In case you missed them, here are this week’s top stories on Iraq, followed by the Iraq Video of the Week.
Peace Ambassadors for Iraq
On December 27, 2015, after battling for several months, the Iraqi government declared a “smooth victory” over ISIS forces that had controlled the city of Ramadi since 2014. When the dust finally settled after months of skirmishes, aerial bombardment and entrenched battles, the prize that both sides were fighting over had been reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble. Is this the best way to defeat ISIS?
Jack Moore | Newsweek
The U.S.-led coalition’s effort to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has begun, according to the top U.S. envoy in the fight against the extremists. “It’s already started,” Brett McGurk said on Wednesday at a speech at the American University of Iraq in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya. “It’s a slow, steady squeeze.”
Agence France Presse
The United Nations said Thursday it was concerned that many of the 35,000 people recently displaced by fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province were still very close to the front lines. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing Hit, 145 kilometers west of Baghdad, as security forces close in on fighters from Daesh (ISIS) hunkered down in the city.
Kamal al-Ayash | Niqash
Getting from Turkey to Europe was a cakewalk compared to escaping the Islamic State-run city of Fallujah, says one Iraqi. Fleeing families must cross a reservoir, in a ten-passenger boat, on an active battlefield. Life had become impossible in the city of Fallujah,” Hamid Abu Ziad says. “So we made up our minds and decided to escape from the city.”
Omar Sattar | Al-Monitor
With Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi thought to be working on reforms that include the formation of a technocratic Cabinet, the issue of proxy appointments is back in the spotlight. For more than a decade, Iraqi government institutions have been run by proxy, with the prime minister appointing officials in acting capacities to lead government bodies, independent commissions and military commands because of parliament’s failure to vote on candidates due to political disagreements over the distribution of positions.
Influential Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rejected calls to cancel a planned sit-in on Friday at the gates of Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which he called “a bastion of support for corruption.” He published a statement on his website on Thursday in response to politicians who asked him to drop the protest over concern that it could lead to violence near the sensitive district, which houses government offices and embassies.
Susannah George | Associated Press
Iraq’s only music and ballet school has survived decades of war, sanctions and dictatorship, but now faces a funding crisis due to low oil prices and the costly war against Daesh (ISIS). On a recent day boys and girls in leotards warmed up on a practice bar before a mirror-lined wall while an orchestra worked its way up scales in the next room, with students tuning cellos and plucking notes on Middle Eastern string instruments known as ouds.
The Islamic State (ISIS) group is using the large civilian population in Mosul as “human shields” and that is the largest hurdle for Iraqi forces reportedly preparing to liberate Iraq’s second largest city from the militants, according to the Iraqi Army commander in charge of reported preparations for a large-scale offensive.
Iraq Video of the Week:
From minefields to car bombs, the improvised explosive device is the so-called Islamic State’s weapon of choice, killing and injuring thousands of people. After having cleared IS forces from an area, the Iraqi army is having to defuse and remove explosives the militants have left behind. British soldiers, along with other forces, are training the Iraqi in how to deal with the threat. (Video Length: 2:32)