An operation on Mosul or Raqqa? - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

An operation on Mosul or Raqqa?

Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama's Special Representative for the anti-Daesh coalition, during his press meeting in Baghdad said that a rescue operation for Mosul would soon start.

However, this is not McGurk's first piece of good news on Mosul. A while ago, McGurk had said that an operation on Mosul was near. During that period it was written that Tel Afer, an important town about 60 kilometers from Mosul was next to be rescued after Sinjar was taken back from Daesh. However, while waiting for Tel Afer we came across the Ramadi operation; while expecting Daesh to be restricted from Mosul, we saw that the line between Iran-Iraq and Syria was solidified.

Daesh capturing Mosul was the reason for the U.S. to establish an international coalition against Daesh. For this reason the “time” and “how” an operation would be conducted on Mosul is of vital importance for the fight plan on Daesh. Although McGurk and several others are rather quick to argue that Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish forces are strong enough to recapture Mosul, the Obama administration is yet to give the green light. Because, if there is an image that Raqqa is the capital city of the so-called Daesh state, Daesh receives more support from the Sunni population due to its power in Mosul and the sectarian Baghdad administration. Meaning, no one should expect the Iraqi soldiers to leave their uniforms and run (like they did in 2014), when an operation is conducted on Mosul.

While creating the “fighting against Daesh strategy” in 2014, Obama was focused on Iraq. However, with Daesh attacking Kobani, Syria came into the picture too. Since that day, McGurk and others have been trying to move the fight on Daesh toward Raqqa, the city they perceive as the center.

Before I continue, I would like to talk about McGurk. McGurk, who has been a part of the U.S. team that determines Iraqi politics, is a diplomat who had a direct role in the George W. Bush government, which brought “democracy” to Iraq and was tasked in the team that saw Iraq fall. McGurk, one of the three people who were senior advisors to the U.S. and the ambassador to Iraq during the transitional period between the Bush and Obama governments in 2009, has only been truly known by Turkey after photos of him receiving a plaque from People's Protection Units (YPG) member Polat Can were revealed, despite his name been heard of many times before. McGurk explained the reasons for his encounter with Can as a preparation for the Sadad operation, but this photo received a lot of attention as the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed wing YPG attacked Ankara straight after this photo. In summary, McGurk seems to have a mark under every stone that is turned: from the oppression of Sunnis after former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to writing the Iraqi constitution, from the U.S. National Security Committee determining Syrian politics to turning Iraq into what it is today. Today he is responsible for the Sunni opposition being targeted under the “fighting Daesh” pretext, the U.S. cooperating with Shiite militia in Iraq to help Iran gain ground in the region and the legitimization of the PYD, which is affiliated with the PKK. It seems that McGurk feels responsible for his doing, thus wants to clear Iraq from Daesh and absolve himself from his past. Or I would prefer to say, McGurk is pushing Daesh into Syria and is causing grounds for Bashar Assad to stay.

If we look back to McGurk's press meeting in Baghdad, another detail that attracts attention was Saudi Arabia saying that it was not possible to enter Iraq without the consent of Baghdad. If you remember that Turkey, a few months ago, increasing the number of soldiers at Bashiqa camp near Mosul had caused a stir in Washington, you would see that McGurk's statements on Saudi Arabia aren't without purpose. If the purpose is to wipe Daesh off the face of the earth, it seems that Saudi Arabia will contribute dearly to this as it sent its war- craft to İncirlik Air Base in Turkey and expressed that it was ready to start a ground operation on Daesh with 150, 000 soldiers. Or isn't the purpose to exterminate Daesh?

Leave this question aside for now. Another question to be asked is how Turkey and the Gulf countries view the operation on Mosul, and if they believe that it will succeed or not. Upon being asked a similar question, Davutoğlu, last week speaking to a Haber, stated that he did not “find it right to act as if we were going to war tomorrow” and that they would act in accordance with what happened on the ground, not on what authorities had to say. Thus we could probably say that Ankara does not share McGurk's excitement.

If we look toward the ground, the mobility in the south of Syria might be important to fill the missing pieces of the puzzle. The Free Syrian Army captured several critical towns on the Syria-Iraq border this week, with the support of Jordan which opened its borders for the first time. More than 20 towns were taken back from Daesh by more than 1,000 opposition in less than a week. The region is at the junction to the critical Palmira location. Palmira is important for Daesh as it means access into Raqqa and Iraq. It isn't possible for the U.S. not to be unaware of the operations (during which Jordan's borders were open for the first time), besides these operations are supported by coalition warcraft. The mobility in Syria indicates that a more extensive operation is being prepared. We had touched upon Saudi Arabia being prepared to start an operation with 150,000 soldiers and the difficulties that would be created by transferring them into the region via Turkey. Can this ground force enter Syria through Jordan? Can there be an offer from Washington to Riyadh to conduct an operation on Raqqa instead of Mosul (as McGurk had said) behind the scenes? Let's wait and see...

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