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Kurdish-controlled Erbil feels few shockwaves from Mosul

Reporter: Natalie Carney 丨 CCTV.com

10-21-2016 14:23 BJT

The capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq is only 80 kilometers from Mosul and 50 from the frontlines of the one of the country’s largest ever military operations. Yet the city of Erbil so far has felt few shockwaves emanating from the conflict.

It’s a warm fall evening in the heart of Erbil and its residents are out -- almost oblivious to the war happening just a few kilometers away, if it weren’t for the public TV screens that usually broadcast football matches.

And just like football teams, Iraq is a rich blend of diverse ethnic players.

Erbil, a mostly Kurdish city, is controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga who have fought hard to keep ISIL away.

But Mosul, a predominantly Sunni Arab city, was quickly captured by the Shi’ia government-backed Iraqi army in 2014.

Now, better trained, equipped and supported -- the Iraqi army is trying to win it back with the help of Peshmerga forces on the ground and an international coalition in the skies above.

Despite ISIL’s control of neighboring Mosul over the last two years, the terrorist group has never been able to penetrate Erbil. Life here has remained a stark contrast to that in Mosul. All the same, there is certainly concern over what will happen next.

While the coalition’s offensive has so far been concentrated in the villages surrounding Mosul, the Iraqi government says only the Iraqi army will enter Mosul.

“It will not be good from the sectarian angle. If the Shi’ia militia enter Mosul it will not be good for the Peshmerga. Our income from petroleum will decrease. And as young people, we don’t want the Peshmerga to enter Mosul either. They should control the villages around Mosul. Iraqi and American forces should carry on the fight for Mosul," said Erbil resident Mohammed Chatlas. 

Sunni Turkey argues it can provide a balance to this delicate mix and avoid a potential sectarian civil war.

Mosa Hazir disagrees. He and his family fled the Christian village of Bartella just east of Mosul two years ago when ISIL took control.

However, Mosa is now smiling, as it was one of the nearly 20 villages liberated by the coalition forces Thursday. As part of the Christian minority, his main concern is that his city is controlled by an Iraqi, from Erbil or Baghdad.

“There is no difference between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces. We are all working for Iraq. Its doesn’t matter to me if Peshmerga enter Mosul. But I am against any foreign forces in Iraq," said Erbil resident Mosa Hazir.

There are others still who want to see a multi-party union controlling Mosul.

“When the operation to liberate Mosul is completed a coalition should be formed with an agreement from all sides and they should control Mosul and all areas surrounding it," said Erbil resident Sefin Khalid.

While the residents of Erbil applauded the gains made in the battlefield – that battlefield feels world’s away.

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