Iraq

The UK decision to send ground attack aircraft to perform reconnaissance missions over Iraq has led to mounting speculation that it could soon join the US in conducting bombing missions against Islamist extremists terrorising the local population.

The British government has so far resisted calls from some politicians and former officers to join the US in launching air strikes against insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis). But the type of aircraft it has sent to the region – the Tornado GR4 – leaves the option open. Read more

A Yazidi family that fled Sinjar in Iraq takes shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk ( SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

Barack Obama’s decision to move back into the maelstrom of Iraq, from which he withdrew in 2011 after solemnly pledging to extricate US forces once and for all, would clearly not have been taken lightly.

Little under a year ago, after all, the president baulked at the last fence on Syria, declining to punish the Assad regime for nerve-gassing its own people – crossing a red line he had chosen to single out as inviolable. That was the wrong decision, and it is worth a moment to remember why. Read more

The call this weekend by bishops of the Church of England for the UK to grant asylum to the Christians driven out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by the jihadi fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, seems instinctively right. As the Right Reverend David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, observed: “this is, in part, our mess”.

“We have created the space in which Isis have moved in and have expelled Christians from northern Iraq and would like to expel them from the whole of that country,” he told the BBC. Read more

A fighter from the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (Isis) brandishes the Isis flag on the streets of Mosul (Getty)

At Baghdad airport, the creeping sense of dread is apparent. As harried passengers are ferried between multiple searches, drivers of the black SUVs chartered to take them into the ultra-secure facility from a boarding point outside the airport are nervous. Read more

Isis pushes Iraq to the brink
Isis’ lightning offensive has pushed Iraq to the brink of outright civil war and a return to the murderous sectarian bloodshed that nearly tore it apart in 2006. President Obama is considering limited military intervention to take on the terrorists but only if there are signs that Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Shia prime minister does more to reach out to moderate Sunnis and Kurds. Geoff Dyer,USdiplomatic correspondent, Roula Khalaf, foreign editor, and Guy Chazan, energy editor, join Ben Hall

By Gideon Rachman

The west’s instinctive reaction when an international crisis breaks out is to ask two questions: what should we do; and who are the good guys? Read more

 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks on on the Middle East in London on April 23, 2014. (Getty)

There are plenty of people who will simply refuse to listen to anything that Tony Blair has to say about the Middle East – on the grounds that he is an idiot or a war criminal, or some combination of the two. I am not one of them. On the contrary, I think that the speech that Blair has just given on the Middle East is worth reading. He is intelligent, passionate and well-informed. But I still think he is wrong or, at the least, unconvincing, on a number of crucial points. Read more

By Richard McGregor in Washington

After sensitive details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden began leaking, an infuriated Robert Gates, then secretary of defence, stormed into the office of Tom Donilon, the national security adviser.

“Why doesn’t everybody just shut the f*** up?” said the incensed Pentagon chief.

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Iran's president Hassan Rouhani address the UN General Assembly (Getty)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been at the UN in New York all this week, opening up the possibility of engagement with the US over Tehran’s nuclear programme. One of the most striking features of his performance is the way he has used different settings to push forward different messages about how he views the world.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Rouhani took what sounded like a very traditional Iranian line. It may have had none of the apocalyptic and offensive rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, on such occasions. But the speech contained plenty of passages which implied a strong attack on America’s “coercive economic and military policies.” Many experts were disappointed that it failed to deviate from Iran’s traditional script.

Mr Rouhani has also found plenty of time, however, to meet US media, and here his tone has been very different. With CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he read out a message in English of goodwill towards Americans.

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Should the west intervene in Syria? Whatever it does, it will do so in the shadow of the war in Iraq. Tony Blair, the prime minister who led the UK into that war, has come out in support of action. Read more

One of the most striking and harrowing statistics that I have come across recently is the number of American military veterans who are committing suicide. Last year some 6,500 veterans killed themselves. That compares to 3,532 US military personnel who were killed in the Iraq war. The suicide rate among veterans is running at 22 a dayRead more

Photo by Getty

“If I had to do it over again, I’d do it in a minute.” Proud, unrepentant, unreflecting, these are the words of Dick Cheney in a new documentary to be aired on American television on Friday evening.

The film is being released a few days before the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, but it is not the place to go for a candid reassessment of the war. Mr Cheney admits that “we did not find stockpiles” of weapons of mass destruction, but he adds: “We did find that he had the capability and we believed he had the intent.”

He is equally unflinching in his support for torture and other controversial aspects of the war on terror. “It isn’t so much what you achieved as is what you prevented,” he says. Read more

The former Republican senator can expect a bumpy ride as he answers questions on how he would play the role of President Obama’s new defence secretary. Hagel needs to persuade at least five of his former colleagues to support him to avoid a filibuster that would torpedo his appointment.

Ben Fenton, from the FT’s Live News Desk, and Johanna Kassel follow the hearing.

 

By Gideon Rachman

Turmoil in the Middle East looked like a gift to the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. With unseemly eagerness, the Republican candidate unwrapped his present – blaming the Obama administration for encouraging Islamist militancy. Conservative commentators chimed in. On Fox Television, Charles Krauthammer announced: “What we are seeing on the screen is the meltdown, collapse of the Obama policy on the Muslim world.”

We had plenty to chat about today on the world desk, with these articles:

When Iran proposed a few weeks back that a meeting with world powers to discuss its nuclear programme should take place in Baghdad, US and British diplomats were not exactly thrilled by the idea. Read more

The World Bank presidency and Iraq’s impact on global oil markets

Alan Beattie, Xan Rice, Michael Peel and Guy Chazan join Gideon Rachman to discuss the battle for the presidency of the World Bank and the state of Iraq and its impact on the global oil market

By Gideon Rachman
For half a decade the war in Iraq was the most controversial and important issue in international politics. But when the American military slipped out of the country last week, the world hardly noticed

In this week’s podcast: We look at the many controversies courted by France’s president Sarkozy, at the Pope’s visit to Britain and at the survival of the Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan.
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When the feel-good part of a trip is the visit to Iraq, you know you’re on an interesting journey.

After travelling to Baghdad yesterday to mark the formal end of the US’s military mission in that country, US defence secretary Robert Gates came today to Afghanistan, where Washington hopes to engineer a similar handover. Read more