The Iraqi government and its allies may eventually capture Mosul from Isis, but this could be just a new chapter in the war.
It will only win because of the devastating firepower of the US-led air forces and sheer weight of numbers. But the fight for the city is militarily and politically complex. The Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga, Shia Hashd al-Shaabi and Sunni fighters from Mosul and Nineveh province, which make up the anti-Isis forces, suspect and fear each other almost as much as they hate Isis.
The Western media is portraying the first advances towards Mosul as if it is as orderly and well-planned as the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944. But in private Iraqis, who have seen many decisive victories turn out to be no such thing, are more sceptical about what they are seeing. One Iraqi observer in Baghdad, who did not want his name published, said that “the whole Mosul offensive seems to be a ramshackle affair held together by the expected high level of support from the US air force and special forces”.