The Iraqi army along with its Popular Mobilization Units (pro-government and largely Shia militias) and US-led coalition allies are set to begin the final push to take Mosul from Daesh (ISIS) any time now. And one Iraqi cleric is particularly excited for the upcoming battle. On the holiday of Ashura – when Shias commemorate the death of Husain Ibn Ali, considered by them a successor to the Prophet Muhammad – one Iraqi cleric said the retaking of Mosul will avenge Husain’s death, according to a video on Twitter.
Speaking to a crowd yesterday, leader of the pro-Iranian Ahl al-Haq militia Qais al-Khazali said “the battle of Mosul is revenge for the killing of Husain,” tweeted Abo al-Hoda al-Homs, a Syrian journalist. The video is from Al-Rafidain TV, an Iraqi channel.
The tweet has been retweeted over 500 times to date, and was also shared and translated by notable Syria analyst Hassan Hassan.
Husain’s death marks a notable event in Sunni-Shia relations. He was killed in the Battle of Karabala in the year 680, which he and his followers fought in opposition the rule of the Caliph Yazid. Husain and his followers – who would later become known as Shia Muslims – were massacred in the battle.
While al-Khazali’s words may be a rallying cry for some, they also threaten to cause interreligious problems in and around Mosul. There are wide fears of sectarian tensions due to the planned role of the Popular Mobilization Units in the battle. On top of this, some Iraqis have criticized Turkey’s military presence near the city, further complicating coordination in the fight against Daesh. Finally, there have additionally been disagreements between the Peshmerga (military of Iraqi Kurdistan) and the Iraqi army regarding Mosul in the past few months.
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