Monday, March 2, 2009

Operation New Hope In Mosul

On February 20, 2009 the Iraqi government announced the beginning of its third security offensive in Ninewa province. Like the previous ones Operation New Hope is aimed at securing the troubled city of Mosul. Operation Lion’s Roar/Mother of Two Springs launched in May 2008, and Mother of Two Springs II in October 2008 had little affect on the number of casualties in the city in the long run. In January 2009 attacks were down before the provincial elections however. Afterwards casualties went back up, but still at a lower level then in 2008. Operation New Hope appears to be a more targeted campaign, and involves U.S. troops. It may be the last major joint Iraq-U.S. military operation before the June deadline for U.S. troops to be out Iraq’s cities, but like the previous ones does not address the major causes of violence in the city.

Operation New Hope has two stated goals. First it is a targeted campaign aimed at arresting suspects on a wanted list. On the opening day 74 people were arrested. Second it hopes to increase the government’s presence in certain areas outside of Mosul. Iraqi forces are in the lead, but the U.S. apparently has a large role. That’s shown by the fact that nine American soldiers were killed in the city in February 2009 before and during the offensive. Mosul is one of the few areas where U.S. forces have incorporated the Iraqis troops into their command center.

The offensive has been expected for quite some time. Back in November 2008 there were reports that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was considering a new operation there. The Prime Minister first talked of clearing Mosul back in December 2007. The moves against the Mahdi Army in early 2008 however delayed it until May. It was originally called Operation Lion’s Roar, but was then renamed Mother of Two Springs, a nickname for Mosul. Thirty-two thousand soldiers and police were committed to the operation, but by September Maliki admitted that it had not worked and blamed the citizens for not cooperating. As reported here before, Mother of Two Springs had little affect on the number of casualties beforehand and afterwards. When Christians were attacked in the city in October the government again committed more police to secure Mosul.

It wasn’t until the end of 2008 that attacks finally dropped, reaching a low in January 2009 as the country prepared for the provincial elections. According to press reports by January Mosul averaged just 1.8 deaths per day and 2.74 wounded compared to 3.61 deaths and 6.06 wounded per day in October 2008. One major difference between 2008 and 2009 has been the lack of mass casualty bombings. The city however was the deadliest in the country for politicians, and by February attacks and casualties started climbing back up.

Selected Casualty Numbers For Mosul Based Upon Press Reports


April 2008 – One Month Before Operation Lion’s Roar/Mother Of Two Springs
63 attacks/incidents – 2.1 attacks & incidents/day
71 killed – 2.37 killed/day
209 wounded – 7.0 wounded/day
42 kidnapped

June 2008
49 attacks/incidents –1.97 attacks & incidents/day
100 killed – 3.33 killed/day
279 wounded – 9.3 wounded/day
4 kidnapped

October 2008 – Month of Operation Mother Of Two Springs II
92 attacks/incidents – 2.96 attacks & incidents/day
112 deaths – 3.61 deaths/day
188 wounded – 6.06 wounded/day

November 2008
65 attacks/incidents – 2.16 attacks & incidents/day
53 deaths – 1.76 deaths/day
249 wounded – 8.3 wounded/day

December 2008
65 attacks/incidents – 2.09 attacks & incidents/day
68 deaths – 2.19 deaths/day
181 wounded – 5.83 wounded/day

January 2009 – Provincial Elections
52 attacks/incidents – 1.67 attacks & incidents/day
56 deaths – 1.80 killed/day
85 wounded – 2.74 wounded/day

February 2009
81 attacks/incidents – 2.89 attacks & incidents/day
58 deaths – 2.0 deaths/day
111 wounded – 3.96 wounded/day

The major cause of the violence in the city is the divide between Arabs and Kurds. In the January 2005 elections Sunnis boycotted, resulting in the Kurds taking over the provincial council. The Kurds also have aspirations to annex five areas around Mosul in northern Ninewa. Both have caused great anger amongst the province’s Arabs. To make matters worst, during the Surge many Al Qaeda operatives and other groups were forced north and settled in Mosul, which has been called the last urban stronghold for the insurgency. All together this has caused an explosive mix. Many of these armed groups have tried to portray themselves as the protectors of the Arabs against the Kurds, and continue to reject participating in the political system. As noted here before, Prime Minister Maliki attempted to exploit this division for his own political purposes by courting the Arabs in the city to oppose the Kurds. Maliki removed Kurdish units and officers, replacing them with Arab ones, and offered Arabs a role in reconstruction. Rather than offering reconciliation, the Prime Minister pushed for further ethnic differences.

The provincial elections may not help this process. The Al-Hadbaa party won an outright majority in the vote running on an explicitly anti-Kurdish campaign. The party’s leader Atheel al-Nujafi who will probably become the new governor has said that all the sitting Kurdish officials need to be replaced on the provincial council, and that he will not work with any Kurds that put Kurdish concerns before those of Ninewa. The current deputy governor who is a Kurd has accused Al-Hadbaa of wanting to rid Mosul of Kurds.

Al-Hadbaa’s Nujafi believes that Operation New Hope will do little to solve the province’s problems. He may be right. Until the divide between Arabs and Kurds is resolved there will be violence in Mosul. Prime Minister Maliki enflamed the situation by taking an anti-Kurdish turn in late 2008, and the Al-Hadbaa party has a similar position. Many were hoping that the provincial elections would help turn many of these conflicts into a political one, but in Ninewa’s case that may not be true. The real test will be whether violence goes back to 2008 levels now that the voting is over or remains at their current lower rate.

For more on Mosul see:

Mosul – Dangerous Place For Politicians

Mosul Remains One Of The Most Violent Cities In Iraq

Mosul: The New Battleground Between Maliki And The Kurds

New Security Offensive In Mosul?

Christians In Mosul Update
Bad Times For Iraq’s Christians

Back To Mosul

Mosul Update

The Security Situation In Mosul

SOURCES

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- “IED injures U.S. soldier in Mosul,” 12/16/08
- “IED rocks IIP building in Ninewa,” 12/11/08
- “IED targets U.S. patrol in Mosul; no casualties,” 12/16/08
- “IED targets U.S. patrol, no casualties,” 1/12/09
- “IED wounds 2 in southern Mosul,” 1/18/09
- “IED wounds 4 in Mosul,” 2/3/09
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- “Journalist killed by policeman in Mosul,” 2/5/09
- “Local elections candidate gunned down,” 12/31/08
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2 comments:

AndrewSshi said...

What's al-Hadbaa's position on the Dawa government in Baghdad? Do they seem like they'd be co-optable by Maliki et al, or are they more like a Sinn Fein to the insurgents' IRA?

motown67 said...

I haven't heard anything about Dawa specifically, but in an interview with the party's leader and probable future governor in niqash:

http://www.niqash.org/content.php?contentTypeID=75&id=2393&lang=0

he said that he supports a strong central government, which is exactly what Maliki has been pushing.

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