Mosul, Epicenter of ISIS Conflict, is a Devastated Iraqi City

The population who suffered under the occupation feel they were doubly punished by the devastating conflict waged to end it, writes Mark Lattimer.

By Mark Lattimer
in London
Inter Press Service

As Iraq this month faces the threat of new conflicts — including a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran — the shadow of the last conflict runs long.

Two years ago, the Iraqi prime minister declared victory over ISIS, but parts of Ninewa and Anbar are still in ruins, some 1.5 million people remain displaced and families have only begun to grieve for the tens of thousands killed. 

Nowhere is this devastation more apparent than in Mosul, Iraq’s second city and the epicenter of the ISIS conflict. The World Bank has estimated that losses to the Mosul housing sector alone are estimated at $6 billion. 

And as revealed in a new report from the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International, 35,000 claims for reparation for deaths, injury or destruction of property have now been lodged by victims of the ISIS occupation and the “liberation” battle. 

Resident of Hamdaniya district stands before a house destroyed in a Coalition airstrike, February 2017. (Mark Lattimer/Ceasefire)

Interviews with civilians on the ground uncover a complex picture of loss and abandonment. The population who suffered under the occupation feel they were doubly punished by the devastating conflict waged to end it. Yazidis, Christians and other minorities who were forced to flee still remain largely displaced, despairing at the fact that no-one has been brought to justice for the crimes committed against them. 

In such circumstances, individual reparations are essential, not least for reconciliation, a concept much-invoked by international missions in Iraq but rarely specified. Without formal recognition for the loss they have suffered and practical help to rebuild, civilians cannot move on. 

As one interviewee explained: “The compensation payments will never bring me back the loved ones I lost, nor will they allow me to rebuild my house as if nothing happened. But they will help us all to rebuild the city and bring back life into it.”

But among those claiming reparations, long-standing frustration is turning into growing resentment. The claims have been made under Iraq’s Law 20 which established a system for awarding compensation to ‘the victims of military operations, military mistakes and terrorist actions. 

Over 420 billion Iraqi dinars ($355 million) has been awarded under the scheme since it was first established 10 years ago, but it has been overwhelmed by the scale of claims from the ISIS conflict. Claimants in Mosul complain of cumbersome bureaucratic procedures and pay-outs are agonizingly slow. 

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led Coalition against ISIS appears to have washed its hands of responsibility. During the nine-month battle the Coalition supported Iraqi forces mainly from the air, and it was Coalition bombardment which, along with ISIS vehicle-borne IEDs, was responsible for most of the material destruction of the city. 

The monitoring group Airwars has conservatively estimated that between 1,066 and 1,579 civilians were killed by Coalition air and artillery strikes during the battle for Mosul. Local estimates are much higher. The Coalition describes all civilian deaths caused by its action as ‘unintentional’ and refuses to accept any liability for violations for which reparations should be paid. 

Cover of Ceasefire report, “Mosul after the Battle: Reparations for civilian harm and the future of Ninewa.” (Screenshot)

Even the system of making discretionary “condolence” payments in such cases, which the U.S. employed previously in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, appears not to be applicable. In its annual report on civilian casualties, the Department of Defense states: “…in cases where a host nation or government requests U.S. military support for local military forces, it may be more appropriate for the host nation or its military to respond to the needs and requests of the local civilian population by offering condolences themselves.”

But questions about the tactics used by the Coalition in Mosul, and in other recent sieges, are becoming hard to ignore. The civilian death toll acknowledged by the Coalition is slowly climbing, as it is pressured to reassess credible local reports, and currently stands at 1,347 deaths caused by Coalition actions in the anti-ISIS conflict across Iraq and Syria. 

A claim last year by the U.K. Ministry of Defense that no civilians had been injured in over 1,300 Royal Air Force strikes in Iraq was met with open disbelief. In November the Dutch Defense Ministry finally admitted that Dutch forces had been involved in two airstrikes in Iraq in which at least 74 people, including civilians, were killed, but it still denied any liability for reparations. 

The people of Mosul have nonetheless started to rebuild their homes and their city, albeit with inadequate support. Sponsorship by foreign governments of prestige projects, including the reconstruction of the great mosque of al-Nuri, is important for restoring Moslawis’ pride in their city and their cultural heritage. 

Less high profile, but arguably more significant, is the ongoing work of UN and other humanitarian agencies to support basic services, including for IDPs. But, as so often in Iraq, the UN is caught in a bind. UN OCHA warned earlier this week that operations to deliver medicine, food and other assistance to 2.4 million in need were now compromised by the delay in the Iraqi government renewing letters of authorization. 

Nor is the ISIS conflict over. In the west of Iraq military operations against ISIS continue, including with the support of the Coalition. 

ISIS’ supporters are now gone from Mosul, a city which more than any other in Iraq knows the reality of ISIS rule. But with little official acknowledgement of the suffering of the population, practical help slow in coming for civilians to rebuild their lives, and tens of thousands of young men growing up in displacement, the situation is not sustainable. 

As one interviewee for the report said: “I haven’t seen such anger in Mosul since 2003. It is a very dangerous situation.”

Iraq has tragically demonstrated in recent decades that the failure to deal with the legacy of past conflicts affects both the speed and the severity of their return. For the cause of both justice and peace, the question of reparations for civilian harm is now urgent.

Mark Lattimer is executive director of CEASEFIRE Centre for Civilian Rights. A new report by his organization, “Mosul after the Battle: Reparations for civilian harm and the future of Ninewa,” was published on Jan. 22.

This article is from Inter Press Service.

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6 comments for “Mosul, Epicenter of ISIS Conflict, is a Devastated Iraqi City

  1. Hide Behind
    January 26, 2020 at 16:58

    Two edged sword, US invites destabilizing terrorist groups with financial and military atms with help of Iraq Sunnis , UAE, Saudi Arabiab, Israel, NATO, that further impoverished Iraq, and Kurds +Iraq need US and NATO airpower to reclaim land.
    otber sword edge, Iraq and Kurd oil revenues, will be used to pay foreign firms contracts to rebuild; placing them in debt for generations to their foreign occupation forces.
    Rumors but now being confirmed by US New Congressional bills will include provisions for installation of several Sunni enclaves in order to weaken Iraqi Shia connections to Iran Shias.
    Thisbtalk of Iraq city damage cannot begin to compare to damage of Syrian cities by airpower aid of US Kurds and “moderate Arabs”.
    All three of Kurdish Republic in Syria, whose oil is now owned by a Division of US treasury, n.will be used to rebuild those damn near flattened to below sea level republic capitals.
    This is how benevolent US grabs and holds occupied nations in permanent debt.
    There is no longer an Iraq, all that is left are seperate impoverished semi autonomous regions.
    The profits of oil and rebuilding contractors, food and commodities importers goes I to US/Israel and European partners, the cost paid by those who once could be called US Contract Iraqis.

  2. January 26, 2020 at 11:56

    From the commander Rostam to the general Soleimani – Iran was at war for freedom.
    Only Iran is not afraid to resist to world predominant force – the USA.

    In our works: “Trump against Iran: possibilities of new war and Ahmadinejad’s return
    ) and “Russia refrained from support of the war headed by the USA with Iran”
    ) noted the main directions of military action of the USA against Iran (see:
    But antagonism roots between the western and Persian civilizations go to far history, before fight at Kadisiya in 634 of our era and to it, to campaigns of Alexander of Macedon and the Roman conquerors…
    If we only change names and dates of history of fight under Kadesii, to war with DAESh (ISIS) under Kasem Soleymani’s command presently, since the end of 2014 till February, 2020, then from it the essence of history will not change. Kasem Soleyman is the new Iranian commander Rustam, with more outstanding victories; if the commander Rustam was at war only with Arabs of the Baghdad Caliph (modern Iraq), then Kasem was at war and won U.S. Army, England, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the OAU – only Iraq, but also Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan.
    Today, 24.01.2020 millions of residents of Iraq took to the streets of the cities with the requirement of the termination of occupation of Iraq by the American troops…

  3. jo6pac
    January 25, 2020 at 15:09

    Also Amerika used spent uranium shells there.

  4. Gregory Herr
    January 25, 2020 at 11:13

    “But questions about the tactics used by the Coalition in Mosul, and in other recent sieges, are becoming hard to ignore.”

    Widespread and utter devastation of the civilian infrastructure of a city of 1.5 million people for the supposed purpose of killing a couple thousand mercenary terrorists who had convoyed from Syria to Mosul under the “helpless” eye of the Obama regime isn’t a questionable “tactic”— it’s part and parcel of the modus operandi of a heinous criminal cabal. Taking out bridges, water treatment plants, food warehouses, flour mills, power stations, apartment complexes, universities, etc. is just their way of saying “what we say goes”. Right Poppy?

    • AnneR
      January 26, 2020 at 09:34

      Yes, absolutely what one would expect from the US led NATO forces and governments: big shrug of shoulders, a “we came, we bombed, we conquered” and “we don’t apologize or pay reparations” because *we* the western paleskinned peoples are “exceptionally good,” “always in the right” no matter what we do to whomsoever.

      So what if we flattened your homes, small businesses, destroyed your farmlands, water courses and treatment plants, killed many of your family members, left behind depleted uranium thereby causing generations of disabilities, genetic problems. We are not, will not, be held financially, morally, ethically responsible. Because we are not, of course. How could we be? Everything we have done and do is for the betterment of you…

      That at any rate seems to be the consensus western ruling elite view, perception, position of all of the devastation, plunder and slaughter they, via their militaries visit on those “lesser” peoples (far away, even from the UK, Fr, The Netherlands, and, of course, of darker hue)…

      Utterly obscene, amoral and all about the war-profiteers (including those members of the ruling elites in government) lining their pockets.

    • January 26, 2020 at 17:16

      Mr. Herr, we destroyed Mosul to save it. Easy to understand. Our present POTUS does the best job of explaining us to the world. The others before him were saying the same thing, of course. He tells it like it is, although one might question if he understands what is.

      When did this all start with Iraq? Perhaps more accurate to say when did we put Iraq in our cross hairs. Probably the day after their war ended with Iran.

      We might also question when we were first declared morally bankrupt. That might be traced to the collapse of the USSR, where fear of a formidable enemy was our moral compass and then it was gone. It took a while to get over the bloody nose we got in Vietnam but I doubt we would have totally forgotten it the USSR had not collapsed.

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