Iraqi forces continue to close in on Mosul, the last stronghold of ISIS in Iraq. The offensive has faced challenges because of improvised explosive devices, including the combustion of oil fields in the country.

GroundTruth Project director and news analyst Charlie Sennott came to BPR to talk about how the offensive is proceeding, as well as to explain the meaning of the burning oil fields. Sennott said that it represents a symbol of retreat for ISIS, as it did for the former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein.

“I’ve seen those oil fields burning before. It’s really a uniquely horrifying vision of the apocalypse, which is a very pyrotechnic display of retreat in Iraq,” said Sennott.

He explained that while a victory for the Iraqi-Kurdish forces is likely, taking back Mosul would be only the beginning. Sennott stressed that the real issue after the military offensive will be restoring the trust of the Sunni minority in Iraq.

“This Iraqi army... They will win,” he said. “They will win militarily, but that doesn't mean this is over, in any stretch of the imagination, if you don’t actually solve that distrust among the Sunni of a Shi’a-led government back in Baghdad.”

Sennott claimed that this lack of trust, the unrest in Iraq, and modern conflict in the Middle East in general, is rooted in the political division of the region after World War I. He says colonial powers drew boundaries without considering ethnic and nationalist loyalties.

“It was done in a way that was pretty arrogant and, some might argue, flawed,” said Sennott.

He stressed that while these mistakes are dealt with, there will be major consequences, including a strain on the resources of the international community.

“This is a hundred year event. This really hasn't happened since World War I that you’ve had this level of disruption of civilian life in the Middle East,” he said. “We are now talking about millions of refugees.”