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Iraqi forces retake last town under Islamic State control

Government forces wrested back the final piece of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq, the country’s military said Friday, reclaiming the small town of Rawah near the border with Syria. The Islamic State extremist group, which at its peak in 2014 held about a third of Iraq, including large …

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Iraqi Kurds Offer to Freeze Independence Referendum Results

Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government said it’s prepared to freeze the results of last month’s independence referendum that triggered deadly clashes with government troops and hurt oil exports. The KRG also proposed an immediate ceasefire and talks with the central government in Baghdad “on the basis of the constitution.” “As …

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Saudi Arabia to Launch Coordination Council with Iraq

Riyadh- Saudi Arabia and Iraq will be cosigning the establishment of a joint Saudi-Iraqi Coordinating Council in Riyadh next week, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The body is said to cover various political, economic, security and cultural fields. Abdul Aziz al-Shammari, charge d’affaires of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques …

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Kirkuk: Iraqi forces capture key sites from Kurds

Iraqi government forces have captured key installations outside the disputed city of Kirkuk from Kurdish fighters. A military statement said units had taken control of the K1 military base, the Baba Gurgur oil and gas field, and a state-owned oil company’s offices. Baghdad said the Peshmerga had withdrawn “without fighting”, …

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Iraqi forces demand Kurdish troops’ withdrawal from Kirkuk area

Iraqi forces have demanded that Kurdish troops withdraw from oil fields and military bases around the contested city of Kirkuk, Kurdish officials and a senior militia leader said Friday, leading to a tense standoff around the city. Kurdish peshmerga soldiers rallied to protect Kirkuk on Thursday night, as Interior Ministry …

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Who Gets to Have a State?

By Graham E. Fuller The past two weeks have seen two referendums vote for national self-determination. The Iraqi Kurds voted for independence but the referendum was rejected by the central government in Baghdad. Then Catalans in Spain voted for their own independent state in a referendum similarly rejected by Madrid. …

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Tillerson says Kurdish independence referendum is illegitimate

The United States on Friday declared illegitimate Monday’s Kurdish referendum on independence, as the Iraqi government imposed a ban on international flights to airports operated by the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi troops prepared to seize the semiautonomous region’s border controls. “The United States does not recognize the . . . unilateral …

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Irbil braces for flight ban following independence vote

Hundreds of passengers waited to board flights out of the Kurdish region at Irbil International Airport on Thursday after Baghdad threatened to ban flights following an independence referendum held by Iraq’s Kurds earlier this week. Most international carriers who fly to and from airports in the Kurdish region announced they …

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The Future of the Kurds

By Graham Fuller Of all the peoples of the Middle East who have suffered through  various wars and manipulations by the US and other foreign powers over the past century, the Kurds are probably the only people whose national cause has actually improved during the more recent geopolitical turmoil. On …

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IS evacuation deal sparks Iraqi outrage

Iraqis on Tuesday denounced a deal allowing Islamic State group fighters to evacuate a Syrian-Lebanese frontier region towards the Iraqi border. Hundreds of jihadists started leaving the area on Monday, heading by bus for Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, which borders Iraq and is the only Syrian province still …

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Rain hampers Iraqi forces’ push on Mosul Old City

By Patrick Markey for Reuters | MOSUL, IRAQ — Heavy rain slowed Iraqi government forces battling Islamic State on Thursday around Mosul’s Old City, where militants holed up in narrow alleyways and homes resisted with sniper fire, suicide attacks and car bombs. Troops from the federal police and elite Rapid …

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Russia Says Starts Construction Work on Iran’s Bushehr-2 Power Plant

The Levant News – Construction and installation work has formally been started on the site of Bushehr-2 Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Iran’s southern port city, Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom announced on Wednesday. Rosatom said that the construction and installation work phase was started on March 14. Representatives of the …

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Iraqi forces see off ISIS attack, seize road out of Mosul

By Isabel Coles and Ahmed Rasheed for Reuters | MOSUL/SULAIMANIYA, IRAQ – Iraqi forces saw off an overnight ISIS counter-attack near Mosul’s main government buildings and took full control on Wednesday of the last major road leading west to the militant-held town of Tal Afar, the military said. Inside the …

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Iraqi forces in Mosul fight ISIS counter-attack

By Stephen Kalin for Reuters | MOSUL, IRAQ – ISIS fighters launched a counter-attack against advancing U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in western Mosul during an overnight storm, as the battle for control of the militants’ last major urban stronghold in Iraq intensified. Explosions and gun fire rang out across the city’s …

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Water cuts and rising food prices leave Mosul facing crisis

By Ulf Laessing and Maher Chmaytelli for Reuters | MOSUL/BAGHDAD, IRAQ Fighting between Iraqi troops and Islamic State militants has cut water supplies across a large part of Mosul, where poorer families are already struggling to feed themselves, and a local official said the increasingly encircled city was in crisis. …

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Elite Iraqi troops battle ISIS on Mosul streets

MOSUL, Iraq: Elite Iraqi troops battled ISIS in the streets of Mosul Friday as U.S.-backed forces in Syria pressed an advance on extremist bastion Raqqa after a sandstorm eased. The high winds in the desert which separates the Syrian Kurdish-Arab militia alliance from the extremists’ stronghold in the Euphrates Valley …

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ISIS hits back in Mosul but faces new Raqqa front

By Ahmed Rasheed and Rodi Said | BAGHDAD/AIN ISSA, SYRIA – Reuters —ISIS fighters targeted Iraqi troops with car bombs and ambushes in Mosul, stalling an army advance in their north Iraq stronghold, but faced attack on a new front on Sunday when U.S.-backed rebels launched a campaign for the Syrian …

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Documents show ISIS obsessions

By Babak Dehghanpisheh and Michael Georgy  for REUTERS| ZARQA/SHURA, IRAQ —After ISIS conquered villages in northern Iraq, it spelled out in minute detail the rules of its self-proclaimed caliphate, from beard length to alms to guidelines for taking women as sex slaves. Islamic State documents and posters, obtained in villages …

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Ashura rituals stir controversy among Shiites

THE LEVANT EXCLUSIVE – By Dr. Haytham Mouzahem* — Each year, as they commemorate Ashura, the Shiites debate whether certain rituals are permissible. Some of those rituals are violent, such as Tatbir and hitting oneself with chains practices that harm one’s body and distort the revolution and objectives of Imam …

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Explaining Mosul in Five Maps

BY GEORGE FRIEDMAN AND JACOB L. SHAPIRO for Mauldin Economics — The Islamic State captured Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, from the Iraqi government after a seven-day battle in June 2014. The US-backed Iraqi assault to recapture Mosul began with great fanfare on Oct. 18. This piece will lay out the …

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