Baghdad, from right to left:
1-the small buildings are a civil complex called (Alkhayrat complex)
2-the two large buildings in the middle of the photo are (Ishtar Sheraton hotel) and (Palestine Meridian hotel)
3-the trees in the middle of the photo are covering (Abu Noaas Street), including the park next to the river
4- Dijlah River is at the far left of the photo, which the (International Zone) is next to it.

Tue 4 Jun 2019, Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone has reopened to the public after 16 years.











Pope Francis has called for an end to violence and extremism, on the first ever papal visit to Iraq


Iraq (officially Republic of Iraq, is an Arab country in the Middle East, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. The main ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds; others include Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.
Iraq has a coastline measuring 58 km (36 miles) on the northern Persian Gulf and encompasses the Mesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert. Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through Iraq and into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land. The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, historically known as Mesopotamia, is often referred to as the cradle of civilisation. It was here that mankind first began to read, write, create laws and live in cities under an organised government—notably Uruk, from which "Iraq" is derived. The area has been home to successive civilisations since the 6th millennium BC. Iraq was the centre of the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Ayyubid, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid and Ottoman empires
Iraq's modern borders were mostly demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was divided by the Treaty of Sèvres. Iraq was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established in 1921, and the Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Iraqi Republic created. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The American presence in Iraq ended in 2011, but the Iraqi insurgency continued and intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country. Out of the insurgency came a highly destructive group calling itself ISIL, which took large parts of the north and west. It has since been largely defeated. Disputes over the sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan continue. A referendum about the full sovereignty of Iraqi Kurdistan was held on 25 September 2017.

Iraq is a founding member of the UN as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF. It is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 19 governorates (provinces) and one autonomous region (Iraqi Kurdistan). The country's official religion is Islam. Culturally, Iraq has a very rich heritage and celebrates the achievements of its past in pre-Islamic times and is known for its poets. Its painters and sculptors are among the best in the Arab world, some of them being world-class as well as producing fine handicrafts, including rugs and carpets.


  The EU and Iraq
Relations between Iraq and the EU are based on two
Delegation of the European Union to Iraq
  agreements covering cooperation and assistance. Iraq is an important partner for the EU because of its geopolitical
  position in the Middle East and its proximity to the EU. European Union External Action - the EU and Iraq

Iraq in the Middle East:
Battleground or Bridge Builder
As a result of the sustained efforts and valiant performance of Iraq’s security forces, leadership and allies, the defeat of the Islamic State has returned Iraq to more peaceful waters. Daily levels of violence have gone down and its people face a brighter future. Yet, an array of old and new challenges already looms on the horizon, including the upcoming elections, the unresolved Kurdish issue and a profound degree of state capture. Moreover, the problems that created the Islamic State - Sunni marginalization, corruption and self-serving elites - persist. All of this will complicate the reconstruction and reconciliation efforts necessary to forestall more violence in Iraq’s near future.

October 29, 2019, after the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs met members of the Dutch goverment, he presented a special lecture: 'Iraq in the Middle East: Battleground or Bridge Builder'.

Discussed were ways to enhance cooperation between the two countries in the field of combating terrorism and the issue of foreign terrorist fighters. They also discussed the support and training of Iraqi security forces by the Dutch side. Minister Alhakim touched on the latest developments in Iraq and the government’s actions to implement the government program , provide services and deal with the demands of youth in providing job opportunities and development. Minister Alhakim called on Dutch companies to work in Iraq in various fields and increase the volume of trade exchange between the two countries The two Ministers also discussed the latest developments in the region, and exchanged insights and ideas on contributing to resolving crises and ending tensions.

Briefed was the latest situation in Iraq and the government’s efforts in implementing its program, including: meeting the demands of youth, and stressing that the reform process pursued by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is proceeding effectively, and will achieve the desired goals with the cooperation of all. Minister Alhakim praised the support provided by the Dutch side to Iraq in confronting Da’esh terrorist gangs within the framework of the Global Coalition, stressing the importance of continuing the training of Iraqi military forces. The two sides discussed benefiting from the Dutch experiences in the field of oil, agriculture and water, which positively reflects on job creation and development in Iraq. A number of regional and international issues of mutual interest were also discussed. Minister Alhakim stressed the importance of restraint to peaceful solutions and calmness, stating that the escalation in the region will not serve any side.


A house divided  
A house divided (Report lingendael Institute)

Developing a profound understanding of factors that influence Iraq’s future as a nation requires going beyond current affairs such as the siege of Mosul or the political role of Iraq’s popular irregular forces (the Hashd al-Shabi). It necessitates analysis of the heart of political power in Iraq and this means focusing on historical and contemporary socio-political manifestations of Shi’ism. It is for this reason that the report analyses the dynamics of relation- and coalition-building between the country’s main Shi’a political groups from 1991 to 2016. It focuses mostly on the Islamic Da’wa Party, the Sadrist Trend, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and Iraq’s various irregular forces. It finds that Shi’a political relation- and coalition-building can be characterized as follows:

  • Iraq’s Shi’a are far from a unified political force despite their shared belief. Instead, their political parties compete viciously with each other, using all means imaginable.
  • Historical legacies and the role/quality of leaders dominate political party development.
  • There is a high degree of continuity of individual Shi’a leaders and elites in Iraq’s governance at the level of the central state.
  • Coalitions between Shi’a parties have been unstable, ad hoc affairs aimed at winning the vote, carving up public authority and resources, and/or responding to an imminent threat.
  • Religion-based political influence is strong on issues on which the Shi’a community is united, but limited on issues on which it is not.
  • Shi’a political parties unite temporarily in the face of an external threat, especially if called upon by their religious leadership, but this tends to be short-lived and does not reduce opportunistic political behaviour.
"EU-Iraq: a partnership for a better future", the new EU Strategy for Iraq. Various aspects of the EU's commitment to a strong EU-Iraq partnership, which will be underpinned by the entry into force of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in the coming months.
The new EU Strategy for Iraq, adopted on 22 January 2018, focuses on the underlying political, social and economic drivers of instability in the country and illustrates the deep commitment of the EU to continue working with the Iraqi people and government for long-term peace, reconciliation and stability in the country.
It follows from this characterization that there has been no such thing as structural political unity between Iraq’s Shi’a in the period 1991–2016. Its corollary is that the country’s Shi’a political elites share neither a view on how to deal practically with the country’s many challenges nor a broad strategic vision of Iraq’s future. Shi’a national political dominance has taken the form of a fluid, rough-and-tumble affair in which immediate material interests have tended to prevail over longer-term perspectives and national policy. It also follows from this characterization that strong legacies of violence and poor relations persist between a number of Iraq’s Shi’a parties and leaders, regardless of their ability to form coalitions pragmatically, overcome existing enmities and flexibly adjust principles where this has been in their interests. The political instability that has resulted from this mix of fluidity and latent enmity in relations and coalitions has significantly reduced the quality of governance and administration, owing to long periods of coalition negotiations, high levels of discontinuity and significant abuse of public authority.

These findings point to two broad problems for Iraq’s future as a nation. First, few channels exist outside of the existing political establishment to manifest grievances and discontent that arise from significant levels of poor governance, insecurity, poverty and inadequate service delivery. This risks storing up socio-political unrest for the future as the political establishment is not necessarily held in high regard by ordinary Iraqis. The quasi-permanence of the cast of Shi’a characters and parties that dominate political competition in Baghdad has discouraged new political entrants, creating a relatively ‘closed’ political marketplace. In consequence, the rejuvenation of the Shi’a body politic has been very limited despite the fact that many of the existing leaders have a distinctly underwhelming track record in terms of their public service performance.

Cyrus Cylinder

A clay cylinder covered in Akkadian cuneiform script, damaged and broken, the Cyrus Cylinder is a powerful symbol of religious tolerance and multi-culturalism. In this enthralling talk Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, traces 2600 years of Middle Eastern history through this single object.

Second, political disunity between Iraq’s Shi’a could actually be positive news if it were to stimulate the formation of cross-ethno-sectarian alliances between Sunni, Kurds and Shi’a that might set Iraq on the path of a more pluriform democracy based on platforms of political content rather than ethno-sectarian identity. However, this is unlikely to happen in the current climate of polarization in the country and ethno-sectarian mobilization across the region. This makes political disunity between Iraq’s Shi’a deeply problematic instead, since it suggests that the country’s dominant political group will probably be unable to develop a proposition that is attractive enough for Iraq’s Sunni and Kurds to re-engage in national politics and so keep the country together in a meaningful way.

Much of the attention of the international community is currently focused on combating the Islamic State and promoting reconciliation between Iraq’s Sunni, Shi’a and Kurds. These are worthwhile goals. This report suggests that the international community also needs to focus on promoting change in the quality, legitimacy and diversity of political representation of Iraq’s Shi’a, if only to enhance its wider reconciliation efforts. On the one hand, this will need to be done via existing political parties and their leadership because of their dominant position. On the other hand, it will need to be done outside of these very same parties and their leadership because of their dominant position. This is not a contradiction, but a reflection of the fact that change will require complementary political initiatives from inside and from outside Iraq’s political system. From this perspective, the report makes four recommendations with the caveat that external actors will not be able to drive any of them. Nevertheless, they can provide discreet and indirect support with modesty and humility:

Working with existing political parties and their leadership

1. Support efforts at political confidence-building and reconciliation between Iraq’s Shi’a political groups.
2. Stimulate a greater level of informal, open and confidential exchange between Iraq’s Shi’a political leadership on possible futures for the country.

Working outside of existing political parties and their leadership

3. Provide long-term support to Shi’a social movements, civil society advocacy groups and nascent political parties.
4. Encourage a civic awareness campaign that raises citizens’ understanding of the role of political parties in an emergent democracy.

The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several pieces, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of Persia's Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879. It was created and used as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire. The text states that Cyrus was welcomed by the people of Babylon as their new ruler and entered the city in peace.