Iraq’s parliament investigates army capitulation to ISIS in Mosul
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.