After the Fall of Mosul on 10 June 2014 to ISIL, the Iraqi government forces have been working tirelessly to regain control of one of the most strategically important cities in the country. However, there are several questions we must address: what does the recapturing of Mosul mean in the fight against ISIL? How will this affect Iraqi-Kurdish tensions? And, most importantly, what are the Western interests involved?
Mosul is Iraq’s key trading post bordering Syria and Turkey; its wealth traces back to 1927 where vast oil deposits were uncovered, but also when the Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline was commissioned in 1935. If the city was re-captured, then this would impede the movement of fighters, weapons and various supplies to ISIL.
On top of this, crucial oil fields located in the region have attracted a Kirkuk–Ceyhan pipeline that runs close to the oil metropolis. In September it was reported that an average of 564,808 barrels of oil was transported through the pipeline per day. It Is safe to say that if these fields and the areas surrounding the pipeline are secured, then ISIL will find itself unable to continue its oil smuggling operations, thus severely damaging their finances.
Finally, the refugee crisis is rooted in the displacement of Mosul residents. Prior to ISIL invasion, the population was over two million. However, it has since taken a sharp decline to a mere 600,000. The refugee crisis could be decelerated if a decisive government victory can be established, as it would allow the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
One noticeable element in the Battle for Mosul is that the Iraqi and Kurdish forces are working together to defeat a common enemy. Despite the ongoing alliance, both groups have been unable to maintain a relationship. The tensions began with Sheikh Mahmud Barzanji’s numerous attempts to free Kurdistan from the British Mandate of Iraq. However, there are several arguments against Kurdish independence.
Firstly, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, newly formed Arab states were weak in terms of political, economic and military power, this made them susceptible to control by Western powers. The same situation would present itself to an oblivious Kurdistan region.
Secondly, the idea of a nation influenced by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) is not a promising one. The group is founded upon strong communist beliefs, but they also act using methods of terrorism.
Thirdly, the Kurdistan region is home to large deposits of oil and natural gas . Considering recent financial downturns , Baghdad will not be so willing to hand over control of major oilfields such as the Bai Hassan and Avana Dome. The disputes will not simply vanish if the Kurds achieve full autonomy, in fact it will attract regional and international vultures looking to seize the oil-rich land from the Kurds. As expected, the Western powers have key interests in the region which link to the currents conflicts.
The city’s collapse at the hands of a terror group had a catastrophic effect on the political stability of Iraq, and put ISIL in the limelight. This has attracted dominant superpowers such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and numerous other countries a part of the US-led coalition assisting the Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the conflict.
Ash Carter, US Secretary of Defence, said in a statement that the Mosul Offensive would “deliver ISIL a lasting defeat.” He went to add that the US government was “confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality”. The US even assisted Iraq in reaching an oil deal to finance the battle. However, after two years of failed plans to recapture Mosul, why is Washington intervening now?
There are speculations that the objectives of the United States military action in Mosul are not about eradicating a terror group, but rather to provide them a safe passage to another stronghold. Statements such as these refute official claims that the US is fighting against ISIL and many other terror groups. It provides evidence to a once baseless conjecture that the US and its global allies have secretly supported these groups in order to force regime change in Syria .
The liberation of Mosul would effectively end ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq.
Nonetheless, the terror group has demonstrated on countless occasions that it is capable of performing attacks far from its cultural capital. A government victory may thrust ISIL back into Syria, but Iraq will still be left with disputes of authority in predominantly Sunni areas, due to wide scepticism of the Shia-dominated governments.