Richard Warnick / | June 27, 2008

The northern city of Mosul is the second-largest in Iraq (Basra is a close third). Despite the scarcity of news from Iraq lately, you may have heard about the launching of a long-delayed offensive last month to regain control of the ruined city of nearly 2 million people for Nouri al-Maliki’s Green Zone government. The grandly-named “Operation Lion’s Roar” was hyped by the U.S. government as “wiping out the last urban bastion of al Qaeda in Iraq.” Here’s a brief sitrep on Mosul.

After a roadside bomb explosion
After a roadside bomb explosion

The Iraqi security forces are unable to secure Mosul, according to the Iraqi daily Azzaman. Here’s what happened in May: given six months warning as a result of many delays, the Sunni insurgents who were supposed to be attacked left town. American, Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces had to content themselves with arresting about a thousand former Baath officers, Islamists and other “usual suspects,” few of whom could be truthfully described as insurgents. In keeping with the hype, Iraqi officials told the Americans that they had caught “some very big fishes.”

To the puzzlement of most local observers, the U.S. Army then proceeded to build an earthen berm around Mosul that was immediately mocked as another Maginot Line or Bar Lev Line. Following the “Lion’s Roar” operation, there was an insufficient number of Iraqi troops available to maintain security. Militant groups re-entered the city and gunmen reportedly are roaming the streets in force.

Officials said they are also concerned about the presence of the Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers, who guard their own enclaves in the largely Arab city. Maliki’s forces maintain an uneasy relationship with the heavily armed Peshmerga.

While the U.S. Army builds its wall and conducts raids, there just aren’t enough American forces to hold Mosul. Spencer Ackerman explains:

Even during the surge there were only so many forces to go around, and Baghdad was the priority for understandable-enough reasons. Now the surge is over and we have a commander [Lieutenant General Ray Odierno] who, when he says anything at all, says he’s going to stay a successful course. But he doesn’t have the resources to do the same things his predecessor did. So what’s left? What’s left is either to change the strategy or to pray/hope/lie about the capabilities of the Iraqi Army.

Residents of Mosul have been caught in the middle of violent clashes for years. Services, such as power and water are nonexistent. Bridges have been demolished. All the streets are broken and pitted with holes left by roadside bombs. Unemployment is up to 70 percent.

“Both the security forces and the terrorists were created by the occupation and are working against the citizens of Mosul,” said Razaaq Jerjes, a 41-year-old doctor who quit his job at a local hospital two years ago after several of his colleagues were murdered by insurgents.

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