The U.S. and other coalition partners are celebrating the defeat of ISIS in Mosul, Iraq, but a prominent national security expert says the victory is actually jump-starting the most dangerous part of the ISIS strategy and paving the way for Iranian domination of Iraq.
“The global coalition fighting ISIS congratulates Prime Minister al-Abadi and the Iraqi security forces on their historic victory against a brutal and evil enemy,” stated Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
“Make no mistake; this victory alone does not eliminate ISIS and there is still a tough fight ahead. But the loss of one of its twin capitals and a jewel of their so-called caliphate is a decisive blow,” he added.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi went to Mosul to declare victory in the eight-month-long battle to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Sunni radicals. The win comes just three years after Iraqi forces humiliated themselves by throwing down their weapons and taking off their uniforms as ISIS advanced.
Retired U.S. Navy Captain Chuck Nash says U.S. involvement played a key role.
Listen to his interview:
“The United States has been back in there. We’ve been training. I know some of the Special Forces people who have been over there and did a fantastic job. Now they’ve got some good, solid leadership in the junior officer and middle ranks and they’re still working on some of the senior ranks,” said Nash.
But as ISIS rapidly loses control of territory in Iraq and Syria, including of the supposed capital of the caliphate, Nash says the West is about to see the evolution of the group that presents the most danger.
“It’s a big deal. That’s going to hurt their recruiting efforts somewhat, but what they’re doing is going into ISIS phase three,” said Nash.
He says the first phase was to build up troops from the former al-Qaida in Iraq into a large fighting force and the second phase was to expand the territory of the caliphate. Now that those gains are being quickly rolled back, Nash suspects there will be more from ISIS.
“Phase three is, ‘What happens when we lose that ground? How do we reinvent ourselves?’ What’s happening is they’re sending hundreds of these foreign fighters back to their countries of origin and the countries of origin are taking them in. So they’re going to metastasize this,” said Nash.
As horrific as the ISIS control over parts of Iraq and Syria have been, Nash says coalition members knew where to find them and kill them. He says this dispersion strategy makes the job of free societies a lot harder.
“At one point, it was a cancer but it was a tumor, it was observable. We could see it growing, but it was localized. Now as they lose and they go into phase three, that cancer is going to metastasize,” said Nash.
He says that means Islamic radicals are going back to their home counties, and the leaders of those countries are rolling out the red carpet.
“Now they’re going to be among us and what are they going to do? The whole vehicle into crowds, the knifing attacks and all that, and it won’t take long until the bombs start going off, either. This is a very dangerous phase, which is why these governments are near suicidal by allowing these people back into the countries,” said Nash.
Back in Iraq, it’s not just better-trained Iraqi soldiers who are defeating ISIS. He says the best fighters are actually a combination of Iranian Quds forces and various Shia militias from the southern part of Iraq.
Nash says Iran and its satellites are not just fighting to uproot ISIS, but because Tehran has visions of dominating the region.
“The Iranians are looking to connect the Persian Iran, the Shia Iran, through Shia Iraq, through and into Syria and Lebanon where they have Hezbollah. They’re looking at what’s been termed the Shia crescent, that now covers an arc spanning from the east in Iran all the way westward to the Mediterranean,” said Nash.
Given the Shia domination of Iraq’s government, Nash suspects there will be little resistance in Baghdad to doing Iran’s bidding.
“When we deposed Saddam Hussein, that opened the door for the Iranians, and now the Shia population vastly outnumbers the Kurds and the Sunnis. So it is a Shia country and it is a Shiite government and it is aligned with Iran,” said Nash.
However, Nash believes that Iraq can be convinced to take a different course, premised on the boundless economic potential of remaining fiercely independent.
On a trip to Iraq shortly after Hussein was deposed, Nash and others received a briefing on the economic possibilities resulting from Iraq’s location at the fertile crescent and its vast oil reserves.
“The reason is because of Mesopotamia. [The briefing officer] said, ‘This is the richest soil, the rainfall and the water from the Tigris and the Euphrates could be the breadbasket of southwest Asia and the Middle East. Add in oil, and all of a sudden you have a monster of an economy,” said Nash.
Nash says there’s an obvious foot in the door for President Trump and U.S. allies by showing a willingness to partner with Iraq in rebuilding Mosul and other cities devastated by ISIS.
“He needs to engage the Iraqi government and let them know when they come out of this that the United States is willing to trade and continue to work with Iraq to help them re-establish,” said Nash.