photo: Eddy van Wessel


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stop the killing, create a corridor

We knew the fight for the West of Mosul was going to be a tough one. Yet the deaths of hundreds of civilians, under the rubble of collapsed buildings, are much more than collateral damage on the just cause to beat the Islamic terror group ISIS.

Were the buildings, where ISIS had collected civilians as a human shield, rigged by explosives set off by the group, as the Iraqi army is indicating? Or was the information the Iraqis fed the coalition on targets incorrect? Or did the Iraqis chose the location too lightly, just targeting the sharp shooters on the roof who were taking the attention away from the real targets next door?

There are many questions that can and should be asked, because killing hundreds of innocent civilians in one day can never justified.

The coalition has since said they take "deliberate actions to minimize unnecessary suffering" and that they will "continue to prioritize the protection of the people of Iraq".

But what is unnecessary suffering, if not the way men, women and children died, cramped in a cellar trying to survive from the ferocious bombing campaign?

I absolutely agree that ISIS needs to be defeated, but surely not to the costs of civilians who also spent almost three years under the cruel rule of ISIS.

The way they now get killed, makes you wonder about the care that the military has been taken in this battle.

By trapping ISIS on the Westbank of Mosul, one could predict that the fighting would be fierce as all these brainwashed men can do is fight till death that they believe will bring them paradise.

Their cause, the jihad, is omni important for them; civilians who are not supporting it are unbelievers and seen as the enemy.

These civilians are really caught in the middle, as on the one hand the ISIS top issued a special fatwa making it OK if Muslim civilians get killed in the fight for the good cause.

And on the other hand, the policy of Baghdad in the past has shown that it considered Mosul as a city that deserved ISIS for the way it showed its unhappiness with the Shiite government.

Moslawi civilians are very aware of the fact that Baghdad was forewarned about the activities of ISIS that led to its take over of the city in Juni 2014, and did nothing to prevent it.

They also remember very well that Iraqi troops got out when ISIS entered in stead of defending them, based on orders from then prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Even though civilians are grateful to and happy with the troops that liberate them from ISIS, and have shown this in every area the Iraqi army reached, that feeling does not extend to the Iraqi government.

Bombing civilians, and then refusing to come clean and taking the blame for what happened, is not 
helping to increase the popularity of the Shiite politicians in charge in Baghdad.

Moslawis have been through hell, as they told me, lost three years of their lives and are now confronted with the loss of houses and livelyhood.

They now need a government that they can trust, to be able to put their trust in the future and start rebuilding. And they need to be sure that ISIS will not in some way get back and retaliate.

What is needed first is to finish off ISIS in Mosul, but as the neighbourhoods left are old and cramped, the policy of leaving the ISIS fighters no corridor to escape should be reconsidered.

Let the fighters know they can leave, as long as they leave all behind, and part of the desperation will leave the battle for them too.

Finish them off elsewhere, where civilians are not going to be involved. Lure them to another place to smoke them out. Whatever policy is used will do, as long as inocent people are left off the hook.

We expect they will regroup in the border area of Syria and Iraq, which is mostly desert and hardly inhabited, so that sounds like the perfect place to contain and beat them.

Because if the government is honest about wanting to liberate Mosul, it needs to show it cares for its people. 

And only if Moslawis have the feeling that their urge to rebuild their city and their lives will be supported by politicians that run the country, they will be tempted to make this happen.