As Sunni insurgents have swept through Iraq seizing cities, they've also begun destroying ancient artifacts. Shrines, tombs and statues that the group ISIS believes are against Islam. Present day Iraq was once Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and considered the cradle of civilization. Now there's great concern that antiquities and archaeological sites will be wiped out. As Christopher Dickey writes in the Daily Beast, it's a virtual certainty that irreplaceable history will be annihilated or sold into the netherworld of corrupt and cynical collectors. Mr. Dickey joins me not from Paris. Thanks for being with us.
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The unadorned wooden boxes arrive lashed to car roofs or secured in the beds of pickup trucks, a steady procession of mortal remains on a doleful final journey to this holy city.
Only days ago, they were enthusiastic Shiite Muslim recruits who answered the call of their clerics to fight a Sunni Arab insurgency. Now they are coming home lifeless and broken — the victims of bullets, bombs and shells.
The Euphrates and the Tigris, two of biblical Paradise’s four rivers, are under attack. The civil wars in Iraq and Syria are now victimizing the rivers themselves. The consequences of the burgeoning water crisis will be an emblem of water’s economic future, regardless of its Middle Eastern travails. With President Bashar Assad and the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) waging total war, Syria’s water infrastructure is fast cracking.
The Euphrates Dam, Syria’s largest, was taken over by ISIS, and the 85-kilometer-long Lake Assad to which it is attached is anarchically overpumped. The lake’s water level has plunged this year alone by six meters and is but one meter away from failing to supply 4 million people who rely on it for drinking water, according to a recent report by Chatham House.
Iraq's leader accused the country's Kurds of letting radical Islamist militants use their regional capital of Erbil as an operations center, an allegation Kurdish officials dismissed, as evidence of another sectarian massacre emerged.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's allegation came after the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, which is pressing for independence, capitalized on a Sunni extremist assault by seizing territory for themselves, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Then last week, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani asked the region's parliament to hold a referendum on independence.
The news from Iraq is bad. Four distinct yet intertwined problems—the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the dysfunctional politics of Iraq, the utter collapse of the Syrian state and the larger cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran—have combined to disrupt the fragile stability gained by the Iraqis in the wake of the 2006-2008 civil war. Iraq is, once again, the paragon of a “wicked problem.”
There are, however, a number of rash conclusions being arrived at in the wake of the bad news. One does not have to read very far to find a series of assumptions being made about Iraq’s future—that Baghdad is about to fall, that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s days are numbered, that Kurdistan’s independence is imminent and that oil production is at risk. None of these are certain and some are extremely unlikely. Let’s cover them one by one.
As Iraq's turmoil enters its second month, the world's largest cemetery is expanding beyond its five million graves and families have resorted to digging up sidewalks at night or stealing lots to bury loved ones.
The numbers of dead buried here has more than doubled, to 200 a day, with the recent surge in sectarian violence.
The governor of Iraq’s most sacred territory is a slick-haired, sharp-dressed, foul-mouthed, sleep-deprived workaholic who’s lost track of how many times he’s been hauled into court on charges of abuse of power: “Maybe 10? Twenty?”
Najaf Gov. Adnan al Zurufi makes no apologies for his brash style of leadership, which he says is the reason he’s among the last of the U.S. occupation-era appointees to hold office. If he were more diplomatic, chances are he wouldn’t have survived here given his American citizenship and hard-line stance against the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias that hold parallel authority.
Brent crude fell the most in more than two months, reversing a rally that started when Islamist militants seized the northern Iraqi city of Mosul almost a month ago. West Texas Intermediate also declined.
The Islamic State, a splinter group of al-Qaeda, has taken control of provinces in northwestern Iraq after seizing Mosul on June 10. The insurgency hasn’t spread to Iraq’s south, the source of more than three-quarters of its oil output. Brent’s premium over WTI narrowed to a one-month low on expectations U.S. crude inventories decreased last week.
Iraq's new parliament will hold its next session July 13, the acting speaker said on Tuesday, after a five-week delay announced on Monday was criticized by local lawmakers and the United States.
The first session of the parliament elected in April ended last week without agreement on the three key posts of prime minister, president and parliamentary speaker, with the country in crisis over the seizure of large parts of the north and west by Sunni Islamist insurgents.
When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria launched its 2014 assault on Iraq, the ensuing chaos ignited familiar discussions about the future of the country and the possibility of a “three-state solution.”
In 2013, Robin Wright analyzed a redrawn map of the Middle East in The New York Times, pointing out how 5 countries could “become 14″ in the future. These hypotheses appear more prescient than ever.