Requiem For an Iraqi City
Illustration by: Matt Mahurin
The tables have turned. A year later, Mosul is a living hell. McClatchy’s Steve Lannen files this heartbreaking report:
Iraq’s third-largest city looks like Baghdad did a year ago.
U.S. soldiers drive armored Humvees and tanks through a decimated and dusty landscape. Burned-out cars sit on the street corners, and trash and chunks of concrete litter the medians and the gutters. Poor people from the countryside have flooded the city, but the streets and sidewalks are mostly deserted.
He’s no less insightful about the deep-seated political problems facing the city:
Terrorists aren’t Mosul’s only problem. The city’s Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs detest each other, and the Arabs distrust the city’s Kurdish, Christian and Turkmen minorities. Although 60 percent of Mosul’s population of 1.8 million is Sunni, three-quarters of the provincial government is Kurdish, and the Arabs suspect the Kurds of wanting to take over the city.
"We live in chaos," said Sheik Fawwaz al Jarba, a former member of the Shiite alliance in Iraq’s central government. He spoke from Baghdad because Sunni insurgents blew up his house in Mosul.
It’s worth noting that the surge never made it to Mosul. The 4th Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, commanded by Colonel Stephen Twitty, used a single battalion in March, east of the Tigris River, to control the city. It was peaceful then. And even with the surge brigades, there were never enough troops to send to augment Twitty’s force. So when the U.S. and Iraqi forces squeezed insurgents out of Anbar and Baghdad, the insurgents went to Diyala. Then the U.S. and Iraqi forces pressed them in Diyala, so they went to Ninewah. There were no forces to push them out of Ninewah. The Pentagon’s latest quarterly Iraq report noted that Nineweh was, in 2007, "one of the few provinces that continues to see attacks above 2006 levels." With the surge winding to a close, there is no chance Mosul will receive a significant, sustained augmentation of forces — as if those hypothetical extra forces could begin to resolve the sectarian acrimony that I observed even in "peacetime" Mosul last year.
But there will be enough time to fix blame for Mosul’s descent into chaos later. Right now, all I can do is mourn a city that looked so promising a year ago.