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“Fake facts!” exclaimed a senior Iraqi official in exasperation as he pointed to photographs online allegedly showing the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Kirkuk, orchestrating the Iraqi government retaking of the city last month. He said that in reality the picture, tweeted by a Kurdish leader as evidence of Iranian hegemony, dates from 2014. The... Read More
'They had tanks and planes, we had no chance'
The defeat of the Kurds in Kirkuk is devastatingly complete. “We used to be in control here and now we are not,” says Aso Mamand, the Kurdish leader in the city, summing up the situation in a helpless and embittered tone as he describes the fall of Kirkuk and the nearby oilfields to the Iraqi... Read More
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is triumphant as he describes his country’s security forces driving out Isis from its last strongholds in western Iraq. “Our advances have been fantastic,” he said in an interview with The Independent in Baghdad. “We are clearing the deserts of them right up to the border with Syria.” Isis is... Read More
Two cities – Kirkuk and Raqqa – fall in two days and the political landscape of the Middle East is transformed. One of these events, the capture of Raqqa, the last urban stronghold of Isis, by the Syrian Kurds backed by US airpower, had been expected, but was no less important for that. The “caliphate”... Read More
The Kurds may have lost 40 per cent of the territory they previously controlled over the last two days as they withdraw from areas long disputed with Baghdad. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are pulling back from a great swathe of land in northern Iraq stretching from Syria in the west to Iran in the east. It... Read More
The expected fall of Raqqa will mark the latest defeat for Isis as it loses its last urban strongholds in Syria and Iraq and reverts to being a guerrilla movement launching raids from hideouts in the desert. The siege of Raqqa started on 6 June and Isis fought skilfully against overwhelming odds until it now... Read More
Elite Iraqi security forces have captured the Kurdish government headquarters buildings in the centre of Kirkuk with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordering the Iraqi flag to be raised over Kirkuk and other disputed territories. An Iraqi Oil Ministry official said that it would be “a very short time” before the Iraqi military seized... Read More
Brexit, Krexit and Crexit: Britain leaves the EU, Kurdistan declares independence from Iraq, Catalonia secedes from Spain – three massive political changes either under way or put on the political agenda by recent referendums. Three very different countries, but in all cases a conviction among a significant number of voters that they would be better... Read More
The Iraqi government has banned international flights to the Kurdish capital Irbil from 6pm this Friday, isolating the Kurds in Iraq to a degree they have not experienced since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The isolation is political as well as geographical as traditional Kurdish allies, like the US, UK, France and Germany,... Read More
The overwhelming vote for Kurdish independence in the referendum in northern Iraq is re-energising Kurdish nationalism and the demand for a separate Kurdish state. “Bye bye, Iraq! Bye bye, Iraq!”, chanted demonstrators in Irbil, capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as they danced in the streets after the polls closed. The impact of the... Read More
Iraqi Kurds go to the polls today to cast their votes in a non-binding referendum on Kurdish independence, which outside powers fear will destabilise Iraq. The vote is taking place not only in the territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which has long been highly autonomous, but in areas in dispute – including the oil-producing... Read More
On 10 April 2003, I was driving on a road west of Kirkuk, waiting for the city to be captured by the Kurdish Peshmerga and worried that we might arrive there before the Iraqi army had withdrawn or broken up. We could see no cars from Kirkuk coming towards us, which might mean that there... Read More
The Kurdish leadership is coming under intense international pressure to postpone the referendum on independence due to take place in Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq on 25 September. Outside powers see the poll as destabilising Iraq and neighbouring countries at the very moment when Isis and its self-declared caliphate are being defeated. But Kurdish President... Read More
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
President Trump’s decision to provide weapons to the Syrian Kurds, who are fighting Isis, potentially marks a crucial change in the political geography of the Middle East. In effect, the US is choosing to support its Kurdish ally in Syria, in defiance of Turkey, whose aim is to prevent the establishment of a quasi-independent Kurdish... Read More
The bombings that killed 38 people and injured 155 after a football match in Istanbul is the latest episode to underline Turkey’s violent instability. Government officials blame the attack on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with which the Turkish state has been fighting a guerrilla war since 1984. But only a week ago the spokesman... Read More
The Iraqi armed forces are becoming bogged down in the battle for Mosul. Its elite special forces and an armoured division are fighting to hold districts in the eastern outskirts of the city against counter-attacks by Isis fighters using networks of tunnels to move about unseen. “In one day we lost 37 dead and 70... Read More
Isis will flourish and survive even if it is defeated in the present battle for Syria and Iraq an Isis militant has told The Independent. In an exclusive interview, Faraj, a 30-year-old veteran fighter from north east Syria, says that “when we say that the Islamic State [Isis] is everlasting and expanding, it is not... Read More
The Syrian Kurdish leadership vows to defend their de facto state in north east Syria to the end, but is fearful of a growing understanding between the Syrian and Turkish governments in opposition to Kurdish separatism at a time when US support for the Kurds is faltering. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, a... Read More
The record of Turkish involvement in the war in Syria over the last five years has been one of repeated disaster. It wanted to get rid of President Bashar al-Assad and his government and it is still there and in control of at least two thirds of the Syrian population. Instead, the Syrian wing of... Read More
Isis has carried out two bombings in the predominantly Kurdish city of Qamishli in the Syrian Kurdish enclave in north east Syria, killing 44 people and injuring over 100. The explosions tore apart a security headquarters along with government ministries in what may have been Isis retaliation for a Kurdish-backed offensive that threatens to seal... 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
Hundreds of family members dressed in black were gathered this week at the Hamasur mosque in Sulaimaniyah, in eastern Kurdistan, to mourn 10 relatives who drowned when their boat capsized between Turkey and the Greek island of Samos as they tried to reach Europe. All the dead came from Halabja, the city where up to... 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 country is finding itself increasingly at odds with the US, Russia and Iran over developments in the conflict
Russian planes carried out 71 sorties and 118 air strikes against Islamic fighters in Syria over the past two days compared to just one air strike by the US-led coalition – and this single strike, against a mortar position, was the first for four days. The Russian air campaign in Syria is far more intense... Read More
Such ventures are attractive to leaders because they show something energetic is being done to combat a terrifying enemy
It is good news that anybody should be freed from the clutches of the “Islamic State” – and probably spared a grisly fate at its hands. But the use of US, British or anybody else’s military special forces on successful raids such as this one should be seen for what it is. These are one-off... Read More
While rivals in every other respect, both are supporting the local branch of the PKK in Syria conflict
Turkey has summoned separately the American and Russian ambassadors in Ankara to complain about their countries acting in support of the military forces of the Syrian Kurds who are fighting Isis. The Turkish government’s alarm underlines its problem in fighting a guerrilla war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey at a time when... Read More
Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the two suicide bombings, but the attack has all the hallmarks of Isis
Is Turkey joining the array of eight countries engulfed by violence in the Middle East and North Africa? The suicide bombing of a peace rally in Ankara that killed more than 100 people on Saturday is an ominous sign that the same factors that have effectively destroyed Iraq and Syria as unitary countries are affecting... Read More
Events will go on being shaped by action on the battlefield rather than diplomacy
The inability of Presidents Obama and Putin to reach any agreement on how to tackle the conflict in Syria is good news for Isis. Its survival and expansion over the past 18 months has depended largely on the disunity and rivalry of its many enemies. This looks likely to continue. Events in Syria and Iraq... Read More
The overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad by Isis and rebel groups that are affiliated to al-Qaeda would be a calamity for the world, says the Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim. In an interview with The Independent he warned that “if the regime collapses because of the salafis [fundamentalist Islamic militants] it would be a disaster... Read More
The Syrian city did not experience the same fate as Mosul and other towns in the region, but today it lies in ruins with vital aid often blocked at borders controlled by a suspicious Turkish government
Syrian Kurdish fighters won the greatest victory in Kurdish history in January when they defeated Isis – “Islamic State” – in the battle for the city of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border. One thousand YPG (People’s Protection Unit) militiamen and several times that number of Isis militants were killed in the four-and-a-half month siege. Some... Read More
Plans to recapture a vital town on Syria's border with Turkey could transform the fight against the jihadists
Syrian Kurdish leaders plan to capture the last border crossing point between Syria and Turkey held by Isis, making it impossible for jihadist volunteers from Europe and elsewhere to reach Isis-held territories. The seizure of the frontier town of Jarabulus on the Euphrates River is certain to anger Turkey, which is already alarmed by the... Read More
The Kurdish enclave of Kobani in north-east Syria, once the home of Aylan al-Kurdi and his family, is largely in ruins after a four-and-a-half month siege by Isis fighters that ended in January. It was one of the greatest victories in Kurdish history, but a Pyrrhic one that saw 300,000 Syrian Kurds flee into Turkey... Read More
But the real losers are the Kurds, the only force to have effectively resisted the jihadis in Syria
The disastrous miscalculation made by the United States in signing a military agreement with Turkey at the expense of the Kurds becomes daily more apparent. In return for the use of Incirlik Air Base just north of the Syrian border, the US betrayed the Syrian Kurds who have so far been its most effective ally... Read More
Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase
The deal between the US and Turkey which will allow American bombers to use Incirlik airbase while Turkey takes action against Islamic State (Isis) looks stranger and stranger. When first announced over a week ago, US officials spoke triumphantly of the agreement being “a game-changer” in the war against Isis. In fact, the war waged... Read More
Turkish President Recep Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK
So far the Turkish offensive against “terrorism” has been directed primarily against the PKK Kurdish guerrillas in the mountains of northern Iraq rather than Isis in Syria. In the first two days of the Turkish campaign it sent only a few planes to bomb Syria while there were 185 air missions against about 400 PKK... Read More
Was approving air strikes against the PKK America's worst error in the Middle East since the Iraq War?
Kurdish guerrillas have killed two Turkish soldiers in an ambushin south-east Turkey as fighting resumes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, ending a two-year-old ceasefire. The attack came after Turkish aircraft heavily bombed bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq. In a sign that the PKK has... Read More
But what kind of coalition, and how will affect the war in Syria?
The outcome of the Turkish election affects two pivotal issues facing the government in Ankara: its degree of involvement in the Syrian civil war and its relationship with Kurds, both in Turkey and Syria. Turkey has played a central role in trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad since the Syrian uprising of 2011. The 510-mile... Read More
The last time I crossed the Tigris River between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria was just before the war in 2003 when I was coming from Damascus. I crossed in an elderly flat-bottomed metal boat, its decrepit appearance making me afraid that the engine would give out and we would drift down river into territory controlled... Read More
A squad of Syrian Kurdish fighters was ambushed as it advanced through a grove on the outskirts of a village held by Islamic State (IS) fighters near al-Hasakah in the Kurdish enclave in north-east Syria. Azad Judy, an 18-year-old Kurd, recalls: “We had divided into three groups that were trying to attack the village when... Read More
In a room in a house on the slopes of Mount Abdulaziz, five Isis fighters were under siege by Syrian Kurdish fighters. “They can’t get out,” says a voice cutting through the crackle on the field radio. “But one of those bastards just shot and wounded one of our men.” This was a mopping-up operation,... Read More
The Peshmerga have come to rely on US air strikes
“They are like the Mongols,” says Najmaldin Karim, speaking of the forces of Islamic State (Isis) battering at the defences of the oil province of Kirkuk, of which he is governor. They have not broken through and he is confident they will not do so, but the threat they pose and the fear they cause... Read More
Isis fighters have kidnapped at least 90 Assyrian Christians from villages in north-east Syria, most of whom are women and children, according to local sources. Isis frequently uses the taking of hostages, either individuals or whole communities, as a means of asserting its power. The fighters swept into a string of 35 Assyrian villages on... Read More
Syrian Kurdish fighters have cut an important Isis supply line from Syria to Iraq as they expand an offensive launched in north-east Syria at the weekend that is receiving heavy support from American air strikes. The seizure of at least 90 Christian hostages from Assyrian villages by Isis may be its response to the Kurdish... Read More
The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion
Isis is surviving attempts to defeat it and holds about the same amount of territory in Iraq and Syria – an area larger than Great Britain – as it did at the end of its blitzkrieg offensives last year. Its enemies are numerous, but disunited and without a common plan. Neither the Iraqi nor the... Read More
Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks
A suicide bomber blew himself up in a vehicle packed with explosives at the entrance to the governor’s office in the Kurdish capital Erbil today, killing at least four people. The attack was claimed by Isis with the aim of spreading insecurity in Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq by showing that the Islamic militants can evade security... Read More
Exclusive: CIA has hugely underestimated the number of jihadis, who now rule an area the size of Britain
The Islamic State (Isis) has recruited an army hundreds of thousands strong, far larger than previous estimates by the CIA, according to a senior Kurdish leader. He said the ability of Isis to attack on many widely separated fronts in Iraq and Syria at the same time shows that the number of militant fighters is... Read More
Army retakes control of oil refinery town as Kurds stand firm against overstretched Isis
Iraqi forces have recaptured the refinery town of Baiji and broken the siege of the giant oil refinery nearby, say officials in Baghdad – in the most important success for the Iraqi government since Isis seized a third of Iraq in June. Isis fighters, after their spectacular victories in Iraq and Syria over the summer,... Read More
Patrick Cockburn ventures deep into the Kandil mountains for a rare audience with the Kurdish guerrilla leader - and hears his defiant message to the Islamists...
Kobani cannot now be captured by the fighters of Isis but a million people in another Kurdish enclave in Syria are facing a mounting threat of being massacred or forced to flee by advancing jihadis, according to the Kurdish guerrilla leader overseeing the defence of Syrian Kurds. In an exclusive interview with The Independent in... Read More
America resupplies Kurdish fighters by plane - then Ankara allows reinforcements through
Turkey is to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani and US aircraft have dropped military supplies to its defenders to prevent its capture by the Islamic State. The US resupply effort marks a radical change in American policy towards direct cooperation with Kurdish fighters on the ground, whom... 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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