HAIFA, Israel — As I write this column Tuesday about 9 a.m. Dallas time, I’m watching reports from European and Middle East sources about the beginning of the attack to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS.
Under heavy American air strikes on targets in and around the city, some 15,000 elite Iraqi troops, together with U.S. trained Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Turkish forces have started to enter the city from the north and east.
The U.S. military estimates ISIS has up to 5,000 fighters inside Mosul and between 1,500 and 2,500 in a defensive belt around the city.
Both the city and periphery have been heavily fortified since ISIS captured it two and a half years ago. Networks of hidden tunnels crisscross Mosul and many buildings, schools and hospitals have been mined and booby-trapped.
Hundreds of the estimated 1.5 million remaining inhabitants have been locked in booby-trapped buildings that either will be hit by American air strikes or coalition artillery, or will be blown up by ISIS blaming the U.S. for the carnage. Hundreds of others were bused in from the periphery just yesterday and forced to sit in cages and enclosures in city squares as human shields.
Local media report that one day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared on state TV to order ISIS or the Islamic State to give up its positions, troops opened fire with artillery, tanks and machine guns on the ISIS positions on the edge of the city.
“They have no choice. Either they surrender or they die,” Abadi said.
The ISIS fighters responded with guided anti-tank missiles and small arms to block the anti-ISIS coalition’s advance Tuesday.
Interestingly, today the Iraqi satellite TV network, Al Sumaria, reported that ISIS suddenly stopped referring to Mosul as the capital of its caliphate through its news media outlets, probably to minimize public perceptions about the imminent “liberation” of Mosul.
Abadi, a Shiite and Iranian puppet, dressed up in military uniform and promised that in the battle for Mosul they will “eliminate” the ISIS leadership.
It’s known that ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has spent most of the past two years in Mosul but there is some info that he recently fled to Syria and is probably hiding in the other ISIS “capital,” Rakah.
There are also persistent rumors that he may have been fatally poisoned recently and is being kept in the fridge … to surface as a burned and mangled holy martyr in the aftermath of a U.S. strike.
But anybody who thinks that killing al-Baghdadi and thousands of his fighters will destroy ISIS is suffering from the same naïve delusion that argued that killing Osama bin Laden would destroy al-Qaida.
Just like al-Qaida today is stronger, bigger, smarter, better equipped and more dangerous to the world than it was eight years ago, ISIS after al-Baghdadi’s demise will regroup, rebrand and continue to use social media to recruit new volunteer martyrs to attack U.S. interests and citizens worldwide. It’s an intoxicating ideological adventure that cannot be stopped by merely taking back cities or killing its leaders.
I’m sure that if collateral damage is kept reasonably low, there will be a political victory lap in Washington after Mosul is retaken from ISIS. As will no doubt happen if Rakah is liberated.
I just hope that nobody crows that “ISIS is destroyed!” That would be disingenuous, deceitful and misleading … no matter what was promised!
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.