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The Independent

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Iraqis disagree about many things but on one topic they are united: they believe they live in the most corrupt country in the world, barring a few where there is nothing much to steal. They see themselves as victims of a kleptomaniac state where hundreds of billions of dollars have disappeared into the pockets of... Read More
“I once rescued a friend from drowning when he was swept away by the force of the current as we were swimming in the Diyala river,” says Qasim Sabti, a painter and gallery owner in Baghdad. “That was 50 years ago,” he recalls. “I went back there recently and the water in the Diyala is... Read More
Iraq has put to death 13 people convicted of terrorism offences hours after the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, ordered the execution of hundreds of prisoners on death row in retaliation for the killing by Isis of eight members of the security forces. The hangings are aimed at quelling public anger over signs that Isis is... Read More
Iraq was until recently the most dangerous country in the world. When sectarian killings were at their height 12 years ago, a hundred people were being slaughtered every day. Young men were particularly vulnerable and would sometimes have a small symbol, such as an olive tree, tattooed on their skin so that their bodies could... Read More
What is really needed in dealing with cannabis is a “tobacco moment”, as with cigarettes 50 years ago, when a majority of people became convinced that smoking might give them cancer and kill them. Since then the number of cigarette smokers in Britain has fallen by two-thirds. A depressing aspect of the present debate about... Read More
The Trump administration is guilty of many acts of deliberate cruelty, such as taking away the children of immigrant parents at the US border. But just as the world was watching the lead up to the Trump-Kim Jong-un meeting in Singapore last Monday, the US may have done something even worse by quietly announcing a... Read More
​Turkish-backed jihadi militiamen, who seized the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria earlier this year, have put up posters carrying instructions about obedience to sharia law beside the outline of a woman wearing a full niqab – a black garment shrouding the body and face. The posters sparked angry street protests by Kurds, who... Read More
My late friend Christopher Hitchens once told me that his American friends often expressed surprise at the number of articles and books he was able to produce. He said that there was a simple reason for his high productivity, which was: “I never watch television.” He was definitely telling the truth about this, since the... Read More
One of Libya’s many private armies is advancing into the long besieged coastal city of Derna, between Benghazi and the Egyptian border, as violence reaches unprecedented levels, according to the UN. Heavy ground fighting and widespread destruction of houses by airstrikes and shelling is exacerbating severe shortages of water, food, medicine and electricity. The assault... Read More
Air and artillery strikes by the US and its allies inflicted devastating loss of life on civilians in the Isis-held city of Raqqa, according to an Amnesty International report. It contradicts claims by the US, along with Britain and France, that they precisely targeted Isis fighters and positions during the four month siege that destroyed... Read More
The faked assassination of Arkady Babchenko is a bizarre affair which has intriguing features similar to the murder of another journalist in Ukraine 18 years ago. The difference is that this previous killing was all too real, but in both cases the Ukrainian government and its security services showed the same weird capacity to discredit... Read More
The culpability of the British government and its intelligence agencies in enabling suicide bomber Salman Abedi to blow himself up at a pop concert in Manchester is being masked one year later by the mood of grief and mourning over the death and injury of so many people. It is heartrending to hear injured children... Read More
The Palestinian issue is back on the international agenda more than at any time over the last 15 years. If the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was intended to demonstrate that the Palestinians were powerless and there was nothing they could do about it, then it has failed. The embassy... Read More
Muqtada al-Sadr, the nationalist populist Shia cleric, has once again defied predictions as the coalition he leads outperformed rival parties in the parliamentary election on 12 May. His supporters successfully campaigned for social and political reform and against a corrupt and dysfunctional political establishment. It was the latest surprise in the career of a man... Read More
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi is ahead in Iraq’s parliamentary election, according to unofficial results, in a poll that has added significance because of the escalating confrontation between the US and Iran. The surprise of the election so far is the strong showing of the Shia populist nationalist cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has an electoral... Read More
Israel has launched its biggest attack ever on Iranian forces in Syria. This is a serious development, but reports of the entire Middle East being on the verge of all out war fail to fully appreciate the motives and intentions of the various players. Looked at from the Israeli point of view, it is an... Read More
“Iraq is at the muzzle of the gun,” says Ali Allawi, Iraqi historian and former minister, speaking of the increased turmoil expected to follow the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. It is not only Iraq which is in danger: an escalating confrontation between the US and Iran will affect the whole region, but... Read More
Iran has an exaggerated reputation in the Middle East for Machiavellian cunning and an ability to outmanoeuvre its enemies. Britain used to be regarded in the same light in the region: its most ill-considered actions were admired as devilishly clever plots when all it was doing was taking advantage of the blunders of its opponents.... Read More
It is likely that Israel launched the missile attack in Syria that killed at least 26 pro-government fighters, many of them Iranians, late on Sunday night. The targets included a ground-to-ground missile depot that exploded with the seismic impact of a small earthquake. Iranian news outlets first confirmed and then denied that Iranian facilities had... Read More
The trove of Iranian documents about its nuclear programme presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as proof of Tehran’s duplicity contain nothing of substance that was not known before. Though the disclosure was made in order to justify President Donald Trump torpedoing the Iran nuclear deal on 12 May, Mr Netanyahu was unable to... Read More
As a journalist, I have always dreaded reporting on meetings between world leaders billed as “historic” or “momentous” or just plain “significant”. Such pretensions are usually phoney or, even if something of interest really does happen, its importance is exaggerated or oversimplified. But plus ca change is not always a safe slogan for the cautious... Read More
A crisis in relations between the US and Iran – which has the potential to produce a military confrontation in the Middle East – is building rapidly in the expectation that President Donald Trump will withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal in just over two weeks’ time. Mr Trump is demanding that Iran... Read More
During the bombing of Baghdad in January 1991 I went with other journalists on a government-organised trip to what they claimed was the remains of a baby milk plant at Abu Ghraib which the US had just destroyed, saying that it was really a biological warfare facility. Walking around the wreckage, I found a smashed-up... Read More
The Yazidis, who were recently the target of massacre, rape and sex slavery by Isis, are now facing forcible conversion to Islam under the threat of death from Turkish-backed forces which captured the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on 18 March. Islamist rebel fighters, who are allied to Turkey and have occupied Yazidi villages in the... Read More
Political leaders in power generally like small wars. It enables them to stand tall, wrap the flag around them, pretend they hold the fate of the nation in their hands, and denigrate their opponents as unpatriotic softies. Theresa May is behaving in keeping with this stereotype since ordering four British planes to join the very... Read More
“Big noise on the stairs, but nobody comes into the room,” runs an old Chinese saying. This is an apt description of the very limited airstrikes on Syria launched by the US, Britain and France overnight, which came after apocalyptic tweets from President Trump and threats of military retaliation by Russian diplomats. In the event,... Read More
The most important point about the impending missile strikes in Syria by the US, Britain and France is being missed, despite wall-to-wall media coverage. The purported aim of the attack is to deter President Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons as a weapon in the Syrian civil war. But the history of this savage conflict,... Read More
Every atrocity in the Syrian civil war provokes a furious row about whether it happened and, if so, who was responsible for carrying it out. The merciless brutality of all sides combines with partisan reporting and lack of access for independent investigators to make it possible for doubts to be generated about even the most... Read More
The crises in the Middle East are beginning to join up and cross-infect each other. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at Syria’s T4 military airbase east of Homs early on Monday, just as other Israeli jets were making attacks on Gaza. President Donald Trump must decide whether or not he will order air strikes targeting Syrian... Read More
Thousands of protesters returned to the border this Friday, burning great heaps of tyres to produce a black smokescreen which they hoped would hide them from Israeli snipers. Gaza’s health ministry has said that five people were killed and 1,070 people were wounded on Friday, including 293 by live fire. The demonstrators know what to... Read More
Donald Trump has decided to keep US forces in Syria for a limited period, ending speculation about an immediate pull-out fuelled by the president himself. He agreed at a National Security Council meeting that the 2,000 US troops backed by massive airpower should stay in Syria where they support the Kurds in the east of... Read More
Armed conflict between the US and Iran is becoming more probable by the day as super-hawks replace hawks in the Trump administration. The new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has called for the US to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 and advocated immediate regime change in Tehran. The new Secretary of State,... Read More
Many people who hate and fear Donald Trump feel that only political black magic or some form of trickery can explain his election as US President. They convince themselves that we are the victims of a dark conspiracy rather than that the world we live in is changing, and changing for the worse. Cambridge Analytica... Read More
The killing of three people in the south of France by a man claiming allegiance to Isis will make people doubt if this murderous cult is as dead as governments had announced and people had hoped. The answer is that the attack in the Carcassonne region by a single gunman, said to be a Moroccan... Read More
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is threatening to follow up the capture of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin by launching an across-the-board military offensive against the remaining Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria and the main Yazidi population centre in the Sinjar region of Iraqi Kurdistan. He claimed that the next target of Turkish troops would... Read More
The fall of Afrin city to the Turkish army and Syrian rebel forces was inevitable, but the situation remains full of dangers. A central question now is whether or not the takeover of this Kurdish enclave will lead to the ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish majority there. The first act of the fighters of the... Read More
“Will the war in Syria ever end?” After seven years of conflict, the same question is being asked by politicians, diplomats, fighters in the front line, and families cowering in unlit basements to escape devastating bombardments from Ghouta to Afrin. When I asked Aldar Khalil, a top Syrian Kurdish leader whose forces control a quarter... Read More
Syrian Arab militiamen leading the Turkish attack on Afrin in northern Syria are threatening to massacre its Kurdish population unless they convert to the variant of Islam espoused by Isis and al-Qaeda. In the past such demands have preceded the mass killings of sectarian and ethnic minorities in both Syria and Iraq. In one video... Read More
On a green hillside in Afrin in northern Syria, Arab militiamen allied to the Turkish army which invaded this Kurdish enclave seven weeks ago have captured a group of terrified looking Kurdish civilians. The unformed and heavily armed militiamen are shouting “pigs”, “pimp” and “PKK – Kurdistan Workers Party – pigs” all the while chanting... Read More
Cascades of broken concrete line the streets of Raqqa. Few people are about and those who are look crushed and dispirited. An 80-year-old woman who says her name is Islim is scrabbling in the debris looking for scraps of metal and plastic to sell. She explains that she is trying to look after the wife... Read More
In a field beside an abandoned railway station close to the Turkish border in northern Syria, Kurdish fighters are retraining to withstand Turkish air strikes. “We acted like a regular army when we were fighting Daesh [Isis] with US air support,” says Rojva, a veteran Kurdish commander of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). “But now... Read More
Sieges are a merciless business, never more so than in Syria. As a UN aid convoy entered Eastern Ghouta, the World Health Organisation said that Syrian government security had forced the removal from its trucks of “all trauma kits, surgical, dialysis sessions and insulin”. Some 70 per cent of the medical supplies being sent were... Read More
Suleiman Khalaf, also known as Abu Fadi, was killed 10 days ago in a fight with Isis in eastern Syria when the vehicle he was in was hit by a heat-seeking missile. “He was driving a bulldozer which was building an earth rampart when Isis hit it with a missile we call a ‘fuzia’,” said... Read More
Manbij is a good place to understand the jigsaw puzzle of competing fiefdoms into which Syria is now divided and the reasons why the multiple wars that have torn the country apart will go on for several more years. A largely Arab city with a population of 300,000, it is situated east of Aleppo and... Read More
The Turkish attack on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria is likely to have the same devastating outcome as the Syrian army siege of Eastern Ghouta, destroying everything but failing to capture the area, says a senior Syrian Kurdish leader. The official says it was inevitable that Afrin would come under siege, comparing... Read More
Syrian rebels and government forces are both preventing civilians fleeing the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta, according to a teacher who has been trying to get his family out. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Ghafour, 43, a teacher of Arabic, spoke of their abortive attempt to escape. “I live in Douma [in the north... Read More
The news agenda is dominated by melodramatic scandals that act as simplified versions of reality in which roles are allocated to accusers, victims, perpetrators and those condemned for failing to prevent wrong-doing. A few scandals are rooted in reality, such as those focused on Harvey Weinstein or Jimmy Saville, but others are becoming ever more... Read More
Syrian artillery and aircraft are bombarding Eastern Ghouta, the last big rebel enclave which is just to the east of Damascus. Some 127 people were reported to have been killed on Monday alone. By Tuesday evening that figure was said to have doubled. The strength of the attack by shellfire, bombs and missiles is more... Read More
The earthquake that devastated Haiti on 12 January 2010, killing 220,000 people, produced a terrible and disgusting failure by those who came from abroad to help the survivors. Among these were UN soldiers from Nepal, which was then in the middle of a cholera epidemic, who brought the disease with them and allowed it to... Read More
Turkey is recruiting and retraining Isis fighters to lead its invasion of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, according to an ex-Isis source. “Most of those who are fighting in Afrin against the YPG [People’s Protection Units] are Isis, though Turkey has trained them to change their assault tactics,” said Faraj, a former... 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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