The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive
Mosul Set to be Completely 'Destroyed' in Battle to Free It from Isis
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

The Iraqi armed forces will eventually capture west Mosul, which is still held by Isis fighters, but the city itself will be destroyed in the fighting, a senior Iraqi politician has told The Independent in an interview.

Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish leader who until last year was the Iraqi finance minister and prior to that the country’s long-serving foreign minister, says that Isis will fight to the last man in the densely-packed urban districts it still holds.

“I think west Mosul will be destroyed,” says Mr Zebari, pointing to the high level of destruction in east Mosul just taken by government forces. He explains that Isis is able to put up such stiff resistance by skilful tactics using networks of tunnels, sniper teams and suicide bombers in great numbers. He adds that no date has yet been set for the resumption of the Iraqi government offensive into west Mosul, but he expects the fighting to be even tougher than before.

A further reason for fanatical resistance by Isis is that Mr Zebari is certain that the Isis leader and self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still in west Mosul and reports of him being killed or injured in an air strike elsewhere in Iraq are incorrect. He says that Isis sector commanders in the city are experienced professional soldiers, all of whom were once officers in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard or Special Forces, and will fight effectively to defend their remaining stronghold in the larger part of the city that is to the west of the Tigris River.

The elite Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services, led by the 10,000-strong Golden Division, had expected to take the whole of Mosul, once a city of two million people, by the end of 2016. But ferocious resistance by some 3,000 Isis fighters on the east bank of the Tigris meant that this part of the city was only captured after three months of fighting with heavy loss of life on all sides, especially among civilians.

Mr Zebari, who originally comes from Mosul, describes the present situation in the city as “horrible” and “a shambles”, even in those parts of it that Iraqi government forces have captured, though not fully occupied and secured. “There are Isis ‘sleeper cells’ with maybe 16 to 24 men in each district which come out of hiding and kill people who are cooperating with the government,” he says. “They target restaurants which have reopened and serve soldiers.” There has also been a complete failure by the government to restore basic services like electricity and water supply.

Asked about casualties, Mr Zebari said those on the Iraqi security forces side had been heavy, but the government in Baghdad has refused to produce exact figures. US reports say that some units of the Golden Division, which is a sort of highly trained army within the army, had suffered up to 50 per cent losses. He discounts official Iraqi claims that 16,000 Isis fighters had been killed, saying that the real figure was probably between 1,500 and 2,000 Isis dead out of a total of 6,000 in Mosul. He thought that they had brought in reinforcements and there were probably 4,000 Isis fighters left who would defend west Mosul, which is home to about 750,000 people.

This account is borne out by other reports from in and around east Mosul where this week two suicide bombers attacked a market, killing twelve and wounding 33 people. Mortars and rockets fired by Isis are still exploding and the main water system was destroyed in fighting in January. Pictures show cavernous craters reportedly caused by bombs dropped by US Air Force B-52s to aid the Iraqi army advance. People who fled Mosul at the height of the fighting and have been returning to it are often leaving again. The UN says that it is worried by arbitrary arrests of displaced people as possible Isis sympathisers and records that on 8 and 9 February some 1,442 came back to east Mosul, but 791 left for displacement camps.

Despite the Iraqi security forces’ focus on weeding out Isis supporters and “sleeper cells”, Mr Zebari says that this does not provide real security because travel documents can be bought from corrupt security officers for 25,000 Iraqi dinars (£17). Drivers on Iraqi roads have confirmed to The Independent that the main concern of checkpoints is not security, but to extract bribes from passing vehicles. This would explain how Isis suicide bombers driving vehicles packed with explosives are able to pass through multiple checkpoints before detonating explosives in civilian areas in Baghdad or other cities.

Mr Zebari notes that rivalry between the US and Iran in Iraq is increasing under President Donald Trump, with the latter slow to call the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and making US help conditional on a reduction in Iranian influence. During the US presidential election campaign, Mr Trump claimed that Iran had taken over Iraq. There is also growing friction between the different Shia parties and movements that Mr Zebari says makes “inter-Shia fighting imminent”.

Mr Zebari’s prediction that Mosul will be destroyed as a city by the next wave of fighting is all too likely because the last three years in Iraq and Syria have seen deepening sectarian and ethnic hatred. This was greatly fostered by Isis massacres, primarily of Shia and Yazidis but also of its other opponents. There is an ominous precedent for what may happen in Mosul because other Sunni cities and towns up and down Iraq have been wrecked or rendered uninhabitable by government counter-offensives since 2014. Some 70 per cent of the houses in Ramadi, the capital of the overwhelmingly Sunni Anbar province, are in ruins or are badly damaged. Even where many houses are still standing, as in Fallujah 40 miles west of Baghdad, the people who come back to them have to live without electricity, water, jobs or medical care. In practice, the Shia-dominated Iraqi government wants to break the back of Sunni resistance to its rule so it will never be capable of rising again.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, ISIS, Shias and Sunnis 
Hide 10 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This seems hard to believe.

    “US reports say that some units of the Golden Division, which is a sort of highly trained army within the army, had suffered up to 50 per cent losses.”

    If casualties were that high then the Golden Division would have vanished by now due to desertion.

    I doubt any more than 10% of the Golden Division has been killed or wounded.

    • Replies: @Vendetta
    , @David Moore
  2. MEexpert says:

    I wish this gentleman would learn to write a coherent article. How do you expect the government to restore the services when the fight is still going on and ISIS forces seem to destroy whatever is built or restored by the government? The first priority is to retake Mosul and clean out the city of ISIS fighters. Only then the rebuilding can start and the service restored.

    The author is also very pro Kurds and anti Shiite. All his articles favor the Kurds side. The title of this article is also misleading. It implies that the government forces are destroying Mosul to free it from ISIS when the reality is just the opposite. It is the ISIS fighters that are destroying Mosul.

    • Replies: @Ned Ludlam
  3. Vendetta says:

    If by “some units” he’s talking about some platoons of the Division taking up to 50%, I’d believe it.

    Elite units often suffer higher attrition rates than normal ones because of their willingness to stand and fight when faced with strong resistance from an enemy. ‘Elite’ in the context of the Golden Division might simply mean it is the only unit in the Iraqi Army which is actually willing to fight against anything more than token opposition.

  4. @Anonymous

    Golden Division soldiers are paid much more and better taken care of than others. I do not doubt 50 percent casualties is what is meant, meaning 5-10 percent killed. I was in an elite division and such units will take much heavier casualties. SS divisions took high casualties and held. My grandfather’s US Marine regiment in WWI took over 100 percent casualties, including 25 percent killed, with my grandfather wounded.

    • Replies: @Didi
  5. Where is the Western media concern about Mosul civilians like the months of wailing about the alleged targeting of civilians in Aleppo by Syria and Russia ? Well?

    I do not myself believe that al Baghdadi is in Mosul. There have been far too many chances for him to have got away. Unless, of course, there’s a deal for him to be allowed to flee at the last moment.

    The Battle of Mosul is actually going rather well for ISIS considering its long term plans. It’s proving that it can stand its ground and fight it out with the best its enemies have to offer. And the combat capabilities of both the Iraqis in Mosul and the Turks at al Bab have not exactly been of a level to bring joy to the hearts of their supporters.

  6. Anonymous [AKA "jc213"] says:

    Anyone remember the crocodile tears when the Russians took Aleppo?? Not one tear will be shed for Mosul as we destroy it, because we are ‘liberating’ it. So the Russophobes scream when Russia does anything, but stick their heads in the sand when we do something far worse! Is this the first time we have done something like this?? No, Fallujah was destroyed as well. Talk about hypocrisy and ‘fake news’.

  7. Anonymous [AKA "clean water"] says:

    Why are the people responsible for this collosal mess still walking around free. WMD WTF!
    I suppose that we would have to go back to 100 years to 1917 and start there, but it would be much more satisifying to start in around 1995 through 2003. If you don’t take the war criminals to task, then just expect more of the same.

  8. Didi says:
    @David Moore

    All 1944 soldiers of the Grossdeutschland division of the Wehrmacht which was not a Waffen SS unit were different from those who had entered the Soviet Union in 1941 with “Barbarossa”. That was probably also true for the SS divisions “Das Reich” and “Leibstandarte” who fought at Kursk. One of the reasons why they remained quite functional was that reserves were trained for these specific divisions rather than for a general purpose and a tendency for many replacements to come from a specific area of Germany rather than from random parts of the country. Thus a replacement often found comrades from the town he came from.

  9. @MEexpert

    Well, it’s a lot easier is you have a competent military and the U.S. and Iraqi forces show how poor they are against a disadvantaged opponent. The U.S. in particular are just big but after that they are lazy, poorly equipped, badly led with poor tactics. Oh, and all the local people hate them.

    Compared to the Russians and Syrians in Aleppo. What a contrast. Same enemy, same size city, same context with dramatic results. Steady military success, few casualties, excellent ground leadership, equipment that doesn’t break down, aircraft that his the enemy instead of wedding parties.

    This is why both Patrick Armstrong and The Saker have written that as things are Russia would prevail in a war against the U.S. and all of the ever worthless NATO.

    Give those Ruskies a couple of more years to pull away along with their fast learning buddies from China. USA – Toast. The EU is already toast.

  10. The German 352nd Division, which inflicted heavy losses at Omaha Beach, was often depicted later as being an elite unit. In fact it was about average for a mid-1944 German formation and it had its share of ex-Soviet POWs and Poles, conscripted more or less by force and who would desert if the opportunity came. But the other two German divisions on the Normandy beaches (716th and 709th) were well below par.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Patrick Cockburn Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr