Column: Mosul, An Awaited Offensive Now Fought by Sectarian Bigots

Column: Mosul, An Awaited Offensive Now Fought by Sectarian Bigots
Iran-backed Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) taking part in Mosul battle

Footage broadcasting Mosul’s long-anticipated offensive shows Iraqi forces and thousands of military armored vehicles marching towards the ISIS de-facto capital in Iraq in hopes of ridding it of terror dominance.

The Fall of Mosul happened between 4–10 June 2014, when ISIS terrorists defeated the Iraqi army and took control of Fallujah and Ramadi- which were liberated in 2016 save Mosul- inciting conflict with the Iraqi army.

The means used to hide the flapping sectarian flags and slogans raised over the guns claiming to pursue Mosul’s freedom-employing cliché and conspicuous ways brings about concern.

At a time when the whole world unites hand-in-hand in its desire to terminate ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq, many insist that bigoted militias be involved and indirectly break into the city.

Arab tribes near Mosul have stressed a collective and undisputable refusal for any intervention by Iran or Shi’ite-based Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in the fight for Mosul’s retake from ISIS.

Caught between the worst of two evils, the people of Mosul now are trapped between the end of ISIS gunmen’s muzzles and those of the PMF. They would meet the grim fate of the people in Fallujah, Tikrit and Ramadi.

PMF militias have committed countless and repeated cases of systematic looting, violations and abuse against civilians of each area which had recently been freed from ISIS. The Iran-aligned militants prove to be highly bigoted against civilians belonging to any other sect.

What paints a darker picture is that as soon as PMF militias overrun Mosul the whole of 2.5 million Mosul inhabitants are at stake. Ultra-conservative militants recruited by the PMF do not distinguish civilians and would treat both an ISIS extremist and a moderate Iraqi with equal brutality. Fallujah and Ramadi’s tragedy will be repeated but ten-fold. Mosul is a largely Sunni city in Iraq, which is a sect PMF militias consider an arch enemy.

Driving ISIS out of the city is taking place one step at a time, and in due course will be accomplished– what remains a challenge is not the fight against some 1,000 ISIS hardliners, but the upshot of PMF armed radicals overrunning ISIS-free Mosul.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s administration had inherited its predecessor’s denominational situation which spiraled out of the Iraqi government’s control.

The militants, although Iraqi nationals, are loyal to the Tehran regime. PMF factions are led directly by Iran’s no other than Quds Force notorious Shadow Commander Qasem Soleimani. The above mentioned facts pile up to form a disaster in waiting; a humanitarian crisis threatens the people of Mosul which is a natural international concern.

Oversensitive is Mosul’s case with respect to Iran-backed militias’ involvement, and that has been agreed upon by the international community at the United Nations, European Union and the League of Arab States and the Paris meeting which hosted 20 states.

The political future of Mosul after liberation needs to be prepared for, in addition to ensuring the safety and security of civilians residing both inside Mosul and across its outlying areas. Humanitarian aid must be guaranteed safe delivery as well.

All of the above is being discussed at the intense and frequent meetings of international powers. However, the hard reality is that moderation will not have a say so long that militias flood Mosul. Positive and effective outcome can only be drawn out of the meetings if the international community acknowledges that the issue is beyond ISIS presence and extends to PMF extremists looking for a power grab in Mosul.

Hundreds of thousands of Mosul civilians are subject to untold damage and suffering- they pay the price of crimes committed by 5,000 ISIS terrorists. What is even more unimaginable is that the innocent of Mosul would still be paying the hefty price of misguided politics once their land is liberated—they would be freed from one sadist to only fall under the rule of the other.

More so, once the battle is decided, ISIS terrorists will most definitely infiltrate the masses, hiding, and using them as human shields.

Tal Afar, west of Mosul, is expected to experience the worst of war. The region is inhabited by multiethnic backgrounds that would each be fighting for power and security—adding to the mix Iran’s desperate desire to set foothold in Mosul.

PMF militants brawl to be on the frontline of battles, and once they go up first they carry out Iranian regional agenda to a tee.

Bigoted militias fueled by hostility and vengeance, mixed with ISIS members who dress up as civilians is a simple recipe for a humanitarian disaster.

PMF gunmen will certainly repeat their assaults against innocents for no other reason than their hate-filled philosophy.

In light of the government shortcoming on deciding as to who would lead the Mosul offensive, the future crimes of PMF militants might be the spark behind a civil war which starts local, then spreads across the country. If so, is the world able to accommodate the needs of over a million displaced Iraqis fleeing the collapse of security in Mosul?

Distracted by the fight with ISIS, the world overlooks the fact that some PMF war crimes are indeed acts of terror as well. Once terrorism is wrongly related to a Sunni background, it is fought with an international fist of iron- yet if the terror’s background is Shi’ite, the case is made different and looked into carefully.

Terrorism is not defined by sect, and there will be no hope in overcoming this global abomination without a clear definition of what terror is.

Salman Al-dossary – Asharq al-Awsat

Salman Aldosary is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

The article resembles the author’s own views and doesn’t necessarily reflect MEO’s policy