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An Iraqi fighter with the Popular Mobilisation Forces inspects the site of the Islamic State (IS) group attack, May 3, 2020. AFP/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

On the night of Friday, 1 May, the Islamic State (ISIS) launched one of its most ambitious operations in Iraq in recent memory. Several units of the jihadist group converged on Iraqi paramilitary forces securing a rural section of Salahuddin province, engaging them in an hours-long attack that ended with ten paramilitaries dead. The 1 May assault followed a month in which ISIS had become more direct and aggressive in its attacks on Iraqi security forces.

A military official in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the U.S.-led multilateral partnership that has supported Iraq’s fight against the group, noted the complexity of the Salahuddin attack and several others that weekend.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 2014, Lamya Haji Bashar was a 15-year-old woman in Kocho, a sleepy Yazidi farming village in northern Iraq. On Sunday, August 3, 2014, her life changed forever when ISIS swept through the region.

ISIS fighters killed her neighbors and friends, entire families, women and children. Thousands of Yazidis fell victim to mass executions and disappeared into mass graves. And thousands of Yazidi women and girls were sold into slavery. The UN would later recognize ISIS as the perpetrator of a genocide against the Yazidi community.

Bashar herself was sold as a modern-day slave to ISIS. She escaped and is now sharing the brutal truth of violence against women.…  Seguir leyendo »

En l’espace d’une courte semaine, une dizaine de jihadistes français, membres de l’organisation Etat islamique, depuis peu réduite en lambeaux dans son foyer moyen-oriental, étaient condamnés à la peine capitale par la justice irakienne. «Procès expéditifs», «système d’abattage», «simulacre de justice», «immense déshonneur», «tache indélébile» : les réactions diverses à ce que le gouvernement qualifie pour sa part de jugements «équitables» ne se faisaient pas attendre du côté de la défense (organisations des droits de l’homme, activistes, avocats), ce pendant qu’une partie non négligeable de l’opinion publique semblait y voir l’exercice d’une justice populaire certes sauvage, mais ne faisant en définitive que répondre à la barbarie même des terroristes et à l’application méthodique par ces derniers de la «loi du talion».…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman walks through rubble toward her home in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, in November. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News)

The Islamic State is losing its last territorial foothold in Syria. This does not necessarily mean its end as a security threat and underground terrorist network — however, it does mean the end of the Islamic State as a state-aspiring entity. But how did civilians living under this regime react to the Islamic State’s authoritarian, repressive and radical rule?

In our recent (2018) survey, we interviewed 1,022 residents of Mosul, Iraq, who reported living in the predominantly Sunni Muslim city when it was taken over by the Islamic State in June 2014. At the time, the Islamic State was greeted by many as liberators, and a substantial portion of Iraq’s Sunni Muslims hoped they could push back against accelerating trends of Sunni disempowerment.…  Seguir leyendo »

West Mosul is slowly coming back to life

Inside a prison in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, vanquished Islamic State fighters who once swept through much of the country now mill about sullenly on a bare, tiled floor, reflecting on a cause they insist will endure. Many spend hours in fierce debate, apparently undeterred by their movement’s apparent military defeat. Their cause, they say, remains divinely ordained. Their capture incidental. “Hathi iradet Allah,” they say. This is God’s will.

A Kurdish guard called for a captive, whom I will call Abu Samya—a brooding Baghdad resident kidnapped first by the Islamic State’s forerunner group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and later by Shia death squads as sectarian lines hardened in 2006–2007.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man, blindfolded and handcuffed, kneels on the ground between two members of the Iraqi security forces after being accused of having links to the Islamic State group and being detained, on Nov. 8. (Alice Martins/For The Washington Post)

Last month, President Trump claimed the defeat of the Islamic State as justification for his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria. In 2014, at the height of its reign, the Sunni insurgent group governed an estimated 10 million people and 34,000 square miles of territory.

The Islamic State no longer controls significant territory in Iraq and Syria. But during a visit to Baghdad in December, the question being asked by Iraqi government officials was not if the Islamic State is making a comeback, but how soon the group will again be strong enough to recapture and hold territory.

How the Iraqi government is fueling anger

In Iraq, the government’s harsh counterterrorism strategy, which is widely perceived as collectively punishing the Sunnis, is generating new grievances that could increase local support for an Islamic State 2.0.…  Seguir leyendo »

Des Irakiens yézidis fuient les attaques de l'Etat islamique et se dirigent vers la frontière syrienne, le 10 août 2014. Photo Rodi Said. Reuters

Le 3 août 2014, l’Etat islamique lançait ses exactions contre les Yézidis en Irak, massacrait des centaines d’hommes, réduisait de milliers de femmes à l’esclavage et embrigadait autant d’enfants. Quatre ans plus tard, plus de 3 000 femmes et enfants sont encore portés disparus et 300 000 Yézidis vivent dans des camps au nord de l’Irak, sans ressources et sans perspective d’avenir. Quatre ans plus tard, il semblerait que le peuple yézidi se trouve aussi face à des bouleversements profonds, aussi bien vis-à-vis de ses relations avec le monde, au sein de la communauté elle-même, qu’à l’égard de ce qui semble être devenu un nouveau pilier, la femme.…  Seguir leyendo »

15 años después de Irak

Hace justo 15 años que dio comienzo uno de los episodios más aciagos de lo que llevamos de siglo: la Guerra de Irak. En los prolegómenos de la guerra, todavía resonaba el eco del célebre editorial de Le Monde tras el 11-S, que proclamaba Nous sommes tous Américains y preveía que Rusia se convertiría en el principal aliado de Estados Unidos. Pero todo cambió drásticamente con la ofensiva del presidente George W. Bush en Irak, que creó un cisma interno en multitud de países, y también a escala global. Vista con perspectiva, hoy sabemos que la Guerra de Irak supuso un auténtico punto de inflexión: el origen de muchos de los actuales males en Oriente Próximo, y el final del período unipolar que se abrió con la caída de la Unión Soviética.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iraqi dinar banknote with an image of Mosul's iconic minaret, which was destroyed by ISIS. Photo: Getty Images.

As ISIS lost one of its last villages in Iraq, Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition battling the group, took to Twitter for a victory lap. The organization’s 'phony "caliphate"', he wrote, is 'coming to an end'.

It is true that ISIS has lost the vast majority of its territory, which at its peak in 2014 included about one-third of Iraq and half of Syria. Once dubbed 'the world’s richest terrorist organization' by the United Nations, it has also lost an estimated 80 per cent of the funds it acquired by conquering territory and mimicking the functions of a state, collecting taxes and tariffs from the citizens under its control.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pesar de la alegría generalizada producida por la toma de la ciudad iraquí de Mosul, capital del Estado islámico (EI) en Iraq, tras nueve largos meses, no se augura todavía un futuro muy halagüeño que implique la derrota no sólo de su ideología sino de todos sus miembros. La muerte del líder del califato, Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi, que se comenta desde hace unas semanas también ha podido asestar un golpe fuerte a la organización, aunque hay incógnitas al respecto y el EI no ha confirmado su muerte.

Es cierto que el resultado de la coalición internacional con miras cortoplacistas ha conseguido su objetivo, que es el de acabar con la dominación del grupo islamista radical-yihadista del Estado Islámico en Irak; pero esto no implica que la organización se haya diluido por completo, de hecho todavía tenemos que saber cuántos integrantes han muerto, cuántos se han capturado, cuántos han huido, si algunos se adhieren a otras organizaciones etc.…  Seguir leyendo »

El pasado lunes 10 de julio, Haider al Abadi, primer ministro de Irak, declaró la «victoria total» del gobierno iraquí contra ISIS en Mosul. La coalición militar liderada por Estados Unidos con militares iraquís, combatientes kurdos y grupos armados chiías, ha recuperado el control de la ciudad tras nueve meses de combate. Con un Mosul en ruinas y aproximadamente un millón de personas desplazadas y miles de muertos, un portavoz del secretario general de la ONU ha considerado la victoria «un paso significativo en la lucha contra el terrorismo y el extremismo violento». Otros creen que la victoria no elimina a ISIS y que hay un largo camino por delante, aunque la pérdida de uno de sus bastiones es un golpe fuerte contra la organización extremista.…  Seguir leyendo »

Erik De Castro/Reuters. Iraqi counter-terrorism forces near the ruins of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, Mosul, June 29, 2017

As an eight-month battle to retake Mosul from ISIS is coming to an end in the labyrinthine alleyways of the Old City, a parallel battle to defeat its fighters in the Syrian town of Raqqa is gathering force. But further battles await: downstream along the Euphrates in Deir al-Zour, in the vast desert that spans the Iraq–Syria border, and in a large chunk of territory west of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. To members of the US-led coalition and to Western audiences, this has been a necessary military campaign, directed at a jihadist group whose brutal methods and ambition to carry out attacks in western capitals pose an intolerable threat.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a tea room in Sulaimani's old bazaar that's dense with the smoke of scores of cigarettes, bunches of grizzled, middle-aged men -- some wearing traditional Kurdish baggy trousers, other wearing suits without ties -- are arguing furiously about the great question of the day:

What happens to Iraq after ISIS loses the key Iraqi city of Mosul?

For the moment, the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga forces, Shia militias and Sunni tribal units are all united in fighting ISIS. But even in Sulaimani, an Iraqi-Kurdish city close to the border with Iran that is one of the most stable corners of a very unstable Middle East, there is considerable worry about what comes next.…  Seguir leyendo »

Getting on with it. EPA/Ahmed Jalil

President Trump has long made it clear that destroying the so-called Islamic State (IS) is one of his main priorities, and that one plan being considered is to deploy a US Army brigade to help defeat IS in its main base of Raqqa in Syria. That, though, depends on the success of another operation: the Iraqi-led offensive to expel IS from Iraq’s second city of Mosul. If that crucial battle isn’t won, Trump’s plans may be knocked back just when he needs to demonstrate that his already troubled administration really can wield global authority.

The Mosul operation began in autumn 2016 with an assault on the eastern half of the city.…  Seguir leyendo »

A suspected mass grave of Yazidis killed by Isis, found after the jihadi group was driven out of Sinjar. Photograph: Sam Tarling for the Guardian.

The carnage in Iraq continues. Yet another terrorist attack took place today in Baghdad, the latest in a series of such atrocities that have hit the capital and other parts of the country over the past week. Isis is undergoing a losing battle in Mosul, its last remaining stronghold in Iraq, and it is expected to lose control of the city in the coming months. However, it still has a deadly capacity to carry out terrorist acts. Even without its so-called caliphate, Isis will continue to undermine stability in the country.

The bombings over the past week have barely registered in the international media and the conscience of the international community.…  Seguir leyendo »

Three weeks ago, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced the beginning of the long-anticipated offensive to take over ISIS' de facto capital, Raqqa. Since then, the coalition of Kurdish and Arab militias -- spearheaded by the YPG Kurdish militant group -- has achieved a slow but steady advance, capturing villages as close as 19 miles from the city.

The people of Raqqa, who've been living under the brutal rule of ISIS for over two years now, know that they want the militants out of their city. But what the predominantly Sunni Arab population is not sure of is whether they want the Kurds and other militias anywhere close.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the early hours of November 3, Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released his first statement in nearly a year – a defiant message that the group will not fade away quietly, even as Iraqi special forces breached the outskirts of Mosul, the last major city in Iraq under Islamic State’s control.

Baghdadi tried to project confidence that his jihadists would beat back the Iraqi government’s advance. “This total war and the great jihad that the Islamic State is fighting today only increases … our conviction that all of this is a prelude to victory,” he said in a 31-minute audio recording, his first since December.…  Seguir leyendo »

Four days after Iraqi government forces and allied Kurdish troops began advancing on the city of Mosul, Islamic State militants launched a surprising counterattack nearly 100 miles away. Dozens of fighters besieged the oil-rich city of Kirkuk before dawn on Oct. 21, setting off gun battles, suicide bombings and sniper attacks.

After two days of fighting, most of the assailants were killed, captured or had blown themselves up. Nearly 100 others were also killed, most of them members of the Kurdish security forces. As the militants went on their rampage throughout Kirkuk, they broadcast a message from the loudspeakers of a local mosque: “Islamic State has taken over.”…  Seguir leyendo »

An oil field was set on fire Friday by retreating Islamic State fighters in Qayyarah, Iraq. Carl Court/Getty Images

As an alliance of Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushes to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, there should be no doubt about what the group plans to do next. It will fight to the bitter end to defend its most populous and symbolic stronghold. After all, it was in Mosul that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — the city’s leader for two years before he became the Islamic State’s leader in 2010 — declared a caliphate from the pulpit of an iconic 12th-century mosque.

If the Islamic State loses Mosul, the group has a clearly articulated contingency plan, a strategy it has frequently broadcast on multiple platforms for the past five months: inhiyaz, or temporary retreat, into the desert.…  Seguir leyendo »

The campaign remains in its infancy with troops clearing uninhabited villages on the outskirts. Photo by Getty Images.

With the Mosul offensive underway, discussion has largely focused on the eventual fate of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), once it is ousted from the city. Yet the most significant barometer of this offensive remains unanswered: what happens if a military victory is not followed by a political accord among Iraq’s competing players? The signs are not encouraging.

The realities of victory differ when viewed from military and political perspectives. In the build up to the offensive, most of the focus has been on how to achieve a military victory. Here, much debate has centred on the makeup of the force.…  Seguir leyendo »