While this is hardly the first time the ISIS has launched raids and military attacks into Iraq (making their first impressions with attack and partial occupation of Fallujah), the capture of such a major population center is just ONE of many disturbing elements to this news.
Per the reporting/analysis at the War is Boring site, the attack in Mosul began and gained its initial success due to apparently unpreparedness of the Iraqi government forces (several American-built M1A1s were sitting with their hatches open, allowing ISIS forces to simply throw grenades inside!), picked up the momentum in the battle.
But what appears to have at least aided in the ISIS's victory was the support of local population.
Just as with the ISIS's previous military engagements in the Anbar province of Iraq (home of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi), there seems to at least some strong support among the local Sunni Arab population for the ISIS's mission against the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Maliki.
Now it appears the ISIS could be setting their sights on the city of Tikrit, notable for being birthplace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the legendary Arab/Muslim military commander Saladin (famous for his recapture of Jerusalem from Crusader forces and his many later clashes with King Richard of England). With this city large Sunni-Arab population and historic ties to the former regime, the ISIS could again find a relatively receptive populace.
Why is this such a huge factor?
Think of it this way, with the local populace suspicious and distrusting of the government already, the lack of local support for the government forces can reek havoc on a military unit's morale. Further, such an environment has these forces being treated more like a occupying force instead of a national unifying force for which the populace can always depend upon and rally around.
Beyond the ISIS's immediate goals and plans, I personally see a far more disturbing possibility emerging from the ISIS's renewed success: Not only re-igniting Iraq's sectarian conflict to a scale not seen since shortly after Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the expanding of sectarian (Shia vs Sunni) for the entire region.
Already, Iraq requested and received military aid from neighbor Iran for the previous heavy-fighting in the Anbar province and now there are growing signs that Iran could become more involved in the conflict.
This is further complicated by the fact that Iran has committed a good deal of military and financial support to their ally Assad in Syria's seemingly never-ending civil war, a war in which the ISIS is a major force within the "rebel" forces.
Add to this the fact that the current Iraqi government has been so friendly to both the Iranian and Syrian governments is one of the major complaints Iraq's Sunni-Arab community..and you can start to see how much more complicated and dangerous this conflict could before VERY QUICKLY.
The idea of sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia forces from the coast of the Mediterranean to the shores of the Persian Gulf is not only frightening..it's becoming more and more possible everyday.
Kudos the folks at the War is Boring for such an informative piece!
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