Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Campaign for Mosul: May 12-June 21, 2017

By: Jessa Rose Dury-Agri and the ISW Iraq Team

ISIS is conducting spectacular attacks on security services, civilians, and symbolic sites in order to detract from Mosul and Ninewa Province operations and to prevent the emergence of a stable post-ISIS state. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) recaptured 12 neighborhoods in northwest Mosul, tightening the noose around ISIS in Mosul’s Old City. ISIS responded with attacks to the north, south, and west of the Old City on June 14. An estimated 100,000 civilians remain trapped in ISIS-held areas of the city. ISF created evacuation routes, however, ISIS militants have shot or executed civilians attempting to flee. ISIS also destroyed al-Nuri Great Mosque on June 21. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the “caliphate” from this mosque in 2014.

ISIS seeks to undermine ISF morale and devastate Mosul’s infrastructure, thereby diminishing the value of the city’s liberation and prospects for post-ISIS governance and security. The 15th Iraqi Army Division cleared areas west of Mosul near Mount Badush in its advance toward ISIS-held Tel Afar. Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) meanwhile began surrounding Qayrawan on May 13, and had reached the Syrian border by June 2. The operation included seizing Baaj, Baghdadi's former safe haven, on June 4. ISIS countered these gains by launching ground attacks on Hatra, south and west of Shirqat, Mount Badush, and near the Iraq-Syria border. Iran played a prominent role in the operations; senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Shaaban Nassiri died in clashes near Baaj on May 27 and Lebanese Hezbollah commander Abd al-Hamid Mahmoud Shari died near Qayrawan on June 2. Iran seeks to hinder U.S. freedom of maneuver along the Iraq-Syria border by maintaining a border presence and shaping post-Mosul security in Iraq. It may also hope to position its proxies to lead Hawijah’s recapture rather than U.S.-backed forces.