Mosul is back in the Iraqi government’s hands and the war against the Islamic State seems to finally be approaching its end. This is the good news. But one of the byproducts of the campaign is that Iran’s reach now extends even deeper throughout Iraq and seems unlikely to go away any time soon.
For a country that has been all too accustomed to terrible news over the last fourteen years, the liberation of Mosul was a big breath of fresh air for Iraqis of all ethnicities and sectarian affiliations. The Islamic State, an organization so incredibly inhumane and medieval that it makes Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri look like a grandfatherly scholar, outlasted its welcome in Iraq’s second largest city long ago. So when the Iraqi army, the elite counterterrorism service, the federal police and the U.S.-led multilateral coalition finally squeezed ISIS fighters from a small enclave in the old city along the Tigris River after nine months of brutal house-to-house, room-to-room combat, there was plenty for Iraqis to celebrate.