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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
In the space of a year he has become the most powerful jihadi leader in the world, and on Monday night his forces captured Mosul, the northern capital of Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has suddenly emerged as a... Read More
Extremists capture another major city as government forces disintegrate
Sunni insurgents advancing on Baghdad after taking Mosul have captured the city of Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein, as government forces disintegrate and fail to offer resistance. Iraqi soldiers and police are reported to have discarded their uniforms, changed into civilian clothes and fled after firing only a few shots. The offensive led... Read More
The balance of power between Iraq’s Sunni, Kurdish and Shia communities has now changed
The capture of Mosul by Isis means a radical change in the political geography of Iraq and Syria. Moreover, the impact of this event will soon be felt across the Middle East as governments take on board the fact that a Sunni proto-caliphate is spreading across northern Iraq and Syria. The next few weeks will... Read More
A spokesman has given the first clue to Isis’s response to its spectacular gains
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) is itself amazed by its spectacular victories this week, but vows to press on to Baghdad and the holy Shia cities of Karbala and Najaf. Its spokesman says that “enemies and supporters alike are flabbergasted” by its triumphs that he attributes to divine intervention. He calls... 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
The Latest Regional Slugfest
While President Barack Obama’s top political and military advisers deliberate on how best to address the growing crisis in Iraq, a small army of battle-hardened Islamic extremists, volunteers and ex-Baathists have swept to within 50 miles of Baghdad threatening to seize the Capital, topple the government of President Nouri al-Maliki and ignite another firestorm of... Read More
Revolutionary Guard to help defend Baghdad from Sunni extremists; Top cleric calls on Shias to take up arms; Reports of...
Iran is moving to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) from capturing Baghdad and the provinces immediately to the north of the capital. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is taking a central role in planning and strategy in Baghdad in the wake of the disintegration of the Iraqi army in the... Read More
The late Saddam Hussein was certainly right when he predicted that America’s invasion of Iraq would become “the Mother of All Battles.” Eleven years later, it continues. This week saw the collapse of two divisions of Iraq’s government army, a full 30,000 men running like chickens before the relentless advance of the fighters of ISIS... Read More
Extremists have a grip on the country as Sunni Muslims decide that the jihadists are preferable to persecution by the...
Even the fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) are astonished at the extent of their own victory in taking control over Iraq's second city, Mosul, in the past week. "Enemies and supporters alike are flabbergasted," said Isis spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani. It is difficult to think of any examples in... Read More
Baghdad, a city now in fear of mass killings, as photographs appear to show atrocities carried out by Isis forces
Iraq is close to all-out sectarian war as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) massacres dozens of Iraqi soldiers in revenge for the loss of one of its commanders, and government supporters in Baghdad warn that the spread of fighting to the capital could provoke mass killings of the Sunni minority there.... Read More
The group, led since 2010 by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now controls vast swathes of land across Iraq and Syria
With its multi-pronged assault across central and northern Iraq in the past one and a half weeks, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has taken over from the al-Qa’ida organisation founded by Osama bin Laden as the most powerful and effective extreme jihadi group in the world. Isis now controls or can... Read More
Many have already fled. Those left behind are preparing for battle
Iraq is breaking up, with Shia and ethnic minorities fleeing massacres as a general Sunni revolt, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) sweeps through northern Iraq. The Isis assault is still gaining victories, capturing the Shia Turkoman town of Tal Afar west of Mosul after heavy fighting against one of... Read More
Both sides are using well-publicised massacres to encourage the demographic changes they want
Iraq is slipping over the edge into a future dominated by sectarian massacres and counter-massacres amid evidence that 63 Sunni prisoners were killed by either Iraqi police or Shia militiamen during an insurgent attack. The killings took place in Baquba on the north-eastern approaches to Baghdad when an attack by Sunni militants threatened to overrun... Read More
For Once, Not a CIA Plot?
There’s something that doesn’t ring-true about the coverage of crisis in Iraq. Maybe it’s the way the media reiterates the same, tedious storyline over and over again with only the slightest changes in the narrative. For example, I was reading an article in the Financial Times by Council on Foreign Relations president, Richard Haass, where... Read More
In the capital, shockwaves from the fall of Mosul can still be felt
Sunni rebels and Iraqi army forces fought for control of Iraq’s largest refinery at Baiji, as Baghdad waited for a US response to its request for airstrikes to hold back the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). The struggle to take the giant refinery has swayed backwards and forwards, with... Read More
As we watch the collapsing government in Baghdad surrounded by a highly disciplined and serious force of Sunni-oriented fighters that has taken control of the most populous third of the country, we must, in John Adams' words, resist the temptation to slay the world's monsters. This time around, the monsters are the Sunni -- who... Read More
US air strikes aimed at stopping Isis from advancing on Baghdad or taking more territory would be very different from previous American air campaigns in Iraq in 1991, 2003 and during the guerrilla campaign against the US occupation between 2004 and the departure of US troops in 2011. This time the US would be looking... Read More
Obama has demanded more ‘effective’ leadership and Iran looks set to follow as Isis militants threaten Baghdad
Isolated and discredited by humiliating military defeat, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is likely to go soon, battered as he is by only slightly veiled demands for his immediate departure from powerful figures who once supported him. Within hours of President Obama making it implicitly clear that he wants a change of political leadership... Read More
The panic that engulfed this capital after the fall of Mosul, when it appeared that the Islamist fanatics of ISIS would overrun Baghdad, has passed. And the second thoughts have begun. "U.S. Sees Risk in Iraqi Airstrikes," ran the June 19 headline in the Washington Post, "Military Warns of Dangerous Complications." This is welcome news.... Read More
Isis is closing in on Baghdad and the government is faltering, but the Shia’s militias are mobilising
The Iraqi army and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) are battling for control of Iraq’s largest refinery outside Baiji north of Baghdad, with each side holding part of the complex. But in the town of Baiji itself, a few miles away, which is completely under the control of Isis, residents say... Read More
US and Iran need to work together fast, as the barbarians are at the gate
Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned against US intervention in Iraq, but US officials suspect that Iran wants to use its cooperation in political changes in Baghdad to extract concessions in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme. The Independent has learned that US officials have told Iraqi leaders that the Iranians are linking their... Read More
Islamists seize border crossing with Jordan and sweep towards Baghdad
The US Secretary of State John Kerry sounded upbeat after a 90-minute meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the end of which he said: “That was good.” But if Mr Kerry is optimistic about the situation then he is about the only person in Baghdad feeling that way as news comes of... Read More
Today’s head-scratcher: How could a two-mile long column of jihadi-filled white Toyota Land rovers barrel across the Syrian border into Iraq–sending plumes of dust up into the atmosphere –without US spy satellites detecting their whereabouts when those same satellites can read a damn license plate from outer space? And why has the media failed to... Read More
With the Islamic warriors of ISIS having captured all the border posts between Iraq, Syria and Jordan, we may be witnessing the end of Sykes-Picot. That was the secret 1916 treaty by which the British and French carved up the Ottoman Empire, with the Brits taking Transjordan and Iraq, and the French Syria and Lebanon.... Read More
[China Matters will be on vacation hiatus until July 14, 2014. It will be interesting to see how this piece on ISIS holds up in the interim. Best summer wishes, and thanks to all our readers.] Apparently ISIS is a business, a bloody and illegal business, sort of like the Mafia. That’s what I gleaned... Read More
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Focus on Fixing Iraq Obscures the Real Threat
The President's recent remarks make it obvious that he understands neither Iraq, nor the application of force or the nature of our position. His smorgasbord of half measures and postures is redolent of the sort of thing someone in a tight spot, under pressure to “Do Something” might say in order to appear in control.... Read More
The city has long been a divided society. But the murder of a Sunni doctor – two bullets to the head – demonstrates...
Dr Mustafa Khalil Ahmed, a young heart surgeon, was sitting with his father in their house in the mixed Sunni-Shia neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Baghdad when the doorbell rang at 11pm. There were two men outside, one of whom said he was sick. Dr Mustafa opened the door and the two men rushed in, producing... Read More
As the Russians send in military hardware and the Shia’s religious leader calls for his resignation, the Iraqi Prime...
Iraqi army troops have advanced to the entrance of Tikrit but insurgents hold the rest of the city, from which people have fled in expectation of a battle. There is no electricity or water and the streets are empty. “It is a town of ghosts,” said Abu Nahib who had just brought his sister from... Read More
The US Secretary of State talks of 'pushing back' against Isis – but who will do this pushing?
Defenders of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, sometimes concede that he is a well-meaning windbag but argue that, if he does little good as he rushes around the world, he has done little real harm. But going by his latest foray to Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East, this... Read More
Unlike al-Qa’ida in Iraq, the self-proclaimed Islamic State could gain mass support
As Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), declares himself the caliph of a new Islamic state larger in size than Great Britain, people in Baghdad wait for a fresh assault on the capital by his fighters, who have already captured much of northern Iraq. The move... Read More
Talk show rhetoric doesn't equal good intelligence on the domestic danger posed by Iraq's terrorists
Americans have become so accustomed to going to war based on lies that they hardly flinch when the latest round of bellicose innuendo surfaces. The public knows that Iraq was a foreign policy disaster, that Syria is more of the same, and that the current transnational crisis encouraged by Washington’s missteps and engulfing both countries... Read More
Crisis political talks to agree new leaders end in failure after just two hours
The Iraqi parliament closed its inaugural session after two hours because political parties have not decided on new leaders to seek a way out of the crisis caused by the fall of Mosul and the takeover of much of northern and western Iraq last month by Isis. The likely outcome of the first sessions of... Read More
Isis is securing its control of the territories it has conquered in Iraq and Syria and has declared them an Islamic State
Saudi Arabia has sent 30,000 soldiers to its 500-mile border with Iraq after claims that Iraqi soldiers had abandoned their positions along the frontier, though this is denied by Baghdad. The Saudi-backed al-Arabiya channel said it had obtained video footage in which an Iraqi officer said 2,500 troops had been ordered to pull back from... Read More
A demoralised army is hoping that the US will step in with drones, but their use could bring devastating revenge attacks
The meltdown of American and British policy in Iraq and Syria attracts surprisingly little criticism at home. Their aim for the past three years has been get rid of Bashar al-Assad as ruler of Syria and stabilise Iraq under the leadership of Nouri al-Maliki. The exact reverse has happened, with Mr Assad in power and... Read More
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi puts persecution of Shias at heart of his ideology ahead of push on Baghdad
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declares himself leader of a new caliphate in asermon in the Grand Mosque in Mosul and says the victories of his forces are a sign of divine guidance. He praises jihad, or holy war, and recalls that the Prophet Mohamed used to pray in the front line of his battles. It is... Read More
‘Poisonous’ relations block military efforts between Iraqi capital and regional government despite threat to both by Isis
Kurdish leaders accuse the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, of being hysterical and unbalanced, while he says the Kurdish capital, Erbil, is a centre for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and adherents of Saddam Hussein. Kurdish ministers are boycotting cabinet meetings in Baghdad while cargo flights from Baghdad to Erbil and... 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
While international attention has been focused on the situation in Gaza, the self-styled caliphate has been spreading...
Isis fighters have captured much of eastern Syria in the past few days while international attention has been focused on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Using tanks and artillery seized in Iraq, it has taken almost all of oil-rich Deir Ezzor province and is battling to crush the resistance of the Syrian Kurds. Isis is... Read More
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The Petraeus Legacy Comes Home
Colin Kahl probably didn’t realize he was playing oracle when he looked at the Sunni fighters once on the American’s payroll and how they were being left out to dry in Iraq at the end of the so-called Surge in 2008 and mused, “it doesn’t take 100,000 of these guys to revert to insurgents to... Read More
Who even knows what to call it? The Iraq War or the Iraq-Syrian War would be far too orderly for what’s happening, so it remains a no-name conflict that couldn’t be deadlier or more destabilizing -- and it’s in the process of internationalizing in unsettling ways. Think of it as the strangest disaster on the... Read More
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How America's Policies Sealed Iraq's Fate
For Americans, it was like the news from nowhere. Years had passed since reporters bothered to head for the country we invaded and blew a hole through back in 2003, the country once known as Iraq that our occupation drove into a never-ending sectarian nightmare. In 2011, the last U.S. combat troops slipped out of... 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
The ultimatum imposed by militants for Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed has passed with the...
The last Christians in northern Iraq are fleeing from places where their communities have lived for almost 2,000 years, as a deadline passed for them to either convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be killed. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) issued a decree last week offering Christians the three... Read More
America's high-tech spies aren't equipped to penetrate low-tech terrorist organizations
The inability of the United States government to anticipate the ISIS offensive that has succeeded in taking control of a large part of Iraq is already being referred toas an “intelligence failure.” To be sure, Washington has unparalleled technical capabilities to track money movements and to obtain information from the airwaves. It is adept at... Read More
Militants have conquered Sunni regions of Iraq and are now consolidating their hold on north-eastern Syria
In the early hours of 24 July a Saudi volunteer belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) drove a car packed with explosives towards the perimeter wall of a base manned by 300 soldiers of the 17th Division of the Syrian army near the city of Raqqa in north-east Syria. As... Read More
US launches air strikes against Isis militants advancing on Kurdish capital
The US has sent aircraft to bomb fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) in a desperate attempt to stop their advance on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. Two F-18 jets dropped 500lb laser-guided bombs on mobile artillery firing in support of advancing Isis forces that are half an hour’s drive from... Read More
The end of a country, and the start of a new dark age
Iraq has disintegrated. Little is exchanged between its three great communities – Shia, Sunni and Kurd – except gunfire. The outside world hopes that a more inclusive government will change this but it is probably too late. The main victor in the new war in Iraq is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant... Read More
Soldiers say they have opened a road for thousands of stranded Yazidis as airdrops reach refugees
US air strikes are boosting Kurdish morale as they hit Isis fighters, and Kurdish forces say they have opened a road for thousands of Yazidis cut off in the mountains. US military cargo planes have dropped supplies, though not enough to prevent deaths from starvation. President Barack Obama said yesterday that the air strikes had... Read More
U.S. air strikes since Friday have opened a corridor through which tens of thousands of Yazidis, trapped and starving on a mountain in Iraq, have escaped to safety in Kurdistan. The Kurds, whose peshmerga fighters were sent reeling by the Islamic State last week, bolstered now by the arrival of U.S. air power, recaptured two... Read More
Category Classics
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Shouldn't they recuse themselves when dealing with the Middle East?
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