Mosul is an important city of 1.8 million in predominantly Sunni area of Iraq. The question is what will all the major players in the battle to retake it from Daesh do after it is retake from Daesh? The kurds, Turks, Iraqi government, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Shia militias, Sunnis, Russia and the United States all have different agendas. The question of the city’s future is also the question of Iraq’s future.  Will the parties come together to find compromise for peace or is it just another reason for continuous war and animosity between rival interests? Let’s look at the interests of the major players and his they differ.

The Sunnis want control of the city and have it be the capital of either a independent state or autonomous province of Iraq. The Sunnis since the fall of Saddam have been sidelined by Iranian backed parties and militias. They feel that their power has been eroded and their control of the country taken away. This explains why Mosul was quickly taken over by Daesh with the cooperation of local tribes which either fought with or stayed on the sidelines and watch the Iraqi Army flee the city.  To this group we must add former Baath party members and former Saddam Hussein army loyalist to the batch of Daesh collaborators. Will they continue their support for subversive actions against the Iraqi central government or try to reconcile? I believe that they will do the later only because they are in a weaken position and cannot by themselves take the city let alone the province of Anbar back without a disastrous consequences to the Sunnis population living there. Their hope lies with the pressure the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia taking an active role to negotiate favorable terms for a autonomous province. The Iraqi Kurds will also favor this in my mind to lessen the reach of the central government and stay in good terms with Turkey and the United States.

Iran would like to increase the control and influence of the Iraqi government further north but they also have good relations with the Iraqi Kurds and would be amiable to a weak Anbar province with some autonomy but still firmly under the control of Bagdad. Their main interest would be to pacify the province, marginalize the Sunnis without causing another rebelion. Another step would be to use the Shia militias and potentially the Iraqi in an offensive on the Syria-Iraqi border against Daesh. They could push on to Deir Ezzooz in the hopes of relieving the surrounded Syrian Army there. This will make the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar uneasy and difficult for them to support such a push that will aid Assad and potentially drive thousands of Daesh foreign fighters home to Europe. Tens of thousands of militias and Iraqi Army troops crossing the border could potentially free up the Syrian Army to concentrate on other groups especially in province of Aleppo the which could mean the defeat of the opposition and any chance of regime change.

The Saudis and I would have to add the Gulf States would like to see Daesh survive and live to fight another day. This would be their first choice. They would like to maintain a level of conflict in Iraq in order to tie up Iranian Shia militias and the Queds Force in Anbar. This make them split resources between Iraq and Syria and limit their effectiveness. If Daesh is pushed out of Iraq they would do everything possible to stop the Iraqi Army from pursuing them into Syria via diplomatic pressure and Security Council resolutions. But Russian veto will make this vertually  impossible. Their only recourse will be to try to either spur another rebellion or more overtly arm and finance Daesh. The first will be more difficult without direct US support and the later more likely.

The United States will try to bring everyone at the table but will have a hard time getting all the different parties together. Another issue is can the US  even find or create a unified Iraqi Sunni leadership to sit at the table? The Kurds and the Shia will most likely find faults or deligilimatize anyone the U.S. will sit in front of them.The U.S. will find an ally in Turkey and Saudi Arabia but their interests are not aligned with ours. This will be an uphill battle to get anything resembling a truely autonomous Anbar province whereby the Sunnis don’t feel betrayed. The US will also try to block any attempt by Shia militias and the Iraqi Army to push to the border. Damascus would certainly give a public and under international law a legal invitation to Bagdad to cross the border to chase Daesh. This will be an embarrassment to Washington and very difficult to publicly denounce since it would be in the name of defeating Daesh a public policy of the United States for years now. 

Russia only cares about Russia. It does not see Iran’s rising influence in the region as a threat and actually welcomes it in order to undermine US hegemony in the area, weaken Saudi Arabia, contain Islamists in Afghanistan and the Middle East and last of all but very importantly make sure that natural gas never flows from the Gulf all the way to Europe.Russia would welcome central government control over Mosul and any push into Syria by the Iraqis. Recently the Russians have made overtures to Ankara as well as to the Kurds both in Syria and Iraq. Any move by Turkey to placate the Kurds will surely be made with grand statements of supports for Kurdish rights. The Russians are the ones with the least to lose but will be winners no matter the outcome in Mosul and because of this will support and undermine all parties simultaneously.

For Turkey the issue is how best to maintain Sunni control of Anbar, weaken Iran and Assad, keep the Iraqi Kurds in check, and not seem to be aiding Daesh. This would be literally a catch 22. If they support the Sunnis too much the Kurds will feel betrayed for not gaining anything. This will make their policy of not aiding their brothers in Syria more difficult for their populace to continue to accept.The Iranian government will be more confrontational with Turkey and could push for move involvement in Syria. If they abandon the Sunnis then an Iranian backed government wins more control and the Kurds will seize the opportunity for expantion. Their best bet would be to let all win but not too much. A weaken Sunni minority with some autonomy, an Iarqi central government mostly back in control of Anbar and some territorial consentions to the Kurds. A tough pill to swallow to say the least and even harder to balance.

Another party to this great game as some have called is Israel. They have been able to mostly stay out of the limelight but have been engaged quietly in the the Middle East chaos. The Mossad and the IDF has been covertly acting in the conflict from giving medical support to rebels on the Golen Heights, to occasionally bombing Syrian targets and assassinating Hezbollah fighters, and supplying weapons and intelligence to various groups fighting Assad. Based on speeches of several current and former military and intelligence officers, they would like nothing more then to have the war continue in Syria and in Iraq to bleed and occupy Iran and Hezbollah. For them the war is not about Daesh or even Assad but the fear of growing Iranian influence on their door step. They will try to continue the destabilization of both countries in order to check Iran even if it means Daesh surviving.