Iraq’s parliament investigates army capitulation to ISIS in Mosul

Friday 17/07/2015
A fighter from the Islamic State mans an anti-aircraft gun in Mosul, in July 2014.

Baghdad - An Iraqi 26-member parlia­mentary committee inves­tigating the June 2014 army capitulation to Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the northern city of Mosul is report­ing problems getting answers from some of the top officials being ques­tioned.
Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, 405 kilometres north of the capital, fell on June 6, 2014, in an ISIS offen­sive that was directed more against Iraq’s western desert province of Anbar. At the time, Iraqi media re­ported that many troops in Mosul abandoned their positions, weapons and uniforms as they fled the mili­tants’ advance.
The army’s humiliating defeat was widely blamed on a lack of coordina­tion between the commander of the Iraqi armed forces; Nuri al-Maliki, who was then prime minister; and generals in the field. Media reports suggested Maliki declined a Kurd­ish offer to have peshmerga forces intercede to stop the ISIS onslaught.
Mosul’s capture was a disastrous setback for the Iraqi government and exposed the weaknesses of its army — once the world’s fifth larg­est before being dissolved in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Maliki, who agreed to step down to allow Haider al-Abadi to form a new cabinet on August 14, 2014, is one of two vice presidents who are both being questioned, according to Kurdish lawmaker Shakhawan Ab­dullah who is deputy to the inves­tigative committee’s chief, Hakem Zamli. The other vice president be­ing questioned is Osama al-Nujayfi, who was Iraq’s parliament speaker at the time of Mosul’s fall, Abdulah said.
“The committee is trying to iden­tify and hold accountable all those who were responsible for the fall of Mosul,” said Abdullah, a Kurdish lawmaker who is the rapporteur of the investigating committee and also a member of Iraq’s security committee.
He said the investigating commit­tee’s findings will be binding to the government, including the cabinet and the judiciary.
Abdullah said the focus of the investigation “is the role played by senior army commanders, officials in government, including parlia­ment, as well as local state repre­sentatives based in the city at the time”. Abdullah said the investiga­tion also includes Joint Operations Commander Lieutenant-General Abboud Qanbar, Ground Forces Commander Lieutenant-General Ali Ghaidan, and Commander of Nin­eveh Operations Lieutenant-Gener­al Mahdi al-Gharrawi.
Others being questioned include Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region since 2005, said Zamli who is also president of Iraq’s parliamentary Security and Defence Committee.
“Arrest warrants will be is­sued against all those proven to be involved in Mosul’s fall,” Zamli warned in an early July news con­ference in Baghdad. He said officials believed to have fled abroad would be arrested and extradited with as­sistance from Interpol.
Zamli admitted the investigation was facing hurdles, mainly difficul­ties receiving answers from some of the more than 100 public figures, including 36 top officials and wit­nesses, who were summoned for questioning.
He said Barzani refused to reply to some committee questions on grounds that some are “private”. But he noted without elaborating that Barzani’s partial reply was “use­ful” and provided insight to the in­vestigation.
Separately, Abdullah said in June that Maliki and Nujayfi did not re­spond at all.
He said Barzani only “replied to some of the 12 questions we asked him but most of his answers didn’t touch on how ISIS entered Mosul. The reply was rather on “Mosul’s situation two months before Daesh conquered it”, he added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
In a reply statement, the Kurdis­tan Region presidency said the com­mittee’s questions to Barzani had “indirect accusations” and that they were “irrelevant” and “misleading”. It implicitly accused Maliki of shoul­dering all responsibility.
Iraqi media quoted Abadi, the cur­rent Iraqi prime minister, as vowing to “punish” any official involved in crimes that resulted in Iraqi deaths. “No one will be immune from the le­gal accountability,” Abadi said.
Babacar Zebari, the army’s chief of staff, has publicly accused Maliki of the ultimate responsibility for Mosul’s fall. In remarks to local me­dia, he said Maliki ignored a request from Kurdish leaders pleading for air strikes on ISIS militants on the outskirts of Mosul, prior to the city’s fall. Commander of Nineveh Opera­tions Mahdi Gharrawi, in press re­marks before he disappeared in the wake of Mosul’s capture, said he and his forces had fought advancing ISIS militants until the army was ordered to retreat by Maliki, Ghaidan and Qanbar.
Gharrawi may face a military tri­bunal; if found guilty, he faces the death sentence.
Ghaidan, Qanbar and Gharrawi and other senior army officers who fled the battlefield before their troops when ISIS invaded Mosul have since disappeared.