Why few are celebrating the end of the Islamic State’s caliphate, and 6 other global stories

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A U.S. Marine waits to guide an armored vehicle towing a howitzer to a firing position in Syria on May 14. (Sgt. Matthew Callahan/U.S. Marine Corps)

In this occasional series, The Washington Post brings you up to speed on some of the biggest stories of the week. This week: Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ has been toppled in Iraq and Syria. Why isn’t anyone celebrating?


The biggest story: The end of the Islamic State's caliphate


The Pentagon recently announced that 400 Marines deployed to Syria to fight the Islamic State would be returning home, a decision that appeared to mark the group's defeat and the end of its self-declared caliphate. But the battle isn’t over.


Iraqi and Syrian forces have yet to secure their porous border, which the Islamic State once spanned, and they are still chasing militants in canyon-filled deserts.


Tamer El-Ghobashy, Mustafa Salim and Louisa Loveluck explain why few are celebrating the end of ISIS at this point.


As the territorial caliphate of the Islamic State nears its end, the Post's Liz Sly reflects on its rise and ongoing fall and discusses what could come next in the Middle East. (William Neff/The Washington Post)

Six other important stories


1. Photos from North Korea’s east coast show how tough life is away from the capital


The North Korean regime likes to portray the country as a “socialist paradise” in which well-dressed citizens take to the streets to celebrate their spectacular advances in missile and nuclear technology. But a very different picture of life in North Korea emerged from a British photographer who was permitted to travel along the country’s east coast at the end of November.


A general view of a public square in Rason, North Korea, on Nov. 21. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Ed Jones, a Seoul-based photographer for Agence France-Presse, has been traveling to the country since the French news agency opened a bureau in Pyongyang last September, according to Anna Fifield.


2. Secretary of State Tillerson gets a chilly reception from European allies


Tillerson’s trip to Europe, normally friendly territory, is underscoring the difficulties of defending Trump administration policies to skeptical allies, as Carol Morello and Michael Birnbaum write.


Such sentiments were echoed by Germany's foreign minister who warned on Tuesday that the transatlantic political architecture established after World War II is beginning to “crumble.” He said the Trump administration often views Europe as “a competitor and sometimes even as an economic adversary.”


Read the full story by Anne Gearan and Souad Mekhennet.


3. Trump declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel


Responding to Trump's decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Israel’s “irreplaceable” relationship with the United States. Other U.S. allies were more skeptical, even calling the move "a catastrophe."


On Dec. 5, the Trump administration said there was a plan to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Here's how world leaders reacted. (The Washington Post)

But while Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he delayed the move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv. Adam Taylor explains why that matters.


4. Venezuela’s economy is in free fall. The government says a digital currency is the answer.


It’s easy to see why digital currencies might seem attractive to politically divided and economically strained nations like Venezuela. If every Venezuelan had invested his or her gross 2009 income of $11,500 into bitcoin, the investment would have been worth about $8.4 billion in May this year — per person.


But when Venezuela announced its plans to launch an own digital currency. many ridiculed the idea. Among other things, it would require a socialist government to think like a start-up — in a country where more than a third of the population lacks an Internet connection.


Read the full story.


5. China sends its top actors and directors back to socialism school


“The Great Wall.” (Universal Studios)

Socialism is also still alive in China. Just ask more than 100 of the nation’s top filmmakers, actors and pop stars, who gathered for a day of socialist instruction in the city of Hangzhou. The nation’s top entertainers were specifically told to study President Xi Jinping's words and praise his guidance, representing another turn of the screw for a Communist Party looking to reassert control over all walks of life under Xi.


Read the full story by Simon Denyer and Luna Lin.


6. How Ukraine’s attempt to arrest Mikhail Saakashvili led to a rousing rooftop speech


Masked officers from Ukraine’s security services arrived early Tuesday morning to arrest Mikhail Saakashvili, the former Georgian president currently living in a Kiev apartment — but their plans went quickly awry.


The former president escaped to his building’s roof. There, he addressed hundreds of his followers who had in the meantime rushed to the scene at the news of his detention. Officers eventually reached Saakashvili and carefully dragged him from the roof. But in a bizarre turn of events, demonstrators later freed Saakashvili from a police van, as David L. Stern writes.


Ukrainian supporters of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili freed him from police on Dec. 5 after he was detained on suspicion of assisting a criminal organization. (Reuters)

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