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Analysis and Comment (44)

Kurdish Peshmerga forces now control their long dreamt-of capital, Kirkut, but the euphoria at the prospect of independence ignores the real practical challenges of statehood. Kurdish Peshmerga forces now control their long dreamt-of capital, Kirkut, but the euphoria at the prospect of independence ignores the real practical challenges of statehood. AAP/Newzulu/Guillaume Briquet

‘Independent’ Kurds need Baghdad more than they’d like

Iraqi Kurds are in a unique position to declare independence in defiance of a seemingly powerless central government in Baghdad following the rapid disintegration of Iraq in the face of the Islamic State…
One of Mosul’s 22 churches, facing destruction. One of Mosul’s 22 churches, facing destruction. EPA/STR

Persecution of Christians by ISIS contradicts idea of a Caliphate

ISIS conquests across northern Iraq have been comprehensive in recent weeks. Taking control of large parts of the region, they declared a Caliphate last month. And one group who have especially suffered…
Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu speak the same language when distancing themselves from the killing of civilians in military operations. Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu speak the same language when distancing themselves from the killing of civilians in military operations. EPA/Haim Zach/Israeli government press office

MH17, Iraq, Gaza and the deadly verbal dance around killing people

Some years back, award-winning British journalist Robert Fisk wrote an article in which he stated the apparent tautology that “murder is murder”. Fisk was writing on Israel’s policy of “targeted killing…
Peace Brigade may be a somewhat misleading name for this militia. Peace Brigade may be a somewhat misleading name for this militia. EPA/Ali Abbas

Modern conflict blurs the line between soldiers and civilians

As I write this, the people of Gaza hopes for an end to the week-long Israeli bombardment which has killed more than 180 Palestinians – many of them civilians have been dashed after Hamas rejected the…
Kurdish soldiers have been forced to defend parts of Iraq from jihadi fighters. What are their chances of gaining independent statehood? Kurdish soldiers have been forced to defend parts of Iraq from jihadi fighters. What are their chances of gaining independent statehood? AAP/Guillaume Briquet

As crisis grips Iraq, could a Kurdish state be in the offing?

Without the bloodshed and destruction associated with the Islamic state jihadis, one of Iraq’s constituent pieces is moving quietly towards establishing itself as a free-standing political entity. Massoud…
This Assyrian winged bull is safe in Chicago, if far from home. How much else is safe? This Assyrian winged bull is safe in Chicago, if far from home. How much else is safe? Trjames

Fears grow for safety of Iraq’s cultural heritage under ISIS

Iraq has a long and rich heritage, home for thousands of years to mighty empires – Assyria and Babylon, the Abbasid caliphate – that ruled the region once known as Mesopotamia, widely held as the cradle…
Watchful: Iraqi government troops at border with Jordan. Watchful: Iraqi government troops at border with Jordan. EPA/Alaa al-Shemaree

ISIS does not have enough public support to extend its caliphate in Iraq

After a month of fighting in Iraq, the ISIS insurgency has made considerable progress, even if there is now something of a stalemate as Shi’a militias organise themselves and the weak Iraqi Army gets a…
Smoke pours from the Baiji oil refinery, the largest in Iraq, by some reports under the control of ISIS forces. Smoke pours from the Baiji oil refinery, the largest in Iraq, by some reports under the control of ISIS forces. EPA/STR

Iraq crisis threatens global oil supplies and a stable Middle East

The mid-June penetration of northwestern Iraq by the extreme Islamist movement ISIS has prompted major concerns about the world’s oil supply and energy security. The group’s incursion threatens Iraq’s…
Iraqi forces have retaken Tikrit but now face a united enemy. Iraqi forces have retaken Tikrit but now face a united enemy. EPA/Alaa al-Shemaree

An ISIS caliphate is bad news for Iraq, Syria and everywhere else

After the death of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011, the global jihadist movement seemed to have become fragmented and considerably weakened. This happened for various reasons. First, the coincidence of the…
The jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria include hundreds of Australians. The jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria include hundreds of Australians. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Why hundreds of westerners are taking up arms in global jihad

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are attracting many westerners, including young Australians, as jihadi fighters. Last December, Australian intelligence agencies reported that they were aware of at least…
Since its nadir in the 2000s, British Islamophobia has become more tempered. Since its nadir in the 2000s, British Islamophobia has become more tempered. John Giles/PA

Coverage of Britons fighting in the Middle East has moved on from Islamophobia of the past

For some time now, speculation has raged over the number of young British Muslims travelling to Syria and Iraq with the intention of fighting in the ongoing conflicts there. At the high end, Birmingham-area…
ISIS appears to be attempting to recruit fighters from Europe via social media. ISIS appears to be attempting to recruit fighters from Europe via social media. Twitter

ISIS at Jordan border, but West taking military action would only help Islamists

The Sunni rebels in Iraq have made further gains, taking control of important border crossings with Syria and Jordan, the Rutba truck-stop on the main road from Baghdad to the Jordan border and two towns…
Kurdish peshmerga brigades, which have emerged as the only viable military counterweight to ISIL in Iraq, prepare defences at Kirkuk. Kurdish peshmerga brigades, which have emerged as the only viable military counterweight to ISIL in Iraq, prepare defences at Kirkuk. EPA/Khalil al-A'nei

Kurds find a way forward through the chaos of a fracturing Iraq

The Kurds have no friends but the mountains, runs the adage. Marginalised, dispossessed and oppressed in their historic homelands, Kurds have long lamented a lack of powerful allies willing and able to…
ISIL fighters patrol the newly captured provincial capital Tikrit, former home of Saddam Hussein. ISIL fighters patrol the newly captured provincial capital Tikrit, former home of Saddam Hussein. EPA/Stringer

How has Iraq lost a third of its territory to ISIS in three days?

The extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, has captured a third of Iraq’s territory within a few days. Iraq’s third-biggest city, Mosul, fell within hours of being attacked…
Iraqis fleeing from Mosul after ISIS took control. Iraqis fleeing from Mosul after ISIS took control. EPA/Kamal Akrayi

Explainer: what is ISIS and where did it come from?

Iraq is facing its most alarming crisis in years. The second city of Mosul and the major city of Tikrit have been seized by a violent jihadist group, ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, formerly…
Iraqi Sunni gunmen drive in a pickup truck on a street in Tikrit, northern Iraq. Iraqi Sunni gunmen drive in a pickup truck on a street in Tikrit, northern Iraq. EPA/STR

Grattan on Friday: Should parliament have the right to say whether Australia goes to war?

On his American trip Tony Abbott has met with Jeb Bush, son of one president, younger brother of another and himself an aspirant to be Republican candidate for the White House. The encounter brought back…
Tony Blair says Egypt was ‘rescued’ from extremism by military intervention. Tony Blair says Egypt was ‘rescued’ from extremism by military intervention. EPA/Khaled Elfiqi

Blair’s anti-Islamist crusade could play into al-Qaeda’s hands

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the strongest external support for a forceful response from the United States came from Tony Blair, the man who now again describes the struggle against…
Comprehensive sanctions on Iraq started the modern debate on targeted measures. Comprehensive sanctions on Iraq started the modern debate on targeted measures. Adrian Dennis/EPA

Explainer: do sanctions work?

There seems to be a near-consensus that the West must “do something” to prevent instability in Ukraine and Russia’s other neighbours. But should that something include wider sanctions, targeting not just…
Iraq now faces an assault on its sovereign integrity from Islamic extremists that is testing the organs of the state. Iraq now faces an assault on its sovereign integrity from Islamic extremists that is testing the organs of the state. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Iraq and its extremist problem: what now for the troubled state?

The number of deaths in Iraq from attacks by extremist groups operating under the banner of Islam has been growing steadily since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011. In 2013, nearly 8900 people…
Debris is cleared from a car bombing in Bagdad last month. Debris is cleared from a car bombing in Bagdad last month. Karim Kadim/AP/Press Association Images

Back towards the brink in Iraq as old tensions are renewed

Things have not been going well in Iraq for a while. Sectarian violence is on the increase, having reached levels last seen in 2008. As a consequence, the government of Nouri al-Maliki is in dire straits…
Millions of people are being displaced across the region. Millions of people are being displaced across the region. Freedom House

Middle East map blurs as old order breaks down

It is about 100 years since the then-imperial powers of Britain and France first demarcated the boundaries between Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Mandate Palestine. Now, it looks like those borders are…
Mobile coffins: dozens of British service personnel have been killed in the army’s Snatch Landrovers. Mobile coffins: dozens of British service personnel have been killed in the army’s Snatch Landrovers. Wikimedia Commons

Explainer: how are soldiers' rights protected in a war zone?

The recent Supreme Court decision to allow families of British personnel killed in Iraq to sue the government for negligence set up a barrage of cries about the judgment making it impossible for our armed…
The grim cost of conflict. The grim cost of conflict. Freedom House via Creative Commons

Syria casts its shadow as G8 leaders gather

President Obama’s confirmation that the United States would begin arming Syrian rebels has prompted an urgent debate about both the legality and the effectiveness of the decision. The announcement, ahead…
The aftermath of a bombing in Kirkuk in March 2013. The Iraq War may be officially over, but the violence continues. The aftermath of a bombing in Kirkuk in March 2013. The Iraq War may be officially over, but the violence continues. EPA/Khalil Al'a Nei

War that never ended: ten years on, Iraq remains bloodied

In the 10th anniversary analysis of the invasion of Iraq a lot of the focus will be on what we paid. Lives, dollars, influence and squandered reputation will be totted up against the lack of WMDs and the…
We need to learn from lessons of the past when it comes to veterans' mental health. We need to learn from lessons of the past when it comes to veterans' mental health. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Vietnam and Iraq: lessons to be learned about mental health and war

Physical injury and death in war is expected. But we also now know the stories of large numbers of veterans suffering major psychological trauma. These involve Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety…
Residents inspect their damaged house after a bomb explosion in Baquba, Iraq. Residents inspect their damaged house after a bomb explosion in Baquba, Iraq. EPA/Ali Mohammed

Bombings in Iraq a sign of deep domestic problems

When US President Obama announced the end of America’s involvement in Iraq, he deliberately did not claim victory. But he did say, when welcoming the last contingent of combat troops home in October last…
On the ninth anniversary of the US-led Iraqi invasion, suicide attacks were used against civilians in Iraq. On the ninth anniversary of the US-led Iraqi invasion, suicide attacks were used against civilians in Iraq. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Good and bad deaths: why we react to suicide bombers the way we do

Suicide attacks and car bombings across Iraq this week have killed at least 43 people and left 255 wounded. We are sadly now very familiar with the phenomenon of the suicide bomber, but the particular…
Iraqi security forces inspect a taxi in the wake of a deadly attack on the city of Kirkuk last month. Iraqi security forces inspect a taxi in the wake of a deadly attack on the city of Kirkuk last month. EPA/Khalil Al A Nei

Iraqi-Australians on life after the American war

Last week in Baghdad, 17 men were executed. Nothing special to note here in the conflict ridden, post-US withdrawal landscape of Iraq, except that this time they were executed by an Iraqi court. This was…