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 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive

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The plot to supposedly murder Jamal Khashoggi, as apparently proved by Turkish audio and video evidence shown to US officials, is a grizzly mixture of savagery and stupidity: Jack the Ripper meets Inspector Clouseau. Neither element is surprising because violent overreaction to minor threats is a traditional feature of dictatorial rule. As seems to be... Read More
“People in Idlib hate all those with power over them,” says Ahmad Abu Omar, 33, a history teacher living in the province, the last opposition enclave in the west of Syria. He says that the three million people of Idlib fear a return of government forces, but are almost equally hostile to the armed opposition... Read More
Russia has completed delivery of a S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria in a move likely to change the balance of forces in the skies over the Syrian battlefields. “The work was finished a day ago,” Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin in a meeting broadcast on television. The decision to supply... Read More
Changes of government in Iraq are often fiercely disputed and frequently violent. When the monarchy was overthrown in 1958, the young King Faisal II was machine gunned in the courtyard of his palace in Baghdad and his body later strung up from a lamp post. Few of his successors met peaceful ends up to the... Read More
Over the past half century, critics have often predicted the fall of the House of Saud or emphasised the fragility of its rule. They were invariably proved wrong because the Saudi monarchy enjoyed limitless oil revenues, had the support of the US, and avoided becoming a front-line combatant in Middle East crises. Saudi strengths and... Read More
The shadowy figures of Kurdish fighters can be just made out on film as they ambush and kill three pro-Turkish fighters in a night time attack in Afrin in northern Syria. The Kurdish enclave was invaded and occupied by the Turkish army and their Syrian armed opposition allies earlier in the year. Sporadic guerrilla warfare... Read More
A ceasefire seldom gets a good press. If it succeeds in ending violence or defusing a crisis, the media swiftly becomes bored and loses interest. But if the fighting goes on, then those who have called the ceasefire are condemned as heartless hypocrites who either never intended to bring the killing to an end or... Read More
An Iraqi joke says that their country must have the most environmental government in the world since the same political leaders are always recycled, however dismal their past performance and low expectations that they will do any better in future. The biggest change in the next Iraqi government will be that Haider al-Abadi, appointed prime... Read More
Before his election as president it was understandable that Donald Trump’s critics should have vastly underestimated his ability as a politician. It is much less excusable – and self-destructive to effective opposition to Trump – that they should go on underestimating him almost two years after his victory. Every week there are more revelations showing... Read More
The current protests in Iraq are the most serious seen in the country for years, and are taking place at the heart of some of the world’s largest oilfields. The Iraqi government headquarters in Basra was set ablaze, as were the offices of those parties and militias blamed by local people for their wretched living... Read More
A dangerous lack of understanding about the nature of the threat that Brexit poses to peace in Northern Ireland is based on a misconception about the causes of the 30-year-long Troubles that ended with the Good Friday Agreement. The conflict was never primarily about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but about the... Read More
Self-absorption is the dominant theme of contemporary British and American politics. In Britain, the focus is exclusively on Brexit and other developments are marginalised or ignored. In the US, political battles revolve around Donald Trump who gets wall-to-wall coverage in the US media – ferociously hostile though much of it is towards him – which... Read More
The British government purports to be re-establishing the UK as an independent nation state by leaving the EU, but British power and ability to decide its own policies are continuing to ebb in the real world. The latest evidence of this is the decision by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to give precedence to the... Read More
What will be Britain’s standing in the world compared to other nation states after Brexit? Sane analysis has been overwhelmed by vituperative debate as we get closer to the day of the great rupture. Boris Johnson claimed in his resignation speech that after a full-throttle Brexit, Britain will be in a good position to become... Read More
“The people want an end to the parties,” chanted protesters, adapting a famous slogan of the Arab Spring, as they stormed the governor’s office and the international airport in the Shia holy city of Najaf. Part of the wave of demonstrations sweeping across central and southern Iraq, they demanded jobs, electricity, water and an end... Read More
English nationalism as expressed by Brexiteers is a strange beast. Donald Trump gives an interview in which he assumes the right to intervene in the conflict between Theresa May and Boris Johnson over Brexit. He speaks with the same confident authority as he would in his own country, sorting out differences in the Republican Party... Read More
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
“We are very much scared,” says Hamid Aftan al-Hammad, an Albu Nimr tribesman from the city of Hit in western Iraq. “At night we lie on the roofs of our houses with our weapons waiting to be attacked again.” He fears the return of Isis, which massacred at least 864 members of his tribe when... 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
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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