Media reports speak of the Iraq military capturing two districts in heavily populated western Mosul from ISIS today, and of attempts being made by the Iraqi military to capture from ISIS a key bridge across the Tigris river.
The most detailed account of the fighting today has been provided by RT.
It seems that ISIS is putting up ferocious resistance as it is pushed further and further back into the old quarters of the city, which is a complex maze of narrow streets that makes it all but impossible for armoured vehicles to manoeuvre.
It seems that ISIS controlled western Mosul is now largely encircled, and in contrast to what recently happened in Al-Bab it is very unlikely the Iraqi leadership will allow the ISIS fighters now trapped in Mosul to surrender and withdraw from there. This is looking to be a grim and terrible battle to the finish.
This is a tragedy for one of the most beautiful and ancient cities of the Middle East, full of important works of Arab and Ottoman architecture. It is also a tragedy for the hundreds of thousands of civilians there, and there is now a serious risk of a humanitarian catastrophe there.
It would be easy in this situation to do what the Western media did during the far smaller siege of Al-Qaeda controlled eastern Aleppo, and condemn the Iraqi army and its US and Iranian backers for what they are doing in Mosul. Certainly the civilian death toll from the fighting in Mosul, and the damage done to the city, will far exceed what happened in Aleppo.
Nonetheless this is a temptation which should be resisted. ISIS is a murderous terrorist organisation which poses an existential threat to Iraq and Syria and to people far beyond. Given its psychopathic character there is no alternative but to destroy it, and no other way to do it than by military means. Though this will undoubtedly cause huge damage and suffering in Mosul and elsewhere, the option of leaving ISIS in control of Mosul is an unacceptable one.
Whilst this should not detract from the key question of who was responsible for creating ISIS in the first place – a critically important question which requires a full and proper discussion and where the finger of blame points clearly in my opinion towards the Obama administration, more so in fact than to Turkey and the Gulf States – the priority must now be to defeat ISIS in Mosul and elsewhere.