So far the most notable aspect of the new Mosul campaign, apart from the suddenness of its announcement, is an explicit display of anti-Turkism. Why is this the case? If we answer this question, we can understand the immediate causes of this new campaign.
It is clear that the US is coordinating the various elements taking part in the Mosul operation against Daesh/ISIL, including the Pershmerga, the various militias and the Iraqi army, such as it is, explains Yahya al-Qubeissi in an al-Jazeera interview. The Pentagon may only have 500 people involved, but they are running the show. It is clear that any announcements about military deployments in Northern Iraq at the moment would come from the Pentagon.
So if the Pentagon is dead against Turkish involvement, and is clearly behind the Iraqi government’s demand that Turkey withdraw from the Ba’shiqa camp where it also has some 600 personnel, mostly trainers for Pershmerga forces and a local militia, why is this the case? It is excluding Turkey from the air war against Deash, although this is being coordinated from Incirlik.
The Pentagon is smarting from the failure of the 15 July coup in Turkey, which was run from Incirlik airbase by some accounts. It is also aggrieved by Turkey’s collaboration with Russia and the establishment without US knowledge of a safe zone in Northern Syria for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) by the post-coup Turkish military to the detriment of the advance of the US allies amongst the Syrian Kurds. So the Pentagon is deliberately sidelining Turkey from the Mosul operation.
As a result of poor policy-making, the Pentagon is now excluded now from any settlement in Northern Syria, and has essentially lost the battle for Aleppo. This is why it is trying to gain a foothold in Mosul, and this requires distancing Turkey, because Turkey opposes the use of Shi’a militias in Sunni regions, while these very militias have now become the weapon of choice for the Pentagon.
In fact, given that its policy under the Obama doctrine is proxy warfare, this doesn’t bode well for future events in Northern Iraq once Daesh/ISIL is defeated and the Shi’a militias get a free rein over the area. On no occasion whether at Fajulla, Ramadi, Samarraa, or Tikrit did the US raise any complaints about atrocities and human rights abuses committed by the Shi’a militias, against Sunnis. They wouldn’t, because the Shi’a militias have become US proxies, just like the PYD in Northern Syria.
As an aside, we can also say that the ‘switch’ of the US military strategy away from backing Sunni jihadi militants and towards Shi’a militias to effect its goals is the very contradiction in foreign policy, which has defeated it in Syria. This meant they were pursuing a pro-Assad and an anti-Assad policy at the same time. There never has been much joined-up thinking in the US Middle East strategy.