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CrisisWatch Iraq

Unchanged Situation

Parliamentary elections held amid record low turnout, gun attacks and fraud allegations, while security forces arrested two prominent Islamic State (ISIS) members. Iraqis 10 Oct cast their ballots in general election that witnessed lowest voter turnout of any election since 2003, with only 41% participation of registered voters. Main winners included Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement, which boosted seats in parliament from 54 to 73, while pro-Iran Shiite parties, including Fateh Alliance, lost seats; Tishreen protest movement-linked party Imtidad recorded successes in southern governorates. EU observer mission 12 Oct said vote was “well-managed and competitive” amid concerns over low turnout and press freedoms. Notably, gun attack on election centre in Riyad region, south of Kirkuk city, reportedly killed three police officials; unknown gunmen same day attacked voting centre in Sa’diyah town, Diyala governorate, injuring two soldiers. Several Shiite parties 12 Oct alleged fraud, called for recount; pro-Iran paramilitary group Kataib Hezbollah called vote “scam”, threatening violence. Hundreds of supporters of paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Forces 17 Oct blocked roads south and north of capital Baghdad in protest at results and 19 Oct began sit-in near Green Zone in Baghdad. Earlier in month, around 1,000 protesters 1 Oct demonstrated in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, marking two-year anniversary of Oct 2019 protest movement. Meanwhile, ISIS attacks remained lethal, primarily in Kirkuk, Anbar, Diyala and Salah-al Din governorates. Notably, ISIS 3 Oct killed soldier in clashes near Tuz Khurmatu district that cut off Baghdad-Kirkuk highway; attack on village in Diyala 26 Oct killed 12 and injured another 15. PM al-Kadhimi 11 Oct announced capture of senior ISIS leader Sami Jasim in intelligence operation and 18 Oct announced arrest of ISIS militant Ghazwan al-Zobai in unidentified foreign country and transport to Iraq 16 Oct; al-Zobai was mastermind behind 2016 bombing that killed almost 300 people in Baghdad. ISIS attack 26 Oct on Shiite village in Diyala governorate killed at least 15 and prompted retaliation by residents on Sunni village accused of siding with group. Turkey continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK): airstrikes throughout month targeting suspected PKK in northern Iraq neutralised dozens of alleged militants.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

7 Oct 2021
[Shiite Muslim cleric] Sadr has been selling himself as a viable option, and a central one in Iraqi politics. Washington Post

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
2 Jun 2021
Successive [Iraqi] governments since the military victory over ISIS have failed to integrate the PMF. It has become a force in itself, pursuing its own interests. Al Jazeera

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
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

Latest Updates

Iraq’s Tishreen Uprising: From Barricades to Ballot Box

The huge demonstrations that rocked Iraqi cities two years ago reverberate still, with the main grievances unaddressed. Protests could arise anew at any time, risking another lethal crackdown. The government should hold those who harmed protesters accountable and work to ensure clean elections in October.

Also available in العربية

Hundreds of Thousands of Iraqis Are Still Internally Displaced

A short illustrated look at the story of Iraq's internal displacement crisis.

Exiles in Their Own Country: Dealing with Displacement in Post-ISIS Iraq

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis remain uprooted and unable to go home after the war to defeat ISIS. The worst off are those, mainly women and children, perceived to have jihadist ties. Iraq and its partners should find ways to end their displacement.

Also available in العربية

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

When Measuring ISIS’s “Resurgence”, Use the Right Standard

Memories of the Islamic State’s 2014-2015 “caliphate” peak in Iraq and Syria colour views of its present capacity, leading officials and observers either to exaggerate or understate its threat. In Iraq, the group does pose a danger. Gauging it properly is key to containing it.

Also available in العربية

Our People

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq