ISIS fighters fleeing Mosul for Syria can topple Assad. Why did the US now decide to uproot them from Iraq?

US State Department Secretary John Kerry meets with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. State Dept Image / Aug 25, 2016. (US Government work).

US State Department Secretary John Kerry meets with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. State Dept Image / Aug 25, 2016. (US Government work).

The failure of the US, EU, Turkey and Saudi Arabia joint strategy in the Middle East seems to lead to a complete destruction of any political, economic and state infrastructure in the region, after having failed to fulfill its targets. Just think that the main target of the foreign involvement in Syria was to topple the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. Now, aided by Russia, he is the only solid authority in the dismembered country, actually gaining territory and probably winning the civil war.

Major cities in the wider area, once the heart of the economic and social life of the region, Aleppo, Mosul and Kirkuk are about to be erased, leaving millions of people either displaced or dead. In Aleppo, Assad’s army is systematically tearing down more than half of the city, while in Iraq the ISIS defenders of Mosul have already extended the war to Kirkuk and other smaller cities of northern Iraq.

Supporting Hillary?

The siege of Mosul has even touched the US Presidential election, with the two candidates issuing completely contradicting statements about the progress and the targets of the operations. Easy to understand why Donald Trump speaks about failure. He also attacks the Obama administration for now deciding to retake Mosul, calling it a crutch to Clinton’s Presidential campaign. As for Hillary, she strongly defends the military action, which in many ways is planned and supported by the US.

In reality, the operation isn’t only facing strong resistance from the ISIS units, but there is also loose coordination, if not unfriendliness amongst the attacking forces. The Kurdish Peshmerga, the Iraqi army units specially created for the capture of Mosul and various groups of local and Iranian fighters have in the past been fighting between themselves. Independent sources say that the Mosul battle may last for months. If this is the case, the more than one million inhabitants will find themselves in a similarly deadly and inhumane position as the ill-fated people of Aleppo.

No plans for the day after

This brings us to the planning for the day after. For one thing, a part of the Mosul population is not hostile to ISIS, being themselves Sunni Moslems. North Iraq Sunnis have suffered under the many years of the Bagdad ‘occupation’. During the long Premiership of the Shia Muslim Nouri al-Maliki from April 2006 until August 2014, the Iraqi Sunnis were not only sidestepped from the running of country, but faced maltreatment and even persecution. The current Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al Abadi, also a Shia Muslim, is trying to change that, in order to facilitate the fight against ISIS.

In many respects, the rise of ISIS can be attributed to the Maliki one-sided long rule of the country, making Sunni extremism an obvious answer to Bagdad’s oppression. ISIS was first established in North Iraq and then expanded to Syria. The Americans, right after toppling the butcher of Bagdad, Saddam Hussein in 2003, an enemy of Shia Muslims, chose to side with this part of the population.

Bagdad brought about ISIS

Both Maliki and Abadi were persecuted by the Saddam Hussein regime and this fact made them obvious collaborators to Americans, but it didn’t make them fair and effective rulers. In any case, Shia Maliki’s long and unjust governance and his cruelty against the Sunnis of Iraq can be surely considered as the main cause and opportunity for the rise of ISIS.

Understandably then, in 2014, the US decided to change ‘horse’ and support Abadi to succeed Maliki, because the latter had definitely acquired the ‘title’ of the foe of Sunnis. Now, Abadi is trying with some success to mobilize some Sunni tribes of the North against the ISIS murderers. However, Abadi still represents the Shia Bagdad regime, always regarded with suspicion by the Sunnis and the other tribes of the North. Syria is in a similar situation, but in this case Russia is deeply involved, determinedly backing the Shia part of the population, opposing the US and its Sunni proxies on the ground.

Russia’s opportunity

President Bashar al-Assad, a Shia Muslim of the more subtle Alawite version of Islam, is a sworn enemy of the Sunni armed factions in his country and of course of ISIS. On the other side of the fence, along with ISIS, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Turkey are relentlessly striving to exterminate Assad and his regime. Obviously, if the Assad Shia armed forces lose the war, the country’s Alawite populace of some millions will surely face extinction from the Sunni victors.

When the Syrian civil broke out, Russia grabbed the opportunity to side with her traditional ally, Assad, as this was Moscow’s last chance to remain an important player in the Middle East. Assad also found solid support from the other Shia forces of the wider region, namely the Hezbollah of Lebanon and of course Iran.

Sunnis and Shia

In short, the many war fronts in Iraq and Syria are tightly connected, because the main players are the same. At the exception of Kurds who have their own independent agenda, in both countries the Sunni and the Shia camps are the central adversaries. Alas, a similar civil war is tearing Yemen apart, one of the poorest countries of the world. The Shia Iran supports the Houthi rebels there and Saudi Arabia and the US back the Sunni ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

No doubt, the entire Middle East is in a state of war. The most dangerous confrontation though is evolving in Syria, not Iraq. The US and Russia are directly opposing each other over Aleppo. Both sides are engaging strong air force units to support their proxies on the ground. As mentioned above, the confrontation has even reached the heart of the US electoral campaign. According to Reuters last Tuesday, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of warmongering. He said that if she wins the election, her policies will bring the US to the brink of war with nuclear power Russia.

US and Russia

Trump also stressed that if the US drags the Syrian confrontation to its limits as Hillary proposes, WWIII may be imminent. On the same occasion, he indirectly admitted that Clinton is to win the Presidential race, by saying that if the Republican Party was united behind him, he would have very easily won the contest. The truth is that Clinton wants the US to declare a ‘non flight zone’ and ‘safe zones’ on the ground, in the face of it, to protect civilians. However, defending these zones will bring US and Russian war planes in direct conflict. God forbid what may follow. But Hillary doesn’t seem to mind and is seemingly determined to intensify US aggressiveness against Russia. At least, this how Trump reads Clinton’s foreign policy proposals.

In reality, US and Russia are fighting for the fate of Assad. If Assad goes, then the Lebanon Hezbollah and Iran will be in dire straits, and the US will be calling the terms. For this to happen though, Assad must lose the battle of Aleppo, not win it and for the time being his forces are the victors. As a result, the US urgently needs to find some other ways to change the balance of power in and around Aleppo.

Mosul ISIS to fight Assad

Very possibly then, the fight against ISIS in Mosul will be manipulated by the US, to evolve in relation to what is happening in Syria. Since the ISIS fighters are the most unsparing enemies of Assad and the Allawites, maybe they will be given the chance to relocate from Mosul to Syria and support the war against Assad there.

Relevant information about movements of ISIS fighters leaving Mosul for Syria has already started coming through. Last Tuesady, CNN reported that according to “Sheikh Abdullah Alyawer, a tribal leader in the town of Rabia” hundreds of ISIS fighters leave Mosul and flee to Syria. Regrettably though, in this way the battle of Aleppo will drag on and on, until US and Russia finally recognize that none of the two can alone solve the Syrian Gordian Knot.

In conclusion, the fate of millions of civilians in Mosul, Aleppo and other parts of Iraq and Syria means nothing to those who want to control our world.

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