No faith in Mosul inquiry
An inquiry into the fall of Mosul to Islamic State forces has finally been concluded, but it is unlikely to satisfy the Iraqi public, writes Salah Nasrawi
A long-awaited parliamentary commission report about the fall of Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul to the Islamic State (IS) terror group has been finalised in Iraq amid controversy over its findings and the competence and independence of the panel.
An ad hoc parliamentary commission to investigate the fall of Mosul said on Sunday it had sent its final report to the parliament for endorsement. But efforts to muster enough support in parliament to approve the report have become entangled in a row over its outcome.
A ferocious battle immediately started over the commission’s main recommendation to refer former Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki to face trial over the fall of Mosul. The move came a week after the present Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, launched a sweeping reform campaign which led to the abolishment of Al-Maliki’s post as vice-president.
On Monday, Speaker of the Parliament Salim Al-Jibouri scrapped a debate on the report by lawmakers after noisy protests by Al-Maliki’s supporters and asked members to vote on sending the findings to the judiciary to decide if legal action was needed.
The move is likely to open the door to a prolonged legal battle over the political nature of the case and the jurisdiction of the criminal courts to try officials accused of crimes related to military or national security matters.
Many Iraqis believe their judiciary is far from being truly independent. In the past, the judiciary has come under fire for being influenced by Al-Maliki himself, and last week Iraq’s top Shia Muslim cleric grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani called for reforms to the judiciary.
The row started immediately after the head of the commission, Hakim Al-Zamili, said the report had been endorsed by a majority of the panel’s members. Al-Maliki dismissed the findings as “worthless” and his supporters challenged the assertion as politically motivated.
Al-Zamili did not disclose details about the findings, but media reports quoting the report have said that some 35 military and government officials have been indicted by the panel for their role in the fall of Mosul.
The capture of Mosul shocked Iraqis who have sought to learn the truth about the seizure of the city and demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice.
In addition to Al-Maliki, who also served as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces at the time, the panel named acting Defence Minister Sadoun Al-Duliami, Deputy Minister of Interior Adnan Al-Assadi and governor of Nineveh Atheel Al-Nujaifi.
The list also includes chief of staff Babakr Zebari and two of his deputies. Other top brass named are the head of Al-Maliki’s military office Farouk Al-Aaraji and several army and police commanders. Several provincial government officials were also implicated.
Al-Maliki had refused to be quizzed by the commission and instead sent written testimony. Sunni Iraqi Vice-President Osama Al-Nuajaifi and Kurdistan regional President Masoud Barzani also sent written answers, but the two were cleared by the findings.
In June last year IS jihadists seized control of Mosul, routing the Iraqi army in the city of more than one million people. Later they advanced to consolidate their hold over dozens of cities and towns in western and northern Iraq and formally declared the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as caliph, or its head.
The advances and the declaration of the “Islamic State” sent shockwaves around the world and pushed the United States to form an international coalition to fight the group, which has also extended its control to vast areas in neighbouring Syria.
For many Iraqis and foreign observers, the reasons behind the fall of Mosul have remained dubious, especially since a large contingent of army and police force was policing the city and its surroundings before the IS onslaught.
The investigation started in December after months of wrangling about its jurisdiction and the competence of its members. The panel was originally composed of a few members of the parliament’s defence and security committee but was later expanded to include some 26 lawmakers to reflect political, ethnic and sectarian diversity.
Al-Zamili said the commission had relied on testimonies, evidence, witnesses and documents related to the fall of Mosul to reach its conclusions. At his Sunday press conference Al-Zamili referred to an unspecified foreign role in the capture of Mosul, and in a television interview later he indicated that the Turkish consulate in Mosul had been involved.
Information emerging shortly after the fall of Mosul and details given to the media by some officers, including some of those who were named by the panel, indicated enormous corruption, incompetence, recklessness, negligence and dereliction of duty by top commanders and politicians.
The events ran from 10 June last year, when dozens of IS militants overpowered a tens-of-thousands strong garrison in Mosul, a sprawling city of mostly Sunni Arabs mixed with small ethnic minorities of Kurds, Turkmen and Christians.
According to various accounts, IS militants had taken over many neighbourhoods in the city days beforehand, exploiting the lack of resistance by the security forces and in some cases in collaboration with the local police.
In the hours before the militants took overall control of the city, tens of thousands of army and police personnel vanished from their camps and posts, leaving behind huge quantities of weapons, vehicles and equipment.
The commanders who had fled their posts and abandoned their soldiers exchanged blame about the state of disarray which they had left behind, forcing units to retreat or surrender.
The commission findings showed that “responsibility for the fall of Mosul to the criminal gangs of IS lies in the political and security leadership,” the report said, using the Arabic acronym of the terror group.
It said that “the commander of the Armed Forces and former prime minister [Al-Maliki] did not have a clear idea about the security situation in Nineveh because he was relying in his assessment on misleading information sent by military and security commanders without double-checking it.”
Among the wrongdoings attributed to Al-Maliki is his “appointment of incompetent and corrupt commanders” without “subjecting them to vetting and accountability.”
The report highlighted Al-Maliki’s failure “to build the army and provide it with appropriate weaponry and training.” It said he had promoted loyal officers without consideration for the army’s command system and power structure.
One of the serious accusations against Al-Maliki made by the report is that he failed to deal with the aftermath of the fall of Mosul, costing Iraq more territory.
The Nineveh governor is also charged with “creating an atmosphere hostile to the security forces in the province,” a reference to his repeated claims that the largely Shia-dominated security forces were mistreating the local population.
Several military commanders, including the Iraqi chief of staff and other senior officers, were blamed for negligence and corruption and held responsible for the capture of the city.
While some Iraqis welcomed the report as a positive step towards revealing the truth about what happened in Mosul, many fear the exercise needed to be more open and transparent. Others have warned of a whitewash, citing the secrecy of the deliberations and the dilution of the findings.
Now all Iraqis’ eyes are on Al-Abadi, many people waiting with bated breath to see how he will react to the deadlock over the Mosul findings as he continues his drive to bring change to the government, including getting rid of Al-Maliki’s legacy.
Hours before the disclosure of the report Al-Abadi approved a decision by an investigative council to refer military commanders to a court martial for abandoning their positions in the battle against IS militants in Ramadi in May.
There are increasing fears that Al-Maliki, who leads a parliamentary bloc of some 80 lawmakers and enjoys the support of his Dawa Party and some Iran-backed militias, will try to tip the panel’s recommendations away from what they are supposed to be.
Many members of his State of Law bloc have threatened to boycott the parliament if Al-Maliki is put on trial.
“Why should Al-Maliki be held responsible,” asked Amir Al-Khuzaei, one of his key supporters, during an interview.
“The Prophet Mohamed wasn’t responsible for [the defeat] at the Battle of Uhud. The archers were,” he told the Iranian-owned Al-Itijah television channel.
He was referring to the 7th-century battle that the Prophet Mohamed lost to infidels in Mecca.
This article appeared first in Al-Ahram Weekly on August 20, 2015