There is one big reason why the much publicized attack on ISIS-held Mosul will fail. The fact is that ISIS is a classic popular anti-colonial movement similar to those that existed in Algeria, Vietnam, Mozambique, and many other places around the globe. There is not a single instance of these movements failing to achieve their objectives and remove the colonial structures that were imposed on them by European colonial powers. ISIS will not be the first to fail.
Since ISIS operates in Syria and Iraq, two independent Arab nations, you may justifiably question my assertion that ISIS is an anti-colonial movement. Let me remind you that both of these states are post-colonial constructs of the Sykes-Picot agreement at the end of WWI. In this agreement the two colonial powers with interests in the Middle East divided between them the shreds of the recently deceased Ottoman empire. Most pieces went to Britain (Egypt, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iraq), and two (Lebanon and Syria) went to France. No attention was given to the all-important tribal and religious make up of these new never before heard of countries, giving us Iraq in which Kurds and Arabs, Sunni and Shia are all intermixed and Syria with its Druze and Allawite religious minorities and a large Kurdish population. As a direct result of this, neither Syrian nor Iraqi citizens have the slightest allegiance to their respective states, which they rightly regard as colonial, or to use their own language “crusader” constructs.
As an interesting and not unrelated anecdote we can examine Obama’s obstinate refusal to use the term ISIS, preferring instead the much less used term ISIL. The name they call themselves is A-Dawla Al-Islamiyah phi Suria wa-Iraq (DAESH in Arabic). As you can see, the words Syria and Iraq are prominent in the self-moniker, giving us the correctly translated Islamic State (in) Iraq (and) Syria or ISIS. Obama however, prefers to use Islamic State In (the) Levant, or ISIL. The amorphous and extremely outdated term “Levant”, relating roughly to something like the Middle East, makes ISIS into a geographically undefined amorphous entity, in line with his JV characterization. Additionally, it removes the anti-colonial rationale for ISIS, something that Obama, with his anti-colonialist sympathies is no doubt acutely aware of. Put differently, ISIS as an anti-colonial movement is something Obama could see himself ardently supporting and in his younger days fighting for. Hence his absolute reluctance to utter the name.
The attack currently underway on Mosul clearly demonstrates this state of affairs. ISIS forces are being attacked by the Iraqi army, which is a Shia military force fighting directly under orders from Teheran, and the Peshmerga, a Kurdish military guided by the overarching goal of protecting the emerging Kurdish independent nation state in Northern Iraq and if possible adding to its territory. While the fundamentalist Shia Mullahs of Iran don’t harbor particularly friendly feelings towards the rabidly Sunni ISIS, they value the highly successful (from their point of view) terror infrastructure that ISIS was able to build in Europe and the US. This infrastructure is much more important to them than maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq, which they too consider a bastard child of Western Colonialism. The Kurds are hobbled by the presence in their midst of both American and Turkish “advisors” dedicated to preventing the Kurds from achieving their dream of a greater Kurdistan at the expense of Turkish territory. The Kurds, unwilling to serve as cannon fodder to Obama’s legacy dreams, have now withdrawn from the attack.
We are thus left with a military operation in which ISIS is putting up fierce resistance complete with straight out of Gaza tactics such as attack tunnels, massive booby trap zones, and human shields. This determined resistance is facing deeply divided forces operating under separate and often conflicting orders and priorities. No wonder that the attack has now stalled and it is only a matter of days before ISIS claims total victory against the US and the crusader West and uses this as propaganda to recruit European and American Muslims to its ranks. A victory lap of a few major terror acts in the US and Europe is sure to follow, highlighting the great victory by ISIS over the infidels.
So what can be done? The US should execute a two-pronged policy of non-interference and massively biased balance of fear (biased in our favor, that is). On the non-interference front, the US should allow the people in the region decide how they want to be governed. If ISIS is what they want, let them have it. ISIS could not survive one day without the support of local clan chieftains, so it is dangerous to pretend that it is unpopular just because it uses brutality against some of its own population. On the balance of fear front, it is imperative that we stop Muslim immigration since it allows infiltration by ISIS terrorists, making it easy for them to wage asymmetric warfare against us and retaliate against any painful blows that we may land on them. Mosques in the US should be surveilled by local police and the FBI to weed out any sleeper cells and radicalization attempts. Any attack against US interests (but not allied interests) anywhere in the world by ISIS or affiliates, should result in massive retaliatory air strikes against the ISIS military and more importantly economic infrastructure, with no regard for civilian casualties. Once it is established that we can and will strike ISIS where it really hurts while being substantially protected from counter-attacks, ISIS will cease being a threat for the US. To put it in Trump’s own words: stop immigration from terror prone (read Muslim) regions and beat the hell out of ISIS. Short and to the point.