When Syrian artillery — and to a lesser extent air strikes — levelled vast swathes of Aleppo city during the 4-year-long Battle of Aleppo, the west screamed this was a war crime. Syrians on the other hand asserted that faced with manpower shortages on a long front against jihadis, up to half of them foreign and backed with money and arms from the US, Turkey, Saudi and Qatar, their heavy artillery was the one thing they had in their favour and the only realistically effective way of fighting was to use it.
Western interventionists declined that argument shrieking instead about “barrel bombs” — supposedly intentionally thrown on civilians, and alleged strikes on hospitals. However once the US-Iraqi offensive on jihadis in Mosul began the attacking forces resorted to the very same artillery-heavy and air-strikes-heavy tactics. One difference this time was that western interventionists this time could not be heard complaining.
Another difference was that the Syrians had at least called for civilians to leave rebel-held areas (which largely happened), whereas Baghdad, realizing how costly it would be to house and feed 2 million refugees, told inhabitants of Mosul to wait out the battle in their homes.
The final major difference was that the final outcome in Mosul and Iraq was never in doubt. Baghdad had the moral support of the entire world and enjoyed massive US and NATO military backing (particularly in air strikes and artillery). Demonised and semi-isolated Damascus meanwhile had been fighting an existential battle against foreign-backed insurgents and facing a very real prospect of direct US intervention against it.
Yet for all their critique of Syrians when they launched their own offensive — in a position that was nowhere near as desperate as that of the Syrian government — the west opted for the very same firepower-heavy tactics. Here are the results; we give you before and after satellite photos from five different locations in western Mosul:
Mosul Hotel and Medical Complexes:
Southeast of the Medical Complexes:
Al Nuri Grand Mosque (the mosque itself was blown up by ISIS):
Fifth Bridge and surroundings:
Locations on a map: