Mosul Fight Is Redrawing the Map of Northern Iraq

Fight Against ISIS Looms, But Focus Is Increasingly on Who Is Keeping What

While all the same doubts about being able to take the massive city of Mosul away from a substantial ISIS defensive force are still in place, the constant push for tiny swathes of land by both the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga has many believing that the push into the city itself is close.

Whether that’s actually the case or not, however, remains to be seen, and with the Iraqi government having recently sacked their defensive minister adds dramatically to the idea that there simply isn’t the organization on the ground to carry out a protracted siege so far from their supply lines.

A much bigger factor driving both sides to keep pushing into areas on the outskirts of Mosul is that the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan and very malleable, and Kurdish leaders make no bones about the idea that villages north of Mosul that they are taking over aren’t just being “liberated” from ISIS, they’re being effectively annexed into Kurdistan.

This virtually obliges the Iraqi military to keep pushing into the area too, unprepared or not, to try to sack some strategically important targets for themselves, just to keep some of the valuable parts of Iraq’s oil industry inside Iraq, since the reality is that anything annexed by Kurdistan may ultimately be lost to Kurdish secession as soon as the war ends.

This is a non-trivial factor in Iraq, as one of the most economically important cities in the country, Kirkuk, started the ISIS War as part of the Iraqi government’s territory, is now part of Kurdistan, and by all indications, permanently so.

Since the US occupation, the Iraqi government has had to face the reality that Kurdistan could try to secede at any moment. Throughout the ISIS War, Kurdistan has just kept growing, making this a bigger and bigger concern.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of