Assad is worried:
Both the Syrian army and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah have warned of what they have called a U.S. plan to open a path of retreat for Islamic State from Iraq into Syria. A Pentagon spokesman called the claim "ludicrous".
I noted that it seemed like Iraq was keeping the western side of Aleppo open to allow ISIL to retreat. Despite some claims to the contrary, the advances seem to confirm this.
This approach has been a longstanding practice of the Iraqi army to avoid trapping ISIL and forcing them to fight to the death. While I disagree with the idea of allowing enemies to survive to fight and kill you another day, this has been standard operating procedure for the Iraqis to keep your casualties this week lower. Tomorrow is another day to worry about the next week.
Further, the Iraqis would rather the enemy runs rather than fight inside the city of Mosul where civilians will be used as human shields and also get caught in the crossfire.
For the Syrians, the complaint is kind of funny given that during Iraq War 1.0, the Syrians funneled Sunni jihadis into Iraq where American, coalition, and Iraqi troops had to fight them and try to keep them from killing Iraqi civilians. So bust out a tiny violin for these Syrian complaints.
And keep in mind that the Syrians have been part of an effort to funnel Moslem refugees into Europe to put pressure on the Europeans to make nice with Russia by giving in to Russian goals for Ukraine and Syria in exchange for help in shutting down the refugee flow to Europe.
The Iraqis clearly aren't interested in blocking the western escape route, and have punted to the Americans:
"It is the responsibility of the coalition to cut the road to Syria for Daesh," Iraqi state television quoted Abadi as saying, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused the coalition earlier on Tuesday of planning to allow safe passage into Syria for IS militants fleeing the battle for Mosul.
As I also noted, I figured we would try to use our air power to smash up fleeing ISIL members. So it is possible that we can have a battle of annihilation and help the Iraqis avoid casualties among their troops and civilians.
But I'm skeptical that air power can manage to shoot up running ISIL forces as fully as we'd like, assuming that the jihadis learned any lessons from trying to run under our air umbrella.
Not much news this morning other than the fact that ISIL resistance is light on the approach to Mosul, relying on suicide car bombs and mortar fire to delay the Iraqi advance. No word on mines, booby traps, or physical obstacles to do the same.