MESOP FOCUS : Kurds ready to retake Mosul’s control – Fuad Hussein

28 Jan 2015 – MESOP – The chief of Kurdistan Region Presidency Office Fuad Hussein said the Kurdish forces of Peshmerga are ready to retake the control of the Iraqi second-biggest city of Mosul from the militants of the Islamic State (IS) but need cooperation to defeat the jihadist group.

Mosul, which sits on the edge of the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan, was overrun by the Islamic State last June. Kurdish security forces are now closing in on Mosul, and have reached its outskirts, said Hussein. On Saturday, Kurdish troops fired rockets into the city.

But to take Mosul, the Peshmerga need help. Mosul is mostly comprised of Sunni Arabs, and is located in disputed territory that Kurds have also claimed as their own. To defeat the Islamic State, the Kurds must avoid the perception of arriving as a conquering army, Hussein said.

“To control the Arab side of Mosul, the Kurds need a partner to do that. That needs to be an Arab force,” Hussein told Foreign Policy in an interview. Currently, it’s envisioned for the Arab-dominated Iraqi Army to partner with the Peshmerga. It’s unclear how prepared the Iraqi Army is for the mission, and Hussein himself was uncertain how efforts are proceeding to improve the force. Events in Kobani, where about 150 Peshmerga forces — the military arm of the Iraqi Kurdistan government — have been assisting the ground campaign, have at least helped lay the psychological groundwork for that assault. “This myth that ISIS is not defeatable has been broken,” Hussein said in a Tuesday phone interview. While acknowledging that seizing Mosul from the militant group will be all but impossible for Kurdish fighters alone, Hussein said the Islamic State’s presence on the doorstep to Iraqi Kurdistan represents a “nightmare.”It was there, Hussein said, that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaimed a caliphate, and retaking that city is both symbolically and militarily important in the effort to roll back the Islamic State’s territorial gains.