The History of Mosul

 

I’ve never been to Mosul and so don’t have a good sense of what the city is really like. I thought, though, that the accounts I was reading of the battle to retake the city weren’t especially informative about the city’s history and significance. So I’ll try to offer some background, even though I’m not personally familiar with the city. I’m not an expert, and I may be mistaken about the details — so I’d welcome a bit of help from those of you who know the city’s history better.

mosulMosul, as you can see on the map to the right, is about 250 miles north of Baghdad. The old city was on the west bank of the Tigris, opposite the ancient city of Nineveh — the capital of the Assyrian empire, first mentioned in Genesis 10:11: “Ashur left that land, and built Nineveh.” Nineveh is part of modern-day Mosul.

I believe archeologists have found relics in or near Mosul that date as far back as the 25th Century BC. This area has been inhabited — and contested — for a very long time. Iraqi media are reporting that ISIS has destroyed priceless archaeological remains, dating from 1250 B.C., in nearby Nimrud, southwest of Mosul. Iraqi forces recaptured Nimrud yesterday. Nimrud was also an Assyrian city. In 879 BC, the King of Assyria, Ashurnasirpal II, made Nimrud the new capital of an empire that covered much of present-day Syria and Iraq. The Old Testament is, of course, full of references to ancient Assyria.

The Siege of Mosul, 1261–63

Mosul itself doesn’t seem to have captured ancient imaginations in the same way, or if it did, the records have been lost. Mosul linked Assyria and Anatolia under the Median and Achaemenid Empires. After its conquest by Alexander the Great, Mosul became part of the Seleucid Empire in 332 BC. Later it fell to the Parthians; then, during the Roman-Persian wars, it fell to Sassanid Persia in 225 AD. Christians lived there as early as the first century; in the sixth century, it became an episcopal seat of the Assyrian Church of the East.

In 637 or 641, depending on the source, Mosul was annexed by the Rashidun Caliphate. I’m not sure what happened between then and the late 9th century, when the city was seized by Turks. In 893, it came under the control of the Abbasid Caliphate; then, in the early 10th century, it became part of the Hamdanid dynasty, who were supplanted a century later by the Uqaylids. The 10th-century Muslim geographer al-Muqaddasi described the city thus:

It is the metropolis of this region. It is a splendid city, beautifully built; the climate is pleasant, the water healthy. Highly renowned, and of great antiquity, it is possessed of excellent markets and inns, and is inhabited by many personages of account, and learned men; nor does it lack a high authority in the Traditions, or a celebrated doctor of the law. From here come provisions for Baghdad, and thither go the caravans of al-Rihab. It has, besides, parks, specialities, excellent fruits, very fine baths, magnificent houses, and good meats: all in all the town is thriving. However, the gardens are remote from the city, the sound wind is noxious, and the level of the water is far from the surface of the ground, so as to make the drawing of it difficult.

The Seljuks conquered Mosul in the 11th century. In the same year1095, Pope Urban II launched the crusades. Saladin conquered Mosul in 1186. The Mongols conquered Mosul in the 13th century. In 1260, the Mamluks thrashed the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut and in the process laid waste to Mosul. It was apparently never the same. It was ruled thereafter by Mongol dynasties, somehow escaping the predations of Tamerlane. In 1508, Persian Safavids conquered the city. (I know little about the period from the 11th to 16th centuries and find it confusing.)

In 1535, Suleyman the Magnificent conquered Mosul. From then on, the Ottomans and the Safavids competed for control over Mosul. According to the historian Percy Kemp, the Ottomans considered Mosul “a mere fortress.”

… important for its strategic position as an offensive platform for Ottoman campaigns into Iraq, as well as a defensive stronghold and (staging post) guarding the approaches to Anatolia and to the Syrian coast.

When the Ottomans reconquered Baghdad in 1638, Mosul became an independent vilayet. The Safavids then reconquered most of Mesopotamia, and with it Mosul, in 1623. This was a blip: The city was swiftly reconquered by the Ottomans. During the four centuries of Ottoman rule, Mosul was viewed as the most independent district of the empire. Mosul’s culture was not so much Ottoman as it was Iraqi and Arab. Turkish was not the dominant language. 

Dominican fathers arrived in Mosul in 1750, profoundly transforming the city’s social life. Mosul had a large Christian population comprised mostly of indigenous Assyrians. The Dominican fathers and nuns established schools, hospitals, a printing press, and an orphanage; a congregation of Dominican sisters remained in Mosul until the early 21st century.

Throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries, Mosul grew in importance as a stable, well-governed trade route between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. It remained a key center of trade on the Silk Road until the opening of the Suez canal, which enabled goods to travel to and from India by sea.

The Ottomans made their final, fatal mistake when they sided with Germany in the First World War. In 1918, the British occupied Iraq, and with it, Mosul; Mosul became part of Mandatory Iraq. Turkey contested the mandate on the grounds that it had been under Ottoman control during the signing of the Armistice of Mudros. The British believed Mosul’s resources made it critical to the survival of a unitary Iraq. Turks feared that Kurdish nationalism would thrive under the British Mandate and prompt the rebellion of Turkey’s Kurds. The Treaty of Lausanne left the status of Mosul uncertain; it was to be resolved by the League of Nations. In 1926, the League brokered an agreement between Turkey and Great Britain: Thenceforth, Mosul would belong to Iraq. To sweeten the deal for the Turks, the League demanded that Iraq pay a ten-percent royalty on Mosul’s oil deposits to Turkey for the next 25 years.

Mosul seemed destined for modest irrelevance until the late 1920s, when the region’s oil launched it back to prominence. (Oil had long been traded in the region, but during this time it acquired a novel economic significance.) The city once again became central to the region’s trade as a hub for oil transport, via truck and pipeline, to Turkey and Syria.

Mosul was damaged, but not destroyed, during the Iran-Iraq war. After the 1991 Kurdish uprising, Mosul was included in the northern no-fly zone, which was enforced and patrolled by the United States and Britain until 2003. This stopped Saddam Hussein from mounting large-scale operations in the region, but his policy of Arabization proceeded apace. Despite this, Mosul remained home to Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens, Shabaks, JewsYazidis, Mandeans, Kawliya, and Circassians. 

Mosul, 1932

The United States conquered Mosul in 2003.

The Islamic State captured Mosul in 2014.

After more than two years of ISIS occupation, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, supported by an international coalition, launched a joint offensive to recapture the city two days ago.

And so here we are.

Today’s headlines make much more sense to me in this context:

Is protecting Mosul minorities an excuse for partition?

Iran-backed militias to ‘support Iraqi army offensive on Mosul

Erdogan invokes document that claims Mosul as Turkish soil

Iraqi, Arab Tribes Rebuff Iran’s Involvement in Mosul’s Anticipated Liberation

Battle for Mosul: RAF steps up air strikes on Islamic State stronghold

Mosul must be liberated by Iraqis only, say Nineveh tribal leaders

Turkey diplomacy: Aleppo deal with Russia, Mosul deal with US

More Than 100 US Troops Move Forward With Mosul Attack Force

Does knowing this history make it any easier to predict what will happen next?

There are 37 comments.

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  1. Member

    Kurds at work capturing Mosul

    “The nearest thing they have is the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government. Its leaders have said they intend to keep what they capture. ”

    “unmoved by the regular mortars which burst nearby, set on a mission to join this new trench and dyke to the hundreds already cut across the landscape – all to stop jihadi suicide attacks by car and trucks slowing the Kurd advance.”

    http://news.sky.com/story/kurds-digging-for-victory-against-islamic-state-in-iraq-10622566

    http://e3.365dm.com/16/10/992x558/8d69e825dbb0f6fcc8e0c3100cd2b68fe344187b4af19b4a3439f5324fdfa248_3811523.jpg?20161018184146

    Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces near Mosul, with a digger in the distance

    • #1
    • October 19, 2016 at 4:26 am
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  2. Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: The United States conquered Mosul in 2003.

    Tisk tisk Claire.

    We don’t conquer. We liberate.

    • #2
    • October 19, 2016 at 4:40 am
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  3. Member

    Thanks for the history lesson Claire! It is definitely beneficial to understand some of the history of the region and the city in order to put some perspective on the news of the day.

    • #3
    • October 19, 2016 at 4:40 am
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  4. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Chris B:Thanks for the history lesson Claire! It is definitely beneficial to understand some of the history of the region and the city in order to put some perspective on the news of the day.

    I find that the more of the history you know, the more it makes sense. How could anyone make sense of Turkey’s interest in this city without knowing about the Ottoman-Safavid conflict and the British Mandate? But once you understand that, Turkey’s involvement seems inevitable.

    • #4
    • October 19, 2016 at 4:54 am
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  5. Member

    Where did you get that map? It appears to be missing a country, little one, begins with “I” to the right of the Mediterranean.

    • #5
    • October 19, 2016 at 5:30 am
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  6. Member

    There seems to be no route for ISIL to retreat. Does that mean a fight to the death? Will ISIL try and melt into the refugees? How will the non-ISIL Sunnis in Mosul respond?

    https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-gvEh3uvwJq4/WATV2EGHdUI/AAAAAAAAH4I/XOQZxYutO_8m99rRlgaBw2UJRtZJJiN3wCEw/s1600/Campaign%2Bfor%2BMosul%2BMap%2BTurkey%2BHIGH-01.png

    • #6
    • October 19, 2016 at 5:32 am
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  7. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    WI Con:Where did you get that map? It appears to be missing a country, little one, begins with “I” to the right of the Mediterranean.

    It’s missing Lebanon and Cyprus, too — they’re too small, on a map this size, for the letters to fit. The point of this map isn’t Israel, it’s Mosul.

    • #7
    • October 19, 2016 at 5:56 am
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  8. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Viator: There seems to be no route for ISIL to retreat. Does that mean a fight to the death? Will ISIL try and melt into the refugees? How will the non-ISIL Sunnis in Mosul respond?

    Russia’s already trying to spread the rumor that we plan deliberately to allow them to retreat into Syria. (Wait for Trump to claim this.)

    I suspect that yes, it will be a fight to the death. No one wants ISIS — anywhere. Yes, they’ll probably try to melt into the refugees. How the other Sunnis in Mosul will respond is the million-dollar question.

    • #8
    • October 19, 2016 at 6:00 am
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  9. Member

    Profoundly interesting and much appreciated. Although, I have to confess to being utterly overwhelmed by the whole region and unlike Claire, the more I read and learn, the more muddied my mind seems to become.

    I come away from all this with one takeaway. Navigating the social, political, religious turmoil of this region and trying to somehow work the details of it into a rational policy objective with our country’s best interests in mind is as futile as using the the shifting dunes of a vast desert as reference points in a long journey that has as its destination nothing more than just another useless, lonely, sandy spot in the same desert and same predicament that we currently find ourselves.

    • #9
    • October 19, 2016 at 6:22 am
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  10. Reagan
    iWe

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    WI Con:Where did you get that map? It appears to be missing a country, little one, begins with “I” to the right of the Mediterranean.

    It’s missing Lebanon and Cyprus, too — they’re too small, on a map this size, for the letters to fit. The point of this map isn’t Israel, it’s Mosul.

    But it has Egypt – to the west of Israel.

    Heck, even the words “Mediterranean” managed to fit on this map. So we know the mapmaker knew how to use smaller fonts.

    • #10
    • October 19, 2016 at 6:33 am
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  11. Member

    Little known fact: prior to Battle of Ain Jalut and the wipeout of the Mongol force, Hulagu Khan had referred to the Maluks as the “JV” team. Subsequent Mongol efforts in the region were piecemeal, pointless and largely guided/hampered by internal politics rather than any purposeful strategy.

    • #11
    • October 19, 2016 at 6:45 am
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  12. Member

    Atheel al-Nujaifi, Turkey’s man for Mosul.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheel_al-Nujaifi

    the Turkish army is also training and arming Hashd al-Watani, a predominantly Arab Sunni militia created by Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former governor of Ninevah province and, along with his highly influential family, a close Turkish ally.

    In a country where the number of militiamen fighting for a religion, an ethnic group or a region seems to be growing by the day, Hashd al-Watani’s leaders do not shy away from voicing their ultimate prize: capturing the IS de-facto capital in Iraq. “Mosul is ours. If we get inside, all of it will be for us,” Brig. Gen. Mohamed Tahma Talib, commanding Hashd al-Watani, told al-Monitor.

    To be able to reach the outskirts of the city, Hashd al-Watani is working in cooperation with the Kurdish peshmerga, the army of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

    According to peshmerga Gen. Bahram Arif Yassin, stationed at Bashiqa Mountain, the Kurdish forces will seize the town of Bashiqa and advance toward Mosul, paving the way for the Ankara-backed fighters.

    “We will recapture the area around Mosul. We will [stop] 2 kilometers from the city. And then,” Yassin said, “we will open a way for Hashd al-Watani to go inside”

    and “retired Gen. Jay Garner, director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq following the 2003 invasion: “If the Shia militia enter Mosul, there will be a bloodbath.”

    • #12
    • October 19, 2016 at 6:57 am
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  13. Member

    “I’m not an expert, and I may be mistaken about the details”

    Still WAY more information than I’ll ever get from the MSM. But since there’s no mention of Trump’s crudeness, Hillary’s criminality or Bill’s sexual atrocities, no one will really care. (sigh)

    • #13
    • October 19, 2016 at 7:23 am
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  14. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    The astonishing thing about the world we live in is that you can follow this Battle of Mosul — unlike the previous ones — live on the Internet. Here’s a site that’s updating all the news as it comes in; obviously this is a first draft of history, and subject to error, but there’s probably much that’s accurate.

    • #14
    • October 19, 2016 at 7:51 am
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  15. Inactive

    Expelled, we leave our city of Mosul, humiliated by the followers of the new Islam. We leave it for the first time in History. And, while leaving, we thank our neighbors, the neighbors whom we thought would protect us, as they used to do [in the past], [thinking] that they would rise up against the fury of these 21st-century criminals by telling them that we are the authentic children of this city, and that we are its founders.

    We used to reassure ourselves by telling ourselves that we could count on them, brave brothers who would show of which kind of material they were made. But they abandoned us, letting us be taken outside the city, towards the unknown. They closed their eyes, while we left behind our history, the graves of our ancestors, our houses, our property, and all that was dear to our heart. They abandoned us, while we said farewell to our neighborhoods, to the Jonah Mosque.

    Goodbye as well to the archbishopric, to the Maskinta church, and that of Ain Kibrit… Goodbye to all of you! We will no longer be there for your feasts, and ceremonies, marriages and funerals.

    [cont’d….]

    • #15
    • October 19, 2016 at 8:10 am
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  16. Inactive

    Goodbye to our kin buried in Mosul. We leave you, chased from our city. May they forgive us if we can no longer come to their graves on holy days. Goodbye to the remains of my grandfather Elias, of my paternal uncle – Fr. Mikhail -, to my maternal uncles Ibrahim and Mikhail Haddad, from whom I got the passion for journalism, goodbye to my paternal uncle Estefan Aziza, the first martyr of the family, goodbye to the Convent of Saint George, goodbye to the city bridges, to its walls, to its playing fields, to its university, to its cultural center.

    Forgive us, dear friends, brethren, noble children of our city. Forgive us for our negligence. If we must fail in our duties toward you, the fact remains that we lived there together for hundreds, rather, thousands of years, building up Mosul with the sweat of our brow.

    And today, you view us from afar, while we are chased away, humiliated in the eyes of all. The furious murderers of the Daesh [ISIS] expelled us from our houses and from our city. Goodbye to you all! And thank you. We leave, compelled and under duress, a land that we had sustained with our own blood.

    [Based on the French version, published on Aug. 1 – orig. post. time: 12:00 a.m. GMT]

    • #16
    • October 19, 2016 at 8:11 am
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  17. Member

    WI Con:

    Where did you get that map? It appears to be missing a country, little one, begins with “I” to the right of the Mediterranean.

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: It’s missing Lebanon and Cyprus, too — they’re too small, on a map this size, for the letters to fit. The point of this map isn’t Israel, it’s Mosul.

    Good question. @claire‘s response evades but doesn’t answer it.

    Maybe French media last year, but here’s a TinEye search for the graphic. The earliest hit was from a now defunct website.

    https://tineye.com/search/c74ecfccdf3eb3afc548b5dc30f816e375a54518/?pluginver=chrome-1.1.5

    • #17
    • October 19, 2016 at 8:48 am
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  18. Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Russia’s already trying to spread the rumor that we plan deliberately to allow them to retreat into Syria. (Wait for Trump to claim this.)

    IIUC the most recent Russian/Syrian humanitarian hiatus included an offer for anyone – including fighters – to leave Aleppo, and the UN representative insisted that they be permitted to take their weapons with them.

    This is the third humanitarian corridor/relief thing in the last couple of months.

    On one, the humanitarian convoys were attacked by still unknown parties. The second was blown up when US bombing and killed around 100 Syrian soldiers, allegedly by mistake, and the third one is the ongoing/just ended one.

    If the Russians or Syrians blew up the convoys their own agreement permitted, that would certainly be a war crime. If other actors did it, that would be a war crime too, just not a Russian one. Among the possible suspects: forces known a few months ago as jihadi extremists but who in the last month have been sheep dipped by the media (another photo op for McCain coming?) renamed “rebels” again and armed by the US and NATO.

    • #18
    • October 19, 2016 at 9:15 am
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  19. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    WI Con:Where did you get that map? It appears to be missing a country, little one, begins with “I” to the right of the Mediterranean.

    It’s missing Lebanon and Cyprus, too — they’re too small, on a map this size, for the letters to fit. The point of this map isn’t Israel, it’s Mosul.

    Lebanon and Cyprus are there–they’re just unlabeled. So is Israel present–just some of the border lines are missing at the map’s resolution.

    Eric Hines

    • #19
    • October 19, 2016 at 10:54 am
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  20. Member

    Awesome read Claire. Thanks for the updated research and recommendations.

    • #20
    • October 19, 2016 at 11:01 am
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  21. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Viator: There seems to be no route for ISIL to retreat. Does that mean a fight to the death? Will ISIL try and melt into the refugees? How will the non-ISIL Sunnis in Mosul respond?

    Russia’s already trying to spread the rumor that we plan deliberately to allow them to retreat into Syria. (Wait for Trump to claim this.)

    I suspect that yes, it will be a fight to the death. No one wants ISIS — anywhere. Yes, they’ll probably try to melt into the refugees. How the other Sunnis in Mosul will respond is the million-dollar question.

    There is a route for Daesh’s retreat: to the west, where no forces have succeeded in cutting the road to Tal Afar and then to Raqqa. The whole of the geography west of Mosul is wide open to Daesh movement.

    The Obama administration is pretending to put together a coalition to invest Raqqa and prevent the two cities from reinforcing each other or serving as a retreat target for each other. That won’t happen in time to support even a prolonged battle for Mosul, though, and it’s unlikely to be any more than Obamatalk in any event.

    There’s a lot of hype about how Daesh will use chemical weapons to defend the city and/or to trash the place with wanton destruction and boobytraps, just to run up casualties. While Daesh’s ability to generate chemical weapons is problematic, they are entirely barbaric enough to raze the city and to leave as many civilian corpses as possible behind on their way out. I’m not convinced they’re all that anxious to pay the price necessary to achieve martyrdom; they’ll head on out, and not because they’re adherents of Francis Marion or Mao Tse-tung guerrilla tactics.

    Eric Hines

    • #21
    • October 19, 2016 at 11:09 am
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  22. Inactive

    Viator: the Turkish army is also training and arming Hashd al-Watani….

    Indeed. Also coloring the situation is Turkey’s invasion of Iraq last December. Turkey is pleased to say their 150 soldiers and 25 (!) tanks are in Bashiqa, 15 mi northeast of Mosul, only to train Iraqi/Kurdish soldiers, but Iraq has ordered the Turks out of Iraq, and Erdoğan has refused to go. He has more in mind there than just supporting a convenient ally.

    As Claire noted above, Mosul was part of the Ottoman Empire until it was carved out after WWI, and Turkey has never liked that.

    Eric Hines

    • #22
    • October 19, 2016 at 11:21 am
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  23. Member

    Thanks, Claire, I never knew any of this.

    • #23
    • October 19, 2016 at 12:48 pm
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  24. Member

    And in the meantime…….

    http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/president-putin-sends-carrier-battlegroup-to-syria-as-spy-ship-surveys-internet-cables/news-story/af09fca95dcf4216c80bd4341b7038a9

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1999495/vladimir-putins-nuclear-warships-pictured-steaming-towards-the-english-channel-as-royal-navy-prepares-to-scramble-fleet/

    I saw on the newsstand today at the store Putin is on the cover of Time with the headline” Russia tries to interfere in US Elections, but don’t believe it”. He seems to be everywhere….

    The world is being drawn into the Middle East conflicts as O exits, US elections upon us, HRC terrible foreign policy legacy, Iran emboldened, you couldn’t write a movie script this bad.

    • #24
    • October 19, 2016 at 1:01 pm
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  25. Member

    Eric Hines: There is a route for Daesh’s retreat: to the west, where no forces have succeeded in cutting the road to Tal Afar and then to Raqqa. The whole of the geography west of Mosul is wide open to Daesh movement.

    Except when ISIL (or S or whatever) leave the cover of the city they will be sitting ducks for air strikes. The west has everything from attack helicopters to B-2 bombers over Mosul. Remember those scenes of the Iraqi forces retreat from the first Gulf War?

    • #25
    • October 19, 2016 at 1:25 pm
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  26. Inactive

    Viator:

    Eric Hines: There is a route for Daesh’s retreat: to the west, where no forces have succeeded in cutting the road to Tal Afar and then to Raqqa. The whole of the geography west of Mosul is wide open to Daesh movement.

    Except when ISIL (or S or whatever) leave the cover of the city they will be sitting ducks for air strikes. The west has everything from attack helicopters to B-2 bombers over Mosul. Remember those scenes of the Iraqi forces retreat from the first Gulf War?

    In the first place, the Iraqi forces weren’t–aren’t–guerrilla capable. In the second place, the Iraqi forces are…Iraqi forces. It’s an inapt comparison.

    Daesh may well take casualties as it retreats. Retreating forces always do.

    Eric Hines

    • #26
    • October 19, 2016 at 1:36 pm
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  27. Member

    Pseudodionysius: Goodbye as well to the archbishopric, to the Maskinta church, and that of Ain Kibrit… Goodbye to all of you! We will no longer be there for your feasts, and ceremonies, marriages and funerals.

    “In Mosul across the Tigris thousands of Arameans, Kurds, Turkmens, Shabaks, Yazidis and Armenians made up the population (a city of normally about two and a half million people, about the size of Chicago) . Shabaks were concentrated on the eastern outskirts of the city.” Wikipedia

    “The Shabak people live mainly in Nineveh Province in northern Iraq. They speak Shabaki, a Northwestern Iranian language. About 70 percent of Shabaks follow Shabakism and the rest of the population are Yarsani or Sunni. It has also been suggested that Shabaks are descendants of the Qizilbash army led by Shah Ismail.”

    The Yazidis are an ethnically Kurdish religious community. Their religion, Yazidism is linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions and combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism.”

    “Most Armenians adhere to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a non-Chalcedonian church, which is also the world’s oldest national church. Christianity began to spread in Armenia soon after Jesus‘ death.” Well, I doubt there are many Armenians left in Mosul.

    The Arameans, or Aramaeans, were an ancient Northwest Semitic Aramaic-speaking tribal confederacy who emerged from the Syrian desert in the Late Bronze Age. They established a patchwork of independent Aramaic kingdoms in the Levant.

    Weep for these people, be amazed at their ability to endure.

    http://s1.ibtimes.com/sites/www.ibtimes.com/files/styles/lg/public/2015/08/04/yazidis.jpg

    • #27
    • October 19, 2016 at 2:25 pm
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  28. Member

    Eric Hines:

    Viator:

    Eric Hines: There is a route for Daesh’s retreat: to the west, where no forces have succeeded in cutting the road to Tal Afar and then to Raqqa. The whole of the geography west of Mosul is wide open to Daesh movement.

    Except when ISIL (or S or whatever) leave the cover of the city they will be sitting ducks for air strikes. The west has everything from attack helicopters to B-2 bombers over Mosul. Remember those scenes of the Iraqi forces retreat from the first Gulf War?

    In the first place, the Iraqi forces weren’t–aren’t–guerrilla capable. In the second place, the Iraqi forces are…Iraqi forces. It’s an inapt comparison.

    Daesh may well take casualties as it retreats. Retreating forces always do.

    Eric Hines

    Which certainly is a good incentive to pick an urban environment for the battlefield, they have also had plenty of time to entrench not to mention the fact that urban warfare tends to favor the defender. Why retreat at all?

    • #28
    • October 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm
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  29. Inactive

    Roberto: Why retreat at all?

    I think they’ll retreat because they want to live. Or they could continue digging in and boobytrapping the place, with an intent of either fighting on or running up the casualties or both.

    What’s interesting to me is the Pesh pulling up to consolidate in the east, the Iraqis in the south pulling up to consolidate and to let a slow (for whatever reason) division finish coming up from the south, with the two delays intended to improve a more coordinated assault on the city proper. There are a lot of valid reasons for this, and I’m not there.

    But it also occurs to me that this is a force that can’t coordinate in real time and maintain a blitzkrieg, feeding the hot hand. Even in urban fighting, speed matters, and slowness runs up friendly casualties.

    Eric Hines

    • #29
    • October 19, 2016 at 3:43 pm
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  30. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Front Seat Cat: He seems to be everywhere….

    He sure does. I don’t think people feel it in the US so much — at least, to judge from what I read, it seems many people still think all of this Russia business sounds like some kind of retro, Cold War joke; they can’t really believe that they have to be afraid of Russia. In Europe, though, he feels like a cold shadow looming over everything.

    Short of war, he hasn’t got the power to wreck what isn’t broken to begin with. Unfortunately, a lot in the West is broken.

    • #30
    • October 20, 2016 at 12:25 am
    • Like
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