News out of Mosul was limited again because of the media blackout enforced by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Yesterday, General Haidar Ali al-Shemari from the Golden Division told the press that around 250 families were still trapped in the Old City, afraid to flee because of Islamic State gunfire. Soon after that story was published the Joint Operations Command (JOC) denied it. The JOC was supposed to be in control of all press statements, but has never been able to enforce that rule. The general’s statement contradicted the government’s narrative that Mosul is freed, and only mopping up operations are going on, which as the reason why the JOC claimed it was fake news.
The head of Ninewa Operations General Najm Jabouri tried to explain the clash that happened between two Hashd factions in northeast Mosul yesterday. A shop was robbed in the Hadbaa neighborhood and blamed on elements of Kataib Sayid al-Shuahda. That led to an argument, that escalated to a fist fight, and then gunfire with the Ninewa Guards. Some Guardsmen were arrested as a result. Tensions were said to still be running high on July 21, leading the Guards to withdraw from the area. Some Shiite Hashd groups have entered Mosul and set up offices, but they do not have a role in security the city. Their presence in Hadbaa where the Ninewa Guards are based would be a concern. Add to that the theft accusation, and the situation turned out to be explosive.
Some Ninewa officials are complaining about the ad hoc security forces being employed in the province. Before 2014, there were 15,000 police in Mosul and around 32,000 total in the province. The Ninewa council asked Baghdad to bring back all these officers, but it has dragged its feet. That led the local government to create a series of volunteer forces that became tribal Hashd units. There are around 9 operating in Mosul, and roughly 30 in Ninewa. Many are connected to local politicians or tribes. Some are being blamed for attacks upon IS families and other lawlessness, which the Hashd deny. One Ninewa councilman said security in Mosul was chaotic due to all the different groups operating there. This concern has been raised by others in the past, but the government doesn't have the forces to hold the city and conduct its military operations, so this hodgepodge collection of groups will have to make do until the police are fully restored, which could take some time. That means the province will have continued tensions like happened in Hadbaa, acts of criminality, and security gaps as well because none of these groups cooperate with each other, and many are rivals.
The debate over the casualties from the Mosul campaign continued. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in a recent speech asserted that more ISF died than civilians. This is a ridiculous argument, but fits in with government’s propaganda line. That holds that the Iraqi forces have made huge sacrifices to liberate the country, although how much Baghdad never reveals because it won’t release casualty figures. At the same time the ISF’s main priority has been to protect the civilian population. That has been questioned as well as the police in west Mosul indiscriminately fired mortars, rockets and artillery into the city. On the other hand, Vice President Nouri al-Maliki told Sputnik News that there were around 20,000 ISF dead and wounded from the battle. If injured are usually 3-4 times higher than fatalities, than the ISF might have suffered 5,000 of fewer of the latter and roughly 15,000 wounded, which is in the realm of possibilities compared to Abadi’s story. The true number will likely never be known as Baghdad is unlikely to ever release the information.
The number of civilian dead is still being recorded, although not publicly. Reuters went to the Mosul Morgue where anywhere from 30-40 bodies were still showing up each day. One doctor said he was surprised that the flow of dead was still so high after fighting had ended. The majority were dug out of the rubble caused by air strikes and shelling.
Reuters also visited Qaraqosh in the Ninewa Plain. Although the hook of the story was that the first bar was re-opened in the town, the real heart of the matter was that 400 families had finally returned. Most were Christians but there were some Muslims as well. Qaraqosh used to be the largest Christian town in Ninewa. One man who was visiting and trying to decide whether to stay or not was most concerned about security. That wasn’t because of IS, but rather rivalries between militias. Last week two Hashd groups got into a gunfight in the town. As stated above, there are around 30 Hashd units operating in the province with no coordination, and many are connected to politicians who have aspire to control areas. These rivalries open the potential for more armed conflict in the future until Baghdad steps in and organizes them under central and provincial control. There’s no timetable for when that will happen.
Finally, in the rest of Maliki’s interview with Sputnik he attacked his opponents for the fall of Mosul in 2014 and for future problems in the province. He claimed that the people of the city, working with Baathists, Governor Nujafi, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani and tribes were responsible for the 2014 crisis. The Obama administration also failed to help, and therefore is responsible for the rise of the Islamic State. He went on to say that Barzani would cause problems in the province because he wanted to expand into Mosul and seize the governorate’s oil. Turkey was also singled out for spreading sectarianism amongst Sunnis. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2018, and these are all the vice president’s usual talking points. It wasn't his fault that IS took Mosul. Rather it was a conspiracy of his enemies and foreign powers. They are continuing to plot in Iraq to create further dissension and disputes. His argument is that he is the only one that can stand up to these forces and bring order to Iraq.
Altman, Howard, “Iraqi general who planned Mosul attack talks about liberation,” Tamp Bay Times, 7/21/17
Arraf, Jane, “In Mosul, Grim Homecomings And A Struggle To Survive In A City Now Free From ISIS,” NPR, 7/21/17
Bas News, “Clashes Eruopt between Sunni and Shi’ite Militias in Mosul,” 7/21/17
Coles, Isabel, “Iraqis numb pain of Islamic State in newly re-opened bar,” Reuters, 7/21/17
- “Mosul morgue workers struggle to cope with ‘river of blood,’” Reuters, 7/21/17
Dolamari, Mewan, “In-fighting erupts between Iraqi forces in Mosul, casualties reported,” Kurdistan 24, 7/21/17
Iraq Newspaper, “Commander of Ninewa Operations: Kataib Said al-Shuhada Led By Qasim Suleimani Fought With Ninewa Guards,” 7/21/17
- “Iraqi Newspaper Reporter In Mosul: The Withdrawal Of Ninewa Guards,” 7/21/17
Al Mada, “Ninewa is perplexed by 30 tribal groups holding liberated lands,” 7/21/17
Mostafa, Nehal, “250 families still besieged in Mosul’s Old City: Army officer,” Iraqi News, 7/20/17
NINA, “Joint operations denies the existence of families held in West Mosul,” 7/20/17
NRT TV, “Iraqi Forces Hunt For Hidden ISIS Fighters In Mosul,” 7/21/17
Schogol, Jeff, “After Mosul: What’s next for the fight in Iraq,” Marine Times, 7/20/17
Shafaaq News, “Sunni Waqf: Security forces arrested 13 imams in Mosul,” 7/21/17
Sputnik News, “Maliki reveals the reality of the liberation of Mosul and the role of Russia in preventing the region from collapsing,” 7/21/17
Wall Street Journal, “Among Iraqis Freed From ISIS, Resentment Festers,” 7/21/17