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US Returns 10,000 Artifacts to Iraq

US 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Texas at Iraq’s National Museum September 10, 2003.

On Friday, Iraqi and United States officials announced that 10,000 objects will soon be returned to Baghdad’s National Museum.  Some of the artifacts date from the time of Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian Empires.

Baha al-Mayahi, an Iraqi ministry advisor,  refused to go into detail about how the artifacts were recovered.  Yet, when the United States returned 30 artifacts in 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acknowledged that most of the objects were recovered as part of lengthy investigations.  The majority recovered from Craigslist and e-bay, where they had been posted for sale by former US military members.

As part of the negotiations, the artifacts must all be photographed and catalogued in an electronic archive at Cornell University.

When the US returned a small number of artifacts in 2011, the Iraqi ambassador to Washington stated that the “looting” of the museum “was heartbreaking for every Iraqi…. It was really an attack against our identity– and made us feel that our entire being was threatened….  Iraq has endured a great deal, but on days like this, we rekindle hope.”

The artifacts will be displayed at the Iraq National Museum following restoration.

Sources: “US Returns Artifacts, Hussein-era object to Iraq,” Washington Post, July 7, 2011; “Recovery of Ten Thousand Iraqi Relics in America,” Iraq Free Radio, August 1, 2013; “Iraq, US Reach Deal on Stolen Artefacts: Official,” Fox News, from a AFP release, July 26, 2013.

For more opinion read Reuters interview with Iraqi archeologist Ihsan Fathi.