ISIS erases Iraq-Syria border

Iraqi soldiers and policemen in Mosul fled as soon as Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) convoys entered the city.

al-monitor Burnt vehicles belonging to Iraqi security forces are pictured at a checkpoint in east Mosul, one day after radical Sunni Muslim insurgents seized control of the city, June 11, 2014. Photo by REUTERS.

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osama al-nujaifi, nouri al-maliki, mosul, kirkuk, iraq

Jun 11, 2014

As soon as dozens of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters spread in Mosul’s streets, thousands of Iraqi soldiers and policemen withdrew from the city without resistance, leaving behind their weapons, equipment and vehicles, while displaced persons started knocking on doors in search of a safe place.

ISIS wasn’t satisfied by just controlling Mosul; it also controlled all of Ninevah province and eliminated the border between Iraq and Syria at the al-Yaarabiya crossing.

But Mosul’s stature and population (Iraq's second-largest city after Baghdad) make it difficult for ISIS to manage for long. So, ISIS tried to reassure the population and declared its desire to open a dialogue with clerics, city notables and tribal leaders.

Baghdad seemed in a state of shock after receiving news that its army in Mosul had collapsed and that top commanders fled. That shock wasn’t alleviated by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declaring a general mobilization and him calling on parliament to declare a state of emergency, which is difficult to implement because it would need the support of two-thirds of parliament. Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi called parliament for a special session Thursday [June 12].

Yesterday afternoon [June 10], Al-Hayat obtain information from inside Mosul confirming that a number of clerics, notables and tribal leaders in the city have been invited to meet with ISIS leaders. ISIS also contacted former army members asking them for their “allegiance” to the Islamic state, as the organization had done elsewhere in Syria and Iraq. But tribal figures discounted that and suggested that the organization may try to involve the people in administering the city to prove that what is happening is a “popular revolution” and to give ISIS a chance to use its fighters in new operations.

The people of Mosul who fled when ISIS’ first armed convoys entered the neighborhoods of “July 17,” al-Najjar, al-Mashrafiyya, al-Yarmouk and Tall Rumman, witnessed the army leaving those neighborhoods before completely leaving the city. The fleeing soldiers said they received vague withdrawal orders from the leadership and that the military unit commanders suddenly disappeared.

Within hours, ISIS fighters, whom the population asserts are a mixture of Iraqi and foreign nationalities, had taken control of the local government headquarters, Mosul airport, the banks, the official institutions and the prisons, from which nearly 1,300 detainees were released.

Yesterday [June 10], Maliki asked parliament to declare a state of emergency and called for regional and international organizations to support Iraq. Regarding the army’s collapse in Mosul, Maliki’s spokesman Ali al-Moussawi read a statement: “The General Command of the Armed Forces has issued instructions to hold accountable, according to the Military Penal Code, those found not having done their duties.”

Although Nujaifi, who hails from Mosul, expressed his willingness to sit down with Maliki, and called for the intervention of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to liberate the city, he didn’t hide his fears that ISIS may move toward Baghdad. Yesterday [June 10], ISIS gunmen took over Baiji and al-Sainiyya in Saladin province, expanded westward toward the Rabia crossing and took control of both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. In the east, they took the town of al-Sharqat, which is adjacent to the Kurdistan Region and saw violent clashes yesterday evening.

The most likely scenario, according to security leaders in Baghdad, is that ISIS will try to exploit the collapse of the army to complete its grip on the Iraq-Syria border to the west and then progress toward Saladin province to reach the outskirts of Baghdad by using its active cells near the capital. Those cells have lines of communication and logistical support with Anbar to the east and the provinces of Diyala and Kirkuk to the west.

The Mosul event triggered major global reactions. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States considers ISIS fighters a threat to the entire Middle East and that Washington supports “a strong and coordinated response” to the attack on Mosul and is ready to provide “all assistance to Iraq.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “grave” concern. His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, called on Iraqis to unite to confront this danger.

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