ISIS embraces total war as Mosul offensive continues

Smoke rises from a sulfur factory after Islamic Militants set fire to it releasing toxic smoke over the area at south of Mosul
Smoke rises from a sulfur plant near Mosul. Picture courtesy of HuffPo.

As the battle for Mosul has raged on since it began a week ago, reports of ISIS using civilians as human shields, sending suicide bombers to kill opposition troops, and acts of general barbarity have been widespread. ISIS is desperate, and their actions may be signs of confirmation that the Islamic State is on the path to dissolution. I wrote an article about that recently, which you can find here.

But beyond the Islamic State’s obviously immoral tactics that they might use on any village, ISIS has been using tactics not dissimilar from a scorched earth policy as it retreats further into the city. The most recent example of that is the intentional burning of an Iraqi sulfur plant, Al-Mishraq, in order to hurt advancing soldiers. Only two civilians have died from the toxic sulfur fumes, but many have had breathing problems and reports indicate that over a thousand are being treated for inhaling sulfur.

After the siege on Mosul began, ISIS tried to counter-punch the approaching Iraqi and Kurdish troops by attacking the city of Kirkuk. After only two days, the assault appears to have failed, however. Iraqi officials say that all of the ISIS attackers have been killed.

The amount of American troops in Iraq has increased to five thousand as the war has heated up, but the majority of soldiers in combat are Iraqi and Kurdish. Turkey also showed interest in involving itself with the offensive, but Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi was not interested.

“I know that the Turks want to participate, we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle,” he said in conversation with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. “If help is needed, we will ask for it from Turkey or from other regional countries.”

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