Iraq News
Terrorism

Mosul battle lays bare ISIL's internal tensions

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi forces found this photograph of a group of 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' fighters on a cell phone confiscated from the group. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

In stark contrast to the propaganda put forth by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) media machine, the fighting in Mosul has exposed the "fragile structure" of the group, Iraqi officials and analysts tell Diyaruna.

While ISIL claims its ranks are united and robust, the group's true status has been exposed, they said, noting that it is rife with personal disputes among its leaders and occasionally plagued by bloody internal conflicts.

The group's brutality and disregard for life is not reserved for its enemies but also is manifest among its own members, said Ninawa provincial council security committee member Sheikh Binyan al-Jarba.

"We receive information every day out of Mosul neighbourhoods still under ISIL's occupation indicating there are serious differences and divisions among organisation members themselves," he told Diyaruna.

These are mainly centred on differences about how to manage the fighting, al-Jarba said, adding that the disappearance of many of the group's top-ranking leaders from the battlefields has exacerbated these divisions.

Many ISIL commanders "have fled Mosul with their families and left their subordinates , both lower-ranked commanders and regular elements, to face their evident fate of annihilation at the hands of the army and the police," he said.

"This abandonment has brought about a state of discontent and anger among ISIL's militants with their leaders, resulting in a severe degrading of morale," he said.

This internal discord has made it more difficult for ISIL to mobilise its fighters to stage attacks, he said, adding that "suicide operations have become their last option for shaking off the bitterness of defeat".

Growing internal tensions

The friction among ISIL elements has been brewing for about a year, Kurdistan Democratic Party in Mosul media officer Said Mamuzini told Diyaruna.

"The fighting for Mosul's liberation has helped widen the rift the group had already been suffering from, and which over the last year has led to the death of at least 300 ISIL terrorists," he said.

"Hardly a day goes by that we do not receive news of a prominent leader escaping from Mosul to the [Syrian] city of al-Raqa," he said.

In early December, an ISIL leader known as Abu Anas al-Suri fled with his family for Syria, Mamuzini said.

"The conflict between ISIL's elements is at its peak," he said. "The state of collapse and the one defeat after another the organisation has been taking have heated up quarrels between its members."

Disagreements on defence and resistance lines in recent weeks have sparked armed clashes between ISIL elements in Mosul neighbourhoods still under the group's control, such as al-Yarmouk, which witnessed bloody clashes, he added.

Leadership losing support

Intelligence information indicates that "divisions have reached the point that some ISIL leaders are even demanding to oust Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as leader for his failed management and direct responsibility for the defeats ", Mamuzini said.

In mid-October, a few days before Iraqi forces kicked off the operation to liberate Mosul, news reports revealed al-Baghdadi had quelled a plot to topple his leadership.

Dozens of the instigators were drowned to death, including "five leaders close to al-Baghdadi", Mamuzini said, noting that others may attempt the same course of action as ISIL's losses continue to mount.

The victories achieved against ISIL have exposed the fragility of the group's structure, said strategic expert and former Iraqi military officer Ahmed al-Sharifi.

They also have exposed the weak relations among ISIL elements, which the group has been trying to hide with its propaganda, he told Diyaruna.

"The fighting has exposed the terrorists," he said. "The escape of their leaders, the repeated clashes, and the chaos and frustration engulfing the organisation's elements are yet another gain on the ground by our forces."

"ISIL is experiencing a stage of attrition that has claimed all of its human and financial resources, and it is incapable of rebuilding itself or blending in with local residents, since everybody rejects it," al-Sharifi said.

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Iraq cannot take out ISIL alone given its strength. Younis Elwan, Morocco

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