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True civilian death toll feared at 40,000
More than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul from Isis, according to intelligence reports revealed exclusively to The Independent – a death toll far higher than previous estimates. Residents of the besieged city were killed by Iraqi ground forces attempting to force out militants, as well as by air strikes... Read More
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President Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia tomorrow, mere hours after US bombers attacked pro-Assad militiamen whom the US military say were threatening a base in southern Syria where US and British Special Forces are training rebel fighters. It would be naïve to imagine that the timing of the US attack, the first intentionally made against... Read More
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President Trump is adding further venom to the raging sectarian hatreds tearing apart Iraq and Syria by his latest ill-judged tweets. These have far greater explosive potential than his better known clashes with countries like Australia and Mexico, because in the Middle East he is dealing with matters of war and peace. In this complex... Read More
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The Iraqi army, backed by US-led airstrikes, is trying to capture east Mosul at the same time as the Syrian army and its Shia paramilitary allies are fighting their way into east Aleppo. An estimated 300 civilians have been killed in Aleppo by government artillery and bombing in the last fortnight, and in Mosul there... Read More
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Isis is under pressure in Mosul and Raqqa, but it is jubilant at the election of Donald Trump. Abu Omar Khorasani, an Isis leader in Afghanistan, is quoted as saying that “our leaders were closely following the US election, but it was unexpected that the Americans would dig their own graves.” He added that what... Read More
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‘Make America Great Again’ was the slogan of Donald Trump’s election, but the immediate impact of his victory is to make the US less of a power in the world for two reasons: American prestige and influence will be damaged by a general belief internationally that the US has just elected a dangerous buffoon as... Read More
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Iraq and Turkey are threatening to go to war with each other over who should hold power in Mosul and the surrounding region after the defeat of Isis. Turkish tanks and artillery have deployed along the border and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that while Iraq “did not want war with Turkey” it... Read More
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By an accident of history, the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq War is appearing at a critical moment in British history. The war was the first great test this century of the ability of the British powers-that-be to govern intelligently and successfully and one which they demonstrably failed. The crisis provoked by the vote to... Read More
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Neoliberalism, Interventionism, the Resource Curse, and a Fragmenting World
We live in an age of disintegration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Across the vast swath of territory between Pakistan and Nigeria, there are at least seven ongoing wars -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan. These conflicts are extraordinarily destructive. They are... 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
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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
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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
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Explosive violence breaks out on an international scale
The CIA analyst is confident about what is likely to happen in Syria. He says that “Assad is playing his last major card to keep his regime in power”. He believes that the Assad government will step up its efforts to prove that its enemies “are being manipulated by outsiders”. The probable outcome is a... Read More
British planes may soon be bombing Isis in Syria as well as Iraq, but so far the British Government has produced a picture of political conditions in both countries that hovers somewhere between wishful thinking and fantasy. The Government agrees that air strikes must be conducted in close partnership with ground forces, if they are... Read More
The Islamic State (Isis) has always massacred civilians in large numbers to show its strength and instill fear in its opponents. In the West, people notice these atrocities only when they take place on their own streets, though Isis suicide bombers killed 43 people in Beirut on 12 November and 26 more in Baghdad on... Read More
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The candidate is demonised as an exotic celebrity but he knows more about Iraq and Syria than his critics
In 1989 I met Donald Trump several times in Palm Beach in Florida where he was trying to stop jets from a newly expanded Palm Beach International Airport from roaring over his enormous mansion. This was Mar-a-Lago, a magnificent house with 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms which Trump had bought four years earlier without realising... Read More
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This email from my driver in Baghdad proves it
I used to have a driver called Omar in Baghdad at the height of the Sunni-Shia slaughter between 2004 and 2010. He was a Sunni Arab and, at the peak of the sectarian bloodshed, he fled with his family to Damascus where they stayed for a year. On his return, he found that his house,... Read More
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These executions are a mark of tyranny
The ability to execute its own citizens has been a mark of tyrannical government from Rome in the days of the Caesars to Moscow during the Great Purge in the 1930s The lack of public response to the British government ordering the assassination by pilotless drones of two British citizens, Reyaad Khan and Rahul Amin,... Read More
It is an era of violence in the Middle East and North Africa, with nine civil wars now going on in Islamic countries between Pakistan and Nigeria. This is why there are so many refugees fleeing for their lives. Half of the 23 million population of Syria have been forced from their homes, with four... Read More
Have US tactics played into Islamist hands?
The “Islamic State” is stronger than it was when it was first proclaimed on 29 June last year, shortly after Isis fighters captured much of northern and western Iraq. Its ability to go on winning victories was confirmed on 17 May this year in Iraq, when it seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and... Read More
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A journalist who witnessed the events of 1989 from a Soviet perspective looks back on a surreal period when attempts at moderate reform quickly an uncontrollable momentum of their own.
I went to Moscow as a correspondent in 1984, just as the Brezhnev generation of leaders was beginning to die off or be replaced. There was nothing to suggest that Soviet control of Eastern Europe had only another five years to run and that the Soviet Union itself would disintegrate a few years later. In... Read More
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American-led air attacks are failing. Jihadis are close to taking Kobani, in Syria – and in Iraq western Baghdad is now under serious threat
America's plans to fight Islamic State are in ruins as the militant group's fighters come close to capturing Kobani and have inflicted a heavy defeat on the Iraqi army west of Baghdad. The US-led air attacks launched against Islamic State (also known as Isis) on 8 August in Iraq and 23 September in Syria have... Read More
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In an exclusive interview, the Senator who led inquiry into attack says Obama’s plan to confront Sunni jihadis repeats past mistakes
The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has been aided by the continuing failure of the US Government to investigate the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks and its support of jihadi movements such as al-Qaeda in the years since, says former Senator Bob Graham, the co-chairman of... Read More
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The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
Israeli spokesmen have their work cut out explaining how they have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, compared with just three civilians killed in Israel by Hamas rocket and mortar fire. But on television and radio and in newspapers, Israeli government spokesmen such as Mark Regev appear slicker and less... Read More
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For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war?
The Greeks tell a story against themselves about their tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. They relate how God decided that he would give every nation as a gift a special national characteristic. On the appointed day, representatives of the nations of the world entered the divine presence and were handed their gifts. The Americans... Read More
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A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade.
How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing... Read More
Credit: MSgt. James Bowman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
He is being touted as country's next prime minister. But could his controversial record rule him out?
The enemy is at the gates of Baghdad. A small insurgent force has humiliatingly defeated an enormous Iraqi army. The government has no authority in that half of Iraq lying north and west of the capital. The Syrian civil war has spread and capsized the Iraqi state. In his eight years in power Iraqi Prime... Read More
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Collapse of Shia-dominated regime could provoke Iranian intervention
Iraq is breaking up. The Kurds have taken the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long claimed as their capital. Sunni fundamentalist fighters vow to capture Baghdad and the Shia holy cities further south. Government rule over the Sunni Arab heartlands of north and central Iraq is evaporating as its 900,000-strong army disintegrates.... Read More
Credit: Wikimedia
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant now controls vast stretch of land
Islamic fundamentalists have opened new fronts in their battle to establish an Islamic state across Iraq and Syria as they launch attacks in cities which were previously under the control of the Baghdad government. A multi-pronged assault across central and northern Iraq in the past four days shows that the Islamic State of Iraq and... Read More
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Thousands of Syrians, desperate to vote for President Bashar al-Assad, mobbed the Syrian embassy in Beirut on Wednesday, struggling with Lebanese soldiers as they tried to reach four ballot boxes inside the embassy building set high on a hill overlooking the city. The well-guarded embassy is difficult to reach at the best of times, and... Read More
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Kingdom that represses its Shia majority is to receive seal of approval from the Duke of York
The Duke of York will be the keynote speaker at a conference in London this Friday celebrating Bahrain as a place of religious freedom and tolerance of divergent opinions. Speaking during a visit to Bahrain last month, he said: "I believe that what's happening in Bahrain is a source of hope for many people in... Read More
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The former prime minister's intervention on radical Islam was aimed at all the wrong targets
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the core group of al-Qa'ida, may well chortle in disbelief if he reads a translation of Tony Blair's latest speech on the Middle East delivered last week. If Blair's thoughts are used as a guide to action, then the main beneficiaries will be al-Qa'ida-type jihadist movements. Overall, his speech is... Read More
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New claims say Ankara worked with the US and Britain to smuggle Gaddafi's guns to rebel groups
The US's Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power have been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian rebels. This is despite strong evidence that the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by jihadi fighters similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qa'ida. The recent attack... Read More
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Our foreign correspondent's investigation into the jihadi resurgence
Twelve and a half years after 9/11, al-Qa’ida-type organisations control an area the size of Britain in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Include Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia and the territory they rule is larger in size than the UK. What is so extraordinary – and blameworthy – is that this vast expansion of jihadist groups... Read More
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The role of Saudi Arabia as the jihadists’ greatest ally – will the kingdom be forced to change tack in the face of American impatience and anarchy in Syria
It is a chilling five-minute film made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), showing its fighters stopping three large trucks on what looks like the main highway linking Syria and Iraq. A burly bearded gunmen takes the ID cards of the drivers who stand nervously in front of him. “You are... Read More
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In 2014 al-Qa’ida-type groups are numerous and powerful… In other words, the ‘war on terror’ has demonstrably failed
It is now 12-and-a-half years since the September 11 attacks that put al-Qa’ida firmly on the map of global terrorism. The US has spent billions of dollars on its ‘war on terror’ to counter the threat and succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden three years ago. And yet al-Qa’ida-type groups are arguably stronger than ever... Read More
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Why the end of Bashar al-Assad is as far away as ever – and how Syria’s rebels lost the plot
As the first wave of the Arab uprisings broke in early 2011, President Bashar al-Assad sounded confident that Syria would be immune to the turmoil. He was not alone: at a meeting of 10 foreign ambassadors in Damascus in February that year the diplomats without exception dismissed suggestions that the revolutionary turmoil in Egypt and... Read More
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Once the vicious forces of sectarian strife are unleashed, it is nearly impossible to keep them in check
A new kind of war is developing. It is very different from the mass conflict of the First World War when governments mobilised millions of men and vast industrial resources. Wars have got smaller, but are equally and, on occasions, more vicious than in the past. Not all are identical, but armed conflicts in Chechnya,... Read More
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For the first time in the Syrian civil war a ceasefire agreement in a Damascus district sees rebel fighters keep their weapons and control of their own neighbourhood in return for an end to the fighting. If repeated in other parts of Syria, such agreements have the potential to de-escalate violence that has left 130,000... Read More
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But Iran left in the cold by UN - and now Assad says he may stand in this year's presidential election
A long-awaited peace conference on Syria is likely to go ahead without one of the major participants of the conflict after the United Nations withdrew an invitation to Iran to attend the talks in Geneva. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, rescinded Iran's invitation on the same day it was unexpectedly issued, following the threat of... Read More
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Anti-Shia propaganda threatens a sectarian civil war which will engulf the entire Muslim world
Anti-Shia hate propaganda spread by Sunni religious figures sponsored by, or based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, is creating the ingredients for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world. Iraq and Syria have seen the most violence, with the majority of the 766 civilian fatalities in Iraq this month being Shia... Read More
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Everyone knows where al-Qa'ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing
Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight "the war on terror", they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia... Read More
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Warning from Muqtada al-Sadr - the Shia cleric whose word is law to millions of his countrymen
In a rare interview at his headquarters in Najaf, he tells Patrick Cockburn of his fears for a nation growing ever more divided on sectarian lines. The future of Iraq as a united and independent country is endangered by sectarian Shia-Sunni hostility says Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia religious leader whose Mehdi Army militia fought the... Read More
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The prime minister meant to spray German troops if they landed on British beaches
A hundred experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which on Friday won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the United Nations are assembling to dismantle and destroy Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons including 1,000 tons of sarin and mustard gas as well as chemical mixing equipment. All are to be eliminated by... Read More
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A Diary of Four Wars
The four wars fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria over the past 12 years have all involved overt or covert foreign intervention in deeply divided countries. In each case the involvement of the West exacerbated existing differences and pushed hostile parties towards civil war. In each country, all or part of the opposition have... Read More
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A War No One is Winning
For the first two years of the Syrian civil war foreign leaders regularly predicted that Bashar al-Assad’s government would fall any day. In November 2011, King Abdullah of Jordan said that the chances of Assad’s surviving were so slim he ought to step down. In December last year, Anders Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general, said:... Read More
The Shia and the Kurds 10 Years After the Invasion
Iraq is the first Arab country to be ruled by a Shia government since Saladin overthrew the Fatimids in Egypt in 1171. But Shia rule is deeply troubled, and Shia leaders have been unable to share power in a stable way that satisfies the Sunni, the Kurds and even the Shia community. This is not... Read More
Betrayal in Baghdad
It is 10 years since the start of the war in Iraq which led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein. The diplomatic map of the world has been redrawn as a consequence. Inquiry after inquiry has studied the legality of the conflict. Political reputations have been made and lost. But what of the country itself?... Read More
Long War Looms
Damascus Parts of Syria are convulsed by civil war, while in other areas life continues almost as normal. At the same moment as more than 30 children had their throats cut and dozens of civilians were killed by shelling in Houla in central Syria on Friday, people in Damascus were picnicking on the slopes of... Read More
Craters in the Roads
It is a sight the world had got used to: a crater in the road where the suicide bomber detonated the explosives packed into his vehicle; the pools of blood and hunks of flesh of people caught in the blast; ruined buildings where floors have collapsed on top of each other; shocked survivors wandering amid... Read More
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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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