Mosul Operation Brought Forward to October at Obama’s Insistence
The US-led operation for the liberation of the Iraqi town of Mosul from ISIS occupation has been brought forward from December to Wednesday Oct.19, on new orders handed down by President Barack Obama to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, DEBKA Weekly reports.
(In its Sept. 16 issue, DEBKA Weekly 724 cited December as the likely timeline: Obama Pins His Legacy on Vanquishing ISIS at Raqqa and Mosul.)
The military chiefs acquiesced to the new date on the strength of updated US intelligence which estimated that Islamic State combatants would not fight for the city but retreat. They were preparing to melt away as the operation advanced, like in the battle for Fallujah in May and June. Instead of making a stand there, a large body of jihadists headed west towards the Syrian border, some of them crossing over and remaining there up to the present.
It was also estimated that locally-staged revolts would spring up against ISIS as the Mosul offensive’s launch date approached. Anti-ISIS groups would attempt to seize key points in the city, and so help US-Iraqi-Kurdish coalition troops reach the center much faster.
After the White House decision was handed down, Washington was startled to hear Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stepping in to gum up the works.
In a snide comment he made in New York on Sept. 25, after meeting with Turkish community figures based in the US, Erdogan gave the game away: The battle for Mosul against Daesh “would kick off on Oct. 19 and we all have to be prepared for this event,” he disclosed.
He went on to praise the agreement between Baghdad and the Kurdish autonomy for the liberation of Mosul, describing the operation as crucial to the goal of defeating ISIS in Nineveh Province and to finally routing the terrorist group in Iraq.
Until then, the Kurdish Defense (Peshmerga) Ministry in Irbil held this date under tight wraps for obvious security considerations, after it was firmed up in the meetings Kurdish President Masoud Barzani held with Iraqi and American officials.
Why Erdogan decided to make the Islamic State a free gift of three whole weeks to get ready for the coalition assault had people scratching their heads in Baghdad, Irbil, Washington and even Ankara.
According to one theory, the Turkish leader was stung by Washington’s veto on Turkish participation in the ground attack on Mosul and was getting his own back at Obama.
In the view of DEBKA Weekly’s counterterrorism and intelligence sources, while Erdogan is boiling with resentment over this exclusion, his calculus is more complicated.
He is still uncertain how to proceed in Syria after the Turkish invasion of the north on Aug. 24. And he is not entirely clear what military steps the Russians, the Americans and the Kurds have next in store for Iraq’s border regions with Syria and Turkey.
Neither is he sure whether Presidents Obama and Vladimir Putin, given their deadlocked relations on Syria, will decide nonetheless to go for Raqqa after the Mosul expedition.
With these questions hanging fire, Erdogan is gearing up to jump in when he sees an opening for gain. He is still in two minds over his clandestine ties with ISIS – whether to strike a secret deal for cooperation with the jihadists or go for a non-belligerency pact. At present, both are keeping their hands firmly on the spigot that controls the mass exodus of millions of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to central and West Europe and North America.
President Erdogan is undoubtedly availing himself of every opportunity to vent his grievances against the West, chiefly over the European Union’s foot-dragging on membership, while the Islamic State, for its part, is not about to give up the cash flow and opportunities for planting terrorists offered by the smuggling of millions of refugees to the West.