For weeks, there was much talk in Baghdad about an impending campaign to liberate Mosul after months of ordeal under jihadi occupation.
Iraqi hopes of success in regaining control of the nation’s No. 3 city rose after Islamic State forces were partly driven out of Baiji, a strategic town on the main road to Mosul.
If the Iraqis consolidate their hold on the area, they can cut off the IS garrison in Tikrit, another major Sunni city still under its control.
That in turn would pave the way for liberating a number of other towns and villages, notably Samarra and Dujayl, that IS had planned to use as its launching pad for an attack on Baghdad.
This week, however, the on-the-way-to-Mosul chorus has been toned down somewhat. Officials no longer use such terms as “impending” or “imminent” to describe the liberation campaign.
According to Iraqi sources, the change in tone was prompted, at least in part, by conflicting signals from Washington.
The first signal, according to Iraqis, came when Washington refused to change the rules under which Iraqi forces can call for US airstrikes in support of a ground operation.
Under President Obama’s orders, such “calls” must be cleared with Washington — presumably with the White House itself.
The president has also rejected an Iraqi request to have US military technicians and logistical experts present in “theaters” where battles are under way.