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Perched atop a mound of rubble, Abdelsattar al-Hibbu surveyed what remained of his second-floor office: twisted iron and centuries-old stone reduced to dust by an airstrike.
“I used to look out at the river from my window,” Hibbu said wistfully, recalling how the nine-month battle that defeated Islamic State militants in Mosul last year destroyed tens of thousands of buildings. “Now look at it.”
Hibbu is the municipality chief of Mosul and faces the titanic task of rebuilding Iraq’s second largest city from the ruins of war. It is a mega-project that could take years and require billions of dollars – yet his administration is strapped for cash.
Iraqi soccer fans are celebrating the lifting of FIFA’s three-decade-long ban on their country holding international competitions as the southern city of Basra prepared to host a friendly match with Qatar on Wednesday.
The world soccer’s governing body lifted the ban last Friday, allowing Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil to host full international games and competitions for the first time since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Even while the ban was in place, Iraq was still allowed, since 2017, to host friendly matches and tournaments — such as three- nation face-off between Iraq, Qatar and Syria slated to begin Wednesday evening.
It isn’t hard to find signs that Iran is winning a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Iraq.
There are the Iraqi Shi’ite militia who have sworn allegiance to Iran and the politicians beholden to Tehran. There are the Iranian companies that make everything from Baghdad’s yellow taxis to the refrigerators and air conditioners that flood street markets.
And then there are the dates.
Tens of thousands of people died fighting in the Iraq War, which began 15 years ago Tuesday. Nearly 5,000 of them were U.S. service members. Tens of thousands were insurgents battling the transitional Iraqi government put in place after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
But that figure obscures the actual number of deaths attributable to the conflict. During the war and during the Islamic State militant group’s occupation of as much as a third of the country in recent years, the number of deaths runs into the hundreds of thousands, including civilians killed as a result of violence and, more broadly, those who died because of the collapse of infrastructure and services in Iraq resulting from the ongoing conflict.
A precise death toll, though, is almost impossible to calculate.
For residents of the Old City, returning to Mosul is an exercise in trying to forget.
Its streets bear the scars of the horrors they survived – either living under Islamic State’s (IS) draconian rule or during nine months of brutal fighting, as the U.S.-led coalition battled to recapture the city from the jihadists.
“This corner is where Daesh whipped my sons for talking out of turn,” said Um Abdullah, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, walking around the neighborhood she returned to in January. “And this corner is where they killed my father for trying to stop them.”
India said Tuesday that 39 of its citizens who were abducted by Islamic State militants had been found dead in northern Iraq, ending a four-year mystery that had gripped the South Asian nation.
India's foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, told Parliament that Iraqi authorities found 39 bodies buried under a mound near a village northeast of Mosul, the city that Iraqi forces freed from Islamic State control last July.
At the heart of a Baghdad flea market, nostalgia for Iraq's royal past is on full display as collectors and investors gather to buy relics from a bygone era.
Inside the Moudallal cafe, Arabic for "pampered", a hundred men from across the country carefully follow the auction of momentos from the nearly four decades of monarchic rule that ended with a bloody coup in 1958.
With a booming voice, the towering man who has worked in the covered market since 1992 offers his goods up for to the highest bidder.
After 15 years of violence, insecurity and sectarianism following the US invasion of Iraq, finding cause for optimism can be a fool's errand for Iraqi leaders.
This week marks the 15-year anniversary of the start of the US invasion of Iraq, ostensibly to free Iraqis from tyranny and oppression. What came next is well known: With the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein, the US unleashed a storm of killing and division that persists to this day.
Iraqi leaders insist the country is in the best state it's been in since the invasion, even if ordinary Iraqis remain sceptical. Iraqi leaders point to the military defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and national elections scheduled for May as reasons to be hopeful. Elections running smoothly, leaders say, will indicate there was at least one positive legacy to the US invasion - the successful introduction of democracy.
Monday marks 15 years since President George W. Bush announced the start of the Iraq war, followed by a ‘decapitation’ air strike on Baghdad meant to target Saddam Hussein. After a 48-hour deadline for Saddam to leave Iraq expired, ground troops from the U.S., UK, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq from Kuwait, launching a war that lasted from 2003 to 2011.
The Cipher Brief asked its experts in the intelligence, diplomatic and military to assess the war’s impact. Their conversations are adapted for print below.