It was a well planned, lethally effective attack: Isis suicide bombers and gunmen killed 35 people at a Shia shrine in the town of Balad. Just another grim reminder last weekend of the carnage that continues in Iraq, 13 years after “liberation” of the country by troops sent by George W Bush and Tony Blair.
Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, played a crucial, but little known part in the vicious war in the shadows which followed the invasion. It was from here that the US commander Stanley McChrystal ran counter-insurgency with American and British special forces. These “black-ops” were lethally effective, playing a key part in the death and capture of 3,500 insurgents. It was also an operation which caused a deep dispute between the US and UK.