Mosul also seems to be out of line with Baghdad’s strategic priorities, increasingly guided by Iran, which exerts significant influence in Baghdad and prioritizes defending the capital while accepting only limited risks in counter-offensives launched in Sunni regions. “I don’t think Mosul fits in to Iran’s strategic priorities at all,” said Jim Dubik a retired army general who oversaw the training of Iraqi security forces in 2007 and is now a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of War. Iran’s attitude towards Mosul, according to Dubik: “ I think they’d be fine to see it fester.”
The fact that a near term Mosul offensive seems totally out of line with U.S. plans, counter to Iranian priorities, and dangerously impractical, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. “The Iraqis can make a decision to launch it any time they want,” Dubik said. There’s a precedent for Iraqi leaders upsetting the plans and expectations of their foreign counterparts, Dubik said, pointing to a 2008 military operation in the southern city of Basra that caught American planners by surprise.
As U.S. generals and policy makers made the rounds discussing Iraq policy this week, there was, notably, no mention of any plan to clear the Islamic State, also called ISIS, from its headquarters in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.