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After Zarqawi

Patrick Cockburn: Another spurious turning point in Iraq, 6 July 2006

... The history of the American and British intervention in Iraq has been littered with spurious turning points over the last three years. The latest is the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the best publicised of the insurgent leaders, by US laser-guided bombs on 7 June in a house in Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad. The career of Zarqawi in Iraq was very strange ...

A Prehistory of Extraordinary Rendition

Patrick Cockburn, 13 September 2012

... My grandfather, Henry Cockburn, resigned prematurely from the Foreign Office at the age of 49, shortly before the First World War. He was the senior British diplomat in Seoul and resigned, my father told me, because he objected to British support for Japan’s occupation of Korea. It was a reckless and somewhat mysterious decision: he was about to achieve ambassadorial rank, had no private means and no other job to go to ...

If only they would leave

Patrick Cockburn: Report from Northern Iraq, 18 December 2014

... The​ Islamic State is becoming even more repressive and violent as it comes under increased military pressure from its many enemies. It shows no mercy to those who resist its rule – such as the Albu Nimr tribe in western Iraq, 581 members of which Isis recently executed. This isn’t random slaughter: Isis has a well-organised security service that strikes pre-emptively at potential critics and opponents ...

Short Cuts

Patrick Cockburn: Thanington Without, 30 July 2020

... Thanington​ is a deprived area beside the River Stour on the western outskirts of Canterbury. Before the pandemic many people here were working on zero-hour contracts as cleaners or supermarket shelf-stackers. Many settled Traveller families with a strong sense of solidarity live here, but the level of education in the area is low. Paula Spencer, who runs the local community centre, told me she was stopped in the street by a 15-year-old boy who asked her to type ‘BBC’ into Google on his phone because he didn’t know how to spell it ...

Diary

Patrick Cockburn: A report from Baghdad, 24 July 2003

... There used to be a mosaic of President George Bush on the floor at the entrance to the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. It was placed there soon after the first Gulf War in 1991 and was a good likeness, though the artist gave Bush unnaturally jagged teeth and a slightly sinister grimace. The idea was that nobody would be able to get into the hotel, where most foreign visitors to Iraq stayed in the 1990s, without stepping on Bush’s face ...

Diary

Patrick Cockburn: Civil War in Baghdad, 20 October 2005

... The referendum on the constitution is dividing Iraqis. Sunni Arabs fear it will destroy the country by breaking it up into cantons. The Shias and Kurds hope it will give birth to a new Iraq in which they will hold power. The US has put intense pressure on negotiators to reach an agreement because it is desperate to prove to ever more sceptical American voters that Iraq is fast progressing towards democracy ...

Helping Bush Win Re-Election

Patrick Cockburn: Iraq’s disintegration, 7 October 2004

... Signs of disintegration are everywhere in Iraq. Oily columns of black smoke billow up from the airport road where US patrols are regularly hit by suicide bombers or roadside bombs between Baghdad and Camp Victory, the gigantic US headquarters on the edge of the airport. In a vain attempt to deny cover to resistance fighters, American soldiers have chopped down the palm trees and bushes beside the highway, leaving only the stumps behind ...

Looking for Someone to Kill

Patrick Cockburn: In Baghdad, 4 August 2005

... Suicide bombs blow up with the regularity of an artillery barrage in Baghdad. I no longer always go up onto the roof of the al-Hamra Hotel, where I am living, to see the black smoke rising and to try to work out where the bomb went off. On a single day recently 12 suicide bombs exploded in the city, killing at least 30 people. The streets are unusually empty ...

Diary

Patrick Cockburn: The uprisings in Iraq, 20 May 2004

... The publication of pictures showing what may happen to Iraqi prisoners at the hands of their captors allowed the outside world to see what Iraqis had known for some time: the occupation is very brutal. In Baghdad, stories had been circulating for months about systematic torture in the prisons. In the US the impact of the photographs was all the greater thanks to the administration’s previous success in controlling news from Iraq ...

What the neighbours are up to

Patrick Cockburn: On the Iranian Border, 8 June 2006

... On 20 May, in a stuffy hall inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, behind the seven lines of sandbagged checkpoints, razor wire and sniffer dogs that protect it from the streets beyond, a new Iraqi cabinet was voted into office. Five months after they elected their parliament, Iraqis finally had a new government. This government included a minister for tourism but, despite the war raging across the country, no minister of the interior or of defence: Shia and Sunni leaders were still arguing over who should control those jobs ...

Iran v. America

Patrick Cockburn: A New Deal for Iraq, 19 June 2008

... The American occupation of Iraq is going much the same way as British rule after the First World War, when an easy military victory led to over-confidence and a conviction that what Iraqis did was of no importance. A rebellion in 1920 provoked the occupiers into establishing an Iraqi national government with limited powers. Under the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1930, Iraq achieved nominal independence and joined the League of Nations but Britain retained two large bases and remained the predominant power ...

Who rules in Baghdad?

Patrick Cockburn: Power Struggles in Iraq, 14 August 2008

... Barack Obama was lucky in the timing of his visit to Iraq. He arrived just after the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had rejected a new Status of Forces Agreement which would have preserved indefinitely the US right to conduct military operations inside the country. The Iraqi government was vague about when it wanted the final withdrawal of US troops, but its spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh declared that they should be gone by 2010; this fitted Obama’s promise to withdraw ‘one to two’ combat brigades a month for 16 months ...

Will Turkey Invade?

Patrick Cockburn: With the Kurds, 15 November 2007

... There are 100,000 Turkish troops just across the northern Iraqi border preparing to launch an invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan in the hope of eliminating the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The US has labelled the PKK ‘terrorists’ and the Iraqi government – despite the arguments of its Kurdish members – has told the guerrillas to disarm or leave its territory ...

Diary

Patrick Cockburn: Muqtada al-Sadr, 24 April 2008

... A new struggle is beginning in Iraq. The most important battles likely to be waged this year will be within the Shia community. They pit the US-backed Iraqi government against the supporters of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who represents the impoverished Shia masses. ‘The Shia are the majority in Iraq and the Sadrists are a majority of this majority,’ a former Shia minister told me ...

How Not to Invade

Patrick Cockburn: Lebanon, 5 August 2010

Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East 
by David Hirst.
Faber, 480 pp., £20, March 2010, 978 0 571 23741 8
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The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle 
by Michael Young.
Simon and Schuster, 295 pp., £17.99, July 2010, 978 1 4165 9862 6
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... Why has Lebanon been the graveyard of so many invaders? In the 1960s Israelis used to say that one of their military bands would be enough to conquer the country; sometimes, before Israel and Egypt agreed a peace in 1979, they added: ‘I don’t know which will be the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but I do know the name of the second ...

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