Great, long backgrounder on the ISIS takeover of Mosul and Sunni Iraq generally, now appended to parts of what was once Syria. This development was not entirely unexpected, it seems:
Just days ago, ISIS pushed forward from its safehouses and camps in the Nineveh Governorate, which it had won control over in the past months, to take over the city of Mosul. It has attacked several other cities in northern Iraq as well, and disrupted the siege that federal forces in Iraq brought against it and its allies in Al Anbar Governorate this Spring. Mosul was living under a state of siege with the government resorting to an air bridge due to the danger ISIS ambushes posed to highway traffic. The group has for over a year now been following a strategic campaign it dubbed "Soldier's Harvest": the aim has been to retake the territories lost by al Qaeda-aligned jihadists during the final years of the U.S. Occupation byterrorizing the local authorities into quitting the fight. ISIS would then fill the resulting vacuum caused by their retreat. "This started in rural sections of Iraq such as the desert regions of Anbar and the Hamrin Mountains that stretch across Diyala and Salahaddin [Saladin]," wrote Iraq watcher Joel Wing, and "now ISIS is moving into urban areas."
UPDATE: I know this is basically anecdotal taxi driver journalism stuff but the shawarma joints run by Syrian Kurds on our part of Cheetham Hill Road were buzzing tonight. These are a fairly recent phenomenon here, and seem to have in large part replaced a wave of vaguely Iranian cafes that suddenly appeared around 2008. Whatever. The thing is, a while back I noticed that one of these places had a collection box for medical aid for Rojava on the counter and when I asked about it I ended up having an interesting chat with the man behind the counter slinging the fatteyah dough, a job for which he seemed to be considerably overqualified.
Anyway, the idea was that Syrian Kurdistan - Rojava - would take the opportunity of the anti-Assad uprising to establish de facto autonomy, then come to terms with Iraqi Kurdistan and then, when the time was right, there would be a Kurdish state. We didn't get into the PKK-Turkey situation.
Well, as of a couple of hours back there was a buzz all the way up the road, from Bakery and Company to the Cheetham Star, and there were bills and posters up with the red-yellow-green tricolour, also the Kurdish 'sun' flag. I didn't have a conversation with anyone. It was obviously 'our thing', people huddled around some guy talking on a cellphone and repeating what he was hearing to the group. But I did get the impression that the schedule had moved forward.
Like I say, strictly anecdotal stuff, the view of a viewer of interested parties from faraway Manchester 8. But I've also seen pictures ISIS grubbing out the border posts between Syria and Iraq and it seems to me that no-one is in a position to put them back. That has implications all over the region. Sykes-Picot, he dead.