As the battle for Mosul rages on, a look at the city before ISIS and after ISIS

RS Kalha @CatchNews | First published: 26 October 2016, 19:59 IST
Mosul Dris Okuducu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Dris Okuducu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Mosul is the second largest city in Iraq and is situated about 390 km north of Baghdad. Mosul used to be well connected by a four-lane expressway from Baghdad, which terminated further north at Zakhu, located on the Turkish-Iraq border.

But Mosul's greatest importance lies in the fact that it contains the largest urban conglomeration in the northern Arab Sunni heartland. It was the centre of nascent Iraqi nationalism and a city from which Iraqi military officers, posted there, successfully schemed and plotted the overthrow of the British-imposed Iraqi monarchy in 1958.

Also read - Even if Mosul is liberated, it won't be the end of Islamic State

During Saddam Hussein's time, he always kept a wary eye on political developments in Mosul and only his very trusted officers from the same tribal affiliation as his were posted to command the Mosul Brigade of the Iraqi army.

A rich cultural heritage

Mosul is an ancient city that has been continuously inhabited since Assyrian times. The historic site of Nineveh bears testimony to its rich cultural heritage and ancient civilization.

Since ancient times, Mosul has remained an important trade and commercial centre due its strategic location, with trade caravans passing through from Central Asia, Persia and India on to the Mediterranean ports and further afield to Europe.

As cotton was the main commodity of exchange, the word "muslin" is derived from the city's name.

In earlier days, it had the largest Christian population of Iraq; with churches, mosques, castles, monasteries and ancient historical sites that dotted the city. It would indeed be a tragedy of immense proportions, if ISIS with their skewed philosophy, were to have destroyed Mosul's ancient historical and cultural heritage. It would be a huge loss to mankind.

Mosul's fall

It is said that ISIS were able to capture Mosul fairly easily from the Iraqi army partly because the Shiite-led Baghdad government was least prepared and partly due to a large measure of Arab Sunni grievances that had accumulated over a period of time, ever since the overthrow of the Saddam regime by US military invasion of 2003 that deprived the Sunni ruling elite of all its military and governmental power.

The Sunnis in their northern Iraqi heartland have never reconciled to this loss of power and therefore were prepared to countenance the rule of the Sunni led ISIS, rather than the hated Shiites of the Baghdad government. Their continued resistance to Shiite led Baghdad government rule, is a direct consequence of the knowledge gained on what happened to the Sunni residents of Fallujah, Ramadi and Khalidiya; when these Sunni dominated cities were "liberated" by the Shiite militias of the Baghdad government. Most Sunni residents are still living in camps outside these cities.

"What will eventually remain of the city of Mosul is anybody's guess"

The present offensive of the Iraqi army that as presently constituted is nearly 90% Shiite, supported by the Shiite militias, the US Special Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Turkish forces conveniently stationed just north of Mosul; all have the makings of a sectarian bloodbath.