What comes after the Mosul offensive?

A week after the Iraqi army and its allies launched their offensive on Mosul they are now just 20 kilometres from the city, according to their own reports. After months of preparation the attack on the most important Iraqi city currently in IS hands is being commented on across Europe, particularly with regard to its long-term consequences.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Threat of a bloodbath between Sunnis and Shia

In the operation aimed at regaining control of Mosul the international community must do all it can to prevent a battle between Shia and Sunni Muslims, Corriere della Sera warns:

“If the predominantly Sunni city is put under the control of a Shiite-oriented regime like that in Baghdad there is a risk of creating the same situation that led to the birth of the IS in the summer of 2014: a bloody carnage between Shia and Sunnis. … General Fadhil al-Barwari, who is leading the Iraqi troops in the Mosul offensive, has already hurried to explain that the Shia militia are to be kept away from this erstwhile IS stronghold. A similar promise was made to Obama in 2011, when America pulled its troops out of Baghdad. Back then the Shia militia were given free rein to slaughter the Sunnis. Only international supervision of the areas liberated from IS control can guarantee that things now take a different course to what happened five years ago.”

T24 (TR) /

US wants to push IS into Syria

The operation in Mosul should be interpreted in the context of the increasingly complicated situation in Syria, writes T24:

“The US and its allies have realised that the Syrian army is achieving its goals more quickly than expected and is about to secure a victory in Aleppo thanks to Russia's involvement in the war. Therefore it is not aiming to destroy the IS in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, but to 'chase' it through the western flank left open for it to escape into Syria. With this approach it is hoping that the IS will attack the Syrian army in the east of the country and prevent Assad's troops from crossing the Aleppo-Palmyra line into the east. The strategy is to precipitate a new phase in the Syria war and use the IS to undermine the military victories scored by Damascus and Russia in this region.”

Libération (FR) /

It is propaganda to equate Mosul and Aleppo

Putin fans are voicing anger, particularly on social networks, that the Russian president is being accused of war crimes in Aleppo and arguing that the West is behaving no differently in bombing Mosul. This comparison is pure propaganda, Libération explains:

“The attacks on Aleppo and Mosul cannot be compared like this – even if this is the line used by those who would have us believe that Russia is a shining example of democracy. ... And to justify what cannot be justified, Putin's fans deliberately confuse wars and war crimes in a bewildering rhetoric designed to deceive public opinion. They come from the far right, the right and the far left and they want to discredit those fighting IS in favour of those whose sole aim is to prop up a tyrannical regime. Such sophistry must be exposed for what it is: deception in the service of a murderous dictator.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Battle will be long and cruel

The Mosul offensive won't produce quick results, Milliyet warns:

“If IS doesn't pull out of the city it is likely that the war will be fought out on the streets and in civilians' homes. The architecture of the city is optimal for ambushes. Mosul's sprawling infrastructure and the walls around its buildings mean the fighting will take place in a labyrinth. That means heavy civilian casualties and gives the defenders an advantage over the attackers. Factor in the IS's learning capacity, its strategic creativity and the fact that its motivation and morale are strong, and it becomes clear that this war will be long and destructive. … It is also worrying that such a difficult and complex operation is being led by the dubious 'Iraqi army'. We are talking about units that are severely lacking in discipline and military professionalism.”

Sözcü (TR) /

Turkey pursuing its own goals

The Turkish government insists it is participating in the Mosul offensive for humanitarian reasons, but the Kemalist daily Sözcü doesn't believe a word of it:

“Mosul was captured by IS [in 2014] and employees at our consulate were taken hostage. But when this happened, just as with the massacre of the Turkmens in Mosul, everyone simply looked on! ... The statements about the need to take action in Mosul now are just a pretext. They might sound wonderful, but the only thing behind this nationalist rhetoric is domestic-policy strategising and speculation about the creation of a presidential system [in Turkey]. It stirs up such longing for the foreign policy of the Turkish Republic before the AKP came to power, which can be summed up with Atatürk's motto: 'Peace at home, peace in the world'.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Battle for Mosul is changing the Middle East

The outcome of the Mosul offensive will influence the conflict in Syria, writes Maria João Tomás, Director of Arab House in Portugal:

“The Mosul offensive is much more than a simple attempt to defeat the self-appointed 'Islamic State' in one of its main strongholds. What is happening in Mosul now has to be analysed in a wider context. A victory for the Kurdish Pashmerga is also a victory for the Sunnis and for all the countries in the region who support them. Ultimately the war in Syria has also turned into a conflict between Sunnis and Shiites – and what is happening in Mosul will also have consequences for Syria. ... The future of Iraq is currently being played out in Mosul – also because the famous plan for restructuring the Middle East is still alive. And because dividing up Iraq and Syria is still the best solution for destroying Bush and Blair's famous 'Axis of Evil'.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Turkey has a right to defend itselft

The Iraqi Prime Minister has spoken out against the Turkish military presence in Northern Iraq. But Turkey has no choice but to participate in the liberation of Mosul, Hürriyet explains:

“Turkey has a legitimate right to defend itself against attacks and threats from Iraq, which has left its territory to the PKK. ... Furthermore, Turkey has been part of the anti-IS coalition from the outset, and is the country that has launched the most and the most effective airstrikes, artillery and tank fire against IS. Turkey is not just fighting IS because it is a member of the coalition but because it is also a victim of the bloody attacks of this terrorist organisation that have killed hundreds of its citizens. ... Turkey is not an enemy of Iraq. It is just trying to protect its inner security and unity.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

EU needs plan for Iraqi refugees

The fighting in Mosul will lead to a rise in refugee numbers and the EU urgently needs to develop a concept for helping them, Dagens Nyheter points out:

“It is unclear what the world has really learned from this last year of the refugee crisis. In the summer of 2015 humanitarian aid dwindled while the plight of the refugees in camps intensified. Growing desperation drove many to flee across the Aegean to the Greek islands. … Now the EU seems to believe it has solved its internal problems through the deal with Turkey. … This deal means that the government in Ankara offers Syrians protection. But President Erdoğan is not offering asylum to refugees from Iraq. … The EU member states must find the humanitarian resources to save the population of Mosul.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Iraq must take its fate into its own hands

After a victory over the IS Iraq must take the path of self-determination toward a peaceful future, La Libre Belgique believes:

“The new Iraqi state that must emerge in the post-IS era cannot content itself with the sort of revanchism that has characterised it since the end of the American occupation: a state where a government under Shiite Iranian influence took over the reins of a country that was long subjected to a brutal and bloody Sunni regime. ... Although it is a confessional aggregate, Iraq is a rich oil producer. So it has the means to achieve its ambitions. Provided, that is, that it takes its fate into its own hands and does its best to introduce reforms. To that end it must find its own way, pursue its own interests and avoid partisan interests - including religious and dogmatic ones. Only in that way can it attain peace.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

US must show more commitment in Iraq

Whether lasting peace can come to Iraq depends largely on US commitment in the country, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung believes:

“Defeating the IS in Mosul would end neither the Islamist ideology nor the Sunni resistance in Iraq. ... To deprive the latter of its breeding ground in the country, the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad must reach out to the Sunnis and offer political reconciliation. Similarly, the conflict with the Kurds can only be solved through painful but pragmatic solutions. Whether such a positive turnabout is possible in Iraq will depend on the US's willingness to invest more time and diplomatic energy in the country than it did after 2011. A quick and decisive battle for Mosul with few civilian casualties could further that goal. Morally this would be important not only for President Obama's often-criticised Middle East strategy, but in particular also with an eye to the conflict with Russia and its actions in Aleppo.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Defeat of IS won't solve problems

The battle for control of Mosul could intensify the conflict of interests among the warring parties participating in the fight against the IS, the Guardian fears:

“There is an array of different powerful and heavily armed groups who have set upon Mosul and they have conflicting agendas and ambitions. Each see their influence and control over the province as potential leverage in relation to the outstanding disputes they have had over the past decade over territory, power-sharing and Iraq’s energy resources. ... The conditions that gave rise to Isis in the first place are still there and have been exacerbated, rather than alleviated, over the past two years since the jihadis took control of Mosul in 2014.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Operation just a pretext for the West

The offensive in Mosul may look like it's part of the fight against terror but the West has other things in mind, Milliyet contends:

“The operation that started this week is not just meant to rid Mosul of the IS. When you bear in mind how, to what end and by whom the IS was put there in the first place, it's clear that the current operation is meant to replace the organisation now that it's completed its mission, and set up a new colonial power. And even if that is not the case, Turkey recognises that the goal of the offensive is to fuel a confessional war in the region whose outcome is anything but certain. Yesterday's statements by Erdoğan that Turkey will be present in the operation in Mosul and at the negotiating table makes that perfectly clear.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

More attacks in Europe likely

The threat of terror in Europe increases with each military victory in the fight against the IS, Wiener Zeitung warns:

“European intelligence agencies expect the IS's defeats in Syria and Iraq to lead to a series of attacks in the West, aimed at unleashing as much panic as possible. In particular they point to studies showing that between 11 and 25 percent of returned IS fighters later become terrorists. The fear of returned militants is also great in Western Europe, for example in France, Belgium and Germany. Because these fighters see themselves as the 'legacy' of the IS. According to the study, many of them will deliberately return to where they originally came from. Their motto: 'If it doesn't work in the IS territories, at least it can work elsewhere.'”

More opinions

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) / 19 October 2016
  Turkey must protect the Sunnis against Shiite revenge