A police officer searches a man at a checkpoint in central Baghdad. (Photo: REUTERS - Saad Shalash)
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent: Fall of Raqqa and Mosul will not spell the end for Isis - only a new beginning
The desperate state of both Syria and Iraq's armies means there is no realistic prospect of either country defeating their extremist insurgencies for good.
When Lionel Messi scored a last minute winning goal for Barcelona against Real Madrid on 23 April, football fans in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous who had been watching the game on television rushed into the street to celebrate.
This turned out to be a mistake from their point of view because many of the jubilant fans were men of military age, whom the Syrian security forces promptly detained in order to find out if they were liable for military service. It is unknown how many were conscripted but, once in the army, they will have difficulty getting out and there is a high chance they will be killed or injured.
Military service and ways of avoiding it are staples of conversation in Syria where government, Kurds and insurgents are all looking for soldiers after six years of relentless war. Casualties have been heavy with pro-government forces alone losing an estimated 112,000 dead since 2011 according to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In theory, men can escape conscription if they are the only son of a family or are studying at university, but even then they are not entirely safe from being arbitrarily drafted.
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WNU Editor: Sadly .... Patrick Cockburn is probably right.