For all intents and purposes, the Islamic State is being defeated. It has been mostly pushed out of Mosul and American-backed Arab and Kurdish forces besiege their capital at Raqqa.
But while the fall of the Islamic State could be a matter of days or years, its legacy of destruction is unquestionable.
Thousands have been killed in Syria and Iraq under their aegis, tens of thousands of lives have been uprooted, over 100 terrorist attacks have occurred around the globe, and countless pieces of cultural property have been sold away or destroyed.
The road to recovery in Iraq and Syria will be a long one, but while the human cost is horrific, we also cannot forget the physical damage the Islamic State has unleashed on these two countries’ cultural heritage.
Artifacts and monuments from across the history of Iraq and Syria constitute part of their cultural heritage and their national identity.The damage to famed sites such as Nimrud and Palmyra is a blow not only to future tourism but also local confidence and identity.
When the Islamic State is removed, the situation in Iraq and Syria will remain chaotic.Other forces in the Syrian Civil War have sold off ancient artifacts just like the Islamic State; Syrian and Iraqi cultural heritage will remain at risk.
The forces in these countries, including the United States and Russia, need to protect the history and cultural property that remains.
by Michael Goodyear