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Mosul, Chances of Iran Being The ‘Biggest Winner’ - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It has been twelve weeks since the Mosul offensive to drive ISIS hardliners out of their Iraq stronghold launched– the whole world awaits good news on the decisive battle. Iraqi forces, backed by an international coalition, currently are the chief the power combating ISIS in the northern Iraqi city, Mosul.

The capacities of Iraqi forces to retake the city and defeat the extremist group ISIS are undoubted. It is only a matter of time. However, what remains a considerable distress is that Iran would turn out to be the greatest beneficiary of the Mosul operation. The United States’ President-elect Donald Trump, when asked about the ongoing U.S.-backed offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS during the final presidential debate, said terror-sponsor of terrorism Iran will ultimately “benefit” from the operation.

To him the greatest fear is that Iran will be at a winner position, and the U.S. will be cut out. “Iran is taking over Iraq,” Trump said. What is more is that it remains a possible scenario, so long that the U.S.-led international coalition has not yet engineered a conclusive clear-cut plan for countering terrorism.

In 2001, when U.S. forces ended the Taliban’s reign over Afghanistan, and then carried on with taking down the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, it was oblivious to the disruption caused to regional balance, which Iran found in its favor.

Iran had profited from the eradication of its chief two regional enemies, so will be the case if ISIS is expelled from Mosul. It will exploit vacancy, caused by Washington’s repeated mistake, to its own gains. The more Washington rolls back on its ties with Baghdad, the stronger the Iran-Iraq relations would be, moving Iran a step closer to its expansionist ambitions.

Iran-aligned militias, currently a factor in the Mosul operation, would later overrun and strive in liberated areas, should international forces stick to a mere militarized contribution. Especially that an Iran influential dominance still strains the Iraq government.

All international efforts on eliminating terror group ISIS will then become counter effective on terms of restoring overall balance, enhancing Iran’s position as a regional power, and its presence in both Iraq and Syria.

There is an outspoken global concession on the importance of freeing Iraq’s third largest city from ISIS-hold, but obscurity covers the post-battle phase.

If Iran’s presence in Mosul, for the sake of argument, was a mere advisory one according to its claims, it does not make up for the fact that its proxy Iraqi militia the Popular Mobilization Forces, whose sworn allegiance is given to Tehran, is openly partaking in the offensive secured in the knowledge that who fights in Mosul today gets to be a part of its political future tomorrow.

Iraq faces a grave demographic threat if U.S. interests, Iraqi government aims, and Iran’s end game all translate into keeping Iraq’s Sunni community at bay, and a political minority that rests on the sidelines of Iraqi life. The aftermath of such a situation will extend its harm beyond Iran in a chain effect across the region.

Iran seeks a Mosul victory which can add to the sectarian schism of the Muslim world, pitting Shi’ites against Sunnis, bringing about a political process in which Shi’ites exclude their Sunni counterparts. The same approach will give Iran a greater strategic influence over the region.

Mosul’s offensive is key not only because it fights off terrorist group ISIS, which has managed to occupy entire Iraqi cities, but also because it would outline Iraq’s political makeup and the chances of coexistence among its diverse communities.

It is alarming that the Mosul offensive, despite ridding the world from ISIS, would leave behind the makings of future extremist groups just as dangerous and disturbing as the one we face today.