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Diary

Patrick Cockburn: Four Wars, 10 October 2013

... The four wars fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria over the past 12 years have all involved overt or covert foreign intervention in deeply divided countries. In each case the involvement of the West exacerbated existing differences and pushed hostile parties towards civil war. In each country, all or part of the opposition have been hard-core jihadi fighters ...

Return to Afghanistan

Patrick Cockburn: A report from Kabul, 11 June 2009

... Compared to Baghdad, Kabul is quiet. Checkpoints are everywhere, manned by Afghan police in tattered grey uniforms, but the police look relaxed and their searches of people and cars are often perfunctory. Only at the southern exit from the city, around a well fortified police post, do people appear anxious as they prepare to take the road to Kandahar ...

Somalia Syndrome

Patrick Cockburn, 2 June 2016

... In​ 1996 I visited Penjwin, an impoverished village in Iraqi Kurdistan close to the Iranian border, where people were trying to make a little money through what must be one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. They would walk through the extensive minefields around the village – laid during the Iran-Iraq War – in search of a particularly lethal Italian-made anti-personnel mine called the Valmara ...

Endtimes in Mosul

Patrick Cockburn, 17 August 2017

... On 22 May​ , Ahmed Mohsen, an unemployed taxi driver, left his house in the Islamic State-controlled western part of Mosul to try to escape across the Tigris to the government-held eastern side of the city. He and his mother, along with ten other people, carried rubber tyres down to the river: most of them couldn’t swim, and they planned to tie them together to make a raft ...

Battle for Baghdad

Patrick Cockburn, 17 July 2014

... In early June​ , Abbas Saddam, a private soldier from a Shia district in Baghdad serving in the 11th Division of the Iraqi army, was transferred from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq, to Mosul in the north. The fighting started not long after he got there. But on the morning of 10 June the commanding officer told his men to stop shooting, hand over their rifles to the insurgents, take off their uniforms and get out of the city ...

Why join Islamic State?

Patrick Cockburn, 2 July 2015

... On 16 June​ , Kurdish militiamen, with the support of US airstrikes, captured the town of Tal Abyad in northern Syria, a major crossing point on the Syrian-Turkish border. Its fall is damaging to Islamic State: it cuts the road linking the caliphate’s unofficial Syrian capital at Raqqa, sixty miles to the south, to Turkey and the outside world. Down this road have come thousands of foreign volunteers, many of whom became suicide bombers ...

Whose side is Turkey on?

Patrick Cockburn: The Battle for Kobani, 6 November 2014

... Over the summer​ Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – defeated the Iraqi army, the Syrian army, the Syrian rebels and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga; it established a state stretching from Baghdad to Aleppo and from Syria’s northern border to the deserts of Iraq in the south. Ethnic and religious groups of which the world had barely heard – including the Yazidis of Sinjar and the Chaldean Christians of Mosul – became victims of Isis cruelty and sectarian bigotry ...

Diary

Patrick Cockburn: In Syria, 20 October 2016

... Across Syria​ towns and districts are under siege. In the north, the Syrian army and its Shia allies from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, assisted by Russian air power, have surrounded the opposition enclave of East Aleppo, where a quarter of a million civilians are under attack. If East Aleppo falls, one of the last big urban centres held by the opposition will have been eliminated ...

Who supplies the news?

Patrick Cockburn: Misreporting in Syria and Iraq, 2 February 2017

... The nadir​ of Western media coverage of the wars in Iraq and Syria has been the reporting of the siege of East Aleppo, which began in earnest in July and ended in December, when Syrian government forces took control of the last rebel-held areas and more than 100,000 civilians were evacuated. During the bombardment, TV networks and many newspapers appeared to lose interest in whether any given report was true or false and instead competed with one another to publicise the most eye-catching atrocity story even when there was little evidence that it had taken place ...

Isis consolidates

Patrick Cockburn, 21 August 2014

... As​ the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland ...

As the Wars End

Patrick Cockburn: Is the War over?, 14 December 2017

... Iraq​ has just had one of its least violent periods since the US invasion in 2003. Islamic State has been defeated: it lost its last town, Rawa, close to the Syrian border, on 17 November, and surviving IS fighters have retreated to hideouts in the western desert. In the past, IS would respond to military setbacks by putting on a show of strength and stepping up its bombing of easy-to-attack civilian targets ...

Survivors of the Syrian Wars

Patrick Cockburn: Four More Years in Syria, 5 April 2018

... When​ I first visited Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria, early in 2015, it was rapidly expanding. With the help of massive US air-power, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had just retaken the city of Kobani from Islamic State. YPG fighters were linking together the Kurdish population centres south of the Syrian-Turkish frontier to create a de facto Kurdish state – they called it Rojava ...

End Times for the Caliphate?

Patrick Cockburn, 3 March 2016

... The war​ in Syria and Iraq has produced two new de facto states in the last five years and enabled a third quasi-state greatly to expand its territory and power. The two new states, though unrecognised internationally, are stronger militarily and politically than most members of the UN. One is the Islamic State, which established its caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq in the summer of 2014 after capturing Mosul and defeating the Iraqi army ...

Too Weak, Too Strong

Patrick Cockburn: Russia in Syria, 5 November 2015

... The military​ balance of power in Syria and Iraq is changing. The Russian air strikes that have been taking place since the end of September are strengthening and raising the morale of the Syrian army, which earlier in the year looked fought out and was on the retreat. With the support of Russian airpower, the army is now on the offensive in and around Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, and is seeking to regain lost territory in Idlib province ...

Underground in Raqqa

Patrick Cockburn, 19 October 2017

... Shortly​ before the siege of Raqqa began in June, Islamic State officials arrested Hammad al-Sajer for skipping afternoon prayers. Hammad, who is 29, made a living from his motorbike: he carried people and packages, charging less than the local taxis. IS had arrested him a number of times before – mostly for smoking cigarettes, which were banned under IS rule – but he had always been released after paying a fine or being lashed ...

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