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Syria

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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
Al-Qaeda is creating its most powerful stronghold ever in north-west Syria at a time when world attention is almost entirely focused on the impending defeat of Isis in the east of the country. It has established full control of Idlib province and of a vital Syrian-Turkish border crossing since July. “Idlib Province is the largest... Read More
In the early dawn of 5 July, a 200-strong force of anti-Isis fighters launched a surprise attack on the Old City of Raqqa, which is the last big urban centre held by Isis anywhere in Syria and Iraq. Recruited mostly from survivors of a tribe that Isis massacred three years ago, the five-man assault teams,... Read More
The blowing up by Isis of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul marks a decisive defeat for the caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the same mosque three years ago. Isis will continue fighting as a guerrilla force, but it will be the end of a state once the size of Great Britain and fielding... Read More
“I do not think the siege of Raqqa will be as long as Mosul,” says Awad, an Arab fighter in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who belongs to a military unit attacking Raqqa, the de facto capital of Isis in Syria. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he says that “we are advancing... 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
When Lionel Messi scored a last minute winning goal for Barcelona against Real Madrid on 23 April, football fans in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous who had been watching the game on television rushed into the street to celebrate. This turned out to be a mistake from their point of view because many of... Read More
There is nothing surprising in Boris Johnson saying that it would be difficult for the UK not to join US military action in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in response to a chemical weapons attack. Since the Second World War British governments have been trying to strengthen the UK’s status as the most important... Read More
It is very unlikely that Russia will change its support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, despite calls to do so from foreign ministers from the G7 nations gathered in Italy in the aftermath of the use of poison gas in Syria and the US missile strikes. Russia owes its return to great power status... Read More
President Donald Trump had little option but to order a missile strike against a Syrian airbase after holding Syria responsible for that poison gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed 80 civilians. He had criticised President Obama for being weak, slow and indecisive when facing similar challenges, so he could scarcely do nothing when President... Read More
Iraqi forces are stalled and suffering heavy casualties in their assault on the last Isis fighters defending close-packed buildings in the Old City of Mosul. Civilian loss of life is very high as US aircraft, Iraqi helicopters and artillery, try to target Isis strongpoints in a small area in which at least 300,000 civilians are... Read More
Winners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from other its... Read More
The Turkish army is suffering unexpectedly serious losses in men and equipment as it engages in its first real battle against Isis fighters holding al-Bab, a small but strategically placed city north east of Aleppo. Turkish military commanders had hoped to capture al-Bab quickly when their forces attacked it in December, but they are failing... Read More
The Syrian peace talks arranged by Russia, Turkey and Iran that opened today in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, show that President Bashar al-Assad is winning the six-year-old war, but his final victory may be a long way off. Several participants in the conference have good reasons to fight on and Isis has recently made... Read More
As recently as two years ago, Saudi Arabia’s half century-long effort to establish itself as the main power among Arab and Islamic states looked as if it was succeeding. A US State Department paper sent by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in 2014 and published by Wikileaks spoke of the Saudis and Qataris as... Read More
The new ceasefire in Syria will not mean an end to the shooting, but it marks a crucial development in the five-and-a-half year long civil war. It will not stop the killing because the biggest armed opposition groups — Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra — are not covered by the agreement, and have a strong motive... Read More
It has just become more dangerous to be a foreign correspondent reporting on the civil war in Syria. This is because the jihadis holding power in east Aleppo were able to exclude Western journalists, who would be abducted and very likely killed if they went there, and replace them as news sources with highly partisan... Read More
Ceasefires in Syria are difficult to arrange and particularly likely to collapse because their successful implementation involves so many parties inside and outside the country who hate and would like to kill each other. All of these powers have their own agendas that may have little to do with the wellbeing of those who want... Read More
The defeat of the insurgents in east Aleppo came faster than was expected, though there are still some districts under their control. They were reported to number between 8,000 and 10,000 fighters in the enclave two weeks ago, of whom some 4,000 were experienced combatants belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra (formerly the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria)... Read More
The Syrian armed forces are close to capturing the remaining rebel-held districts in the enclave of east Aleppo, bringing them their biggest victory in five years of war. The insurgent armed forces, that were originally estimated to number between 8,000 and 10,000 fighters, have been retreating or giving up more readily than had been expected.... 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 British Government’s fawning on the absolute monarchs of the Gulf, whose authority is enforced by beheadings, lashings and the torture chamber, is at once contemptible and pathetic. It is a measure of Britain’s decline as a great power that it is only in tiny, toxic, sectarian Bahrain, where Sunni rulers suppress the Shia majority,... 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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‘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
A Syrian Kurdish and Arab force backed by US air strikes has launched an offensive against the Islamic State’s de facto Syrian capital at Raqqa aimed at maximising pressure on Isis when it is already under attack in Mosul in Iraq. Anti-Isis forces advanced six miles in the first four hours of the attack, capturing... Read More
I visited Mosul on the day it fell to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and a small detachment of US Special Forces on 11 April 2003. As we drove into the city, we passed lines of pick-up trucks piled high with loot returning to the Kurdish-controlled enclave in northern Iraq. US soldiers at a checkpoint, over which... Read More
I was in Iran in early 2011 when there were reports from opposition sources in exile saying that protests were sweeping the country. There was some substance in this. There had been a demonstration of 30,000 protesters in north Tehran on 14 February – recalling the mass protests against the allegedly fixed presidential election of... Read More
The proposal put forward in Parliament to shoot down Russian and Syrian aircraft over Eastern Aleppo in a bid to end the bombardment of this part of the city is wholly unrealistic. The West is not going to risk a war against a nuclear power and its Syrian ally in order to help the 250,000... Read More
The US and EU economic sanctions on Syria are causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a leaked UN internal report. The embargo was supposed to target President Bashar al-Assad and contribute to his removal from power. Instead it is making it more difficult for foodstuffs, fuel... Read More
Airstrikes that hit the wrong target have always been justified or denied by the perpetrators with a rich blend of hypocrisy and lies. It was interesting to see this tradition of deliberate mendacity being not only maintained, but outdone in Syria over the last week. The US was seeking to explain how it had come... Read More
The Government is failing to implement its policy of making war on Isis in Syria which it was supposed to have launched nine months ago after rancorous debate. A report by the House of Commons Defence Committee published on Wednesday says that there have been only 65 UK air raids in Syria during this period,... Read More
The British participation in the misdirected US-led air raid that killed at least 62 Syrian soldiers and the final breakdown of the shaky six-day truce combine to underline the need to bring the war to an end and to emphasise how difficult it will be to accomplish this in the near future. The British and... Read More
At about 5pm on Saturday, two US F-16 fighter bombers and two A-10 specialised ground attack aircraft bombed what they believed was a concentration of Isis fighters besieging pro-government forces in the city of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria. Whoever it was in the US Air Force who had misidentified the target as Isis made... Read More
Suicide bombers are central to a new style of warfare that has emerged during the Iraq, Afghan and Syrian wars and is shaping political and military developments across the world. The tactic is effective because it turns thousands of untrained religious fanatics – most of whom come from the Salafi-jihadi variant of Islam – into... Read More
The ceasefire in Syria is holding with no one reported killed in fighting anywhere in Syria during the first 15 hours of the truce. Most groups have said they will abide by its terms, though in many cases they are doing so reluctantly. Several armed opposition movements say they have been unfairly treated and see... Read More
A ceasefire began at sunset aimed at ending the five-year long civil war in Syria that has killed over a quarter of a million Syrians and forced five million more to flee the country. Under an agreement between the US and Russia, the initial truce will last seven days, during which time UN convoys will... Read More
Is the agreement important? It is very significant inside and outside Syria because it is between the US and Russia, the most powerful players in the Syrian conflict, who can put pressure on their allies and proxies to comply. It is important too because it is the sign of a change in the international political... Read More
Russia could be poised to beome a super power again after agreeing with the US to launch what amounts to a joint air campaign against the two main extreme Islamist groups in Syria. If the ceasefire that starts at sunset on Monday holds for seven consecutive days and the UN is able to deliver aid... Read More
The proposed ceasefire in Syria is the outcome of a new balance of power in that country that has developed over the last two years. During this period, the US and Russia became militarily involved in the civil war in Syria and Iraq, providing devastating fire power to their chosen allies on the ground. As... Read More
The ceasefire agreement in Syria between the US and Russia is the most important development in Syria since the Russian military intervention on 30 September last year. It is so significant because it is an accord reached after 10 months of negotiations between the heaviest and most influential hitters in the conflict. They should be... 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
High on the upper slopes of Mount Qasioun, which towers over Damascus, is the Magharat al-Dam or “Cave of Blood” where Cain is believed to have killed Abel. The impression of a large hand on a rock inside the cave was supposedly made by Abel as his brother murdered him. It feels appropriate that the... Read More
In the National Museum of Damascus are antique books of black magic or witchcraft listing curses and spells designed to dumbfound or destroy whatever enemy is targeted by the user. Alongside these tattered works lie a bible made out of copper, religious works from the Crusader period and, elsewhere in the museum, a striking stone... 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
Turkey is back in the game in Syria. Turkish tanks and special forces last week joined anti-Assad rebels to capture the border town of Jarabulus from Isis. It was the first significant Turkish ground operation in Syria since the beginning of the war in 2011. The immediate target was Isis, but a more important Turkish... 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
Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, his face bloody and bruised from bomb blast, stares out in bafflement at a world in which somebody had just tried to kill him. Pictures of his little figure in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo have swiftly become the living symbol of the slaughter in Syria and Iraq. In the... Read More
The Syrian army and its militia allies from the Shia world are preparing a counter-offensive to cut the recently-opened corridor connecting East Aleppo to rebel territory. Syrian and Russian aircraft pound the ruins of this corner of Aleppo through which also runs the main supply road to the government-held west side of the city. The... Read More
Normally anybody who criticises Jeremy Corbyn is guaranteed knee-jerk support by the British media which apparently feels that it does not even have to pretend to be non-partisan when it comes to the Labour leader. The only political figure similarly subjected to automatic demonisation is Tony Blair, so when he fiercely attacked Corbyn last week... Read More
US-backed forces are threatening to cut the last link Isis has to the outside world by launching an offensive against the town of Manbij west of the Euphrates. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a Kurdish-led group supported by US airstrikes - has launched the attack on the town close to the Turkish border in... 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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