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CrisisWatch Iraq

Unchanged Situation

Iraq Rocket attacks targeted U.S.-led coalition forces while Turkey launched military operation against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Barrage of rockets 15 Feb struck airport hosting international coalition forces and residential areas of central Erbil city in Kurdistan Regional Govt’s territory, killing one U.S. contractor and one civilian as well as injuring 14 others, including one U.S. soldier; newly established pro-Iran Shiite paramilitary group Saraya Awliya al-Dam next day claimed responsibility, citing U.S. troops as main target and vowing further attacks. U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken expressed “outrage” and 17 Feb issued joint statement with UK, France, Germany and Italy condemning attack. At least four rockets 20 Feb hit military base hosting U.S. contractors in Balad, north of capital Baghdad, injuring one Iraqi contractor; at least two rockets 22 Feb hit Green Zone in Baghdad. Meanwhile, Ankara 10 Feb launched military operation against PKK in Iraq’s Gara Mountain region, Duhok province that resulted in deaths of three Turkish soldiers and, according to Turkish officials, 13 hostages held by PKK (see Turkey). Turkey 15 Feb also warned of intervention in Sinjar district, Ninewa province, in case of continued PKK activity; paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Front-linked groups warned Turkey not to launch such operations. In south, protests 5 Feb in Nasiriyah city called for basic services, end to corruption and information on whereabouts of local activist Sajjad al-Iraqi allegedly kidnapped in Sept 2020; clashes between demonstrators and security forces 26 Feb in Nasiriyah killed five protesters and injured over 175. Demonstrators in Wasit province in east 7 Feb demanded dismissal of local govt and accountability for protesters who had been killed by security forces. Earlier in month, security forces 1 Feb began vacating Jeddah 5 displacement camp in Ninewa governorate, home to 7,000 people displaced during battles with Islamic State (ISIS); rapid pace has alarmed humanitarian groups that warn of lack of basic services or reprisals over ISIS family ties. Parliament’s Finance Committee 5 Feb voted in favour of cutting 2021 budget in bid to reduce federal deficit; Erbil and Baghdad continued to dispute terms of Kurdistan’s share of budget.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

12 Dec 2020
In comparison to previous protests [in Iraq's Kurdish north] these are significant as the current fiscal crisis affects larger swaths of the population. The Washington Post

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
27 Sep 2020
The trend here is that the U.S. is withdrawing (from Iraq). If they are not doing it now, then they are doing it eventually. The Washington Post

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
4 Sep 2020
It seems that what is left of ISIS networks now is that they are getting organized in smaller groups of five or six people who may not be connected to each other even. New Delhi Times

Berkay Mandıracı

Analyst, Turkey
30 Mar 2020
If the United States is forced out of Iraq in an ugly, contentious fashion, it could poison the bilateral relationship. (Quoted with Maria Fantappie) War on the Rocks

Sam Heller

Former Adviser, Non-state Armed Groups
10 Jan 2020
The Iraqis don’t want either the United States or Iran, but if they have to have one, they would rather have both because they balance each other out. New York Times

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
6 Nov 2019
[Iraqi] people make a direct connection between the failure and the corruption of the Shia political establishment, both politicians and some clerics, and the Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs. Washington Post

Maria Fantappie

Former Senior Adviser, Iraq

Latest Updates

Iraq: Fixing Security in Kirkuk

Federal forces now patrol Kirkuk, the diverse, oil-rich province disputed between the central and Kurdish regional governments. The arrangement is unsettling communal relations, with Kurds feeling excluded. With outside help, Baghdad and Erbil should design a joint security mechanism including a locally recruited multi-ethnic unit.

Also available in العربية

On Third Try, a New Government for Iraq

The new Iraqi prime minister has several daunting tasks. Not only must he navigate the politics that delayed his cabinet’s formation, but he must also deal with plummeting state revenues, simmering public discontent and – last but hardly least – rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Arab Protests: A Wicked Dance Between Rulers and Subjects

A new wave of popular protests has jolted an already deeply unsettled Arab world. Nine years ago, uprisings across the region signalled a rejection of corrupt autocratic rule that failed to deliver jobs, basic services and reliable infrastructure. Yet regime repression and the protests’ lack of organisation, leadership and unified vision thwarted hopes of a new order. As suddenly as the uprisings erupted, as quickly they descended into violence. What followed was either brutal civil war or regime retrenchment. Tunisia stands as the sole, still fragile, exception.

Originally published in Valdai Club

Assessing the Fatalities in Turkey’s PKK Conflict

Turkey’s ruling party sees recent battlefield and electoral gains as vindicating its hardline policies toward the PKK. But these same policies fuel the Kurdish grievances that keep the fighting going. Ankara would thus be wise to consider exploring ways of winding down the destructive conflict.

Averting an ISIS Resurgence in Iraq and Syria

Once again, the Islamic State may be poised to recover from defeat in its original bases of Iraq and Syria. It is still possible, however, for the jihadist group’s many foes to nip its regrowth in the bud.

Also available in العربية

Our People

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq