Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Iran’s role in Mosul

Iran did its best to mediate between Russia and the US in working out a ceasefire agreement in Syria ahead of the Iraqi Mosul operation, writes Camelia Entekhabifard

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Mosul operation began on 17 October, and the Iraqi army with the support of the Coalition forces lead by the United States are pounding areas held by the Islamic State (IS) group.

The campaign is an important one, and military observers believe it has to be fast in order to defeat IS in a short period of time, or otherwise Mosul is in danger of becoming another Aleppo.

 But all the evidence shows that the operation to liberate Mosul will not take much time. The operation has all the players’ involvement, together with their approval and participation.

Yet, while IS may be defeated quickly in Mosul, there are fears that the IS fighters could now move to Raqqa in Syria before they can be eliminated.

 Another obstacle the operation faces is the current tension between Russia and the US If these two powers can agree on the future of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and the ceasefire in Aleppo, the fighting against IS in Iraq and Syria could be taken to a different level.

The coalition is now fighting both in Raqqa and Mosul against IS, and the Lausanne talks held last week over the crisis in Syria did not issue in even a temporary ceasefire agreement.

The talks were an opportunity to find common ground among the regional players to take the initiative and address terrorism regardless of their position towards Al-Assad. Apparently Iran did its best to mediate between Russia and the US with the support of Egypt and Iraq in working out a ceasefire ahead of the Mosul operation.

However, the regional players did not succeed in finding agreement in Lausanne even if the Mosul operation can still be regarded as the key to expanding the talks between Russia and the US in the near future.

“We had a frank discussion with the Russians and Iranians, and there’s some work to be done which might open the door of possibility to actual cessation,” the US embassy in Syria quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry saying in a tweet on 17 October. 

 The operation in Mosul is designed to defeat the terrorists, but those terrorists could end up living somewhere else if regional support is not backed by influential countries such as Iraq and Syria. Terrorist threats, regionally and internationally, are much more important than the fate of Al-Assad.

Mosul’s liberation could also be an example for Syria and come as a turning point for Russia and the United States in concluding an agreement over the future of that country.

Most European countries are now alarmed at the chances of terrorist activities increasing as a result of the campaign against IS in Iraq. The present vicious cycle could be repeated many times over if the crisis in Syria is not solved. 

Russia and the US should now agree to recognise the Syrian moderate opposition and decide which groups should truly be considered as terrorists. Perhaps nothing can be done in Syria before the next US president takes office in January, but a ceasefire between the government and the opposition would help the international community in the fight against IS.

Some 50,000 men are participating in the campaign to liberate Mosul, but taking the city back will not be the end of the problem as more work will be needed to secure the city afterwards.

The sectarian war between the different religions and ethnicities in Iraq is an open page in the region which has caused many clashes and conflicts.

With the recent ceasefire in Yemen announced by Saudi Arabia and the operation in Mosul, there is now hope that the Syria talks may resume soon and this time more sincerely.

There are many activities behind the scenes to come up with a roadmap to solve the crisis in Syria. This should be a roadmap which, as Kerry frequently reiterates, is not a “military solution.”

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