English editions:
Iraq, 2014

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to deliver the inaugural lecture at a Progress think tank event on Monday marking the 20th anniversary of his election as leader of the Labour Party. Following a ballot, Blair gained 57% of the vote to become the new leader of the Labour Party. His closest rival for the leadership, John Prescott, won 24.1% of the vote.

The crisis in Iraq has once again focused attention on the status of Kurdistan. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee met yesterday to hold an evidence session on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as part of an inquiry into government policy in the region. The move is seen as the latest development from the UK in a re-evaluation of its position regarding the possibility of an independent Kurdish state.

Radicalisation has been described by MI5 as the most serious danger to face the UK for the last century. Following the news that 16-year-old twin girls from Manchester left their family home and travelled to Syria a couple of weeks ago, reportedly pledging allegiance to ISIS forces, VoR's Juliet Spare hosts a discussion on the roles of women in jihad.


Hopes among Kurds of a homeland have been growing especially after the comments by the president of the Kurdish part of Iraq Massoud Barzani. As the Islamic insurgent group ISIS make huge gains within Iraq, he declared bluntly that Kurdistan's moment had arrived. VoR's Brendan Cole spoke to Jabber Hassan, director of the Iraqi Association of London. 

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State has made what would be his first public appearance at the grand mosque in Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on Saturday. 

This week a British jihadist in Syria said the UK should be afraid of the terror skills he has learnt after posting images on Twitter of home-made bombs. VoR's Carmen Cracknell asked Anthony Glees, professor of politics at the University of Buckingham about the threats posed by radicalised British Muslims.

Security analysts in London and Baghdad say the outcome of the Iraq and Syrian conflicts may come to hinge on who controls the region's shrinking water supplies. ISIS now controls the Samarra barrage west of Baghdad on the River Tigris - and areas around the Mosul Dam, higher up on the same river. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Nouar Sahmout, a researcher at the think tank Chatham House.

Monday sees the ninth anniversary of the bombings in London that shook the UK to the core. Known as the 7/7 attacks, they raised for the first time the prospect of home-grown British terrorism. Now, the country is faced with another global jihadi threat. How is the West - and Britain in particular - going to deal with it? VoR’s Brendan Cole hosts a debate.

The Islamist group ISIS is continuing to make gains in Iraq as the western world tries to deal with the violent group. The leader of ISIS has declared a caliphate which stretches across parts of northern Iraq and Syria. VoR's Brendan Cole spoke to Kamal Alam, an analyst of the region who has written extensively about Syria. 

The self-proclaimed leader of the ‘Islamic State’ recently established in Iraq and Syria - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - has issued a call to arms to Muslims across the world, vowing to conquer Rome. VoR's Tim Walklate examines the threat posed by this latest call and the history behind the Islamic caliphate.

This week, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant declared it was re-establishing a ‘caliphate’ in the territory it controls in northern Iraq and eastern Syria.  The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was also declared as caliph and "leader for Muslims everywhere". VoR's Tim Walklate reports.

As Iraqi forces battle to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit, ISIL jihadists declared an "Islamic caliphate" in areas under their control. Though the move may not have a significant impact on the ground, it is an indicator of the group's confidence. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Michael Stephens from the Royal United Services Institute, who has just returned from a lengthy visit to Iraq.


The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has welcomed Syrian air strikes on Sunni militant positions, saying they left both countries "winners". VoR's Brendan Cole asked Scott Lucas, founding editor of the magazine EA Worldview and a specialist in the region, if he thought the conflicts in Syria and Iraq were now merging.


Around three hundred US Special Forces have arrived in Iraq to assist the national defence forces in their struggles against the Islamist forces of ISIS. On his visit to Iraq this week the US Secretary of State John Kerry called for regional unity to expel the Sunni Isis rebels who have taken large swathes of Iraq. VoR's Tim Ecott asked Ammar Karim, a reporter for AFP in Baghdad, how exactly the American troops would be used.

Islamists fighting under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) say they have fully captured the country's main oil refinery at Baiji, north of Baghdad. It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry met Kurdish leaders in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil after he visited Baghdad and pledged US support for Iraqi security forces. Mr Kerry said Iraq's very existence was under threat. VoR's Brendan Cole hosts a debate.


Sunni rebels have taken the key strategic site of the oil refinery at Baiji - just outside of Baghdad - after ten days of fighting with government forces. The seizure of this refinery by the insurgents means that the rebels now have control of a third of Iraq's refined fuel. Petrol rationing is now in place across the country. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Annabell Van den Berghe, a journalist in Baghdad.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a telephone conference with US President Barack Obama late on Monday, where both leaders "expressed grave concern about activities in Iraq by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist group". The two leaders also spoke about the situation in Ukraine and the proposed peace plan put forward by President Petr Poroshenko

Today US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad to discuss options for US assistance to Iraq as Sunni insurgents expand their control in the North and West of the country. In recent days Iraqi forces have failed to hold their ground against Islamic militants who have seized major areas in five provinces. On Sunday, John Kerry said that the Iraqi government must be willing to be
inclusive and share power in order to face off the ISIL threat. VoR talks to Professor George Joffe, an expert in Middle Eastern political affairs.

More evidence of British links with Jihadists in Iraq and Syria emerged over the weekend with revelations from a former MI6 director that as many as 500 Islamists fighters from Iraq and Syria may have returned to the UK. Richard Barrett warned that Britain’s security services cannot afford to track all the radicalised young British Muslims who return after fighting in the Middle East.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused the US of trying to retake control of Iraq by exploiting sectarian rivalries, as Sunni insurgents drove towards Baghdad from new strongholds along the Syrian border. Jordan beefed up its border defences with Iraq on Sunday after Sunni gunmen seized territory close to its border in Anbar province. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Mohammed Salih, a reporter in Erbil.

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