The Raqqa offensive needs Mosul first and The Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Force to Syria






Original article via ALRAI MEDIA GROUP here:

Damascus – Elijah J. Magnier (‪@EjmAlrai‪ )

Speculation about the race to Raqqa, the self proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) Syrian Capital, between the United States on the one hand and Russia on the other, recalling the race to Berlin in World War II. Nevertheless, initiating the attack against Raqqa is not possible without attacking Mosul first, the Iraqi Capital of ISIS. That can be done smoothly only if Washington joins the military effort and coordinate the simultaneous its attack in Iraq with the Kremlin, a highly unlikely scenario. Since the U.S imposed on Iraq to side-line the Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF), their presence seems to be more needed in Syria.

The Syrian “axis of resistance”, formed of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Lebanese “Hezbollah” Special Forces, Iraqi of the PMF, Pakistani and Afghan militias, all operating in Syria and backed by Russia, are preparing new military plans to advance on two main axes in the north of Syria: The first, in the northwest in Jisr al-Shughur, Idlib and rural areas of Aleppo to counter al-Qaeda in the Levant – Jahbat al Nusra and its allies. The second, is the attack against ISIS on three fronts: Qariyateyen, Palmyra, and Tabqa, without going too close to Raqqa. Both al-Qaeda and its Jihadist allies on one hand, and ISIS on the other, are not included in any cease-fire or deal related to a possible peace process or Cease-fire in Syria. While Russia and its allies prepare for their war in Syria, the U.S.A is gathering Iraqi forces and many American advisors around Mosul for the Iraqi J-Day.

High ranking sources, leading the war in Syria, told me  “ISIS took, in several occasions, initiatives of attack, cutting the road of south Aleppo (Ithraya-Khanaser), every time its controlled area in the north of Syria is threatened. Therefore, the advance toward Raqqa, without engaging ISIS in Mosul first, has its own hazard. ISIS could recall more forces from Iraq, if attacked in Raqqa first. Coordinating the attack against ISIS in both Raqqa and Mosul simultaneously seems an impossible objective. Each side of the superpower wants history to remember how his forces have defeated ISIS first”.

“The United States has imposed on the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to prevent the participation of the PMF in Anbar, as well as in the forthcoming battle of Mosul. There are between 30 to 40.000 men still under arms, trained and ready for the battle against ISIS. Abadi reshuffled the Leadership of the PMF, reduced the powers of the Deputy Commanding General and pro-IRGC figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, who became responsible for the operations only, limited their presence on the ground in various fronts, and restricted the expenses of the organisation. This required an alternative plan to be able to use the PMF effectively, led by Mohandes, on the Syrian-Iraqi borders to close the road on ISIS and prevent communication between Iraq and Syria. This would permit to engage a large force from behind ISIS lines in Syria, create multiple fronts and exhaust its forces, which is exactly what ISIS does when under attack”.

“Since the founding of the PMF, several regional countries felt provoked, accused it of being sectarian as it is composed of mainly Shia, and managed to prevent it from taking part in many battles. Turkey facilitated the formation, training and support of another force in the North of Iraq, the “National Mobilisation Force” (NMF), made by Sunni only, under the leadership of the ex-Governor of Mosul, Atheel al-Nujeifi. The role of NMF is not only to participate to the attack of Mosul, but also to absorb all ISIS fighters willing to leave Mosul or to lay down the arms, once the city is under attack and liberated. The U.S.A and its regional partners would like to keep this Sunni force, and defected ISIS members, in the north of Iraq. The argument presented to the Prime Minister is the fact that most of the fighters in Mosul are Nineveh tribe members or other Sunni groups who served under the “Naqshabandi army” and Islamic Sunni organisations that were forced to join ISIS when Mosul was occupied in the summer of 2014”, said the source.

“The U.S is happy to see Turkey’s participation in the battle of Mosul to maintain its influence in the north of Iraq and be used as a carrot looming out of Baghdad that Iraq’s unity will remain on the line. For the “Resistance Axis”, the Iranian-American struggle of influence and the Turkish expansion plans are not the priority for the moment. The danger represented by ISIS overcomes any other issue at the moment. It is in our interest to see forces gathering around Mosul and to see the battle happening. This would enable us to move faster in Syria and on the borders to put an end to ISIS dream of the Caliphate. ISIS is expected to return as an insurgent group after its defeat, in Syria and Iraq, in the coming years. None the less, the danger of al-Qaeda and its Jihadists allies are not to be underestimated. In fact, it is even greater because the international community and the regional countries consider positively al-Qaeda in Syria, supply its allies with weapons and political coverage to keep the war on-going, exhaust Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. It is in our interest to eliminate this grater danger first. The Russian intervention has created a real turn in the power dynamic on the ground in only few months. This has created a panic among those who would like to see war lasting for as long as possible. Therefore, battling al-Qaeda is equally important, if not even more, as the war on ISIS. We are looking forward to see the U.S agreeing on the battle of Mosul as soon as possible. ”


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