Iraqi PM De­clares Vic­tory Over “Op­pres­sion, Bru­tal­ity & Ter­ror­ism” as Mo­sul is Lib­er­ated from IS

The Jewish Voice - - FRONT PAGE - By: Wal­ter Me­tuth

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day con­grat­u­lated Iraq, its prime min­is­ter, and se­cu­rity forces for lib­er­at­ing the city of Mo­sul from Is­lamic State. In a White House state­ment, Trump said de­feat­ing the mil­i­tant group in Mo­sul "sig­nals that its days in Iraq and Syria are num­bered." He fur­ther pledged to "con­tinue to seek the to­tal de­struc­tion of ISIS," us­ing an acro­nym for Is­lamic State.

Trump said the United States grieves for the thou­sands of Iraqis who suf­fered and died at the hands of Is­lamic State along with the "loss of the heroic sol­diers and Pesh­merga (Kur­dish fight­ers) who gave their lives."

Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi for­mally de­clared vic­tory on Mon­day in the city that the mil­i­tant group had de­clared the cap­i­tal of its caliphate in Iraq.

Speak­ing from Mo­sul's Old City in a speech car­ried on state tele­vi­sion, Abadi said the win is a vic­tory over op­pres­sion, bru­tal­ity and ter­ror­ism.

"I de­clare in Mo­sul, from Mo­sul, to all peo­ple the... fail­ure and col­lapse of the ter­ror­ist Is­lamic State," he said.

Abadi said Iraq still faces chal­lenges, in­clud­ing de­stroy­ing Is­lamic State ter­ror cells that still ex­ist in the coun­try and cre­at­ing sta­bil­ity for the en­tire na­tion.

The U.S. mil­i­tary wel­comed Abadi's state­ment but said there are still ar­eas of the Old City of Mo­sul that must be cleared of ex­plo­sives and pos­si­ble ISIS fight­ers in hid­ing.

Hours be­fore Abadi's speech, wit­nesses re­ported heavy fight­ing still un­der­way in parts of Mo­sul.

The com­mand­ing U.S. gen­eral of the coali­tion op­er­a­tion in Mo­sul, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Stephen Townsend, said, "This vic­tory alone does not elim­i­nate ISIS and there is still a tough fight ahead. But the loss of one of its twin cap­i­tals and a jewel of their so-called caliphate is a de­ci­sive blow."

Is­lamic State still con­trols some ter­ri­tory out­side Mo­sul as well as much big­ger ar­eas in neigh­bor­ing Syria.

Will it ever feel safe again?

Thou­sands of civil­ians have been killed in this bat­tle and 900,000 peo­ple have been forced to flee their homes. Vast swaths of Mo­sul and the sur­round­ing towns and vil­lages have been aban­doned, and many peo­ple say they will never feel safe go­ing home.

And while no part of Mo­sul is as thor­oughly de­stroyed as the Old City, nei­ther has any part been left un­touched by nearly three years of Is­lamic State rule and al­most nine months of all-out war.

Hu­man rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional re­leased a re­port Tues­day de­tail­ing the loss of civil­ian life in the bat­tle for Mo­sul, doc­u­ment­ing at least 400 civil­ian deaths just in West Mo­sul be­tween Jan­uary and mid-May.

"The scale and grav­ity of the loss of civil­ian lives dur­ing the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul must im­me­di­ately be pub­licly ac­knowl­edged at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment in Iraq and states that are part of the US-led coali­tion," Lynn Maalouf, Di­rec­tor of Re­search for the Mid­dle East at Am-

Trump said de­feat­ing the mil­i­tant group in Mo­sul "sig­nals that its days in Iraq and Syria are num­bered." He fur­ther pledged to "con­tinue to seek the to­tal de­struc­tion of ISIS"

nesty In­ter­na­tional, said.

In parts of East Mo­sul, re­cap­tured by Iraqi forces in Jan­uary, re­cov­ery is more promis­ing. Shop­pers crowd the streets, some of which are newly paved, mostly pick­ing through wreck­age left by airstrikes. The gov­ern­ment has re­stored elec­tric­ity and wa­ter sup­plies in much of the city.

Wash­ing­ton In­sti­tute for Near East Pol­icy Dis­tin­guished Fel­low and for­mer Am­bas­sador James Jef­frey told VOA that re­lief and re­cov­ery ef­forts are only the first step af­ter the re­cap­ture of Mo­sul.

"The sec­ond step is of course po­lit­i­cal, as al­ways in Iraq," Jef­frey said. "How are you go­ing to pre­vent a re­turn of ISIS or some­thing like it, and how are you go­ing to in­cor­po­rate the Sunni Arabs into the larger Iraq and keep the Kurds, who are in it but quite sep­a­rate, play­ing a pos­i­tive role. Those are the big is­sues we have been deal­ing with since 2003."

On Tues­day, it was re­ported that Is­lamic State has cap­tured most of a vil­lage south of Mo­sul de­spite los­ing con­trol of its strong­hold in the city, an Iraqi army of­fi­cer and res­i­dents said, de­ploy­ing guer­rilla-style tac­tics as its self-pro­claimed caliphate crum­bles.

The mil­i­tants, armed with ma­chine guns and mor­tars, have now seized more than 75 per­cent of Imam Gharbi, a vil­lage on the western bank of the Ti­gris River some 70 km (44 miles) south of Mo­sul, and re­in­force­ments are ex­pected, the Iraqi army of­fi­cer said.

Is­lamic State launched its at­tack on Imam Gharbi last week, in the kind of strike it is ex­pected to de­ploy now as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces re­gain con­trol over cities the group cap­tured dur­ing its shock 2014 of­fen­sive.

Mo­sul res­i­dent Hind Mah­moud said by tele­phone that she had heard ex­changes of gun­fire in the Old City and seen an Iraqi army he­li­copter fir­ing on Is­lamic State mil­i­tants on Tues­day.

Stripped of Mo­sul, Is­lamic State's do­min­ion in Iraq will be re­duced to mainly ru­ral, desert ar­eas west and south of the city.

Is­lamic State also faces pres­sure in its op­er­a­tional base in the Syr­ian city of Raqqa, where U.S.-backed Syr­ian Kur­dish and Arab forces have seized ter­ri­tory on three sides of the city.

The cam­paign to re­take Mo­sul from the mil­i­tants was launched last Oc­to­ber by a 100,000-strong al­liance of Iraqi gov­ern­ment units, Kur­dish Pesh­merga fight­ers and Shi'ite mili­tias, with a U.S.-led coali­tion pro­vid­ing key air and ground sup­port.

Abadi's gov­ern­ment in Iraq now faces a dif­fi­cult task manag­ing the sec­tar­ian ten­sions which en­abled Is­lamic State to gain sup­port­ers in the coun­try among fel­low Sun­nis, who say they were marginal­ized by the Shi'ite-led gov­ern­ment.

The U.S.-led coali­tion warned that vic­tory in Mo­sul did not mark the end of the group's global threat.

"Now it is time for all Iraqis to unite to en­sure ISIS [Is­lamic State] is de­feated across the rest of Iraq and that the con­di­tions that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq are not al­lowed to re­turn again," Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Stephen J. Townsend said in a state­ment.

Is Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi Dead?

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights told Reuters on Tues­day that it had "con­firmed in­for­ma­tion" that Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi has been killed.

"(We have) con­firmed in­for­ma­tion from lead­ers, in­clud­ing one of the first rank who is Syr­ian, in the Is­lamic State in the eastern coun­try­side of Deir alZor," said Rami Ab­dul­rah­man, the di­rec­tor of the Bri­tish-based war mon­i­tor­ing group.

Rus­sia's De­fense Min­istry said in June that it might have killed Bagh­dadi when one of its air strikes hit a gath­er­ing of Is­lamic State com­man­ders on the out­skirts of the Syr­ian city of Raqqa. But Wash­ing­ton said it could not cor­rob­o­rate the death and Western and Iraqi of­fi­cials have been skep­ti­cal.

Reuters could not in­de­pen­dently ver­ify Bagh­dadi's death.

Also on Tues­day it was re­ported that Pen­tagon of­fi­cials say they have no in­for­ma­tion to con­firm re­ports that al-Bagh­dadi is dead.

"We can­not con­firm this re­port, but hope it is true," said the U.S.-led coali­tion in an emailed state­ment. "We strongly ad­vise ISIS to im­ple­ment a strong line of suc­ces­sion, it will be needed."

Bagh­dadi, 46, has not been since in pub­lic in 2014, when he ap­peared at Mo­sul's al-Nuri mosque to de­clare an Is­lamic “caliphate” on lands IS con­trolled in Iraq and Syria. He has been falsely re­ported killed or wounded sev­eral times since be­com­ing prom­i­nent three years ago.

Bat­tle for Raqqa

Kur­dish-led fight­ers made fur­ther ad­vances Tues­day in the fight to oust the Is­lamic State ter­ror group from its de facto cap­i­tal of Raqqa in north­ern Syria. They have been con­sol­i­dat­ing their foothold in the old city, while amass­ing sol­diers in the eastern sub­urbs, ready for a deeper strike, say com­man­ders with the U.S.-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces.

The mil­i­tary ad­vances ap­pear not to have dis­pelled lo­cal Arab anx­i­ety, how­ever, about the Kurds’ long-term in­ten­tions for Raqqa and its out­ly­ing vil­lages.

Although ea­ger for the ji­hadists to leave, Raqqa’s Arabs re­main wary of the Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units, or YPG, wor­ry­ing the Kurds have ter­ri­to­rial am­bi­tions for the Arab-ma­jor­ity city.

That con­cern has mounted fol­low­ing the ex­pul­sion this week of an Arab mili­tia from the SDF for re­treat­ing in the face of Is­lamic State fire. Claims of abu­sive treat­ment of lo­cal young Arabs at the hands of the ad­vanc­ing U.S.-backed forces also are adding to sec­tar­ian ten­sion.

On June 30, a video sur­faced in the Turk­ish me­dia of two sol­diers wear­ing YPG uni­forms kick­ing two lo­cal Arab men and stomp­ing on them while scream­ing at them to dis­close the lo­ca­tion of IS fight­ers. In the video, the de­tainees from a vil­lage west of Raqqa in­sist they don’t know the where­abouts of IS ex­trem­ists.

The YPG sol­diers who were filmed were, in fact, Arabs but this has not served to tamp down lo­cal anger over the ugly in­ci­dent. YPG lead­ers have ac­knowl­edged to lo­cal me­dia the au­then­tic­ity of the video. They have de­nounced the abuse “in the strong­est terms,” de­scrib­ing it as “ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able.”

In a state­ment, the YPG added, “Since they have bro­ken laws and in­ter­na­tional norms, they will be held ac­count­able for their ir­re­spon­si­ble, in­di­vid­ual acts.”

Lo­cal Arab sus­pi­cions of the Kurds, ac­cord­ing to some ac­counts, haven’t been di­min­ished by the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Sunni Arab mili­tias in the as­sault on Raqqa — an en­gage­ment ini­tially in­sisted on by Wash­ing­ton, though one that has seen Arab mili­tias from the rebel Free Syr­ian Army seek­ing bat­tle­field roles.

Long-term sta­bil­ity at stake

An­a­lysts say that pro­vid­ing sta­bil­ity for Raqqa and avoid­ing rights abuses fol­low­ing the ex­pul­sion of the Sunni mil­i­tants from the city will be cru­cial in de­ter­min­ing the fu­ture chances of IS be­ing able to mount a pro­longed in­sur­gency in north­ern Syria. They have warned for months that if the Kur­dish-led SDF fails to over­see the city and its out­ly­ing vil­lages even­hand­edly and within tra­di­tional Arab and tribal power struc­tures, the odds of fu­ture sec­tar­ian con­flict will in­crease, pro­vid­ing an open­ing for the ji­hadists.

“The re­sult­ing deficit of trust be­tween the Kurds and Arabs in some ar­eas could be a fault line that ji­hadis ex­ploit to try to re­turn to lib­er­ated ar­eas,” cau­tions Has­san Has­san, an an­a­lyst at the Tahrir In­sti­tute for Mid­dle East Pol­icy, a Wash­ing­ton-based think tank, and co-au­thor of the book ISIS: In­side the Army of Ter­ror.

Trust has been in short sup-

"The scale and grav­ity of the loss of civil­ian lives dur­ing the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul must im­me­di­ately be pub­licly ac­knowl­edged at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment in Iraq and states that are part of the US-led coali­tion"

ply be­tween Arabs and Kurds in north­ern Syria since even be­fore the start of the upris­ing six years ago against Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad. In the 1970s, Hafez al-As­sad, Bashar’s father, dis­placed tens of thou­sands of Kurds in the province of Raqqa in or­der to re­set­tle Arab fam­i­lies. Raqqa’s Arabs fear the Kurds now may seize the op­por­tu­nity to even the score and en­gi­neer a Kur­dish ex­pan­sion, which would re­sult in an up­end­ing of cur­rent de­mo­graph­ics.

IS pro­pa­ganda, as well as YPG ex­pul­sions of Arabs from some vil­lages last year cap­tured by Kurds in north­ern and eastern Syria, haven’t helped to dis­pel Arab anx­i­ety — nor do in­ci­dents of SDF abuse of de­tainees.

Raqqa lo­cals al­lege the anti-Is­lamic State forces are all too ready to sus­pect peo­ple who con­tin­ued to live in Raqqa un­der IS rule of be­ing ji­hadists or fel­low trav­el­ers. Rel­a­tives of lo­cal IS fight­ers also are quickly viewed as hav­ing been com­plicit with the ji­hadists, they say.

Ac­tivists with a net­work called Raqqa Is Be­ing Slaugh­tered Si­lently re­ported Mon­day that SDF units have been mount­ing ar­rest raids and de­tain­ing young men from vil­lages in the Raqqa coun­try­side.

Mem­bers of the Iraqi fed­eral po­lice wave their coun­try’s na­tional flag in cel­e­bra­tion in the Old City of Mo­sul. Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi ar­rived in Mo­sul and con­grat­u­lated the armed forces for their "vic­tory" over the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group af­ter eight months of ur­ban war­fare, bring­ing an end to three years of mil­i­tants' rule in the city

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights told Reuters on Tues­day that it had "con­firmed in­for­ma­tion" that Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi has been killed.

While no part of Mo­sul is as thor­oughly de­stroyed as the Old City, nei­ther has any part been left un­touched by nearly three years of Is­lamic State rule and al­most nine months of all-out war.

Iraq PM Haider Al-Abadi De­clares Vic­tory In 'Lib­er­ated' Mo­sul

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