Iraq syria

Kurds can pull off miracles, but they need help against Isis

The Kurds can pull off minor miracles when they need to. They require active support, however, now they are at the centre of the global struggle against the self-styled Islamic caliphate, Isis. Recent history shows the Kurdish potential. Eight years ago in Iraqi Kurdistan, there was much talk about oil and gas reserves. Some thought it was all hot air; their oil sector is now huge and has driven another once impossible dream – rapprochement with Turkey, which needs vast energy supplies to fuel its growing economy. Energy could even fuel Kurdish independence. However, a longer history hangs over the Kurds. Nearly a century ago, Kurdish hopes of a single

Isis are dogs; pet the dogs, kill the terrorists and defend moderate Islam

Malaysian pharmacist Syed Azmi has emerged from hiding to apologise for organising ‘I Want to Touch a Dog’ earlier in October, a canine-petting event that drew a few hundred mostly Muslim Malaysians. So: not all Muslims hate dogs. Only some do. Syed has been getting death threats for the initiative, and is being investigated by the federal Islamic Development Department, whose director general warned via the Malaysian press that petting dogs might lead to the ‘terrible consequence where they [Muslims] will keep dogs in their house’. The Koranical hadiths, mind you, are muddled at best in establishing the tradition that good Muslims hate dogs. So I checked with my go-to source

The US won’t beat Isis alone; Qatar and other Gulf allies must help in Iraq

Revelations keep pouring in about the uneasy relationship between Western aid givers and ISIS operators: from bribes given by humanitarian convoys to secure access in war-torn Syria, to food and medical equipment appropriated by Islamists and used to provide basic services to the population under its control. Moreover, USAID personnel working in the area have to be vetted by ISIS: “There is always at least one ISIS person on the payroll; they force people on us” one aid worker told the Daily Beast earlier this month. This is just the start. As the Islamic State makes inroads into Iraqi and Syrian territory, it’s becoming increasingly clear that American promises to

Save Isis (the dog on Downton Abbey… not the terrorists in Iraq and Syria)

Downton Abbey fans are on high alert that something drastic might be about to happen to the loyal labrador of the house, ‘Isis’. On this week’s episode she was pointed out as looking ‘terribly listless’, with Lord Grantham subsequently agreeing to have the vet check her out. Surely this can’t have anything to do with her name? After all, it would be slightly unfair for poor old Isis to suffer simply because of a misfortune of nomenclature. What has she ever done to deserve an untimely death, save follow Lord Grantham devotedly around Downton? Isis’s predecessor was, after all, named Pharoah, so she continues the pyramidic scheme. If the Downton

Fear, loathing and an Ottoman shrine in the cold war between Isis and Turkey

Turkey and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) are engaged in a cold war. Although they despise each other, they will avoid direct engagement, for fear of the massive damage that could result. A little known Turkish exclave that lies inside Syria, known as the Tomb of Suleyman Shah and currently under siege by Isis, is a case in point. The Tomb of Suleyman Shah – a 2.47-acre sovereign Turkish district that houses the shrine of an Ottoman patriarch – holds immense emotional value for the Turks. It is the burial place of the grandfather of Osman Bey, who founded the Ottoman Empire, and is guarded by 80

Never mind the Baghdad politics, Iraqi Kurds need help to fight Islamic State

The threat from Daish, the Arabic acronym for the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has gone from a side issue to a central imperative, judging by discussions with Kurdish leaders on my four fact-finding trips to the Kurdistan region in the last year. Last November, I was told how Daish operatives were assiduously measuring building sites in Mosul in an extortion racket. In February, I learned of their external funding and their continuing growth. In June, they captured Mosul with a small force that immediately acquired thousands of adherents, and established a 650-mile border with the Iraqi Kurds. The major shock, though, was how quickly the Iraqi Army

Is Canada’s foreign policy making the country any safer?

We Canadians like to think that we are a boring and peaceful nation, that nothing much ever happens here, and everybody likes us. It therefore comes as a shock when we are attacked, as we were this week in Ottawa. Yet terrorism is not a new phenomenon for Canada, as demonstrated by the assassination of one of the fathers of the confederation, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, in 1868; by the murderous behaviour of the Front de Libération de Québec in 1970; and by the destruction of Air India Flight 128 in 1985. Our legislative institutions have been regular targets of attack. A Loyalist mob burned down the Parliament of Lower Canada

Winter is coming – the other terror stalking Iraqi Kurds

The heroic Kurdish resistance in Kobane rightly commands headlines. A larger disaster, however, looms in Iraqi Kurdistan where – absent urgent action by the UN and Iraq – thousands of vulnerable people who fled from the Islamic State (Isis) could die in weeks from cold-related illnesses. It was comfortably warm in the Kurdish capital of Erbil last week, but in December temperatures will drop to below zero in the cities and much lower in the mountains. The warmth made the makeshift camp I visited in the Christian enclave of Ankawa look almost bearable. It occupies a public park and houses 50 families, mainly Christians from Mosul, in increasingly threadbare tents.

Commons vote for strikes against IS in Iraq

By 524 votes to 43, the House of Commons has voted to support air-strikes against Islamic State in Iraq. The margin of victory is not surprising given how limited the motion was, it rules out ground troops and makes clear there’ll be another vote before any action in Syria. But in a sign of the unease of some on the Labour side, Rushanara Ali, who represents George Galloway’s old seat of Bethnal Green and Bow, has resigned from the front bench over Labour’s support for the motion. Indeed, the first estimates are that 24 Labour MPs voted against while just five Tories opposed. The question now is whether, and when,