This summer, Iraqi forces finally drove ISIS out of Mosul and most of northern Iraq. But for the Yazidis, a long persecuted religious and ethnic minority who practice a faith with pre-Zoroastrian roots and Islamic and Christian influences, stability is still a distant prospect. ISIS militants consider the Yazidis infidels and have subjected them to systematic killings, rape, and pillage. In the summer of 2014,ISIS killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yazidis; more than fifty thousand survivors fled to Sinjar Mountain, in the baking August heat. Three thousand Yazidis remain in ISIS captivity, but as ISIS has lost territory, international interest in them has faded.
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Down the Euphrates river, halfway between Deir ez-Zor and Syria’s border with Iraq, lies Dura Europos, an ancient metropolis where the Parthians of Persia sparred with the Roman Empire for control of the Middle East. History, it seems, is repeating itself. As Islamic State (IS) withers, America’s coalition is racing to secure the same stretch of river, before Iran and its allies.
Never have America and its allies had such a hold on Syrian territory. In the north, America has worked with the Kurds to carve out a self-governing region. From there it provides support for Kurdish and Arab forces pushing down the northern bank of the river. Its Syrian proxies have fanned out in pockets around the border with Jordan, from Deraa to north of al-Tanf, a coalition base.
But like their Parthian forebears, Iran and its allies have the upper hand. The Syrian army, backed by Iran’s Quds Force, and Shia and tribal militias are pressing on Deir ez-Zor, with the help of Russian air cover. In the north, they have reached the southern bank of the Euphrates. Soldiers coming from Palmyra have crossed over 100 miles of desert. In the south, they have reached Iraq’s border.
“All you can hear at night is the sound of broken doors flapping in the wind,” says Abd Elaam, a 50-year-old furniture maker. “Even soldiers stay indoors after dark.”
Elaam is currently one of the very few civilians living in Old Mosul, an ancient neighborhood shattered by the battle to recapture the city from Islamic State militants. Like many families that survived IS rule, he says, his resources are completely exhausted by the war and he has nowhere else to go.
Other families trickle in by day, looking to repair their broken homes or recover the bodies of their dead loved ones. But even during daylight hours, the neighborhood is dangerous, riddled with bombs and an unknown number of militants hiding out in the vast network of tunnels under the tightly-packed buildings and piles of rubble. The level of destruction has been compared to World War II Dresden.
Iraq's prime minister says Nineveh province has been "fully liberated" from so-called Islamic State, after the district of Tal Afar was recaptured.
Haider al-Abadi's announcement followed the defeat of the jihadist group in the town of Ayadiya, where the militants had fled to from Tal Afar.
It leaves IS in control of just a few urban areas and some barren desert in central and western Iraq.
Oil price agency S&P Global Platts is proposing to start price assessments for Iraqi Basrah Light and Basrah Heavy crude oil cargoes on a free-on-board (FOB) Basrah basis from Nov. 1, the company said in a subscriber note on Thursday.
These new assessments will be added to its existing prices for Basrah Light on a delivered U.S. Gulf Coast basis, the company, a unit of S&P Global Inc, said.
Jordan and Iraq reopened their only border crossing Wednesday after a two-year closure, taking a step toward stabilizing an area devastated by Islamic State extremists and allowing for a resumption of vital trade.
Iraqi and Jordanian officials celebrated the reopening as another victory over the militant group, which has been pushed back by U.S-backed military offensives in northern and western Iraq over the past year.
Ending the closure "means we have told the world we are greater ... than any terrorist group," Iraq's interior minister, Qassim al-Araji, said in a ceremony on the Jordanian side of the border post.
Iraqi forces battling to retake the small town of al-’Ayadiya where militants fleeing Tal Afar have entrenched themselves, saying on Tuesday the fighting is “multiple times worse” than the battle for Mosul’s old city.
Hundreds of battle-hardened fighters were positioned inside most houses and high buildings inside the town, making it difficult for government forces to make any progress, army officers told Reuters.
Iraqi forces have in recent days recaptured almost all of the northwestern city of Tal Afar, long a stronghold of Islamic State. They have been waiting to take al-’Ayadiya, just 11 km (7 miles) northwest of the city, before declaring complete victory.
Iraq’s ethnically-mixed Kirkuk province, long claimed by both the Arab-led central government and the autonomous Kurdish region, voted Tuesday to take part in a vote on Kurdish independence slated for next month.
Iraq’s Kurds plan to hold the referendum on Sept. 25 in three governorates that make up their region as well as disputed areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.
Iraq’s central government is opposed to the referendum. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday said Kirkuk’s decision to take part in the vote was “unconstitutional” and “illegal,” and that the referendum would “lead to more conflicts.”
The United States and Iraq have banished a senior Islamic State finance official from their financial systems, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Tuesday.
The U.S. Treasury named Salim Mustafa Muhammad al-Mansur, a finance official for the Islamic militant group, as a “specially designated global terrorist,” a move that freezes any property he might have in the United States and bars Americans from dealing with him.
Iraq’s government also barred Mansur from its financial system and froze any assets under its jurisdiction, Treasury said. Islamic State, also called ISIS, seized large swathes of Iraq in 2014 in a bid to establish an Islamic “caliphate,” but has since lost territory in a U.S.-backed campaign against the group.
Seizing the city of Tal Afar district by district, Iraqi fighters would take down the Islamic State group's black flags and hang them upside-down as they took "victory selfies".
But of all the areas they reclaimed, it was the historic heart of Tal Afar and its Ottoman-era citadel that was the high point.
Once an integral part of the Assyrian empire, Tal Afar's history goes back thousands of years and the city is dominated by the citadel, which was damaged in 2014 when IS blew up some of its walls.