Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Mosul – The Death Knell for ISIL?

Pushed out from many of its stronghold from Syria and from Mosul city of Iraq, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is losing territorial bases in the in the very region that once incubated its growth. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally declared victory over the ISIL group in Mosul and Iraqis celebrated the victory on Monday evening with their eyes sparkling with hope. Sustaining heavy casualties and suffering indescribable pain, Iraqi nation hope to heave a sigh of relief. However, the fear for terrorist acts still fill the air in Iraq and the bloody wounds and debris left in the aftermath of war will remain a nightmare for Iraqis. Moreover, ISIL destroyed the highly symbolic site before Iraqi forces could reach it as they pushed the group from Mosul, where Iraq’s government declared victory on Monday.
Wearing a black military uniform and flanked by commanders from the security forces, Iraqi Prime Minister thanked troops and the US-led coalition that backed the offensive. But he warned that more challenges lay ahead.
“This victory alone does not eliminate [ISIL] and there is still a tough fight ahead. But the loss of one of its twin capitals and a jewel of their so-called caliphate is a decisive blow,” Lieutenant-General Stephen Townsend is cited as saying.
The cost of the nearly nine-month battle to retake the city has been enormous: much of Mosul in ruins, thousands dead and wounded and nearly a million people forced from their homes. The UN says 920,000 civilians have fled their homes since the military campaign began in October for recapturing Mosul city and close to 700,000 people are still displaced.
Emerging in a critical time, ISIL wedged itself into the deepening furrows between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the group also focused its energies on provoking discord within sects. Demonstrating a savvy for identifying long-present tensions, it infiltrated Sunni tribal communities and turned sub-tribes or generations against each other through the selective backing and funding of groups.
ISIL group deepened sectarian anger and distrust towards states in the region. As ISIL loses land, these sentiments will still pose trouble for governments attempting to rule in the aftermath. ISIL group violated the rights and dignity of people, including women and children, through killing and violent acts on the grounds of their caste, color and creed. For instance, Yazidi women bore the brunt of the ISIL’s cruelty and radical ideology. They were raped and killed in the worst possible way.
Today, ISIL’s territories are shrinking as its fighters’ face mounting pressure from a US-led coalition, as well as Syrian President Assad’s regime backers. Many observers have sounded the coalition attack on Mosul as ISIL’s death knell. However, ISIL will always present tremendous problems for state governments – even in its retreat.
However, the fact is that the ISIL group is not only losing ground but also its morale, especially with the news spread about the death of its Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights declared on Tuesday it has “confirmed information” that Baghdadi was killed. However, he has been reported dead several times. For instance, Russia’s defense ministry said in June that it might have killed Baghdadi when one of its air strikes hit a gathering of ISIL commanders on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, but Washington said it could not corroborate the death and Western and Iraqi officials have been skeptical.
The 46-year-old Iraqi-born leader of ISIL has not been seen in public since making his only known public appearance as “caliph” in 2014 at the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul. With a $25m US bounty on his head, Baghdadi has kept a low profile and was rumored to move regularly throughout ISIL-held territory in the area straddling Iraq and Syria.
His death, if confirmed, would be a new blow to the group which is also battling a US-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters for control of Raqqa.
I believe that there is a strong possibility for Baghdadi’s death as he has been marginalized from political issues. This issue seems very similar to the death of the Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar, which was revealed after more than two years. Official statements continued to be released in the name of Mullah Omar until July 2015 when Afghan intelligence announced he had died in a hospital in Pakistan on 23 April 2013. Now since the ISIL keeps silent in such a critical time as the group is losing its morale, he must have died.
It should be noted that despite losing ground, the ISIL group will continue its terrorist acts not only in Iraq and Syria, but in the entire region and the world will have to keep on its anti-ISIL offensives.