Mark Collins – Iraq and ISIS, Mosul and After: Who’ll be Killing Whom?

Even with ISIS losing ground–the Caliphate has just been ousted from strategically important Manbij in Syria by, mainly, the local Kurds–the prospects for a serious peace in Iraq (and Syria) may be  pretty dim:

With ISIS on the run, new wars could erupt in Iraq

TUZ KHURMATU, Iraq — The front line south of this bleak and dusty town looks much as it did two years ago, when the Islamic State was the enemy and controlled a village less than a mile away.

Now, however, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters holed up behind sandbags and barbed wire are peering across the line at Shiite militias, ostensibly their allies in the fight against the Islamic State.

Whether their alliance will outlast the Islamic State is in question. The militants’ defenses have been crumbling fast across Iraq. An offensive for the city of Mosul, the Islamic State’s last major stronghold in Iraq, is likely by the end of the year, U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials say.

If the battle goes well, the defeat of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq, at least in terms of the territory it controls, is on the horizon.

And so, too, are new problems — and potentially new conflicts. For the past two years, Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqi army forces, Shiite militias and some Sunni ones have largely overlooked long-standing differences to confront the menace facing them. But their feuds and grievances — over vital issues such as the distribution of power, land, money and oil — have not been resolved.

The manner in which the war has been fought — by an assortment of locally armed groups with often competing agendas — has compounded the existing problems with new and potentially more intractable disputes. Among them are the questions of who will govern the areas vacated by the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, and how.

“The moment there is what you might call victory against ISIS, then you are up against all the problems that caused this crisis in the first place,” said Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center

More on the players and their agendas follows. Recall that the Canadian military is deeply involved in the campaign, even if no longer actually fighting and that our forces on the ground act largely on behalf of the Kurds. How will that fit in if things start going blooey between the Kurdistan Regional Government–with its eye on independence–and Baghdad? Some clear and hard forward thinking is warranted. And by quite a few governments besides our own (oddly enough this story does not mention Canadian troops).

By the way the famous “who whom” (кто кого) is rather different from what most of us thought.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


9 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Iraq and ISIS, Mosul and After: Who’ll be Killing Whom?”

  1. Turkey and Iran will have lots to say and do (anti) about Kurdish independence:

    And will Kurds actually fight at Mosul itself in any costly way?

    Mark Collins

  2. Meanwhile look what the Russkies are getting up to in Syria from air base in Iran–at (further links at original):

    RUS now flying out of IRN “Russia bombs Syrian militants from Iran base for first time” – “Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34 tactical bombers took off from the “Hamedan” airbase and carried out a concentrated airstrike on objects of the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groupings in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib” (RUS MoD) – “Russian Tu-22M Bombers Spotted at Hamadan Air Base in Iran” – “Russian warplanes take off from Iran to target Islamic State in Syria” – “Russian Air Forces to ‘Minimize Risks’ of Syrian Operation by Using Iran Airbase” – “Russian Tu-22M3 Bombers Devastate ISIS from Iran’s Hamadan Air Base” – “Russia uses Iranian air base to conduct strikes in Syria” – “Russia deploys jets at Iranian Airbase to combat insurgents in Syria” – “Iran Ready to Share Infrastructure With Russia to Fight Terror in Syria”…’

    Flying over Iraq? Turkey?

    Mark Collins

  3. An issue of the NY Times Magazine with one major, grim article:

    “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart”

    But keep in mind that Britain and France only controlled Iraq and Syria respectively for some 30 years, from the end of WW I to the end of WW II; the author to my mind assigns too much blame to them for the current desperate situation rather than to the Arabs themselvees (and others, note Kurdish divisions). From 2014 via an Arab:

    “The, Hopeless, Arab Mess”

    Mark Collins

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