War on IS: Isolating Mosul from Anbar

War on IS: Isolating Mosul from Anbar
4 min read
09 September, 2015
Washington reportedly plans to isolate the Islamic State group in Iraq from its branches in Syria, and five main bridges between border provinces are understood to have been destroyed.
The US Air Force has long been active in Iraq's skies [Anadolu]
Iraqi military sources and government officials have told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the US has begun to implement a new plan in its war against Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) in Iraq.

The plan is understood to involve isolating Mosul in northern Iraq from Anbar in the west, by destroying main bridges and roads between the two provinces - which together form 37 percent of Iraq's territory.

"US airplanes have destroyed five vital bridges that link Nineveh and Mosul provinces with their surrounding western and northern cities and provinces," an Iraqi military official in the joint coordination operation room in Baghdad told al-Araby.

"Washington has finally reached a conclusion that Iraqi efforts cannot be counted on, and it seems that it has indeed begun with important steps - albeit slow - that will produce a positive outcome in the end," added the military official, who requested anonymity.

A group of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Asayish Kurdish security forces, accompanied by volunteers from Mosul tribes, were able to take control of the Rabia Iraq-Syria border crossing and to spread five kilometres around the post.

The forces continue to expand to the west and south-west with US backing, in an attempt to sever the ground connection between IS in Syria and IS in Iraq.

"Operations to liberate Nineveh will not be easy, it needs proper planning, and will not proceed without real US involvement in planning and execution," Nineveh council deputy chief Nureddin Qabalan told al-Araby.

This fits with the reported plan to destroy bridges and isolate Mosul. The five bridges destroyed connect Nineveh with Kirkuk, Erbil, Hawija (west of Kirkuk), Hamrin mountains and Wadi al-Ghizlan, and areas on the border with Syria.
     [The] plan has been successful so far and it is beginning to have an impact on the [IS] organisation
- Nureddin Qabalan, Nineveh council

Qabalan pointed out that destroying these bridges had finally "restricted the movement of the organisation".

"Destroying the by-roads continues, in addition to tracking down convoys and targeting them using drones," said Qabalan.

"[The] plan has been successful so far and it is beginning to have an impact on the [IS] organisation."

However, Qabalan warned that "preparations are still inadequate and do not indicate a zero hour, particularly that the battles in Anbar have not been concluded yet".

On the number of fighters from Nineveh that will participate in the attack on the city, Qabalan said: "We have nearly 10,000 fighters within the forces that will fight to liberate Mosul from IS - who still hold nearly one and a half million within the city, and this in itself is another challenge for us."

Nineveh MP Ahmad al-Jubouri told al-Araby: "Operations to liberate Nineveh are being properly conducted and the latest US plan will turn IS into a prey inside a cage after completely surrounding them and wearing them down."

Jabouri stressed that "US participation in fighting the organisation is very important and everyone is convinced that liberating Mosul is the same as destroying the whole structure of IS."

Jabouri expects the battle of Nineveh to inflict large losses on both sides as it is "the war of the end of the organisation, which will push all of its fighters from Nineveh's population that it has trained and recruited under gunpoint to join the fight".

Jabouri also warned that international alliance and Iraqi airstrikes should be precise and accurate to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible.

Security expert Mohammad Salem told al-Araby: "Any local effort to liberate Mosul won't succeed - except with US presence. The information that we possess says that Nineveh has given the US forces a mandate to intervene, openly, except for Baghdad, which still holds to its old position, pushed by pro-Iranian political parties that reject this intervention."

Salem added that he was certain of a ground and air US intervention.

"Iranian ground support did not achieve the result that Iraqi leaders wished for - and the Syrian scenario, that is in its fifth year, cannot be done in Iraq; and therefore Iraqis will make any concessions for the Americans to crush IS."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.