October 20, 2016Print : Editorial
Iraq is entering a new phase in the fight against Isis. After months of planning, the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces have launched an attack on the city of Mosul, which has been under Isis control for around two years. Two days into the fight, we have another set of refugees – this time from Mosul. Those leaving Mosul have spoken of fears among people that peace would never return to their home city as the commitment of almost everyone to taking the fight to Isis remains in question. Some refugees have reported that Isis was able to take back its positions a day after the Iraqi army began its fight. Reaching Mosul itself is likely to take at least two more weeks as the armies wade through complex regional politics and poor weather to reach this Isis stronghold. Even US President Obama has warned of a long and difficult fight ahead. While the predicted timeline is two months, the fight will most certainly take longer. Even if the Iraqi army is able to take back Mosul, residents worry that there would be a spate of sectarian killings in reprisal.
As the war continues, there could be as much as 1.3 million more refugees that flee Mosul. There are also fears that civilians could be used as human targets – which would mean more civilian death tolls. Even if Mosul is won back, the divisions within Iraqi society are likely to intensify. The situation has become complex with Turkish troops training a militia 10 miles north of Mosul as well as Turkish President Erdogan deciding to choose this time to make claims on northern Iraqi territory. US, British and French troops are reportedly also playing a supporting role in the offensive. All said and done, conquering Mosul might not be the most difficult part of the journey ahead. What is far more important – and difficult – will be winning back hearts and minds and restoring a semblance of governance to a region that has been terrorised by war. The battle for Mosul could either unite Iraq or leave it divided forever. Or it could just be another false dawn.