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Last night, insurgents from the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized Mosul, the largest and most important city in northern Iraq. While Ramadi and Fallujah, Sunni-dominated towns in al Anbar have long been peripheral to Iraq, Mosul is not: Saddam Hussein recruited much of his officer corps from the town. Divided between Kurds and Arabs, Mosul has been more an ethnic flashpoint in Iraq than even Kirkuk, a city two hours away which receives the lion’s share of Western attention. And it has long been tense. I visited Mosul earlier this year. As I approached the city, soldiers at Iraqi checkpoints repeatedly warned me to stay away, telling me it was not safe for a Westerner. Already a tinderbox, the Syrian refugees at almost every intersection begging simply added fuel to the fire.
The Washington Post reported on a press conference given by Osama Nujaifi, brother to Mosul Governor Atheel Nujaifi, and the speaker of Iraq’s parliament, easily the most important Sunni Arab politician in Iraq:
When the battle got tough in the city of Mosul, the troops dropped their weapons and abandoned their posts, making it an easy prey for the terrorists,” he told a televised news conference in Baghdad. All key facilities are now controlled by the insurgents, including the airport and the prisons, said Nujaifi, who is from Mosul. “Everything is fallen. It’s a crisis,” he said, appealing for international and government help to retake the city. “Having these terrorist groups control a city in the heart of Iraq threatens not only Iraq but the entire region.
Mosul’s fall to al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents should be a wake-up call both to the West and to the Arab world. A few lessons for the White House to learn:
So what should the West do?
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