Don’t underestimate Iraq’s historic victory against Isis – though the human cost was great

The crass response of the leaders of the US-led coalition who orchestrated the attack on west Mosul shows that we are back in the Vietnam era when American officers were happy to volunteer that they were destroying populated areas in order to save them

Northern Iraq is one of the most fought over places on earth. Ancient and modern fortifications are everywhere. Just outside Erbil is the site of the battle of Gaugamela where Alexander the Great defeated the Persian army in 331 BC. Saddam Hussein’s soldiers fought the Kurds here for decades. But the nine-month long struggle for Mosul between Iraqi government forces and Isis, which just ended, is probably the most important and decisive battle ever fought in this region.

It is ending with a victory of historic proportions for the Iraqi government which will go far to shape the political future of not just Iraq, but the region as a whole. Isis, which for three years had an army, administration and territory making it more powerful than many members of the UN, has been defeated. It will revert to guerrilla warfare, but it will no longer be in control of a state machine through which it exercised its monstrous rule.

The decisive nature of what has just happened needs to be emphasised, because the likelihood of continuing violence in Iraq may give the mistaken impression that nothing much has radically changed. Iraq also has a long tradition of over-confident rulers declaring victory, such as President George W Bush in 2003, only to see their supposed gains evaporating within a few months or years.


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