“The hour of victory has arrived, and operations for the liberation of Mosul have begun. I announce today the beginning of these heroic operations to free you from the terror and oppression of Daesh. God willing, soon we will meet on Mosul soil to celebrate liberation and your salvation and we will live once again, with all our religions and sects together”, announced Iraqi PM Haider Al-Abadi in television network, on October 16 of 2016, referring to Daesh, the acronym in Arabic for the so-called “Islamic State” group. Two weeks later, Iraqi troops entered a neighborhood on the eastern side of the city.

By Fabio Bosco.

Mosul has a million and a half inhabitants. It is the second largest city in Iraq and the largest city taken by Daesh since its formation. On the banks of Tigris River, it occupies a strategic location close to the second largest oil exploration area in Iraq, several hydroelectric dams and other important industries.

This is the largest military operation since U.S. occupation in 2003. On one side there is a 50,000-strong Iraqi army, US special forces and allied militias with the support of the United States-led international coalition air forces.

Daesh, according to estimates by the American military, has 3 to 5 thousand soldiers inside Mosul, and another 1,500 to 2,500 in the vicinity. The vast majority is from Iraq, as the estimate is of one thousand foreigners.

Bourgeois Sectors In Struggle For National Wealth And State Control

Behind the anti-terrorism speech, this battle involves the interests of different capitalist sectors struggling to control businesses related to oil, electric power and other industries, as well as future contracts for the reconstruction of the country and spaces within the Iraqi State apparatus. On the other side, there is another capitalist sector represented by Daesh.

Led by elite U.S. forces, the 50,000 combatants gather different organizations:

A- the Iraqi armed forces;

B- the armed forces of the regional government of Kurdistan, called Peshmerga. This regional government represents the interests of the Kurdish bourgeoisie that controls the second main area of ​​oil exploration in Iraq;

C- the Popular Mobilization Units (Al-Hashid Al-Shaab, in Arabic) which are sectarian militias composed of Shiite Iraqis, linked to different sectors of the Shiite bourgeoisie, with strong relations with the Iranian government. These sectors also have hegemony over the Iraqi State apparatus;

D- U.S. special forces, around four thousand soldiers and officers, all supported by the American Air Force with secondary participation of the British and French air forces. These represent the interests of multinationals and imperialist states.

There is also a Sunni militia, “Guard of Ninive”, led by Atheel Al-Nujaifi, former governor of the province and member of a traditional bourgeois family that dominates local politics. It is trained and armed by the Turkish government, which maintains troops stationed in the region “at the invitation” of the Kurdistan Regional Government, under protests from the Iraqi government.

Daesh: A Force In Decay

The surprising take of Mosul by the Daesh in June of 2014 marked the apex of this organization. At that time, it ruled territories from Iraq to Syria along the strategic valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, with 3.7 million inhabitants, important oil fields and other economic activities.

A succession of defeats then began in Kobane, Syria, when Daesh militias were defeated after a four-month battle from September 2014 to January 2015. Now they have lost already 20% of the territory they dominated in Iraq, and 45% in Syria. They were expelled from 56 localities out of 126 under their control, including 5 of the 10 major cities (Abu Ghraib, Baquba, Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Tal Afar and Mosul in Iraq; and Deir al-Zour, Manbij and Raqqa in Syria).

However, the organization still has material and human resources. Oil income has dropped 26 percent but it is still significant: around US$23 million per month, according to the IHS. The three largest oil fields under their control are in Syria (Omas, Tanak and Al-Taim), producing 13,500 barrels per day. Their weapons originate mainly from Syrian and Iraqi state military bases. Just from Ayyash’s weapons depot, in Syria, they took 100 anti-tank missiles (TOW), 9,000 grenades and 2 million rounds of ammunition.

A defeat in Mosul, the main city under their control, will mean practically the end of Daesh controlled areas in Iraq, leaving areas in Syria where they have already suffered a series of setbacks.

Iraqi Workers Need To Build An Alternative

The interests of the population of Mosul and of the whole country are not represented by any of the two military camps. Furthermore, the battle will surely generate a humanitarian crisis during the clash and beyond. The example of other Iraqi cities is illustrative.

In Fallujah, there was a popular uprising against Iraqi government forces in 2014, with the formation of a local council by the insurgents: local military, civilian and religious leaders who had previously challenged the U.S. occupation forces. After six months of ceaseless bombardment by Iraqi troops that brought destruction and death, the local council approached Daesh in search of military support, particularly heavy weapons. After the defeat of the uprising, the persecution against the population generalized. Six hundred inhabitants were arrested and are still missing, probably executed by the Shiite sectarian militias.

In Jurf as-Sakhar, there was an ethnic cleansing process and the expelled Sunni population cannot return.

Ramadi was razed by the Iraqi air force and also by the Daesh bombs, making the city uninhabitable.

The 1.5 million inhabitants can become refugees soon. In the present, 213,000 inhabitants of Mosul, Fallujah and Qaiyara already live in refugee camps in Northern Iraq. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on October 26, 2016, that up to 700,000 people might be displaced. Since 2003 U.S. invasion, 4-6 million Iraqis have become refugees in and out of their country.

Daesh is no alternative. Since its formation, its policy has been to divide the Iraqi resistance against U.S. occupation by carrying out sectarian actions against the Shiite and Kurdish working population, such as explosions in mosques and markets.

The very population of Mosul, tired of the discrimination by the government and the practices of torture and corruption, welcomed Daesh two years ago in search for protection, and instead faced a new dictatorship.

On the verge of facing a military offensive, Daesh retained 8 thousand families (50 thousand people) in Mosul surroundings, according to a U.N. report. Former members of the Security Forces who did not accept to join the Daesh were executed. There were 256 people killed on October 25-26, 2016.

Another risk are chemical weapons. The coalition air forces are used to wage white phosphorus in their bombardments. On the other hand, there are allegations that Daesh manufactures mustard agent. Iraq already had terrible experiences with chemical weapons. The dictator Saddam Hussein used them in Anfal, killing around a hundred thousand people, and later another five thousand on March 16, 1988, in Halabja, with sarin gas.

It is also possible that Daesh set fire to the Al-Mishraq chemical factory, 30km South of Mosul, the same setting Saddam Hussein burned in 2003. It burned for two months and caused widespread contamination and even affected the ozone layer of the planet.

In short, regarding the struggle for oil control and state affairs, none of the bourgeois sectors has any concern for the situation of the working class. The working class need to self-organize and follow the example of the uprising in Fallujah, seeking to attract the support of all working people, be them Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish or others, in order to expel all foreign troops, both international coalition and Iranian ones, put down Al-Abadi’s administration and defeat Daesh. That way, Iraqi workers can liberate their country and move towards a Socialist Iraq, as part of a Federation of Socialist Republics of Middle East.