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Iraq

Shia Counteroffensive Against ISIS In Iraq, A Pandora's Box

Supervised and armed by Iran, young Shia volunteers have launched a major battle against ISIS in Tikrit. But taking revenge on local Sunnis is not likely to pacify the region. And what about Uncle Sam?

Shia soldiers look over an ISIS-controlled area near Kirkuk, Iraq
Shia soldiers look over an ISIS-controlled area near Kirkuk, Iraq
Hélène Sallon

OWAINAT — On the road between the cities of Samarra and Tikrit, the militiamen of the People’s Mobilization (PM) had been watching the southern gate into Tikrit for months. Watching, and waiting.

This spot in north-central Iraq is where ISIS territory began. But finally, at dawn on March 2, thousands of fighters left the village of Owainat, the government’s last forward operating base located 150 kilometers north of Baghdad, to go through the arch ornamented with a reconstitution of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock and recapture Tikrit, which also happens to be Saddam Hussein’s birthtown, after it had fallen into the hands of the ISIS jihadists on June 11, 2014.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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