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29 October 2016


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IMO much of this is electioneering--see? Obama is 'doing something' about ISIS!

As for any results (or not), we will find out (or not) after the election...


Thanks for that great post. I have to ask though, wouldn't the main roads into Mosul be among the most heavily defended parts of Mosul? Once you actually get to the city there are a lot of alternate routes. Wouldn't they look for some thing softer?


1. Pat will call this economic determinism and laugh about it. But hydrocarbons play a serious role in the "game". Here is a good, very interesting look, supported with many maps, on the issue:
Politics, Population, and Hydrocarbons: Preparing for Mosul’s Aftermath

2. There is concern voiced by Syria and Russia and other people, that the U.S. intends to let ISIS flee to Raqqa and keep it under "control" there - i.e. to use it against Syria. Having seen that the U.S. led ISIS escape from Fallujah and only the Iraqi air force, without U.S. consent, came to destroy them, I have a lot of sympathy for that point of you.
The Iraqi government has now send the PMF to take Tal Afar and to close one path of such an escape route. The groups include some 6,000 Sunnis and 3,000 Iraqi Turkmen originally for Tal Afar.

But the area between Mosul and Syria is mostly desert and even if Tal Afar is under control there will be lots of escape routes still open. I doubt that the U.S. will put any significant effort to stop them It is just too convenient to have them in Syria. If only as excuse to further meddle there and to occupy its east.

3. The fight in Mosul will be determined by the population. How many locals are part of or will support ISIS versus how many will fight on the side of the Iraqi government. We have too little reliable information to estimate that.

4. The U.S. announced to soon take on Raqqa - bullshit. It has no troops to do that. The Kurds will not go as they need to defend against Turkey. The Russians will not let the Turks go that far south. The "Arabs" in south-east Syria are with the government or some with ISIS. They will not be enough or ready to take on a city.



Pat sees economic factors as among those things that influence the course of history. pl

Patrick Bahzad

CENTCOM expects the battle to end no earlier than January 1st 2017. I'm pretty sure there will still be violence after that, regardless of the criteria applied to define "victory".

Patrick Bahzad

roads would be axis of advance, doesn't mean they gonna stay on the roads once they encounter IS fighters... As for the most heavily defended areas, I doubt it will be on those roads.


Patrick Bahzad

I am inclined to think that regain control of Mosul will take a lot longer than CENTCOM estimates. pl

A. Pols

Where are the "White Helmets" to run towards cameras with "wounded" children in their arms and who will call war crimes for atrocities against civilians, bombing schools and hospitals?

Patrick Bahzad


I'm inclined to think along the same lines ... Mosul is a huge city: combing through it, even with the Iraqi flag flying from every government building, will take weeks ! And that's after major fighting is over.


Akin Ünver's article is very pro-Kurdish, and I wonder whether he is not Turkish Kurdish himself. He doesn't say it, and being born in Ankara is no bar, not in that generation. All his work has been about the Kurdish question in Turkey.

At any rate, the article you cite is all about how the Kurds are going to succeed, though I agree it has many interesting things to say.

He exaggerates the importance of Mosul for the Kurds, and what they can do there. Amongst other things, the KRG can build a pipeline through Turkey without going through Mosul. It is not necessary for them.

In fact the KRG have done little to develop the oil potential they so optimisticly announced a few years back (but Ünver omits). The reason is obvious: they're bankrupt without the oil subsidies from Baghdad. To repeat the well-known, Baghdad stopped paying, because the KRG cheated on the oil agreement. But in any case, they can't pay now because of the decline in the oil price, a problem which is affecting all the Gulf.

Indeed it is an interesting question to ask how it is that the Peshmerga have been participating in the current offensive. They weren't paid for months, even possibly years, and thus did nothing for a long time. A Kurdish source a couple of months ago claimed that the US had agreed to pay the Peshmerga for ten years. Even if ten years is unbelievable, I can't see them fighting today unless there is some truth in the story.


One question that interested me was why the battle was launched now, just before election day, when the US might be seen to be bogged down in city battle on the day people go to the polls. At least it gives an opportunity to Trump. Was it thought that it would be all over by Nov. 8th? Of course, the winter weather in Mosul is not that great for operations.


Although I'm not a military man, my impression is that Da'ish is going to fight for Mosul, as the Colonel suggested was a likely choice a while back. PB's figures make victory probable, but the fighting has been hard so far. They are not running away, as the propaganda is claiming.

If it is the case that the majority of the Da'ish leadership is composed of Iraqi ex-Ba'athists (I don't believe it, but who knows who they are), then they won't want to be expelled from Iraq, and particularly Mosul. All this stuff about being offered Deir ez-Zor in exchange for Mosul is just speculation. The Iraqis, of whatever level in the Da'ish leadership, wouldn't want to lose Mosul. An existential battle, perhaps.


Thanks PB for Part 1. Clearly ISIS mistake was they didnt play nice with an external patron to protect their interests - true believers, one supposes, unwilling to compromise, play real politick and acquire a protector. For a while there was Erdogan, but then they bit the hand.

Clearly the time to move assets to Syria is past, so probably their best fighters have already left - and if they fled en masse, they will be goldfish in a bowl for US (or R+6 on the other side of the borde) air. So presumably the ISIS goal is reconfiguration as a guerrilla force and swearing to avenge the inevitable Mosul massacres.

However, fish cannot swim in the sea if there is no water. And whether their is water or sand (metaphorically) depends on whether ISIS gets the blame for what happens or the Iraqi Shia govt. Do you think that the array of forces that is going to face hard fighting can avoid bombing MOSUL block by block into rubble? Certainly that would lower (loyal govt) losses while placing the cost on the Sunni, and be consistent with the recent past. And would ensure plenty of water for ISIS to rebrand itself and swim in.

Second, there have been many cases of conflict spill over in the middle east, Pro-US spill-over to Syria being discussed. Assuming R+6 succeed (and that is I think the Russian flotilla will have that result by constraining NATO opportunities to continue their patronage to the unicorn army), do you see spill over back to Iraq, introducing another round of destabilization in a highly fractured and unstable country?

Thanks, I await part 2!


You bring up many good points. Also, what's interesting to me vis a vis Kurdish politics is how we never hear of the PUK (Talabani's outfit), have they joined up with Barzani's KDP forces/party or are they in opposition (in addition to Goran)? PUK vs KDP has been an on again, off again conflict, sometimes armed and causing many fatalities.


I'm concerned about an ISIS attack on the Mosul dam. It's difficult to obtain info
on the topic other than an Italian team is repairing/maintaining it...are the
Italians there with ISIS' consent?

Back in the early spring there was much media chatter about how an attack on the dam
could result in killing over a million people & now there's a near media black-out
on the topic. Does anyone have any ideas on how to protect the dam or are all those plans classified? The prevailing attitude seems to be if we just don't talk about it magically it will be ok. I almost feel guilty mentioning the topic. If there is no
response from this committee on my concerns than I'll conclude magical silence is
magical science & I'll try to never mention it again.

Babak Makkinejad

Patrick Bahzad:

I think you are under-stating the political significance of the war for Mosul; victory there heralds victory in Syria - and, significantly - the failure of the containment strategy against Iran.

All of this could have been avoided, in my opinion, in 2007, when US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was leaked.


The dam was only shortly under ISIS control,for less than a week IIRC, until the start of US airstrikes in august 2014 resulted in them being pushed out from the area. Not in IS best interest to do anything to the dam, as those in the effected zone would all be ISIS territory


Apart from any strategic/logistical considerations, the battle for Mosul is probably starting now because it is unlikely to be bogged down before 8 November.

While the battle is in its early stages, it will provide lots of uplifting footage of armored columns advancing, fresh troops, CAS etc- all the usual stuff, before the reality of urban warfare sets in and 'unhelpful' incidents become more frequent. Unhelpful incidents might include civilian casualties, heavy Coalition casualties, downed aircraft, friendly fire etc.

Also, once the fighting enters built-up areas, it will be more difficult to avoid comparisons with the fighting in Aleppo. That's a complication many in media and government would prefer to avoid as long as possible.


The dam is currently in the hands of the Peshmerga.

In my view, the dam is not in danger. The issue was raised by the US embassy in Baghdad in order to get Da'ish to leave.

The dam is based on weak foundations, it is true. However experts have confirmed my suggestion that the lake is actually full of alluvions, that is silt deposited by the Tigris, and not ready to blow.

alba etie

Is it possible that the military operations in Mosul against IS could help consolidate a more inclusive Abadi governance in Baghdad ?

different clue


I remember reading that quite a few of the ISIS strategic and tactical thinking-brain planner-dogs and guide-dogs for ISIS were bitter Baathists.
I still wonder to what extent the Bitter Baathists try using ISIS as a containment dome while viewing themselves as the core. I think the Bitter Baathists will fade away at some point and leave the ISIS containment dome to fight on to the bitter end. To what extent is ISIS now an independent movement? Independent enough to prevent the Baathists from preferentially escaping? ( " If we all die, you all die with us").

And once the city is taken over, what prevents the Shia Supremacist regime in Baghdad from re-oppressing the Sunni Arab tribes all over again and preparing them to re-welcome the Bitter Baathists yet again along with whatever new "screening movement" the Bitter Baathists travel under cover of?

mike allen

Patrick -

Good insight, thanks for the post. I agree it is going to be weeks or maybe even months to mop up after the city has been taken. Peshmerga and Iraqi twitter accounts are relaying claims of underground IS villages with IED factories, food and ammo storage, and first aid stations. And like prairie dog cities with half a dozen entrance/exit holes for each individual burrow. One captured tunnel was described as three kilometers long, another as nine meters deep to withstand airstrikes. Hope the Iraqis and the coalition have a higher tech solution than the "tunnel rats" we used 48 years ago.

Mosuk eye is reporting that the Tigris bridges are mined: https://mosuleye.wordpress.com/

It is going to be a long hard slog.


Interesting comparison with the Mongolian Empire ventures. Contemporary empires would do well to learn from the Mongolian modus operandi, sieze all logistical assets but leave local governance and religious culture intact under local control.

This would be a departure from the "you broke it, you own it" foreign policy cum business model of armed anarchy and chaos presently in vogue.


" Tehran, on the other hand, has been taking part in the grand game that is played in Iraq ever since the start of "Operation Iraqi Freedom". "

Iranian interests must also reflect historical Persian Empire engagements in a manner not to dissimilar to the Turkish shadow of Ottoman Empire. Persian trading posts must have operated there for thousands of years.

Too bad people in far flung places pay the steep price for refusal of humanity to study world history!

mike allen

ooops! typo "Mosuk eye" should read "Mosul Eye". The link should be correct.

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