October 24, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 18, 2016. Smoke rises as people flee their homes at the beginning of the U.S.-led assault to re-take the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group (ISIS).On October 16, up to 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish fighters, Shi’ite militiamen, and U.S. forces launched a massive military assault on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The city is now controlled by the reactionary jihadist Islamic State, or ISIS, which seized it from the Iraqi government in June 2014.
According to Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi and President Obama this is an “Iraqi operation” whose goal is solely to “liberate” the people of Mosul.
Iraqis may make up the bulk of the forces, but this is a U.S.-directed operation being carried out in line with U.S. imperialist interests and objectives. There are some 12 generals and 5,000-6,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, including various “advisors,” Special Forces, and “forward air controllers” who are now on the front lines in Mosul and will be playing a crucial role in the battle. Even more critical is U.S. airpower. The U.S. has carried out 15,803 air attacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in the last two years and has been decisive in the Iraqi military’s ability to seize back other cities from ISIS and other Sunni forces, such as Ramadi and Fallujah.
All of these U.S.-led battles have involved mass carnage, destruction, and war crimes. The battle for Mosul promises to be no different. Fighting is now taking place and expected to last weeks if not months. Humanitarian relief organizations warn that the battle for Mosul could destroy much of the city, kill thousands, and create anywhere from 200,000 to a million refugees.
There are already reports that a funeral procession was hit by air strikes, possibly by U.S.-led forces, in the town of Daquq, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Mosul. The mayor there reported that 17 people, mainly women and children, were killed and another 50 wounded. U.S. military officials say they’re investigating.
Mosul & the Hellish Reality of U.S. “Liberation”Mosul is a city in northern Iraq whose population is now mainly Arabs who follow the Sunni branch of Islam (the other major branch being Shi’ism). But Kurds, Turkamen, Shi’ite Arabs, and other peoples have historic ties to Mosul, a place where many of the country’s ethnic, national, and religious divisions collide. Mosul is also an example of how the 2003 U.S. war and occupation intensified old horrors and spawned new ones.
Hussein was overthrown and the U.S. installed a new regime dominated by reactionary Shi’ite religious parties and bourgeois Kurdish forces, eager to grab the spoils of war. The U.S. and the new regime targeted and suppressed Iraq’s Sunnis, a base of the Hussein regime. A vicious imperialist occupation, sectarian civil war, and violent ethnic cleansing quickly broke out that has raged—in one form or another—ever since, focused now in Mosul.
This horrific cauldron has led to the deaths of between 600,000 and 1.4 million Iraqis and the displacement of more than four million more. All this greatly strengthened reactionary Islamic fundamentalism—both Shi’a and Sunni—and fueled the emergence of the Sunni-based Islamic State (ISIS) from Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2013.
Mosul has been a microcosm of the multiple traumas inflicted on the Iraqi people since 2003. Journalist Patrick Cockburn points out that if the U.S.-led forces take over Mosul, “it will be the fifth time the city has changed hands in the course of 13 years of war.” (“Mosul braces itself for next bloody chapter having been ravaged by 13 years of war,” The Unz Review, October 19, 2016) All were reactionary: Arab and Kurdish forces who looted the city following Saddam’s fall; the U.S. forces who took over from them; then the widely hated Iraqi government; then in June 2014, ISIS, after the Iraqi military fled in panic, rather than fight.
The ISIS Caliphate—A Medieval Nightmare, No Answer to ImperialismIn this situation, and with the absence of a genuine revolutionary communist alternative as a real presence in Iraq, the war crimes of imperialism drove sections of angry people into the arms of the fundamentalist Islamic jihadists. A tragic expression of this was the fact that when ISIS first drove out the hated Iraqi government forces, hundreds of people cheered them.
But within weeks of its takeover of Mosul, by far the largest city under its control, ISIS declared the formation of an Islamic caliphate—a theocracy claiming to embody Islam as practiced by the Prophet Muhammad and his followers in the seventh century—stretching across northern Iraq and Syria, with several million people now under ISIS control. The seizure of Mosul and the formation of the ISIS caliphate planted the pole of reactionary fundamentalist Jihad across the region and the world, attracting thousands of recruits, while shocking the imperialists and the region’s oppressive states and posing a major new challenge for them.
ISIS claimed its Islamic State was the alternative to imperialism, one which would bring true justice and an end to oppression.