Have we come back full circle to Iraq?
In what is a disturbing development out of Iraq, news is coming in that insurgents have seized control early Tuesday of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. This is a big deal and is not getting nearly enough press as it deserves.
Iraq is a basket case of a country, and today’s bold attack and victory by the the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda splinter group, reveals that the massive effort invested in Iraq’s “democratization” may have just officially blown up. The Washington Post has the story…
Insurgents seized control early Tuesday of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, including the provincial government headquarters, offering a powerful demonstration of the mounting threat posed by extremists to Iraq’s teetering stability.
Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the entire western bank of the city overnight after Iraqi soldiers and police apparently fled their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.
In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a “general mobilization” and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency, saying the government would not allow the area to fall “under the shadows of terror and terrorists.”
This does not sound good…and sure enough it is much worse:
Iraq’s speaker of parliament, Osama Nujaifi, said Mosul, the effective capital of northern Iraq, is now entirely in insurgent hands.
“When the battle got tough in the city of Mosul, the troops dropped their weapons and abandoned their posts, making it an easy prey for the terrorists,” he told a televised news conference in Baghdad.
All key facilities are now controlled by the insurgents, including the airport and the prisons, said Nujaifi, who is from Mosul.
“Everything is fallen. It’s a crisis,” he said, appealing for international and government help to retake the city. “Having these terrorist groups control a city in the heart of Iraq threatens not only Iraq but the entire region.”
Even more telling was the speed and decisiveness of the insurgent’s victory:
The speed with which one of Iraq’s biggest cities has fallen under militant control is striking and suggests the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces are even more vulnerable than had previously been thought.
The collapse of government forces in Mosul echoed the takeover earlier this year of the town of Fallujah in western Anbar province, where U.S. troops fought some of their fiercest battles of the Iraq war in an effort to quell the insurgents.
For those keeping count, Mosul is not just some small little village, it is the capital of northern Iraq and a key commercial and trading center. It had also been an important focus of the U.S. military’s effort to stabilize Iraq, while the airport served as a major hub for the U.S. military.
Mosul is the largest city in Iraq’s oil-rich northern region and it is now under the control of one nasty al-Qaeda offshoot.
ISIS is an expanded and rebranded version of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization that the U.S. military claimed it had tamed, though not defeated, ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011.
ISIS has since significantly rebounded, aided in part by the rebellion in neighboring Syria, which created a vacuum of authority and enabled the militants to gain a foothold beyond Iraq’s borders.
It is now channeling its efforts toward the creation of an Islamic state modeled on the 7th century Islamic caliphate, the system of governance that prevailed after the death of the prophet Muhammad. Over the past year, ISIS has consolidated its hold on a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria that stretches from the eastern outskirts of the Syrian city of Aleppo to Fallujah west of Baghdad, where it has asserted authority by imposing a harsh version of Islamic law.
So the heartache in this developing story, and the part where history comes back to bite you in the ass is that ISIS flourished under the U.S.’s backing to overthrow Assad in Syria.
To make things simple, Assad, as bad as he may be, was keeping these al-Qaeda insurgents (ISIS) at bay and at best defeated. When the Obama backed the overthrow of Assad in Syria, the power vacuum from the ensuing three year civil war gave ISIS a new lease on life and now they are building a strong foothold in Syria and Iraq, showing that they are highly trained and skilled enough to grab Mosul and only God knows what else.
Where is Saddam when you need him? Maybe Obama should rethink his Syria strategy as well.