Islamic State Nears Its End

Even before the battle is won, hopes of a fresh dawn for Iraq are fading

THE fireworks have been ordered. Street parties are planned. The Iraqi government has prepared a week of festivities to mark the fall of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s self-proclaimed caliphate. Three years after seizing control of the great alluvial plains of the Tigris and the Euphrates, Islamic State, which has claimed so many victims in north-western Iraq, Syria and beyond, is finally dying. American-led forces in Syria breached the old city walls of IS’s capital, Raqqa, on July 4th. In Mosul, in Iraq, all but the last alleyways of the Old City were back in government hands as The Economist went to press on July 6th.

Finding a backdrop from which to celebrate the liberation of Mosul will be difficult, though. Between them, IS and the coalition have destroyed too many shrines and mosques to leave much of historic value, including the al-Nuri mosque dating back to Crusader times from where Mr Baghdadi proclaimed himself caliph. Gone is the Jewish quarter, the markets with their monasteries, and the lattice balconies and sculptured masonry of another Sunni silk road city. “Overlooking the Tigris, there could be no nobler or more beautiful place to sit in,” waxed Ibn Jubayr, a Spanish travel writer who visited in the 12th century. What one side booby-trapped, the other side shelled. Almost half the neighbourhoods of west Mosul have been destroyed, including much of the Old City, estimates a foreign observer, perhaps some 20,000 houses in all. “Like Dresden,” an American general was heard muttering, touring the ruins.

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