• Why the U.S. Will Fail by Winning in Mosul (and Tikrit)

    March 26, 2015

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Iran, Iraq, Military


    The United States will most likely suffer defeat in Mosul, even if it “wins” against IS. And you can pretty much substitute “Tikrit” in the story below anywhere you see “Mosul.”

    The reasons will be much the same as those that caused the defeat of American strategy in Iraq War 2.0: a failure to force reconciliation among the Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurds.

    Some History of Mosul

    A little history, repeating itself. In April 2003, an entire Iraqi Army Corps in Mosul surrendered to a small U.S. Special Forces group. The city fell into disorder, with the Central Bank plundered and the university library pillaged. Sound familiar? Chaos ensued as Kurds fought both Sunni and Shia Arabs. The Sunnis, tribally dominant in the area, fought hard against the rise of Shia power emanating from the new government in Baghdad.

    During the occupation by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in 2003, a 21,000-strong force under General David Petraeus pushed the Kurdish militias largely out of Mosul and created an uneasy peace with the Sunni tribes (Petraeus would revisit the idea as part of the Anbar Awakening.) Via his own military muscle and the skillful use of American reconstruction money, Petraeus tried to foster a governing structure that integrated Kurdish parties without alienating Sunni Arab constituencies. After Petraeus left, and as the war worn on and Kurdish influence began to exert itself in Mosul, the Sunnis turned to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI; the precursor to IS) for support. Multi-sided fighting continued in Mosul, as the fundamental issue of which group truly controlled the city — as it was for Iraq as a whole — was left unresolved as the U.S. pulled out in 2011.

    Assault on Mosul

    The 2015 American ambitions to retake Mosul have made it to the front pages. Significant quantities of U.S. weapons are flowing into Iraq in anticipation of a large-scale assault.

    Sometime this year (maybe in the autumn or later) the U.S. hopes to organize 25,000 Iraqi troops, 12 full brigades, at least five of which have not even begun training yet, for the assault. Three Kurdish brigades will also join the attack, as well as an unspecified number of non-government Shia militias aided by whatever Iranian assets may be supporting them (now acknowledged to include elements of Hezbollah.) U.S. officials say there would also be Sunni force of former Mosul police and tribesmen who would enter the city once the Islamic State fighters are cleared out.

    Boots on the Ground

    U.S. forces on the ground will almost certainly be required to coordinate the many disparate elements on the “Iraq” side, as well as to call in close air support. Secretary of State John Kerry initiated the process of walking back the president’s pledge about no boots on the ground, speaking to the Senate Appropriations Committee in support of Obama’s request for authorization for use of military force against IS. Kerry said American soldiers embedded with Iraqi troops would not be in violation of the ban on enduring ground offensive operations. “If you’re going in for weeks and weeks of combat, that’s enduring. If you’re going in to assist somebody and [do] fire control and you’re embedded in an overnight deal, or you’re in a rescue operation or whatever, that is not enduring.”

    Assuming the logistics of moving 25,000 troops across the desert, as well as training, equipping, and sustaining them with food and water (difficult, and fully impossible without direct U.S. assistance and cargo flights) can be solved, the real questions about the upcoming Battle of Mosul are twofold.

    The Key Questions

    The tactical question. Will it become necessary to destroy Mosul in order to save it. Look at the victory in Kobane over ISIS. By all accounts, the over 700 airstrikes the U.S. conducted on a round-the-clock basis on Kobane devastated the town. The civilian death toll has never been calculated. No plans to rebuild the city have been announced. It is unclear what entity governs the remains. Some 230,000 refugees have fled. Photos of the place make it look like Stalingrad. As an activist in the ISIS capital of Raqqa wrote, “People don’t look at Kobani and see a defeat, because everyone had to leave and the Americans bombed it to rubble to win.”

    The greater strategic question. Who will control whatever is left of Mosul after IS is driven out? The American command and control efforts, plus American air power, needed to ensure the physical destruction of IS will be welcomed by all sides, as they are in greater Iraq. Less clear will be the reaction to follow-on U.S. demands that some of the victorious forces withdraw in favor of the others. The Sunnis controlled Mosul before 2003, and contested the space with the Kurds after that. The Baghdad Shia government then forfeited its claim to the city when the Iraqi Army cut and ran in 2014. It seems highly unlikely that the Peshmerga, especially after shedding blood to retake the city, will simply walk away and see the small paramilitary police force of Sunnis move in. The role the Iranians will choose to play is unclear. A fair number of Mosul’s one million residents support IS, leaving open the question of ethnic cleansing and score-settling.

    Sound Familiar?

    The United States continues to dig the same hole deeper in Iraq. It sees problems in a wholly-military light, focusing on an urban assault rivaling set-piece battles of WWII while paying little attention to the underlying political factors that will surely snatch defeat from any “victory.”

    Sound familiar?

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The Citizens United corporate media will never allow the ignorant Americans to hear or see anything that suggests defeat in Iraq. Whatever the fiasco in Iraq, it will be spun as a glorious victory for the Homeland.

      Does the Battle of Mosul sound familar?

      Yes, the Battle of Stalingrad.

      03/26/15 1:38 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      This is what passes for “news” by the dickwads in the corporate media:


      03/26/15 2:55 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      I get my news from Pitch:


      03/26/15 3:09 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      03/26/15 5:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...


      The conventional army loses if it does not win.
      The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.

      –Henry A. Kissinger

      03/26/15 5:23 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      It just may be that our founders initial vanquishing of the aboriginals of this continent became the dominant American guiding meme. It’s hard to drop a process (military might) which worked pretty well in almost record time. The Israelites are impressed. Amercia did its genocidal extinguishing in under 200 years- quite an accomplishment and an inspiration. Any eventual (and unintended) surviving members of the vanquished are now allowed run a few casinos in the desert as a consolation prize while doubling as a quasi balm to the victor’s conscience.

      03/26/15 6:59 PM | Comment Link

    • Stark Naked said...


      I live in the vicinity of one of six consolation prizes owned, managed and operated by the descendants of the vanquished here in the desert Southwest. It (and five other casinos within a 20 mile radius) are quite lucrative. Trust me when I say–money; lots and lots of it seems to have soothed any residual anger on the part of the surviving members. As long as “whitey” is spending his money, old grudges are conveniently forgotten.

      03/26/15 8:24 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Good to know but still ort of sad that only small remnants of hundreds of tribes have cashed in on the the white man’s legacy of manifest destiny. Play number 28 Black and give it a whirl just to let you know I’ve buried the tomahawk for any kin who did wrong way back when.

      03/26/15 8:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...


      Mr. Poole,

      Per the guiding U.S. mil meme, this political cartoon addresses the hypocrisy well:

      Special Treatment

      The old song lyrics rise,

      “I can do anything better than you can, …”

      03/26/15 9:27 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Rich Bauer said…

      “I get my news from Pitch:”

      Youbetcha, and here’s the latest that’s not newsworthy to the DFCOTP…


      youbetcha.. US exceptionalism at work..er..play. And you can bet your sweet bippy it happened in Iraq and Afghanistan too. After all, it even happened as the US conquered Germany. Even in France, England, and Italy.

      03/26/15 10:54 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      As for Mosul. The only winner will be the arms manufacturers. Just look at Kobane.

      03/26/15 11:22 PM | Comment Link

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