ISIS pushed out from one of the last strongholds in northern Iraq

Iraq has declared another victory against the Islamic State even as the militants still control towns on the far west Syrian border. France has offered diplomatic help between Iraq's government and the autonomous Kurdish region.

Ludovic Marin/Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Iraqi Prime minister Haider Al-Abadi during a joint news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Oct. 5, 2017.

Iraq's prime minister said Thursday that troops have retaken the northern town of Hawija from the Islamic State group, driving the extremists from one of their last strongholds in the country.

Haider Al-Abadi declared victory during a press conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, who offered to help mediate between Iraq's government and the autonomous Kurdish region, which voted for independence last week in a move that was rejected by Baghdad and neighboring Turkey and Iran.

"I want to announce the liberation of the city of Hawija today," Mr. Al-Abadi said, calling it a "victory not just for Iraq but for the whole world."

Iraqi forces have driven IS from nearly all the cities and towns it seized in the summer of 2014, including the country's second largest city, Mosul, which was liberated in July. The extremists are now mainly concentrated in a region straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border, and still control a cluster of towns in the far west of Iraq's sprawling Anbar province.

Iraqi officials often declare victory before the fighting has completely ended, and the troops in and around Hawija were likely still clearing mines and booby traps, and flushing out remaining militants. Iraqi forces had launched the operation to retake the town, which lies 150 miles north of Baghdad, late last month.

Even as it drives the extremists from their last remaining pockets of territory, Iraq faces a new challenge in the form of a growing Kurdish push for independence. More than 90 percent of Kurds voted in favor of independence in a referendum last month that was rejected as illegal by the Baghdad government as well as Iraq's neighbors.

Iraq has responded to the vote by imposing a flight ban on the northern region, while Turkey and Iran have sent troops to the land-locked region's borders to signal their opposition to any redrawing of the map.

Mr. Macron said France and others are concerned about the escalating dispute. He said France supports the territorial integrity of Iraq and called for "national reconciliation and inclusive governance," noting France's close ties to the Kurds.

He said dialogue "is the only path" out of the crisis, and said France is ready "to contribute actively to mediation."

France frequently offers to use its diplomatic weight to mediate in world crises. The offer to mediate between the Iraqi government and Kurds had reportedly run into resistance from the Iraqi government ahead of al-Abadi's visit because of Macron's insistence on Kurdish rights.

Al-Abadi insisted that Iraq "is for all Iraqis" and said the constitution guarantees the rights of all its citizens.

"We are not looking for any confrontations, we don't want animosity," he said. "But the authority of the federal state should impose its will and no one should attack the federal authority."

The central government and the Kurds have long bickered over the sharing of oil wealth and the fate of disputed territories that are controlled by Kurdish forces but lie outside their autonomous region.

Iraq's parliament, which is dominated by Shiite Arabs, has called for harsh measures in response to the Sept. 25 referendum, including sending federal troops to retake the contested, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which is held by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad. Al-Abadi has ruled out any military response to the Kurdish vote but has said Iraqi forces will respond to any violence.

Al-Abadi and Macron also discussed efforts to promote investment and reconstruction in Iraq, where entire neighborhoods in several cities have been reduced to rubble by the fight against IS, and where more than 3 million people have been displaced.

France confirmed a 30 million euro loan for Iraqi reconstruction, and appears eager to play a big economic role in Iraq's future. French oil company Total has long been a player in the region and other companies are meeting with Abadi's delegation in Paris later Thursday.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to ISIS pushed out from one of the last strongholds in northern Iraq
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today