Iraq has been successively ravaged by the 1980-1988 war with Iran, crippling sanctions after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, internal conflict after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, and the transnational jihadists of Islamic State after 2014. Its multiple challenges further include sectarian violence and Kurdish separatism. Crisis Group aims to promote locally-centred stabilisation and better governance of post-ISIS Iraq in order to reduce the risk of violent flare-ups in liberated areas and mitigate the impact of foreign strategic competition, notably between Iran and the U.S. Through field research, advocacy and engagement with all sides, we urge countries involved in the anti-ISIS campaign to support security sector and institutional reform in Iraq as well. On the Kurdish front, we urge a return to a UN-led process to resolve the question of the disputed territories, especially Kirkuk, and of oil revenue-sharing.

CrisisWatch Iraq

Unchanged Situation

Tensions mounted between Baghdad and Erbil as Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) announced regional election boycott, while Türkiye struck Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); lull in attacks by Iran-backed groups persisted.

Relations between Baghdad and Erbil remained under stress. KDP 18 March announcedboycott of Kurdistan’s June parliamentary elections over Federal Supreme Court ruling in Feb to annul minority seats in parliament, most of which are allocated to KDP-dominated areas; minority Christian and Turkmen parties also announced boycott. KDP’s decision may have also been motivated by Supreme Court mandating Baghdad to centrally disburse Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) employee salaries. In sign of deteriorating ties, KRG PM Barzani’s deputy chief of staff 18 March said KDP was considering “outright exit from Iraq’s political process”.

Govt banned PKK to boost ties with Türkiye, which continued attacks on group. Ahead of expected visit by Turkish President Erdoğan in April – which would mark his first visit in over twelve years – high-level Turkish delegation led by FM Fidan 14-15 March visited Iraqi capital Baghdad and jointly met senior ministers, chairman of Hashd al-Shaabi, and KRG interior minister. Meeting established joint permanent commission on counterterrorism, water governance, trade and transportation, and Baghdad also designated PKK as “banned organisation”. Signalling possible escalation of anti-PKK campaign in coming months, Erdoğan 18 March announced that Iraqi border would be entirely secured by summer. Meanwhile, Turkish airstrike 8 March reportedly killed two civilians in Duhok governorate. Turkish security forces 4 and 19 March announced killing of two of PKK’s “youth leaders” in Sulaymaniyah governorate, while clashes with PKK 19 March killed Turkish soldier; Türkiye same day responded with round of airstrikes in Kurdistan. Türkiye 23 March “neutralised” twelve PKK members in Metina region (see Türkiye).

Iran-backed Iraqi groups refrained from attacking U.S. Pressure from Iran and Iraqi govt appeared to prevent attacks by Iran-backed groups on U.S. assets, continuing lull since early Feb; hiatus could end, however, with potential Israeli offensive in Gaza’s Rafah (see Israel-Palestine). Islamic Resistance in Iraq 1, 5, 6, 11, 20 March claimed launching drones at Israeli targets.

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15 ספט' 2022
Installing a monarchy that wasn’t very popular and that was overthrown in 1958 was the ignition for the many problems that the modern Iraqi state has faced. AP

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq

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Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
Lahib Higel

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