The Iraqi army and Shiite militias are widely expected to begin a major offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS), backed with air support by the international coalition. The eventual recapture of Iraq’s second-largest city is likely to mark a turning point in the strategy against IS.
Based on latest information from various sources, the outlines of the planned strategy against IS in Iraq and Syria emerge as follows: In Iraq, the primary objective is to terminate IS’ current de facto “statehood,” whereby it rules over wide swaths of territory and urban areas, and reduce it back to a terrorist organization. This requires dismantling the group’s geographical contiguity. Hence, the initial strategy aims to retake only some of the IS-controlled cities, towns and regions to break their link with the remaining areas and deprive IS of territorial depth. The initial phase also aims to break or weaken as much as possible the connection between the group’s bases in Syria and its forces in Iraq.