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

Iran-backed armed groups carried out first strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq and Syria in months, govt engaged U.S. on withdrawing U.S.-led coalition troops and Turkish President Erdoğan made landmark visit.

Iran-backed groups resumed attacks on U.S. forces after lull. Marking first such attack since early Feb, rockets launched from Zummar town, Ninewa governorate, 21 April targeted U.S. base in Syria; U.S. next day shot down drones near Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar governorate. Islamic Resistance in Iraq 1 April claimed aerial attack that struck building in Israeli city Eilat; group throughout April claimed series of unconfirmed attacks on Israeli targets. Amid direct hostilities between Iran and Israel, govt 13-14 April closed airspace and PM Sudani 16 April claimed no drones or missiles were fired at Israel from Iraq (see Iran, Israel-Palestine and Conflict in Focus). 

Iraq and U.S. discussed troops’ drawdown, PM Sudani visited Washington. U.S. and Iraq 8 April held third round of talks within Higher Military Commission on drawdown of U.S.-led anti-Islamic State mission in Iraq. PM al-Sudani 15 April met U.S. President Biden in U.S. capital Washington, signing some twenty agreements, committing to talks on security cooperation and announcing plans to hold joint Security Cooperation Dialogue. Lack of clarity on future of U.S.-led coalition’s mandate risks raising tensions between govt and Iran-aligned paramilitary groups who are pushing for U.S. withdrawal.

Erdoğan made first state visit since 2011, as Turkish strikes persisted. Erdoğan 22 April met PM Sudani in capital Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in Erbil, signing 25 cooperation agreements, including on security, energy and water management; Erdoğan also claimed pair discussed “joint steps” against Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) ahead of suspected Turkish summer offensive. Clashes with PKK 9 April killed Turkish soldier; Turkish military 15 April launched airstrikes in mountains Asos and Hakurk areas of north.

Baghdad-Erbil tensions improved. Ahead of Sudani’s visit to U.S., Federal Finance Ministry 4 April said it released funds to pay March salaries of civil servants and social security beneficiaries in Kurdistan region, easing tensions between Baghdad and Erbil over delayed payments.

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In The News

15 Set 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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