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The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection

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 Patrick Cockburn Archive
Isis execution squads have appeared in the streets of Fallujah, a city 40 miles west of Baghdad, with orders to kill anybody trying to flee or surrender as government forces advance towards this Isis stronghold. “Groups of Isis fighters are saying they will kill anybody in Fallujah who leaves their house or waves a white... Read More
Fierce criticism has greeted the claim by the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, about the dangers of giving Turks easier entry to Europe. He said that for the EU “to offer visa-free access to 75 million Turks to stem the flow of migrants across the Aegean seems perverse, like storing gasoline next to... Read More
Can corruption be controlled by reform or is it so much the essential fuel sustaining political elites that it will only be ended – if it ends at all – by revolutionary change? The answer varies according to which countries one is talking about, but in many - particularly those relying on the sale of... Read More
In northern Syria carnage alternates with ceasefires as the Syrian air force pounds the rebel-held eastern side of Aleppo in a bid to drive out the remaining civilians. Rebel artillery replies in kind against government areas in the west of the city, but cannot match the firepower used against their enclave. Airstrikes on Thursday killed... Read More
Iraqis bursting into the Green Zone in Baghdad over the weekendwere able to see for the first time the palatial homes and offices of the corrupt and dysfunctional Iraqi leadership that has misgoverned the country for the last 13 years. As the security forces stood aside, protesters toppled a section of the 15-foot-high blast walls... Read More
The storming of the parliament building in Baghdad by protesterschanting the name of populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is a sign that the political system built up since the US invasion in 2003 is disintegrating. The Iraqi security forces stood back and did nothing as the protesters burst into the Green Zone, graphically illustrating the... Read More
Trying to end its dependence on oil - and it's not going to work
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the ailing King Salman and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has launched a highly ambitious plan under which he says his country will speedily “end its addiction to oil.” In terms of its revolutionary ambition, lack of realism and potential for disruption, the plan has parallels with... Read More
Foreign leaders visiting King Salman of Saudi Arabia have noticed that there is a large flower display positioned just in front of where the 80-year-old monarch sits. On closer investigation, the visitors realised that the purpose of the flowers is to conceal a computer which acts as a teleprompter, enabling the King to appear capable... Read More
Nobody in Syria expects a quick solution to the crisis in which a mosaic of different interests and factions are battling to control the country. “My picture of Syrian society is that 30 per cent of people are militantly against the government, 30 per cent are for them, and 40 per cent don’t like anybody... Read More
In early June 2014 I was attending a conference in the Jordanian capital Amman about the war in Syria. I was arguing that the most important development in Syria was the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which was freely carrying out military operations in an enormous area reaching from the... Read More
The Arab Spring reported and misreported
I was sceptical from an early stage about the Arab Spring uprisings leading to the replacement of authoritarian regimes by secular democracies. Optimistic forecasts I was hearing in the first heady months of 2011 sounded suspiciously similar to what I had heard in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and in Baghdad... Read More
There used to be a mosaic of President George HW Bush on the floor at the entrance to the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. It was placed there soon after the first Gulf War in 1991 and was a good likeness, though the artist gave Bush unnaturally jagged teeth and a slightly sinister grimace. The idea... Read More
Our ageing Russian-built helicopter flies into the Panjshir valley from the north, high over desolate, brown hills. We land at Changaram, a narrow point in the valley where lush, green fields and terraces cling to the sides of the mountains. All along the narrow dirt road are signs of the armies that have tried to... Read More
War reporting is easy to do but very difficult to do really well. There is great demand for a reporter’s output during the fighting because it is melodramatic and appeals to readers and viewers. This is what I used to label in my own mind as “twixt shot and shell” reporting, and there is nothing... Read More
They have done it again. The US, Britain and regional allies led by Saudi Arabia have come together to intervene in another country with calamitous results. Instead of achieving their aims, they have produced chaos, ruining the lives of millions of people and creating ideal conditions for salafi-jihadi movements like al-Qaeda and Islamic State. The... Read More
A shaky truce has stopped the fighting in only some parts of Yemen, as UN-backed efforts get under way to end a civil war that has killed 6,200 Yemenis and enabled al-Qaeda to set up its own mini-state in the south of the country. Often referred to as the “forgotten war”, the conflict has torn... Read More
Who shall doubt 'the secret hid Under Cheops' pyramid' Was that the contractor did Cheops out of several millions? The message of Rudyard Kipling’s poem is that corruption is always with us and has not changed much down the ages. There is some truth in this, but degrees of corruption greatly matter, as the Cheops... Read More
Boris15 / Shutterstock.com
The 100th anniversary of the Easter uprising of 1916 saw the beginnings of a deeper appreciation of the achievements of Sir Roger Casement who was hanged as a traitor in Pentonville prison on 3 August 1916. Over the following century he has never lacked for notoriety, famous as an Irish patriotic martyr, but discussion of... Read More
The recapture of Palmyra by the Syrian army is an important defeat for Isis, but does not mean it is disintegrating as it is pressed back into the self-declared Caliphate. Although Isis is reported to have left the bodies of 400 of its fighters in and around the ancient city, it appears to have withdrawn... Read More
It was suddenly announced last week that the Iraqi army was taking territory from Islamic State forces in what was presented as the first steps in an offensive to recapture the city of Mosul. It sounded as if the self-declared Caliphate was crumbling and was particularly welcome news since it coincided with the Isis suicide... Read More
Some 200 Iraqi political figures and members of foreign embassies have fled the Green Zone in Baghdad fearing that it may be invaded by hundreds of thousands of protesters enraged by the corruption and incompetence of the Iraqi government. The demonstrators are followers of the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who once fought the US... Read More
The capture of Salah Abdeslam, thought to be the sole surviving planner of the Paris massacre, means that the media is focusing once again on the threat of terrorist attack by Islamic State. Questions are asked about why the most wanted man in Europe was able to elude the police for so long, even though... Read More
The withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria strengthens the current ceasefire, de-escalates the violence and brings in view the distant prospect of an end to five years of war. The extent of the Russian pull-out remains uncertain as some of its bombers flew home on 15 March, while others attacked Isis fighters holding the ancient... Read More
Commentators have missed the significance of President Barack Obama’s acerbic criticism of Saudi Arabia and Sunni states long allied to the US for fomenting sectarian hatred and seeking to lure the US into fighting regional wars on their behalf. In a series of lengthy interviews with Jeffrey Goldberg published in The Atlantic magazine, Mr Obama... Read More
Documents said to have been stolen by a deserter from Isis illustrate the complexity of the means by which the self-declared Islamic State recruits foreign volunteers. But doubts are also being expressed about the authenticity of the files giving details about potential foreign fighters who reached Syria and Iraq. The files, published by German, British... Read More
Islamic State prepares its murderous bombings with chilling care and attention to detail. Several months ago, the Iraqi security forces discovered a plan to bomb al-Khadamiya, an ancient quarter of Baghdad at the centre of which is one of the holiest Shia shrines. Isis operatives first spent a month watching the checkpoints protecting the district,... Read More
When Mohammed al-Ghabban became Interior Minister of Iraq in 2014, he found that he was employing 230 brigadier generals and 660,000 policemen. The vastly bloated size of the Iraqi security forces, most of whose members hold their jobs through political patronage, goes a long way to explaining why they cannot stop Isis bombers murdering people... Read More
In fighting in the outskirts of Ramadi a week ago, Zaman Hussein, a member of the al-Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militia, was trying to repel an attack by several Islamic State (Isis) suicide bombers wearing vests packed with explosives. He says: “We killed all of them except one who had hidden himself behind an oil tanker.... Read More
The first major assault by the jihadists near the capital in months may indicate that far from being cowed by prolonged air strikes and an economic blockade, they are seizing the initiative in trying to deflect an attack by Iraqi forces on Mosul. Isis suicide bombers and fighters launched a surprise assault on army and... Read More
People in Mosul call it “the Biter” or “Clipper” – a metal instrument newly introduced by Isis officials to punish women whose clothes they claim do not completely conceal their body. A former school director, who fled from the city earlier this month, describes the tool as causing agonising pain by clipping off pieces of... Read More
The war in Syria is reaching a climax. The Syrian army, supported by Russian bombers, is advancing north of Aleppo to cut off the Syrian armed opposition from the Turkish border. The Syrian Kurds, backed by US air strikes, are closing in on Isis and non-Isis supply lines in the same area. In the wake... Read More
At an early stage of the war in Syria, an Iraqi official went to see a Nato commander. “What’s the difference between what is happening in Syria and Libya [where Muammar Gaddafi had just been overthrown]?” he asked. The reply of the Nato general was simple and crisp. “Russia is back,” he said. The rebirth... Read More
The war in Syria and Iraq has reached a decisive turning point with the announcement by the US and Russia in Munich that they have agreed on the delivery of food and other aid to besieged communities in Syria; this would be followed by “a cessation of hostilities” in preparation for a formal ceasefire. A... Read More
The suggestion by Saudi Arabia that it send ground troops to Syria might mean the limited deployment of Saudi special forces alongside their US counterpart or a more ambitious intervention, probably in combination with the Turkish army. The suggestion by Saudi Arabia that it send ground troops to Syria might mean the limited deployment of... Read More
The civil war in Syria and Iraq and the rise of Islamic State (Isis) has brought the 30 million Kurds in the Middle East new terrors and fresh opportunities. In Syria, the conflict has led to the creation of a Kurdish quasi-state between the Tigris and Euphrates that fields a powerful army supported by US... Read More
One of the most fought over territories on earth, Iraqi Kurdistan had suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons long before the appearance of the murderous Isis. Its cities are now dotted with half-completed hotels and apartments – economic prosperity is a fantasy. The perceived incompetence and greed of Kurdish leaders tarnishes their... Read More
Isis is losing ground in Iraq, but Kurdish leaders say its retreat is slow and do not expect to eliminate it unless it is also defeated in Syria. Real progress is limited, despite exaggerated claims by the Iraqi government that its soldiers have won decisive victories in cities such as Ramadi and Tikrit. “The initial... Read More
A month before Turkey shot down a Russian bomber which it accused of entering its airspace, Russian military intelligence had warned President Vladimir Putin that this was the Turkish plan. Diplomats familiar with the events say that Putin dismissed the warning, probably because he did not believe that Turkey would risk provoking Russia into deeper... Read More
The peace talks between Syrian government and opposition scheduled to begin on Friday in Geneva were preceded by furious arguments about who should or should not attend. This did not augur well for ending or even de-escalating a war that has torn Syria apart and forced more than half its 22 million people to flee... Read More
The Syrian peace talks between government and opposition will begin in the next few days in Geneva in an atmosphere of almost undiluted gloom about the prospects for success. The two sides hate each other and have spent five years trying to kill each other, making it unlikely that they will agree to share power... Read More
Analysis: Iran has escaped years of isolation and the threat of war without sustaining much damage
Iran is politically and economically stronger because of the agreement on its nuclear programme and the partial end of sanctions. Israel and Saudi Arabia had argued in their different ways that such a deal would open the door to a radical expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East. The late Saudi King Abdullah was... Read More
It has been a week of bombings across the world, most of them carried out by Islamic State (Isis). Some were highly publicised because they took place in the centre of large cities and involved foreigners, such as the suicide bombing on 12 January close to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul which... Read More
Turkey is becoming a more dangerous place, but then so is the Middle East and North Africa and anywhere Isis can send its suicide squads. The Turkish authorities say that the bomber who killed at least 10 people, mostly German tourists, near the obelisk of Theodosius, not far from Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque... Read More
At the end of last year the BND, the German intelligence agency, published a remarkable one-and-a-half-page memo saying that Saudi Arabia had adopted “an impulsive policy of intervention”. It portrayed Saudi defence minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the powerful 29-year-old favourite son of the ageing King Salman, who is suffering from... Read More
MidoSemsem / Shutterstock.com
Arab Spring was always a misleading phrase, suggesting that what we were seeing was a peaceful transition from authoritarianism to democracy similar to that from communism in Eastern Europe. The misnomer implied an over-simplified view of the political ingredients that produced the protests and uprisings of 2011 and over-optimistic expectations about their outcome. Five years... Read More
The Libyan uprising always contained more extreme Islamists than portrayed by its supporters inside and outside Libya. There is a measure of truth in Muammar Gaddafi's claim to Tony Blair that the jihadis had "managed to set up local stations and in Benghazi have spread the thoughts and ideas of al Qaeda." His claims sound... Read More
Saudi Arabia will be pleased that the furore over its execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr is taking the form of a heightened confrontation with Iran and the Shia world as a whole. Insults and threats are exchanged and diplomatic missions closed. Sunni mosques are blown up in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq. The Saudi... Read More
The war in Iraq may become more like the war in Afghanistan over the coming years. Isis forces in fixed and identifiable positions cannot withstand ground assaults backed with intense air attacks by the US Air Force or, in the case of the Syrian army, by the Russians. The last extreme-fundamentalist Sunni state in the... Read More
Freedom and safety are scarce five years after the Arab Spring
I was planning to visit Baghdad last summer and stay with my friend Ammar al-Shahbander, who ran the local office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. I had stayed with him for 10 days in June 2014, just after Isis forces had captured Mosul and Tikrit and were advancing with alarming speed on... Read More
Conflicts among communities that once lived together in peace brings the prospect of a refugee crisis that will continue long after the fighting ends
Sectarian and ethnic cleansing by all sides in Syria and Iraq is becoming more intense, ensuring that there are few mixed areas left in the two countries and, even if the war ends, many refugees will find it too dangerous to return to their homes. Communities which once lived together in peace are today so... Read More
Patrick Cockburn
About Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent. He was awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting. His book on his years covering the war in Iraq, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for non-fiction.


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Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr