What the commentators said
The Western media is portraying the advance on Mosul is if it were “as well-planned as the D-Day landings”, said Patrick Cockburn in The Independent. In fact, the attacking forces – the Iraqi army, the Kurds, the Shia militias and “a 5,000-strong Sunni militia” trained by Turkey – “suspect and fear each other almost as much as they hate Daesh”. The successful antiDaesh campaign of the past two years has been heavily dependent on US aerial firepower. Daesh, meanwhile, has often chosen to fall back rather than fight pitched battles. Things will be different in Mosul, said Bill Powell in Newsweek. Daesh deserters say that it has constructed an “intricate network of tunnels with rooms, toilets, medical facilities and enough food to sustain a long fight”. They say that some 3,000 militants will fight to the death, hiding among Mosul’s civilians, and even using chlorine and mustard gas left over from Saddam Hussein’s regime. “There is no question that the Daesh will be defeated in Mosul,” said David Petraeus in The Washington Post. The rival forces are too strong to fail. “The real question is what comes afterwards.” Mosul, and Nineveh province, are home to a complex network of “ethnic groups, religious groups, tribes and other elements” – Sunni, Shia, Christian, Shabak, Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, Turkmen. This makes governing it a unique challenge, particularly when the Iraqi authorities are, to put it mildly, not always committed to reconciliation. In 2014, Daesh declared its caliphate in Mosul, said Jason Burke in The Guardian. Optimists believe its defeat there will “fatally undermine the group’s appeal” to Muslims and to potential recruits. Territorial losses will “mean no tax, oil or other revenue streams” from Iraq, and “no space” for training, resting or preparing effective propaganda. Pessimists, however, point out that Daesh survived between 2007 and 2014 while controlling very little territory – and went on to “conduct the single most effective Islamic extremist military campaign seen anywhere in the world for decades”.