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 eased between rival Kurdish parties following months-long feud, dispute between Erbil and Baghdad stalled federal budget, and violence broke out in centre and south.

Rival Kurdish factions struck accord, as Türkiye continued strikes. U.S. delegation 3-4 May visited Erbil and Sulaymaniyah cities with aim of “bridging divisions”. Kurdistan PM and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masrour Barzani 8 May met Kurdistan Deputy PM and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Qubad Talabani for first time since tensions between parties spiked over assassination of intelligence officer in Oct 2022 that KDP blamed on PUK; leaders agreed to stop verbal attacks in media ahead of Nov regional elections. PUK 14 May ended its six-month boycott of regional govt’s cabinet meetings. In Ninewa governorate, Turkish drone strike 16 May killed three PKK-affiliated Sinjar Re-sistance Units (YBS) fighters in Khanasor town and 23 May killed three in Khalaf village.

Erbil accused Baghdad of breaking oil deal, delaying federal budget. Federal parliament’s finance committee 25 May made series of amendments to draft 2023 budget articles related to Kurdistan’s oil revenue; Erbil next day condemned amendments as “unconstitutional” and contrary to previous agreement struck with federal govt. Dispute indefinitely postponed parliamentary vote on three-year budget bill scheduled for 27 May, as talks to resolve differences continued.

Centre and south witnessed violence, amid low-scale Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency. In Salah al-Din governorate, fighting between families 1 May reportedly killed three, including police colonel and Popular Mobilisation Forces member, in Albu Nassif village. In Dhi Qar governorate, security forces 20 May reportedly intervened in exchange of gunfire between Al-Awwad and Al-Sayed Taher clans in Al-Shatrah district. Meanwhile, army 5 May said it killed three alleged ISIS members in Wadi al-Shay in Kirkuk governorate. Alleged ISIS gunmen 21 May killed two in Tarmiya district, Salah al-Din governorate.

In other important developments. Protesters 1, 5 May filled Tahrir Square in capital Baghdad, demanding higher public-sector salaries. Demonstrators demanding employment 21 May clashed with security forces in Dhi Qar governorate, leaving 32 injured. Iran 13 May summoned Iraq’s ambassador to protest presence of “terrorist” groups, likely Kurdish, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

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In The News

15 Sep 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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