While I was originally hopeful about the Arab Spring, I was quickly disillusioned when Egypt's election brought the Muslim Brotherhood program of one man, one vote, one time. At this point, I'm not sure any of these places, besides Tunisia and Iraqi Kurdistan. can be governed in a democratic fashion. I know for sure that US voters will not support the time and expense it takes to build a democratic nation out of these places. What we can do is eliminate the really bad actors, like ISIS and Bashar al Assad. We can try to have better governance instead. These countries have borders drawn 100 years ago, without regard to the ethnic, religious and tribal makeup of the people who live there.
Expecting such countries to retain their borders while becoming multi ethnic nonsectarian republics is absurd. We should accept that Sunnis want a Sunni country and help them set one up in the parts of Iraq and Syria where they live. We should do the same for the Kurds. We should give up on trying to build a nonsectarian Iraqi army. It's an impossible task. It didn't work before under American occupation and it's unlikely to succeed now with a few American advisers. We should arm organizations who show they are willing to fight without committing atrocities. This means dealing directly with the Kurds and Sunni tribal groups whether Baghdad likes it or not.
The US doesn't seem to have many friends in the region. Iran owns Baghdad. The Turks have to be seriously pressured to do anything even minimally useful. The Kurds are pro American, pro-Israeli and relatively religiously tolerant. They fight ISIS with whatever they have. The risk that Kurdish equipment will fall into ISIS hands in useable condition is very low. There's no reason not to arm them to the teeth. Giving training and weapons to the Iraqi Army is not just a waste of time, it's a weapons transfer to ISIS.
The way this looks right now, the Shi'ite militias are going to be the only other power in Iraq besides the Kurds. If the Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and other minority groups can't defend themselves independently, stopping ISIS will not stop the genocide. It will just change who is doing the killing from Sunni jihadists to Shi'ite jihadists
Unfortunately, most of the Sons of Iraq, Sunnis who helped us get rid of Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, are probably dead by now. They were sacrificed so our Dear Leader could please his base by totally withdrawing from Iraq. Once we left, Al Maliki's Shi'ite government cut off their money and equipment. ISIS probably killed most of them. Who would trust us now, given the way we abandoned them last time? We have to offer a much better deal this time. We have to offer a Sunni Regional Government similar to the Kurdish Regional Government. And we also have to guarantee funding for the government, because Baghdad will cut them off again as soon as the US loses interest. Possibly the funding can come from the Gulf Oil States. Maybe then we can start to form Sunni Arab units who will be motivated to fight ISIS.
We were not able to train an effective Iraqi Army when we occupied Iraq. Why do we think we can do better now under worse conditions? If we train 5,000 to 10,000 Kurds, Yazidis and Christians we will get an effective fighting force. If we train 20,000 Iraqi Army soldiers, we will get a better armed ISIS, just like last time. However, as far as I can tell, the Kurds and their allies are still short of equipment and ammunition. The Wall Street Journal had a recent story about a Christian militia in Kurdistan training with borrowed guns and almost no ammunition. All of the good stuff is going to Baghdad. It seems that anything given to the Kurds, has to be inspected and approved in Baghdad before it’s shipped to the Kurds. Barry the Brilliant seems to think he can get a great nuclear arms control deal if he appeases the Iranians enough.
As far as I can tell, the best way to take Mosul is from Iraqi Kurdistan. Google Maps only shows one town, Bartella, between Peshmerga held Kalak and Mosul. Bartella used to be the largest Christian town in Iraq, so I’m sure the Kurds are sheltering a lot of people from there who could help take the place.
Mosul is the second biggest city in Iraq. It is a city divided by the Tigris River. The population was a mixture of Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and a lot of other ethnic and religious groups. The east side was predominantly Kurdish. The west side was predominantly Sunni Arab. The ISIS garrison in Mosul is estimated to be about 6,ooo armed men.
City fighting is very costly in terms of casualties. While the remaining Kurds will help in the eastern side, the Sunni Arbs in the west side have no motivation to do so. Without help from inside, any attacking force is going to take a large number of casualties. Given how unmotivated Iraqi Army troops have proved in the past, I don’t believe they will ever be willing to take massive casualties fighting for Mosul. They will refuse any order to attack.
My first thought was this. If the Sunni side of Mosul is going to be destroyed anyway, why not just drop thousands of leaflets warning the civilians it's going to be flattened? Then give the civilians a week to leave. At that point, carpet bomb the place with B-52s and big fuel air explosives. Make sure that nothing much can live through the bombing.
The problem with just bombing the place is that ISIS has prevented the civilian population of Mosul from leaving. ISIS has a “guarantee” system. Anyone leaving Mosul has to designate 3 hostages in Mosul who will be punished if the departing person fails to return to Mosul. So most of the civilian population is still in Mosul and can’t get out.
There may be as many as 100,000 military aged civilian men in Mosul. The majority of them are Sunni Arabs. Many of them probably have hidden AK-47 assault rifles. At the moment, they have no motivation to resist ISIS. If they expel ISIS, the Shi’ite Baghdad government returns to power or the Kurdistan Regional Government takes over. Either way, they get nothing.
To me, the solution seems to be guaranteeing a Sunni Regional Government similar to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The administration’s position is that Iraq is a unitary state. Our position in the Ukraine is that the Ukraine is not a unitary state. (snarky comment) As long as we hold the position that the Sunni Arabs have to live with the Iranian backed Shi’ite government in Baghdad without a regional government of their own, I don’t see how we can expel ISIS from Mosul with troops from Iraq.
Article on the Mosul Offensive Announcement and Feasibility:
Article on Stopping ISIS
Article on Iraqi Christian Militia (Requires Subscription)
Interview With Kurdistan High Representative to the US
Article on ISIS Occupation of Mosul