Mosul battle tactics must change

The air strikes must be more carefully rationed, their use restricted.


2017/04/09 Issue: 101 Page: 9



The battle for Mosul will be won; that much is certain. What remains in question is the matter of how this inevitable victory will be won and how it will be remem­bered.

An operation such as the Islamic State (ISIS) has a plan for when it will be ejected from the last city it holds in Iraq. It will retreat, reorganise and persist in its bid to destabilise Iraq, the region and the world. Its propagandists are skilled. They know how to create images that play on the mind. They know how to create ideas that can serve as the kernels around which more can collect.

They know how to generate memories, false or real, and people have long memories. So, assuredly, do the people of Mosul. They have suffered under ISIS. Their rights have been systemati­cally destroyed and their lives colonised by the all-consuming, all-pervading nature of extreme religion.

Their children have either been subjected to propaganda that ISIS pretends is education or they have had no education at all. Their homes have been taken over, either literally or metaphorically.

The idea of a private, personal life has been effectively abol­ished under ISIS. This has, perhaps paradoxically, made it more special, more sacred, more deserving of protection.

Families and private lives are contained within the home. This is centrally important, both to those who live within Mosul and all who fight for the city.

Iraqi forces are engaged in liberating Mosul. Their leaders need to defeat ISIS; it is a matter of political necessity. More than that, one hopes, these leaders have an emotive desire to protect those who had, before the advance of the terror state in 2014, been their fellow citizens.

Defeating ISIS, however, is hard; its soldiers fight hard. Also, in a seemingly reasonable attempt to defeat them to liberate the city, Iraqi forces have made several terrible lapses of judg­ment. They have licensed air strikes on residential areas. They have adopted heavy-handed tactics. As a result, many civilians have been killed. Their homes, those sanctuaries against the many assaults of the caliphate, have been brought down on their heads.

Hundreds of civilians have died in a succession of botched strikes, either on ISIS positions or ISIS fighters.

The Iraqi government, despite what one hopes is its concern for those civilians who were killed, has dissembled. It dragged its feet. It prevented journalists from gaining access to the sites of the strikes. Only when evidence mounted did it concede the inevitable: Coalition air attacks killed hundreds of Mosul resi­dents.

Some Iraqis blamed the Americans, accused the United States of being too happy to strike targets, too keen to dole out ordnance.

Iraqi authorities suggested that ISIS was deliberately putting civilians in danger. That it had violated the homes of Mosul’s residents, that it had used them as human shields. This would not be a surprise. ISIS is hardly a respecter of people or the idea of personal life.

At the same time, though, Iraqi forces must think hard. They must abandon tactics that prioritise a speedy victory when one is inevitable but which see civilian lives as dispensable.

The air strikes must be more carefully rationed, their use restricted. Difficult and costly though it is, and difficult though it may be to take, this is the right thing to do.

The business of fighting is hard. Defeating ISIS was never going to be easy. Iraqi authorities would do well to protect Mosul’s people and ensure a favourable place in their long memories.

Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Senior Correspondents:

Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

66 Hammersmith Road

London W14 8UD, UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved