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Tag Archives: Iraq

How the people of Mosul subverted Isis ‘apartheid’

The day Isis attacked Mosul, Wassan, an affable young doctor with a cherubic face, ran from the maternity ward to the emergency room at Jimhoriya hospital. Injured civilians had begun pouring in. Wassan had just graduated from medical school, and had no experience in treating trauma casualties. As the wounded continued to arrive, what she lacked in knowledge she tried to make up for with enthusiasm.

By the evening, the wards were overflowing, patients spilling into the corridors. Wassan slept overnight in the hospital, ignoring her father’s incessant phone calls to come home.

The next morning, when mortar shells started falling near the hospital, doctors and patients alike piled into ambulances and fled across the bridge to the east side of the city.

There, they heard the news. The governor and senior generals had fled. Western Mosul had fallen.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/jan/30/mosul-isis-apartheid

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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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The bureaucracy of evil: how Islamic State ran a city

Every day, early in the morning, the former missile scientist would leave his house in Mosul. Riding buses, or on foot – he could no longer afford petrol – he’d call on friends, check on his mother or visit his sister’s family. Sometimes he’d hunt for cheap kerosene, or try to score contraband books or cigarettes. Most often, he’d meander aimlessly – a traveller in his own city.

In the evening, he’d sit at his old wooden desk, bent over his notebook, recording the day. Most of what he wrote was banal: the price of tomatoes, a quarrel with his wife. But he also wrote his observations of the remarkable events unfolding in Mosul.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/jan/29/bureaucracy-evil-isis-run-city-mosul

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2018 in Middle East

 

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It’s time we saw economic sanctions for what they really are – war crimes

The first pathetic pieces of wreckage from North Korean fishing boats known as “ghost ships” to be found this year are washing up on the coast of northern Japan. These are the storm-battered remains of fragile wooden boats with unreliable engines in which North Korean fishermen go far out to sea in the middle of winter in a desperate search for fish.

Often all that survives is the shattered wooden hull of the boat cast up on the shore, but in some cases the Japanese find the bodies of fishermen who died of hunger and thirst as they drifted across the Sea of Japan. Occasionally, a few famished survivors are alive and explain that their engine failed or they ran out of fuel or they were victims of some other fatal mishap.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/economic-sanctions-north-korea-syria-hospital-supplies-a8168321.html

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2018 in Asia, Economy, Middle East

 

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Why are doctors in the Middle East cosying up to foreign armies?

Foreign doctors in war zones have to talk to the bad guys. Always. NGOs need protection, they have to negotiate checkpoints, they sometimes have to bribe gunmen with food – think Darfour. Sometimes – remember Afghanistan and the ICRC – they are murdered. But the sieges of cities and towns in the Middle East these past two years have produced a new and more profoundly disturbing challenge: medical aid groups who embed themselves in armies and militias and thus align themselves with one side in the conflict.

Jonathan Whittall of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) first raised the alarm during and after the siege of Mosul when doctors and medical personnel sometimes allowed local security forces to check the identity of patients entering their hospitals or aid centres. “Sometimes they gave the names of patients to the local secret services,” Whittall told The Independent. “Horrific compromises were made to work hand-in-hand with the international military coalition. The wounded were often not treated as patients but as suspects. This fundamentally compromises the trust patients have in medics. And this makes our work less effective”.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iraq-mosul-doctors-medicins-sans-frontieres-usa-army-humanitarian-a8160306.html

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2018 in Middle East

 

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In 2018 the barbarous wars in Iraq and Syria may finally be coming to an end

I spent most of the last year reporting two sieges, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, which finally ended with the decisive defeat of Isis. This was the most important event in the Middle East in 2017, though people are already beginning to forget how dangerous the Isis caliphate was at the height of its power and even in its decline. Not so long ago, its “emirs” ruled an area in western Iraq and eastern Syria which was the size of Great Britain and Isis-inspired or organised terrorists dominated the news every few months by carrying out atrocities from Manchester to Kabul and Berlin to the Sahara. Isis retains the capacity to slaughter civilians – witness events in Sinai and Afghanistan in the last few weeks – but no longer has its own powerful centrally organised state which was what made it such a threat.

The defeat of Isis is cheering in itself and its fall has other positive implications. It is a sign that the end may be coming to the cycle of wars that have torn apart Iraq since 2003, when the US and Britain overthrew Saddam Hussein, and Syria since 2011, when the uprising started against President Bashar al-Assad. So many conflicts were intertwined on the Iraqi and Syrian battlefields – Sunni against Shia, Arab against Kurd, Iran against Saudi Arabia, people against dictatorship, US against a variety of opponents – that the ending of these multiple crises was always going to be messy. But winners and losers are emerging who will shape the region for decades to come. Over-cautious warnings that Isis and al-Qaeda may rise again or transmute into a new equally lethal form underestimate the depth of the changes that have happened over the last few years. The Jihadis have lost regional support, popular Sunni sympathy, the element of surprise, the momentum of victory while their enemies are far stronger than they used to be. The resurrection of the Isis state would be virtually impossible.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-iraq-isis-yemen-saudi-arabia-iran-trump-wars-coming-to-an-end-a8133356.html?amp

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2017 in Middle East

 

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What Does the Future of the Euphrates Spell for the Middle East?

Mohamed Fadel led me in the 110-degree heat through the Ishtar Gate, a soaring blue replica of the original made of blue enamel-glazed bricks and covered with bas-reliefs depicting dragons and bulls. We descended a stone staircase and walked along the Processional Way, the main promenade through ancient Babylon. Fifteen-foot-high mud-brick walls dating back 2,600 years lined both sides of the crumbled thoroughfare, ornamented by original friezes of lions and snake-dragons, symbol of the god Marduk, and carved with cuneiform inscriptions. “They brought down the building material for the promenade by boats along the river,” Fadel, an archaeologist, told me, mopping his forehead in the torpor of the July afternoon. The Euphrates cut right through the heart of the ancient city, he explained. Steep embankments on both sides provided protection from seasonal flooding. Just north of the metropolis flowed Iraq’s other great river, the Tigris, joined to the Euphrates by a latticework of waterways that irrigated the land, creating an agricultural bounty and contributing to Babylon’s unparalleled wealth.

It was here, 3,770 years ago, that King Hammurabi codified one of the world’s earliest systems of laws, erected massive walls, built opulent temples and united all of Mesopotamia, the “land between the rivers.” Nebuchadnezzar II, perhaps the city’s most powerful ruler, conquered Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and marched the Jews into captivity (giving rise to the verse from the 137th Psalm: “By the rivers of Babylon / There we sat down and wept / When we remembered Zion”). He also created the Hanging Gardens, those tiered, lavishly watered terraces regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. “In magnificence, there is no other city that approaches [Babylon],” the Greek historian Herodotus declared.

Back in Babylon’s prime, this stretch of the river was a showpiece of water management. “In marching through the country of Babylon,” the scholar Edward Spelman wrote, describing the campaigns of Persia’s Cyrus the Great, “they came to the canals which were cut between the Tigris and the Euphrates, in order, as most [ancient]authors agree, to circulate the waters of the latter, which would otherwise drown all the adjacent country, when the snows melt upon the Armenian mountains.” Edgar J. Banks, an American diplomat and archaeologist, writing of ancient Babylon in 1913, noted that “great canals, as large as rivers, ran parallel with the Tigris and Euphrates, and scores of others intersected the valley, connecting the two streams. There was scarcely a corner of the entire country,” he continued, “which was not well watered; and more than that, the canals served as waterways for the transportation of the crops.”

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-does-future-euphrates-spell-middle-east-180967224/

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Middle East

 

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After the liberation of Mosul, an orgy of killing

One hot and sticky evening in July, in the dying days of the battle for Mosul, a group of Iraqi army officers sat for dinner in a requisitioned civilian house not far from the ruins of the mosque where, three years earlier, the leader of Islamic State had announced the creation of a new caliphate.

At the head of the table sat the commander, large and burly, flanked by his two majors. The rest of the officers were seated according to rank, with the youngest officers placed at the far end. The commander, who was trying to lose weight, had banned his cook from serving meat at mealtimes, but tonight was a special occasion. The day before, his unit had liberated another block of streets in the Old City without suffering any casualties. In celebration, a feast of bread soaked in okra stew, and roasted meat shredded over heaps of rice flavoured with nuts and raisins, was laid out on a white plastic table.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/after-the-liberation-of-mosul-an-orgy-of-killing

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2017 in Middle East

 

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There’s no such thing as precise air strikes in modern warfare – just look at the civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria

The final elimination of Isis in Iraq and Syria is close, but welcome though the defeat of these monstrous movements may be, it has only been achieved at the cost of great destruction and loss of life. This is the new face of war which governments try to conceal: a limited number of combat troops on the ground call in devastating air strikes from planes, missiles and drones, be they American or Russian, to clear the way for their advance.

Governments pretend that air wars today are very different from Vietnam half a century ago when towns were notoriously “destroyed in order to save them”. These days air forces – be it the Americans in Iraq, the Russians in Syria or the Saudis in Yemen – say that this mass destruction no longer happens thanks to the greater accuracy of their weapons: using a single sniper, a room in a house can supposedly be hit without harming a family crouching in terror in the room next door.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/iraq-syria-theres-no-such-thing-as-precise-air-strikes-in-modern-warfare-a8087286.html?amp

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in Middle East

 

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The greatest dangers in the Middle East today are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman

I was in my room in the Baghdad Hotel on al-Sadoun street last Sunday evening, writing about the chances for stability in Iraq taking hold, when the walls and floor began to shake. They jerked sideways and up and down several times as if my room was the cabin of boat in a rough sea.

My first confused thought was – this being Baghdad – that there must have been some huge bomb explosion, which would explain the rocking motion of everything around me. But almost simultaneously, I realised that I had not heard the sound of an explosion, so a better explanation was that there was an earthquake, though I had never thought of Baghdad as being in an earthquake zone.

The jerking movements of the walls and floor of my room were so spectacular that I wondered if the building was going to collapse. I looked under the desk where I was sitting, but the space was too small for me to crouch in. I got down on my hands and knees and started to crawl towards the bathroom which is meant to be the safest place in the event of a bomb explosion, and I supposed the same must be true of earthquakes.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/middle-east-saudi-arabia-us-iraq-israel-iran-jared-kushner-bin-salman-greatest-dangers-a8060886.html?amp

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Middle East

 

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Live from Baghdad: the Secret of Iraq’s Renaissance

Baghdad

On a sandstorm-swept morning in Baghdad earlier last week, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the legendary deputy leader of Hashd al-Shaabi, a.k.a. People Mobilization Units (PMUs) and the actual mastermind of numerous ground battles against ISIS/Daesh, met a small number of independent foreign journalists and analysts.

This was a game-changing moment in more ways than one. It was the first detailed interview granted by Mohandes since the fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani – the immensely respected marja (source of emulation) and top clerical authority in Iraq – in June 2014, when Daesh stormed across the border from Syria. The fatwa, loosely translated, reads, “It is upon every Iraqi capable of carrying guns to volunteer with the Iraqi Armed Forces to defend the sanctities of the nation.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/16/live-from-baghdad-the-secret-of-iraqs-renaissance/

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Middle East

 

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