(UR) Mosul, Iraq — After weeks of buildup, Iraqi forces — with the backing of a U.S.-led coalition — launched its much-debated “Battle for Mosul” on Monday, aimed at purging ISIS militants from their occupied territory in northern Iraq.
“Iraqi government forces launched a U.S.-backed offensive on Monday to drive Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, a high-stakes battle to retake the militants’ last major stronghold in the country.
“Two years after the jihadis seized the city of 1.5 million people and declared a caliphate from there encompassing tracts of Iraq and Syria, a force of some 30,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Sunni tribal fighters began to advance.”
Addressing the residents of Mosul on state television, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Monday: “These forces that are liberating you today, they have one goal in Mosul, which is to get rid of Daesh and secure your dignity. God willing, we shall win.”
Early reports from the battlefield have Iraqi forces claiming to have inflicted “heavy losses of life and equipment” on ISIS, while at the same time warning that the militants are “very willing to put up a fight.” Most analysts agree the retaking of Mosul will take weeks, if not months.
ISIS overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June of 2014, and subsequently declared a caliphate. The city has acted as the terror group’s stronghold since that time, leaving over a million citizens caught in the middle. As such, the campaign to retake Mosul is expected to cause a devastating refugee crisis within Iraq.
In related news, Syrian rebels backed by Turkey seized the southern Turkish town of Dabiq on Sunday. It’s a psychological win for the rebels, as Dabiq was prophesied as the site of the final battle between Muslims and non-believers.
“The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” the head of one fighter group told Reuters.
Interestingly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is insisting Turkey — who did not participate in the initial wave of attacks on Monday — will be involved in the recapturing of Mosul. This, despite the fact the Iraqi government has repeatedly stated that, not only does it not want any help from Turkey, it wants all Turkish troops within Iraq to leave the country immediately.
“We have asked the Turkish side more than once not to intervene in Iraqi matters and I fear the Turkish adventure could lead to a regional war,” Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Abadi said October 5. “The Turkish leadership’s behavior is not acceptable and we don’t want to get into a military confrontation with Turkey.”
Erdoğan personalized the matter by responding to al-Abadi directly. Stating that the Iraqi prime minister should“know his place,” Erdoğan went on to say:
“You are not my interlocutor, you are not at my level, you are not my equivalent, you are not of the same quality as me. Your screaming and shouting in Iraq is of no importance to us. You should know that we will go our own way.”
Turkish troops have been stationed in Iraq since 2014, where they’ve provided training and equipment to pro-government forces. Last year, however, Turkey intensified its military presence in Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi government, which officials took as a hostile act. The situation worsened after Turkey’s parliament passed a resolution officially sanctioning the troop increase — a slap in the face of the Iraqi government’s wishes.
Now, with Erdoğan vowing to “help” in the battle for Mosul despite explicit calls for Turkey to remove itself from the affair entirely — and given the fact that retaking the northern city will most likely take a month or more — the coming days should prove eventful as Middle Eastern neighbors with conflicting agendas continue the push to eject ISIS militants from their territories.
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