Ignoring demographic balance in Mosul could lead to regional chaos, experts warn
by Ali Ünal
ANKARAOct 17, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
Oct 17, 2016 12:00 am
Experts underscored that the Mosul operation has become a political issue rather than a military one, expressing their concerns about military strategies in the operation and also about post-operation scenarios, at a panel organized by the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) which is an Ankara-based, independent think-tank specializing on Middle Eastern affairs with participation of diplomats, think tanks, military officials, academics and journalists in Ankara on Friday.
As the Mosul offensive to liberate the second largest city in Iraq from Daish is on the verge of beginning, different dimensions of the operation and post-operation scenarios were discussed at the panel which was held under the Chatham House Rule, and all the participants from various backgrounds expressed that there is a wide consensus on the necessity of the operation.
The Iraqi central government is the biggest state-holder of the operation and they would like to liberate Mosul from Daish as they did in Ramadi and Fallujah to reach a decisive victory against Daish. According to their view, there are two main objectives in the operation which are; minimum civilian causalities during the operation and in the post-op period during which they would like to provide basic facilities to the people of Mosul to encourage them to return to their homes. Strengthening peace and stability in Iraq is also a desired objective of the operation for the central government; however, the majority of participants expressed different concerns which indicate that attaining stability after the operation is not an easy task to achieve.
Apart from Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens, there are also Christian, Yezidi, Shabak, and Kakai religious minorities live in Mosul and, therefore, maintaining ethnic and religious balance between these groups is vitally important so as not to flame up sectarian war. The participants expressed that there are conflicting agendas among the forces: Those intended to participate in the operation; namely, the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi soldiers, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) peshmergas, Iranian forces, Shiite forces, Turkey-backed local forces and even PKK terrorists. The participants underlined that Iraqi Sunnis still remember sectarian violence committed by pro-Iranian Shiite forces following the liberation of Tikrit, Ramadi, and Fallujah and, therefore, al-Hashd al-Shaabi's role in the operation is the biggest concern. Even though there is a mutual understanding that Shiite al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias will not enter Mosul, the recent remarks of the leader of the pro-Iranian Ahl al-Haq militia Qais al-Khazali that "the battle of Mosul is revenge for the killing of Hussein," is not promising.
Turkey and the KRG administration are the countries most affected by the humanitarian disaster caused by Daish in Northern Iraq and Syria. Therefore, from their perspectives, if the U.S.-led coalition underestimates the level of Daish resistance and ignores the demographic balance in Mosul, the operation may lead to another wave of immigration influx of up to 1 million people. From Turkey's perspective, the PKK's participation in the Mosul operation is not acceptable under any circumstances and the participants stressed that Turkey's direct involvement could be inevitable if the PKK tried to turn the operation into an opportunity to capture the city of Tel-Afar with its dense population of 230,000, most of whom are Turkmens.
According to military experts in the panel, there is no built-up military presence to the the west of Mosul which indicates that the U.S.-led coalition will try push Daish to Raqqa via this corridor. However, experts underlined that Daish's resistance in Mosul could be much stronger than expected with experts adding to their concern that Daish might use thousands of people as human shields. Experts also stressed that Shia militias appeared to be the main element in the operation: A strategy that is likely to create chaos rather than stability after the operation.