Offensive to capture Mosul indicator of Middle East political climate

Fighting began this week to retake Mosul, Iraq as a coalition of U.S. and Iraqi forces attempted to take back the city from the Islamic State, which has held the region since 2014. Since then, efforts to retake the city have been undertaken by Iranian, Kurdish, American, Iraqi and even Turkish forces.

This is a problem. Mosul has long been a contested city because of its strategic location and historical importance. While it is necessary to recapture the region from ISIS because of the horrible human rights violations constantly occurring there, it is unlikely that the transition from Islamic State territory to liberated city will happen smoothly.

The involvement of so many nations in this effort also poses many problems. In a region as divided and war-torn as the Middle East, balance-of-power issues rarely end nicely.

For example, the Kurdish people that are contributing forces to this fight against ISIS in Mosul have been the world’s largest nation without a formal state for years. If the Islamic State is successfully defeated, the Kurds will have legitimate claims to the region, seeking a final end to their long, bitter struggle for independence.

The involvement of Turkey further complicates things in this regard. In past decades, and recent years especially, Turkey has been openly hostile to the large Kurdish minority within the country, even bombing rebel camps that were engaged in fighting against ISIS in the east.

These two aspects of the fight highlight just how difficult dealing with the city will be after its liberation. The Turkish/Kurdish conflict is important here, but it is only one part of a more problematic whole.

Iran, the U.S., Iraq, Turkey and the Kurds are going to have the immense task of getting along and sorting things out after the fighting ends, which may not be for a year or two, according to the Washington Post.

Mosul has been controlled at one point or another over the last 1,000 years, by the French, the British, the Ottoman empire, the Mongols, the Kurds, the recent Iraqi government and most recently the Islamic State.

Even modern Turkey has invoked a 1920 treaty that they say guarantees them a spot at the table during this mission to retake Mosul.

The politics of Mosul are incredibly complicated. As the most important city in northern Iraq, it only makes sense that so many different nations would be interested in its recapture. The battle ahead seems particularly grueling and equally complicated, especially with the U.S. already having experienced one casualty, Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan

Unfortunately, there are an estimated one million civilians left in the city, according to satellite images and the New York Times, which present further complications thanks to the Islamic State’s objective disregard for human life. According to refugee camps in the area, only an estimated 5,000 civilians have fled the area — the first of many, perhaps.

Mosul presents many problems. Hopefully the nations involved in retaking it can get along well enough after the mission, or another problematic power vacuum could occur.

This is, after all, what led to the rise of ISIS in the first place.