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Iraq must take change of its war against ISIS

Members of Peshmerga forces walk in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul, Iraq November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani - RTX2T26W

After months of heavy US bombing of ISIS controlled Mosul, ISIS is still not defeated and atrocities against civilians continue both from ISIS, Iraqi soldiers on the ground and the US air force overhead.

The US Air Force is the largest in the world, with over 5,000 fix wing air craft alone. By contrast, the total of 260 air craft in the Iraqi Air Force is rather modest. But seeing as the world’s largest air force cannot beat ISIS who have a total of zero aircraft, perhaps firepower alone isn’t the solution?

Indeed, the levels of collateral damage in Mosul which in one 24 hour period equalled that of the entire Battle of Aleppo, have proved that a technically superior frighting force is not the most ethical nor efficient way to fight the kind of terrorist threat that ISIS represents.

The Battle of Aleppo was won by the anti-terrorist coalition, through a combination of  slow and steady urban warfare combined with precision strikes on terrorist targets, coordinated carefully with the intelligence gathered by Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. This tactic which minimised casualties, in spite of the repeated lies of western mainstream media, prevented a bad situation from getting monumentally worse.

With many Iraqis quietly and in some cases, vocally distraught at further US bombings of a country that the US has been bombing on and off since 1990, a new approach is necessary.

Since the might of American firepower has thus far not been able to liberate Mosul from ISIS, things would be best left in the hands of the Iraqi air force and army, which although smaller and weaker than the US forces, are still more technically powerful than ISIS. Therefore, in terms of firepower, little more is needed.

Power itself is not the primary element that concerns the fight in Mosul. This has been proved, as carnage and destruction in Mosul has not solved the ISIS problem.

The battle ought to be localised as much as possible and this is a moral and tactical rather than a legal matter, as unlike in Syria, American forces are technically in Iraq legally.

If the government in Baghdad told the US ‘thanks but no thanks’ and America didn’t listen, at that point, if American bombings continued, that too would technically be illegal.

As fragmented and unstable as Iraq is, the Iraqi government ought to tell America to politely ease off and allow local forces to engage in the long battle against ISIS. This is the approach that Syria and her allies have taken and it is gradually paying off.

In doing this, Iraq would not only test its authority and see just how much or little Washington respects Baghdad, but it would also be the morally correct thing to do in a country that has been destroyed many times over by US forces.

When terrorists, funded and encouraged by the west began their war on Libya, Muammar Gaddafi spoke of the need to purify and liberate Libya street by street . These words were perversely twisted at the time by Barack Obama who made it seem as though Gaddafi was speaking about killing civilians one by one, something which few leaders in history have ever actually done.

The reality is that urban combat is ugly, but it nevertheless would spare much of the carnage being wrought upon Mosul in a strategy that looks increasingly like ‘kill anything that moves’. Even so, ISIS is still moving.

If Iraq is to be taken seriously as an independent nation, it must take control of its own borders, take control of its own war and ideally work to unify a deeply divided country. Whether this is still possible is anyone’s guess. I am personally, deeply  pessimistic, but there is no better alternative than to try.

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