of a Sunni Caliphate
The balance of power between Iraq’s Sunni, Kurdish and Shia communities has now changed
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The capture of Mosul by Isis means a radical change in the political geography of Iraq and Syria. Moreover, the impact of this event will soon be felt across the Middle East as governments take on board the fact that a Sunni proto-caliphate is spreading across northern Iraq and Syria.

The next few weeks will be crucial in determining the outcome of Isis’s startling success in taking over a city of 1.4 million people, garrisoned by a large Iraqi security force, with as few as 1,300 fighters. Will victory in Mosul be followed by success in other provinces where there is a heavy concentration of Sunni, such as Salahuddin, Anbar and Diyala? Already, the insurgents have captured the important oil refinery town of Baiji with scarcely a shot fired by simply calling ahead by phone to tell the police and army to lay down their weapons and withdraw.

These spectacular advances by Isis would not be happening unless there was tacit support and no armed resistance from the Sunni Arab community in northern and central Iraq. Many people rightly suspect and fear Isis’s bloodthirsty and sectarian fanaticism, but for the moment these suspicions and fears have been pushed to one side by even greater hatred of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government.

This may not last: Iraqi government officials speak of a counterattack led by special “anti-terrorist” forces that are better trained, motivated and armed than the bulk of the Iraqi army. It may be that the Kurds will use their peshmerga troops in Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces to drive back Isis and create facts on the ground in areas often rich in oil, in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces. A successful counter-offensive could happen but the failure of the Iraqi army to retake Fallujah, a much smaller city than Mosul, in the six months since it fell in January does not bode well for the government. If the Isis advance takes more towns and villages, then the territory lost to the government may become too large to reconquer.

But Isis too has its weaknesses: in the past it has isolated itself by its fierce determination to monopolise power, impose fundamentalist Islamic norms and persecute or kill all who differ from it. This enabled the Americans to turn many Sunni against it in 2006 and 2007. So far reports from Mosul suggest it is being much more circumspect, telling government employees to turn up for work and not harassing the population, though this may not last. People in Mosul are wondering who they fear most: Isis or the government. Anger against the latter will grow if it resorts to indiscriminate bombing and shelling of Mosul as it has done in Fallujah.

Followers of Isis have flooded Twitter with pictures of the bodies of their enemies but they have also used the medium to show functioning hospitals and a consultative administrative process. It is not clear which will prevail in Iraq: possibly both.


The fall of Mosul has changed the balance of power between Iraq’s three main communities; Shia, Sunni and Kurds. Shia rule in non-Shia areas has received a blow from which it will be difficult for it to recover; Kurdish dominance in mixed Kurdish-Arab areas will expand; the five or six million Sunni Arabs will never be marginalised again.

It is not just in Iraq that the balance of power is changing. The Iraq-Syrian border no longer exists for most practical purposes. In Syria Isis forces will become vastly more powerful because the movement can draw on fighters, weapons and money from its newly conquered territories in Iraq. The rest of the Syrian military opposition to President Bashar al-Assad will find it difficult to compete on the battlefield with Isis if it manages to consolidate its recent victories.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, ISIS 
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  1. Why are we so concerned about the creation of Islamic fundamentalist states? Are non-fundamental Muslims any better from our point of view? Let them go back to the 14th century if they wish.

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  2. JMR says:

    If Iraq’s borders were arbitrarily defined, as I have read, then perhaps the formation of a Kurdistan and an ISIS-stan wouldn’t be such a bad thing; the Shia can rule what remains of Shi’ite Iraq, and the Kurds can take care of themselves. Meanwhile, the Sunni will have ISIS until they realize what that entails.

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  3. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    I feel sorry for the Assyrians. And also the other ME Christians who’ll follow. What a shitty hand history’s dealt them, being overrun by the most despicable, batshit, and mindnumbingly boring cult humanity’s ever come up with.

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  4. Yes, Anon, Islam is a disgusting medieval religion which will never change and which one day we may have to destroy. But not right now, unless we are willing to nuke Mecca. I am willing.

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  5. dearieme says:

    “If Iraq’s borders were arbitrarily defined”: absurd statement – all borders are arbitrarily defined, except maybe for a few oceanic islands.

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  6. Iraq’s borders and the borders of all the former Ottoman territories after 1918 were artificially drawn in order to satisfy the imperialistic goals of the British and the French and to satisfy some but not all promises made to various Arab rulers in exchange for their fight vs. the Turks during the World War.

    Most boundaries are the results of war, but here the boundaries were drawn in places that were all part of one large Ottoman Empire. Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia had never existed before.

    Other artificial boundaries were drawn in Africa, cutting across tribal identities and to this day all African states are hopelessly artificial. The same could be said of the new states created after the fall of the Romanovs and Habsburgs in 1918. You see what happened with Yugoslavia. The same in now happening with Syria and Iraq. Tito kept Yugoslavia together, as Saddam kept Iraq together. We should be careful not to get rid of these useful tyrants in favor of tyrants who cause more trouble. Hitler tried through genocide and population transfers to create homogeneity but he failed. The following states are not ethnically sustainable: Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Rumania, Ukraine, and even Spain and Belgium. Those able to accept ethnic diversity include only the USA, Canada, and the Russian Federation.

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  7. Duglarri says:

    Not many people are pointing out the basic absurdity of this advance by ISIS. The numbers involved are comical. At first it was reported that 30,000 Iraqi troops fled; it’s starting to look like the real number was 90,000. Fled at the approach of how many ISIS insurgents? 20,000? No. 10,000? No. 5,000? 1,000? No. It appears that nearly 100,000 Iraqi army troops stripped off their uniforms and ran when between five hundred and eight hundred ISIS showed up. And that’s not even counting the police, who also numbered in the tens of thousands.

    It seems that the so-called Iraqi army was nothing of the sort. It was a centrally organized mafia, not an army; it was good for looting the population, not protecting them. Their generals appear to have bought their positions and then made good their investments by extorting money from the locals.

    Now this trivial handful of ISIS fighters have stirred up some significant opposition. The two battalions of Iranians the Wall Street Journal says moved into Tikrit outnumber the ISIS fighters all by themselves. The Kurds may have as many as 300,000 men to call on.

    Unless they add a large number of quick recruits from the ares they have taken in the past few days, this handful of fighters who have come out of the desert may suffer a quick reversal of fortune in the next few weeks.

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  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The readers of this page should know that the author is supporting the policy of the criminal West saying exactly what CIA/MI6 are saying. This ‘journalist’ is reapting Kissinger and other criminal policy makers of the west trying to convince you that partition of Iraq is a good thing for the interest of Israel and the west including MI6. Therefore, erection of ‘kurdistan’ is inevidable. This is a lie. Look what the criminal west has done in Sudan? They partition the country by sending money and arm under the cover of “humanitarian aid” where this agent pose as ‘journalist’ supports. The “strategy of Israel in 1980s” is exactly saying the same thing so CIA and MI6. The people of the region never allow another Israel, a ziofascist, where this embedded ‘journalist’ is seeking on behalf of the criminal west. Have you notices that this ‘journalist’ has hide the hand of the main players, the west, in terrorist activities of ‘takfiris’? These terrorists are trained and funded by the west and he lies about it.

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  9. JC says:

    “unless we are willing to nuke Mecca. I am willing. (norman ravitch)

    Are you a jew? bloodthirsty? or both?

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  10. dsmith says:

    I wonder if our highly paid multi billion dollar spying apparatus and CIA saw this coming, or were they busy listening in on European leader’s conversations. I say we should sit this one out and let Iran and Saudi Arabia fight to stabilize their region.

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  11. sammy says:

    It is a Sunni Rebellion by ex Baathist , Sufis , and Sunni Tribal Chiefs.ISIS fighters are a minority.The Sunni population in the predominately Sunni areas have risen up..The Sectarian Maliki Government and the Shia dominated army Just withered..Now , Maliki and Iran are trying to paint this Sunni Uprising as an Al-Qaeda take over..They are trying to call the Sunnis as Terrorists..This is not the case..These people were marginalized , brutalized , and sidelined..Iran is proposing a Joint Iranian – American Military operation against the rebels..Iran , a Shiite Theocracy , that has been involved in numerous terrorist acts is branding the Sunnis Rebels who rose up against its American-Installed crony (Maliki) as blood thirsty criminals..What an Irony!!

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  12. sammy says:

    Norman Ravitch: The Muslim population all over the world is exploding..There are around 1.7 billion Muslims..Ninety percent of them are Sunnis..The Western population is not only shrinking but aging…Islam is headed to become the largest religion in the world after
    a couple of decades..You want to Nuke Mecca..You should expect that all American and Western
    interests will be destroyed in the Muslim world that stretches from Indonesia to Nigeria.There are 180 million Muslims in India alone..20 million Muslims in Russia.I’m Sorry to tell you that you are a lunatic.

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  13. If you want to turn someone radical and hateful, the best way is to treat them unjustly – subject them to an apartheid system, steal their land, and injure them blatantly. And if you keep them defenseless and with no avenue to justice, you can also nurture terrorism where there was none before. It works with junkyard dogs; it works with humans.
    Guess which country is doing its utmost to make Muslims radical and get them to indulge in terrorism? Too bad that little country is our “BFF”

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  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    {The Sectarian Maliki Government and the Shia dominated army Just withered..Now , Maliki and Iran are trying to paint this Sunni Uprising as an Al-Qaeda take over..}

    This is the same line that is repeated by the embedded ‘journalists’, Obama, CIA stooges and CIA trained terrorists who are trypting to topple Assad, and Iraqi government. All are based on ODED YINON stratgegy trying to partition regional governments to establish ‘greater Israel’ which is part of the ‘world government’. I am sure you, one by one , take i t into your fu*king graves. CIA/Mossad trained terrorists funded by the Saudi Arabia, Qattar and help of the terrorist state of Turkey in bed with Israel for the last 67 years trying to paint majority shiites as ‘sectarians’ WHICH IS NOTHING BUT A LIE. These zionist stooges, including the first black president has blood on their hand and all these terrorist activities and killing are directed by them. Down with US imperialism and zionism, the main enemy of our time. Down with stooges of zionist banker. US muast get lost from the region Now. The embedded ‘journalist’ should go to hell because YOU cannot fool anyone except YOURSELF.

    Cockburn is lying to you and only ignorant people will fall as his pray. His analysis is in line with CIA/mossad/MI6. Gilad Atzmon, on the other hand, has it right when in “The Jewish Plan for the Middle East and Beyond” writes:

    {Surely, what’s happening now in Iraq and Syria must serve as a final wakeup call that we have been led into a horrific situation in the Middle East by a powerful Lobby driven by the interests of one tribe and one tribe alone.

    Back in 1982, Oded Yinon an Israeli journalist formerly attached to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, published a document titled ‘A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties.’ This Israeli commentator suggested that for Israel to maintain its regional superiority, it must fragment its surrounding Arab states into smaller units. The document, later labelled as ‘Yinon Plan’, implied that Arabs and Muslims killing each other in endless sectarian wars was, in effect, Israel’s insurance policy.}

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  15. […] Patrick Cockburn asks in UNZ Birth Of A Sunni Caliphate Or Just Presage to More War? […]

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  16. […] Iraq Crisis: Capture of Mosul Ushers in the Birth of a Sunni Caliphate […]

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  17. […] Iraq Crisis: Capture of Mosul Ushers in the Birth of a Sunni Caliphate […]

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