Eye Catching Headlines

From Foreign Policy:   With Islamic State Routed from Kobani, Kurds Eye Mosul.

So, what’s wrong with this picture.   Apparently, ISIS has abandoned Kobani.   Certainly the Kurds would like to see Mosul liberated.   It is just over the border of Iraqi Kurdistan and is home to many Kurds, though they are not the majority population.

OK.  Let’s start again.

Translation: With ISIS routed by Syrian Kurds  from a small, mostly evacuated Kurdish city the size of Binghamton, NY  in Syria, the Iraqi Kurds are thinking of liberating a city of 1.7 million in Iraq that has been taken over by ISIS with most ofthe population in situ.   

Are these two events comparable?   Driving an enemy out of a small city that has been evacuated and driving an enemy force out of a city larger than Philadelphia  with the population in residence?

Are the Syrian Kurds the same as the Iraqi Kurds?   Not politically.   The Iraqi Kurds have allied themselves with the Turkish government for practical reasons, whereas the Syrian Kurds have familial and political ties with the Turkish Kurds who have been persecuted by the Turkish government for at least 100 years.   The Iraqi Kurds did send a few fighters to join the fight in Kobani to humor their American mentors, and the Syrian Kurds accepted them as a concession to those same American allies.

Are we talking here about Kurds defending Kurdish cities?  Well, Kobani was a largely, though not  entirely Kurdish city.  There is no Kurdish separatist or federalized region in Syria, and because their interests were not honored by the Syrian Rebels, they have not fought with them, but against them, with some basic support from the Syrian Govenrment.    they dream of independence, but by and large it has not been their demand and there is no reason to think the Syrian Government would offer it.

Mosul is a city with some Kurds in residence, but they are not the majority.   The city is not in the seperate space governed by the Kurds in Iraq.   Likely, the Kurds would have to fight side by side with the Iraqi Army to retake Mosul.    They would not be able to absorb Mosul into their own region like they did the long disputed city of Kirkuk, and even that hasn’t been legally sorted out.

Do Kobani and Mosul have similar strategic value for ISIL?   Kobani is a border town in Syria like many others.   ISIL fighters have no problem finding places to cross.   It has been evacuated so there are few people go govern there.    For ISIS, the fight was optional.    They have taken many towns and small cities, stayed a while, then left when it was inconvenient to stay, and even returned at a later point.   They could have walked away at any point without a ciriical loss.

Mosul is a huge city full of people.   The Christians, Yazidis and Shiites have been killed or driven out.  Teh remaining population play along with their rules.  They have no choice.     ISIS obtained a huge cache of American weapons In Mosul.   They looted one of Iraq’s largest banks in Mosul.   Mosul is near a critical Dam on the Euphraties around which there have been fierce battles.   Bombing around Mosul would be very dicey.   There are people everywhere.   And, it would take a lot more firepower to support an attack on the larger ISIS force resident in Mosul.  

So is there anything about the connection posited in the title of this article that is factually relevant?  Well, maybe the time.  But even that may follow as true, but is it relevant?   The author says that the Kurds will need help to take Mosul.   Who will help them?  The Syrian Kurds remain busy in Syria.   They have lots of small cities, towns and villages to defend at home.    The US is already bombing in the area, but the Iraqi army is the key.

OK.  So why is there no coverage illuminating the status of the Iraqi army at present?  Where are they and what are they doing?   This is far more critical to the liberation of Mosul than whether Kobani has been won.  If Kobani has been won.  Sure, ISIS has left.   But they never had a reason to stay other than to fight, and there’s no telling if they will be back?

But what about the Iraqi Army?  According to the author of this article, the Kurds aren’t sure.   So, yes, they may have their eye on Mosul, but they don’t currently have the resources to fight for it.


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