Since Iraqi troops seized back Mosul last month, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has been reduced to the area around Raqqa in Syria. Predominantly Kurdish forces are attempting to take the city, protected by Western airpower. Authorities estimate the number of Islamist fighters has dwindled from the thousands to the hundreds.
As soon as the caliphate falls, governments will face another challenge: the reconstruction.
Repairs to basic infrastructure in Mosul alone could cost up to $1 billion, according to the United Nations.
Iraq’s Ministry of Planning puts the long-term cost of rebuilding Mosul at $10 billion. That includes repairing the damage from the fighting as well as the deliberate destruction caused by the Islamic State.
Given Iraq’s history of corruption and mismanagement of public funds, the final figure could be much higher. And that’s just Mosul. Read more
Hard to See How Trump’s Unpredictability Is Making America Stronger
Donald Trump’s seven months as president have been one surprise after another. From his unexpected diplomacy with China and his certification of the Iran nuclear deal — both of which he lambasted as a presidential candidate — to daily stories of White House intrigue and the dismissal of top government officials, Trump has created an atmosphere of unpredictability in Washington DC.
This is deliberate.
“We must as a nation be more unpredictable,” he argued last year.
But is it improving America’s position in the world? Read more
Mixed Success for Trump at the G20 on Syria and Trade
The G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany has been a mixed success for American president Donald Trump.
On the one hand, Trump negotiated a ceasefire for southwestern Syria with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. American-backed rebels have been fighting the Russian-backed regime of Bashar Assad there.
On the other hand, he didn’t elicit Russia’s support for the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is Trump’s priority.
On the one hand, G20 leaders conditioned open markets on “reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade” in their summit declaration and recognized the role of “legitimate trade defense instruments” — a political victory for Trump.
On the other hand, a threat from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to retaliate with EU trade sanctions appears to have persuaded Trump not to raise tariffs on steel. Read more
Located between Europe and the Middle East, Cyprus has historically been of strategic significance to powers on either side of the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of natural gas off its shores has raised the island’s geopolitical profile — and might help it overcome communal tensions.
Cypriot waters are estimated to contain between 140 and 220 billion cubic meters of gas with an approximate value of €38 billion.
Exploration should spur economic growth and could make it easier for internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus and Turkey to hash out a compromise for the future of the island. Read more
Dark Side to Coalition’s Success Against Islamic State
The Western-backed effort to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq is making headway. The self-proclaimed caliphate has lost two-thirds of its territory. The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second city, is well underway.
But there is a dark side to the coalition’s success in Iraq. We’ve seen it in the streets of Paris, Nice and London: The more the Islamic State is cornered, the more of its sympathizers commit terrorist attacks in the West. Read more
Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State
As David Downing reported here on Sunday, Mosul could make a quick economic recovery once it is entirely liberated from the self-declared Islamic State by Iraqi government forces.
Not only is the city, once Iraq’s second largest, a hub for northern Iraqi industry and trade; it’s also situated close to major oil and natural gas reserves. The potential for further economic expansion could be close at hand. Read more