Iraqi special forces advance towards the city of Mosul, Iraq on Oct. 19, 2016.
Photo by Khalid Mohammed/AP

Trump sees a conspiracy in the battle for Mosul

Mosul is not just Iraq’s second-largest city. As Zack Beauchamp explained yesterday, it’s also a key area seized by ISIS two years ago, which was immediately held out as powerful evidence of the terrorist group’s potency in the region.

A lot has changed since the summer of 2014. As ISIS has been pushed backwards and its territories have shrunk, Mosul has now become “the last major Iraqi population center under ISIS control,” which makes the newly launched Iraqi offensive in the city, backed by American airpower, that much more significant: an ISIS defeat in Mosul would be crushing for the network.

With this in mind, Fox’s Chris Wallace asked a good question at the presidential debate last night: “If we are able to push ISIS out of Mosul and out of Iraq, would you be willing to put U.S. troops in there to prevent their return or something else?”

Hillary Clinton’s answer touched on a few unrelated points, but she did answer the question: “I will not support putting American soldiers into Iraq as an occupying force. I don’t think that is in our interest, and I don’t think that would be smart to do. In fact, Chris, I think that would be a big red flag waving for ISIS to reconstitute itself.”

Donald Trump’s answer meandered in all sorts of odd directions, and he never got around to the point of the question, but he did raise a new conspiracy theory.
“But you know who the big winner in Mosul is going to be after we eventually get it? And the only reason they did it is because she’s running for the office of president and they want to look tough. They want to look good. He violated the red line in the sand, and he made so many mistakes, made all the mistakes. That’s why we have the great migration. But she wanted to look good for the election. So they’re going in.”
Clinton responded soon after, “I’m just amazed that he seems to think that the Iraqi government and our allies and everybody else launched the attack on Mosul to help me in this election, but that’s how Donald thinks. You know, he always is looking for some conspiracy.”

That’s true. In Trump’s mind, “they” – a group he never identified – launched a military offensive in Mosul, months in the making, led by the military of a foreign government, all because Hillary Clinton “wanted to look good for the election.”

This, according to the Republican presidential hopeful, is “the only reason” the battle for Mosul is underway.

As Trump conspiracy theories go, this is one of the sillier ones. In fact, by some measures, it’s almost a compliment: Hillary Clinton, a private citizen, four years removed from public office, has so much power and influence, she can apparently convince foreign governments to launch massive military operations – at a time of her choosing – simply to elevate her candidacy in a campaign she’s already winning.

That’s bonkers – even if ISIS lost Mosul today, it’s hard to imagine this changing the minds of many American voters – but Trump was nevertheless comfortable stating this as fact in front of a national audience.

One of a president’s chief responsibilities is understanding how best to use information and make the right call when confronted with difficult decisions. The fact that Donald Trump sees almost all information through a conspiratorial lens suggests a job in the White House probably isn’t for him.



Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Iraq and ISIS

Trump sees a conspiracy in the battle for Mosul