Although the battle for Mosul is still unfinished, US President Donald Trump has summoned Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi for a visit to Washington next week to discuss Iraq’s future after the fall of the key ISIS bastion in Iraq.
Wednesday, March 14, Iraqi government forces took control of the Tigris bridge, and so shortened the distance to a key mosque, whose capture would give Baghdad an important symbolic victory. It was there that in 2014 Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself caliph of the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, after a string of sickening atrocities that shocked the world.
Without waiting for the end of combat in Mosul, President Trump compiled a to-do list for its aftermath ready to present to the Iraqi prime minister:
1. The forthcoming defeat of ISIS will make the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias numbering some 100,000 fighters redundant. They are organized in the following groups:
- Hash’d Al-Shaabi – the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) – which was set up under a fatwa issued by the highest ranking cleric of Shiite Islam, Grand Ayatollah Ali A-Sistani, in response to the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State in 2014.
- The Peace Brigades, a private militia of the radical Iraqi Shiite cleric and politician, Moqtada Al-Sadr.
- The Badr Organization, which defers to Tehran.
- Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, formerly Iranian proxies, which joined the PMF. A third Iranian proxy, Kata’ib Sayid al-Shuhada, fought in Syria in support of the Assad regime.
- Ayatollah Sistani’s three “shrine units,” the Imam Ali Brigade, the Ali al-Akhbar Brigade and the Abbas Division. They are the best trained and equipped units of the PMF.
2. The Iraqi prime minister will be asked to accept and comply with Ayatollah Sistani’s Fatwa 2 (as revealed in a previous DEBKA Weekly issue) ordering Shiite fighters to go AWOL from their units and return home. The ayatollah’s purpose was to draw pro-Iranian elements out of the Iraqi army. How successful this measure is remains to be seen.
3. Mosul is a Sunni town and should be governed by Sunnis. The US President will put this demand before Abadi to save Mosul and Washington from unwelcome surprises, such as the overnight appointment of an Iraqi Shiite governor, or the handover of some of the town’s neighborhoods to Shiite militia control.
4. The non-Muslim minority groups inhabiting the Nineveh plains to the east and northwest of Mosul, who were viciously persecuted by ISIS, should be accorded semi-autonomy status or some form of self-rule, in Trump’s view.
The ancient city of Nineveh stood on the bank of the Tigris River on the site of the outskirts of contemporary Mosul. Assyrian Christians, along with Turkmen and Yazdis, inhabit the eastern part of the Nineveh plains, the historical homeland of the Assyrian people and the crucible of pre-Arab, pre-Islamic Mesopotamian civilization.
5. The US president will ask the Iraqi prime minister for a pledge to keep his hands off the Kurdish oil town of Kirkuk and refrain from any attack or attempt by Baghdad too seize control of the city.