Mosul: the city and province were once among Iraq’s crown jewels
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Photo: Nineveh was once Iraq’s breadbasket. Photo: FAO.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Mosul was once among Iraq’s most important industrial cities and a main source of income.
For more than two years it has been the ISIS stronghold in Iraq and is now at the center of a global coalition to evict the militants from what is Iraq’s second-largest city.
Economic analysts estimate the city’s natural resources to be abundant, rich in sulfur, cement factories, oil, gas and wheat.
“The ecological structure of Mosul is rich in minerals, some of which are rare in Iraq,” Dr Bewar Khansi, economic advisor at the Kurdistan Security Protection Agency, told Rudaw.
“There is a plant in Nineveh for producing sulfur called the Meshraq Sulfur Plant, with an annual capacity of one million tons of sulfur,” he said. “Nineveh sulfur reserves reach nearly 600 million tons, with an estimated worth of $10 billion.”
Sulfur is a versatile mineral used to produce a variety of things, namely military ammunition.
ISIS has used sulfur as a deadly poison in many of its attacks. Large reserves of sulfur produced at the Meshraq plant fell to ISIS when it took over Mosul in June 2014. Since then, some of the sulfur stocks have since been destroyed in coalition airstrikes.
Khansi notes that Mosul is also rich in a variety of valuable rocks that are found in the Nineveh plains, “such as marble, ceramic and carbonate rocks.” He said that the area of the Yezidi town of Shingal has some of the best marble in the region.
Water rich in minerals also counts among the natural wealth of Mosul. This water is often used for medical treatment by locals and draws tourists to the hub of Hamam Halil.
Mosul is dotted with more than 1,000 factories producing cement or concrete masonry units (CMU). This was used for local construction projects and, before the ISIS takeover, was supplied to other Iraqi provinces as well.
In addition, Mosul is home to one of the country’s biggest sugar plants, fed by sugarcane produced locally in the Nineveh plains.
Nineveh province is also rich in oil and gas. There are 22 oil and gas wells – mostly in the Kurdish-inhabited areas of the region – some of them currently operational and the rest under exploration, a source from Nineveh’s Oil Body told Rudaw.
According to the source, there are currently seven oil producing wells in the province, with three of them protected by the Peshmerga: The Batma well has a daily capacity of 1,000 barrels of oil, Ayn Zala can produce 5,000 barrels daily and Sufayeya has a daily capacity of 4,000 barrels.
In the past, some of the oil from these three wells was transported to the Kaske oilfield, and some to Turkey’s Ceyhan Port, through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.
Four other oil wells are located in Qayyara, Najma, Qasab and Bajawan, with a total daily capacity of 20,000 oil barrels per day. The Qayyara fields were recently retaken by the Iraqi army from ISIS.
Iraq’s oil ministry says that the Alan, Ibrahim, Sasan and Atshana oilfields are now also ready to become operational.
There is also a gas well in Shingal that was discovered in 2012, but has not yet been assigned for production.
Qayyara and Kaske are two large refineries in Nineveh province, with a daily refining capacity of 10,000 barrels of oil. These were the main sources of fuel for ISIS over the two years it occupied the area.
Nineveh was once Iraq’s bread basket as well, with more than half of its nearly 13 million acres of its lands fertile, it accounted for 45 percent of Iraq’s overall wheat supply.
Despite all its wealth, this rich jewel of Iraq has been of little benefit to its people, since the ISIS takeover froze its resources.
Due to proximity, the Kurdistan Region had been one of the biggest importers of Mosul’s natural wealth, forming a special economic bond between Mosul and Kurdistan.
OPINION: Why Mosul is more than just a battle
‘Even those who oppose each other are fighting together to liberate Mosul’. (AFP)
By Turki Aldakhil
Tuesday, 25 October 2016
The city of Mosul has had a history of trade and co-existence. Since the old Islamic era, it has been known as one of the most important music centers in the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. Abu Isaac of Mosul and Ziryab grew up here.
It is likely that the Arab Muwashshah – among the most ancient poetic and musical genre – emerged from here and were influenced by the music of the Syrian church. The city has always been known for its tolerance and coexistence.
Mosul is also known for its singers who mastered maqams – the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music – particularly in the beginning of the 20th century. Mullah Othman al-Mosuli, Ahmed Abdelqader al-Mosuli and Hanna Boutros were some of its best exponents.
Brothers Jamil and Mounir Bachir have been famous musicians who mastered the oud and maqams. Mosul hosted people of different faiths, from Christianity to Muslims and Yazidis. It contains a legacy of humanity and co-existence.
All this rich history, however, did not safeguard Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which entered the city amid the delinquency of the Iraqi government on June 6, 2014 following a brutal battle.
Iraqi soldiers admitted that their leaders ran away and said they were not trained to thwart such attacks. The residents of Mosul were forcefully displaced and ISIS acquired a new and different demography. ISIS imposed a strict system based on eliminating anyone who opposed it.
All this played out in full view of the entire world. The first party to benefit from ISIS’s entry into Mosul was Iraq’s sectarian regime, headed at the time by Nouri al-Maliki. When US President Barack Obama announced the battle to liberate Mosul, The Washington Post wrote that with tens of thousands of Iraqi army and militia forces deployed, backed by US airpower and artillery, the military outcome can hardly be in doubt.
As the history of previous offensives in Iraq has painfully demonstrated, an enduring defeat of ISIS will depend mostly on non-military factors, including the physical and humanitarian costs it imposes and whether it is followed by workable political arrangements.
Even those who oppose each other are fighting together to liberate Mosul. Turkey and Iran and Peshmerga, aided by the US, are fighting in this war to crush ISIS. However, each party has its own aims. Turkey is participating in the campaign regardless of the Iraqi position. Ankara calls its intervention legitimate as a member of the international coalition against ISIS.
Turkey thinks this gives it the right to intervene in the battle for Mosul. It also bases its decision on UN Security Council Resolution 2249, issued in 2015. This is in addition to the 1926 Ankara Treaty and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Turkey believes these agreements give the country the right to strongly intervene.
All this is happening when Iraqi regime is being sharply criticized. However, Turkey views this intervention as a matter of national security in which Iraqi prime minister Haidar al-Abadi does not have the right to maneuver around.
It is important that the entire world gets together to defeat ISIS. The battle for Mosul may weaken the extremist organization, especially if it manages to overcome the sectarian divide or halt the demographic change in the city.
Restoring the demographics
Mosul has witnessed demographic changes if one looks at the displacement of Sunnis in particular. We must look back at former PM Nouri al-Maliki’s decisions that facilitated ISIS entry into Mosul. This is not pure sentimental talk.
Amnesty International says the Sunnis in Mosul face revenge attacks by sectarian militias. Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said: “Sunni Arabs in Iraq are facing brutal revenge attacks at the hands of militias and government forces, and are being punished for crimes committed by the group.”
Maliki clearly said that Shiite militias will not only fight in Mosul and Aleppo but will also reach Yemen. There appears to be an intention to export Mosul’s crisis to the region and bring this tense situation to countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The battle for Mosul is necessary to deter ISIS. Countries which are opposed to one another are participating in this battle as they believe the real triumph will be a victory in Mosul and not of a sectarian or ethnic faction. At the same time, we must also fight against any move to alter the demographics of the city no matter what the dominant religion or sect may be.
This battle is likely to prolong but will it achieve its objectives? It appears to be a difficult battle and may take longer than estimated. Mosul may be liberated but it will neither be the Mosul we have read about nor the Mosul we know.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 25, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies.
Last Update: Tuesday, 25 October 2016 KSA 13:54 - GMT 10:54