Adel Ali Mehdi was tending his refreshments kiosk on Baghdad’s Nisour Square on Thursday when one of his regular customers stopped by with some important news: After seven years, Blackwater security contractors who had opened fire on the square had been convicted. Seventeen Iraqis were killed in that fusillade, and the customer, Hassan Jaber Salman, was among more than 20 wounded. Mr. Mehdi, from his kiosk, had seen the whole thing unfold. Both men became witnesses for American prosecutors, and the trial ended on Wednesday with convictions of four of the former guards. “Alhamdulillah,” Mr. Mehdi, 53, said to Mr. Salman. “Praise be to God.”
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"Creating a soldier from an 18-year-old civilian is easy in most Western nations. We make them physically tough, give them the military skill sets necessary to prosecute the mission, and amplify what my British colleagues call the moral component. This final part of the soldierization phase is essentially a trust in national institutions and a belief in the chain of command from squad leader to the commander-in-chief. For a Westerner, the moral component is built over the new soldier's lifetime and is strengthened in uniform.
For countries without a strong democratic tradition, establishing the moral component is a real challenge and particularly so for me and my team as we rebuilt the Iraqi Army in 2003. Fifteen hundred years of the paternalism of Islam and over three decades of Saddam's despotism are hard to overcome.
Shihab N. Shihab reckons he’s going one better than U.S. President Barack Obama. After admiring the White House in Washington for its “beauty and simplicity,” the Kurdish businessman is building a $20 million replica in the Iraqi city of Erbil replete with layers of Italian 21-carat gold leaf covering banisters and ceilings and Greek marble columns that grace the entrance. “I get to keep my bedroom for the rest of my life while Obama has to vacate it when his term ends,” Shihab, 58, said with a chuckle during a tour of the premises last week.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi called for greater cooperation with Jordan in the battle against the Islamic State jihadist group, as he held talks Sunday in Amman, state media reported. Jordan, which borders Iraq’s Anbar province, much of which has been overrun by ISIS, is one of several countries taking part in U.S.-led air strikes against the extremist group that began in Iraq but has since been expanded to Syria.
Abadi met separately with King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur. He briefed Nsur on what he called “security and terrorist challenges facing Iraq, particularly ones from Daesh which is destroying Iraqi civilisation,” Jordan’s state news agency Petra said.
Much of the world was shocked when militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in June. One of the many factors that allowed the group of Sunni extremists to take the city so quickly was a Sunni population disillusioned with Iraq’s central government and unable or unwilling to fight against the militants.
Politicians who served under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government, and were targeted for arrest by his security forces, were not surprised. Here, they describe the many grievances of Iraq’s Sunni population while Maliki was in power, which they say led to the resurrection of the Sunni insurgency — once again providing a safe haven for extremists.
A suicide bomber killed at least 27 Shi'ite militiamen outside the Iraqi town of Jurf al-Sakhar on Monday after security forces pushed Islamic State militants out of the area over the weekend, army and police sources said. The attacker, driving a Humvee vehicle packed with explosives and likely stolen from defeated government troops, also wounded 60 Shi'ite Muslim militiamen, who had helped government forces retake the town just south of the capital.
Iraqis are bracing for more sectarian attacks on Shi'ites, who are preparing for the religious festival of Ashura, an event that defines Shi'ism and its rift with Sunni Islam. At mosques and shrines across Iraq, millions of Shi'ites are expected to commemorate the slaying of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hussein at the battle of Kerbala in AD 680.
The Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters jointly repelled an Islamic State (ISIS) attack on the strategic Tel Kocher border crossing late Sunday, a military official said. An officer from the Peshmerga’s Safeen unit told Rudaw they intervened to thwart the attack on the Syria-Iraq border after receiving a call for help by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main military force in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).
“A group of ISIS militants attacked the YPG at 9:30 pm last night at the Tel Kocher border crossing and the YPG asked for our assistance,” the Peshmerga officer said. “After getting permission from our senior leaders we went to assist them with heavy weapons and defeated the ISIS fighters." He added that the fighting ended with “heavy casualties” on the ISIS, but none on YPG or Peshmerga fighters. The two forces control each side of the border. The joint fighting took place as some 150 Peshmerga forces await permission from Turkey to cross into Kobane in Syrian Kurdistan to help the YPG thwart a takeover of the besieged city by ISIS.
When Army Gen. Lloyd Austin left Iraq in 2011, as the last U.S. combat troops withdrew themselves from almost a decade of war, he offered a somber warning to the local forces who would stay behind. Iraq was then under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim. Austin observed that the country’s leaders "don't see an enormous threat from Iran at this point,” despite what he considered a "stream of lethal accelerants" flowing across the border from Iran into Iraq.
Along with the continued threat posed by al-Qaida, Austin warned about three “Iran-backed” Shiite extremist groups that had sought out American targets during the Iraq War. Kataib Hezbollah – believed to be linked to militant Lebanese political party Hezbollah – Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Promised Day Brigades would create problems in Iraq if left unchecked and continually allowed to receive “a sharp increase” in arms coming from Iran.
An investigation by The New York Times found that during the Iraq War, American troops encountered aging chemical weapons abandoned years earlier, and that some servicemen injured by these munitions received inadequate care. Readers submitted a range of questions for the journalists who wrote the story, including why the United States government kept the discovery of these munitions largely secret. C.J. Chivers, a Times reporter, and John Ismay, a contributor, responded to selected readers’ questions.
U.S. forces staged four air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria on Tuesday and allies joined in nine strikes on the group in Iraq , the U.S. Central Command said. In Syria, U.S. attack and fighter aircraft went after targets near the border city of Kobani, destroying a small Islamic State unit and four fighting positions. Attack, fighter and remotely controlled aircraft again targeted the Mosul Dam area with four strikes taking out a small fighting unit, a fighting position, vehicle and logistics base. Two strikes near Fallujah destroyed a small Islamic State unit and tank.