Has the 'caliphate' begun to crack?

At least in Mosul, the answer appears to be yes. According to two sources, the local population has become so disenchanted with ISIS that an organized resistance has formed at the same time that the international anti-ISIS coalition has ramped up the pressure on Mosul. As a result, the so-called caliphate has begun purging less-than-satisfactory military leaders in the only style they know, according to the Free Beacon:

A synchronized attack on ISIS militants by unknown persons in the city of Mosul suggests spreading unrest in the last large city held by ISIS in Iraq.

Local sources in Mosul have told Iraqi media that ISIS terrorists were shot at by unknown men in several areas in Mosul. ISIS has deployed its fighters in the city to find the shooters. This is the largest synchronized attack since ISIS occupied the city in 2014, Daesh Daily reported Friday. …

The news site Sumaria reported Friday that Daesh militia are looking for unknown people in Mosul who tore up Daesh posters and pictures of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in different areas in the city. There are also reports of firefights within the ISIS police force as tension mounts and morale for the ISIS soldiers plummets. According to a Friday report by the Iraqi newspaper Mada, seven Daesh terrorists were killed in internal clashes between Daesh’s Islamic rules police, the hisbah, and security members.

Some Iraqi politicians have predicted that an insurrection will break out as the Iraqi army moves closer to liberating Mosul. An MP from Ninewa, Ahmed Al-Jubouri, who also leads an armed group, told an Iraqi newspaper on Wednesday that “People of Mosul are awaiting the start of the Ninewa liberation operations in order to revolt against Daesh.” He also says some of his fighters sneaked into Mosul city to carry out assassinations against ISIS terrorists.

Reuters confirms the rise of a resistance, although its report doesn’t speak to organized armed attacks on ISIS within the city:

Nearly two years since Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a sermon from that same mosque summoning Muslims worldwide to the “caliphate”, it is fraying at the edges.

As an array of forces make inroads into their territory spanning Iraq and Syria, the jihadis are becoming even harsher to maintain control of a population that is increasingly hostile to them, according to Iraqi officials and people who managed to escape.

“They are harsh, but they are not strong,” said Major General Najm al-Jubbouri, who is in command of the operation to recapture Mosul and the surrounding areas. “Their hosts reject them.”

How weak has ISIS become in Mosul? As the Iraqis drive northward from recently-liberated Fallujah, the terrorist army has begun cannibalizing its shari’a-enforcement squads in Mosul to reinforce the front:

Members of Islamic State’s vice squad, the Hisba, are increasingly being sent to the frontlines as designated fighters are killed off, according to people who escaped as well as Iraqi and Kurdish military and intelligence officials.

That means there are fewer militants to enforce the group’s draconian rules and dress code. But a 28 year-old teacher who recently fled Mosul said people were so afraid of the militants they did not disobey them even when they were not around.

And with these failures comes the usual pour encourager les âutres demonstration of killing off its own militants:

ISIS executed four of its top commanders in a public square in Mosul on Wednesday, according to multiple sources, including Bas News, a Kurdish news site. The commanders reportedly were convicted by a Sharia Court for high treason on June 22nd and hanged in Mosul the same day, according to media reports. The executions follow the hanging or beheading of 21 ISIS commanders since April and the executions of scores of ISIS fighters charged with desertion or collaborating with Iraqi Army agents.

None of these are especially good portents for ISIS. However, it would be a mistake to assume that their grip on Mosul will collapse in the next few days or weeks from its own internal contradictions, no matter how delicious that prospect might be. There may be cracks and their strength may be ebbing, but don’t expect a sudden retreat. That’s precisely what the executions are designed to prevent, and the central ISIS command is still strong enough to impose that brutal discipline on its own ranks.

On the other hand, it does appear that “Daesh” collapsed in Fallujah sooner than expected — after several weeks of fighting, that is:

Clearly, the momentum has shifted in Iraq, if not necessarily in Syria. But until the Iraqi Army can free and then also hold territories in its western desert, the fight will likely continue in the form of a very long game of whack-a-mole. AQI went to ground for a long while, too, and re-emerged as ISIS just as soon as the only field-capable force — the Americans — decided to leave. The jury’s still out on the Iraqis and their staying power. And don’t think for a moment that the people in Mosul and in Fallujah don’t know it.