TEHRAN (Press Shia) – An American columnist said the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from the grip of Daesh demonstrated that the Arab country’s military troops have developed the capability to fight and defeat the terrorist group.

“…it demonstrated that the Iraqi armed forces have developed the capability of confronting and defeating Daesh (ISIL or ISIS),” Conn Hallinan from Berkeley told the Press Shia news agency.

Conn Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus. A retired journalism professor, he previously was an editor of People's World when it was a West Coast publication.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Press Shia: On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally declared victory of the country’s forces over the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group one day after the country’s military and Popular Mobilization Forces took full control of the northern city. The recapture of Mosul marks the biggest blow to the extremist group since it declared its so-called caliphate three years ago. What’s is your take on this victory?

Hallinan: It is important on several levels. First, it demonstrated that the Iraqi armed forces have developed the capability of confronting and defeating Daesh (ISIL or ISIS). Given that Daesh routed the Iraqi army when it initially took over Mosul, that is no small accomplishment. Two, it furthered a potential alliance between Iran and the US to fight terrorism—at least in Iraq. Washington’s charge that Iran is sponsoring terrorism is absurd. Iran is the victim of terrorism. Sunni extremism is the problem, and much of that can be laid at the feet of Saudi Arabia, whose brand of Islam is ideological oxygen for groups like al-Qaeda and the ISIS. The question now is, can the current Iraqi government lay out a political agenda that is inclusive of the Sunni minority? If it can, then this can turn into much more than a military defeat for the Daesh (terror group).

Press Shia:  The US claims that its support for the Iraqi army paved the way for the liberation of the northern city and seemingly it is seeking to hijack the victory. This is while that the United States attacked Iraq in a bid to push Iraqi forces to withdraw from Kuwait in 1990. Americans waged another war on Iraq in 2003 by occupying the country in an apparent attempt to overthrow former dictator Saddam Hussein. What do you think?

Hallinan: The US certainly played a role in the liberation of Mosul, but it was Washington’s 2003 invasion of Iraq that laid the groundwork for the formation of Daesh in the first place. The US invasion of Iraq is the single most disastrous event for the Middle East since the 1967 war with Israel. What we are seeing today is the direct outcome of George W. Bush’s ill-fated expedition to overthrow Hussein, although one must be careful there. The purpose was not so much to overthrow an individual than to strike at one of the few independent countries in the Middle East. Libya and Syria were next on the list, and of course the fallout from both those wars will reverberate for years to come. Yes, the US helped liberate Mosul, but since they were responsible for its fall in the first place that is hardly something that should give them bragging rights.

Press Shia: What might the future hold for the region now that the days of Daesh are numbered both in Iraq and Syria? Do you believe that any agreement between Moscow and Washington can help bring back peace to the volatile region?

Hallinan: I think Daesh had absorbed a serious blow, but I don’t think a fatal one. The ideology of Daesh is the ideology of Wahhabism, and Saudi Arabia continues to press that sectarian viewpoint on Islam throughout the world. Daesh is also fueled by the corruption of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council monarchs, and the continued interference of the old colonial powers, Britain, France, and of course, the US. While Riyadh spends tens of billions of dollars in its futile and criminal war in Yemen, poverty continues to grow in Saudi Arabia, and a distressing number of young Saudis go jobless. The ideology of Daesh may be grotesque, but it is a reflection of an on-going crisis brought on by the combination of the reactionary character of those who rule the Middle East, and their partners in the West.

So, can there be an alliance between Russia and the US to bring peace? The potential is there, but living here in the US I have my doubts. The demonization of Russia is quite breathtaking, and from someone who had a front row seat for the McCarthy anti-communist crusade and the Cold War, it is quite chilling to see.  

Certainly, there is sound reason for such an alliance, and it would help end the ruinous Syrian civil war. There is a lot of common ground for both Moscow and Washington. But will the US go there? As I said, I have my doubts. Except for its nuclear weapons—and if we ever go there all this discussion is quite academic since life as we know it will be exterminated—Russia is not threat to the US. The situation in the Ukraine is a local affair, brought on by NATO’s relentless march east. The Russians do not threaten Europe. But you wouldn’t know that by reading the American press. There are simply no voices with a contrary view, something that did exist even in the middle of the Cold War.

The US has much in common with Iran as well, but again, Americans are rarely exposed to that point of view. It is the height of irony that the US is aiding Saudi Arabia in its war on the Houthis, who are by far the most effective forces confronting al-Qaeda and Daesh in Yemen, while as the same time cooperating with Iran to fight Daesh in Iraq. Objectively, the basis for an alliance—or at least close cooperation—between the US and Russia exists. However, getting there will require Washington changing its tune on evil Russian bear. I am ever hopeful, but also a bit cynical.