Alwaght- Since the overthrow of Baathist regime of Iraq in 2003 and the resultant power vacuum, the terrorist groups seized the ripe opportunity for gaining grounds in the country. Foreign factors, occupation of the country by the US-led NATO forces, as well as inconsistency between the Iraqi political groups and parties sent the country’s political sides in polarization and disunity.
Following US forces’ withdrawal from Iraq and formation of a strong central government in the country, the security vacuums to some degree subsided. However, after 2011 and rise of terrorist groups in West Asia region, ISIS terrorist organization which first appeared in Syria began dragging its presence to the neighboring Iraq, managing to seize control of the Iraqi areas bordering the Syrian territories. The terrorists of ISIS on June 10, 2014, succeeded in capturing some parts of Iraq’s northern areas, advancing close to the gates of Baghdad, the capital, allowing a huge security challenge for Iraq to brew.
The Iraqi government along with the popular forces so far managed to take back an array of areas from the terrorists, including Amerli, Tikrit, and recently Fallujah, three of them located in Salahaddin province. At the time being, Mosul, capital of Nineveh province and the last hotbed of ISIS in Iraq, is subject to liberation operation of a coalition of Iraqi forces. With significant Mosul recapture offensive under way, regional and international actors like the US are struggling to take advantage of the current conditions. Here in this specific point some questions present themselves: What goals and interests is Washington eying through its participation in Mosul operation? What approaches and principles has the US considered in Mosul assault?
US goals in Mosul operation
In general, the US looks forward to achieve a couple of important objectives through liberation of the northern Iraqi city including:
1. Justifying US forces’ presence in Iraq under the excuse of battle against ISIS group. What matters dearly for Washington is actualization of its interests, and it never agrees with full destruction of ISIS in Iraq, because in case of ISIS destruction Washington would lose the excuse for military deployment to Iraq. So, it favors a weakened ISIS in Iraq with lasting permanence.
2. Mosul is part of the future Iraq partition scheme. After all, split of Iraq is a point of obsession for Washington, and it does not want to easily spoil this bargaining chip and pressure tool, even if partition of Iraq is not its ultimate goal.
3. The US is concerned about expansion of influence of the Public Mobilization Forces (PMF), a voluntary anti-terror force, in Mosul. This is important for two reasons: first, expansion of PMF’s power means expansion of Iran’s power. Second, liberation of Mosul, the mainly Sunni-populated city of Iraq, with participation of mainly-Shiite PMF could equal recognition of this popular force and tasking it with other duties in the future Mosul and even Iraq, something Washington stands strongly against.
4. Washington wants further support for the US-backed groups like the Kurds. Perhaps we can note that the overarching plan of US is play with the Kurdish card in the future. Having in mind that Washington leads an international coalition backing Mosul recapture operation, aiding the Kurdish Peshmerga forces signals a decisive Kurdish role in post-ISIS developments. This was clear when the Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a direct aid of $415 million for the Peshmerga forces, circumventing a formal process that urges the foreign parties to first deliver the money to the central Iraqi government and from there to the Kurdish forces.
US performance in Mosul push
With regard to the US role of game direction and its will to pull all actors in the regional crises, the White House declined to show a stable performance in Mosul. In the ongoing Mosul assault, Washington undertook the duty of air covering, but it failed to take positive measures in support of the Iraqi ground forces. It even launched airstrikes against the advancing Iraqi troops and their camps. Washington presently seeks saving the status quo through a balance of power between the warring sides. To put it differently, it neither wants a full obliteration of ISIS in Iraq nor wants to see the Iraqi forces tipping the scales in their favor.
All in all, reclaiming of Mosul as the last bastion of the terrorist group can mark end of ISIS in Iraq. This, in turn, provoked political rifts between various actors. US as a major player intervening in Iraq’s internal affairs seeks creating a tacit coalition of domestic actors like the Kurds and the Sunnis to manipulate a liberated Mosul. As a result, the point must be acknowledged that Washington plays a more destructive than productive role in Iraq. There are proofs for this claim: destruction of the country’s infrastructures and recently conducting a strike that killed nearly 90 of the regular Iraqi troops.