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The Battle for Mosul: What does it mean for us?

There is no doubt whatsoever, the freeing of Mosul from Daesh will be a huge media story for the weeks or months ahead.  However, as the battle plays out on our TV screens and the commentators and experts have their say in studio discussions, we all need to reflect on some key issues.

What will this operation mean for Mosul, for Daesh – and, for us?  Beyond the lifting of oppression from the local people, beyond even its significance for Iraq and the wider region, we all; whosoever and wherever we are, even here in the UK - stand to benefit but also to suffer, if we are not careful.

When Daesh took Mosul in June 2014 they declared from one of the city’s mosques, the founding of its caliphate.  They proclaimed this as a major victory, because it linked its gaining of territory (they now ruled over a land area larger than the UK) with the establishing of its caliphate.  What a propaganda coup they thought!

The control of territory is so central to their self-identity, and vital to their perverse belief in their own legitimacy that it has become central in their presentation to the world of who they are. You can see this thinking in their administrative structures. They divide their management divisions into civilian and military.  They divide their land into provinces.  Their territory is their structure.  Their territory is them.

Control of territory opened up vital supply lines for Daesh, allowing the flow of goods to and from Turkey and Syria.  Critically, it also gave them access to oilfields and a major pipeline to Turkey so they could trade in stolen oil to fund their brutal activities.

The so-called caliphate with its land brought with it power and money.  But it also brought them propaganda power.  The terrorists once declared: according to an ancient prophecy, the town of Dabiq would be fought over in an apocalyptic battle between Christians and Muslims.  How wounding for their self-belief it must have been, then, when recently they were kicked out of the small Syrian town over a weekend.

Now for Daesh, the coming loss of Mosul will be disastrous; for their self-esteem, their fighting capability, their finances, their strategic power and, their propaganda image.

Let us be in no doubt when they do go down, they will lash out with every desperate trick they know.  A wounded rat is more dangerous than a healthy one.

They will watch for ways to attack decent people and their families, in countries far away from where they are being defeated. They hope this will distract people from focusing on their collapse.

We need to watch for them wherever, however – in our streets, our communities, on the internet; they may turn up and try to harm us.