Mosul – Prepare for Chemical Weapons and Civilian Casualties | Charles Duelfer

Mosul – Prepare for Chemical Weapons and Civilian Casualties

Retaking Mosul from ISIS is clearly the next big military objective.  Visits to Baghdad by SECDEF Ash Carter and SECSTATE John Kerry clearly presage this movement.  Carter announced additional US forces and capabilities.  President Obama’s meetings with the GCC clearly touched on next steps in Iraq.  The gradual constriction of finances and resources around Mosul seems to be working.

But Mosul is a very big city–population on the order of one million.  This is not Falluja or Ramadi.

Possibly the operation could go better than expected.  ISIS could leave the city and retreat to Syria as the siege of Mosul goes on. The Iraq government may have very good intelligence inside the city and maybe they could infiltrate forces into the city and surprise ISIS. Maybe.

It strikes me as more likely that ISIS will not readily cede this prize city of its new caliphate.  It will be difficult to surprise ISIS.  And it seems likely, they will use the residents as hostages.  ISIS successfully used horror in their successful expansion in 2014 and 2015.  What’s worse now is they have the resources to produce and use chemical munitions–and already have.  The US has bombed sites they identified as associated with explosive and chemical weapons production including at Mosul University.  Mosul University has especially good science facilities.  It was a site that UN weapons inspectors kept under monitoring in the 1990’s.

Will Iraqi forces move into Mosul if ISIS proceeds to use mustard or sarin agent against either military of civilian targets? It will be interesting to see if advancing Iraqi forces carry chemical protection gear. Will the Iraqi Council of Representatives support the government if thousands are being massacred in Mosul?  I could see Iraqi forces stalling outside Mosul if the political will flags in the face of civilian casualties.
It seems like the Obama administration is supporting progress toward “doing Mosul” before the end of his presidency.  An attack on Mosul could go very badly and lead to the disintegration of the government in Baghdad.   I hope our intelligence is really really good on this one.


This entry was posted in Iraq, ISIL, ISIS, ISIS Chemical Weapons, Saudi Arabia, Sunni, WMD. Bookmark the permalink.

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