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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

Following 12 May general election, parties winning least parliamentary seats continued to contest results and election-related violence persisted, while those winning most seats made tentative alliances to form new govt. PM Abadi 5 June criticised “dangerous” violations of electoral laws, blaming electoral commission and electronic voting system. Outgoing parliament late May cancelled votes by Iraqis overseas, internally displaced people and peshmerga fighters and 6 June voted in favour of nationwide partial recount and to replace electoral commission with nine judges. Higher Federal Court 21 June reversed cancellation of votes, but confirmed partial recount. Judges in charge of recount 30 June said only suspect ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports would be recounted; recount to begin 3 July. Unidentified arsonists 10 June set fire to building in Rusafa district, eastern Baghdad, that housed over half of ballots from Baghdad. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of coalition that won most seats, announced alliances with Hadi al-Ameri’s bloc 12 June and with PM Abadi’s bloc 23 June to lay foundation for creation of new govt. In other violence, explosion at illegal weapons cache in Sadr city, Baghdad 6 June killed eighteen; Moqtada al-Sadr next day called on govt to disarm civilian factions. Unclaimed bombing 9 June killed two in Khalis, Diyala province. Islamic State (ISIS) claimed numerous attacks in Diyala and Nineveh provinces, targeting police. Air force continued strikes in Syria, claiming strikes in Hajin 22 June killed 45 ISIS militants. Govt-aligned Shia militia Popular Mobilisation Units said airstrike in eastern Syria 17 June, for which it held U.S. responsible, killed 22 of its fighters; U.S. denied responsibility, Israel reportedly carried out strikes. In north, Turkey continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants: Turkish military claimed its airstrikes had killed 35 militants 15 June and ten more 20 June.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

15 Jul 2018
Fifteen years after the change of order in Iraq, it’s the same problem. The central government is unable or unwilling to address problems across the board in Iraq. The corruption is endemic, the government’s inability to deal with it is endemic, and the protests are endemic. The Telegraph

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
15 May 2018
If the group that is most adamantly in favour of combating corruption [in Iraq] is incapable or unwilling to do anything about it, frustrations could take a different turn. Financial Times

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
18 Feb 2018
The [Iraqi] government budget will form the bulk of [the World Bank] money, followed by private investment. Donors are seen as an added boost, not the bulk. The Arab Weekly

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Arabian Peninsula
15 Feb 2018
[The international conference in Kuwait on Iraq's reconstruction] is a signal to [Prime Minister] Abadi going into elections. This gives him something tangible to take back to Baghdad. Foreign Policy

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Arabian Peninsula
7 Nov 2017
Tensions [within Kurdish political parties] are likely to endure, unless the Masoud/Masrour Barzani line relaxes its control and allows its rivals to fully participate in decision-making. Middle East Eye

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
26 Oct 2017
For the Sunnis, there's a lack of political cohesion about exactly what they want. [Iraq's] Abadi government has never needed the Sunnis more than now. The New York Times

Maria Fantappie

Former Senior Analyst, Iraq

Latest Updates

Iraq Rebuild can Help Abate Sectarian Tension Across the Region

Iran and Saudi Arabia are actively fighting one another in the media, through armed proxies, in cyberspace and with Western lobbyists. But in Iraq they should both see the case for détente.

Originally published in The Hill

The Iraqi Elections: A Way Out of the Morass?

The results of Iraq’s 12 May parliamentary contests are not yet final, but the broad contours are apparent. Efforts to fashion a coalition government will likely involve lengthy bargaining. Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director Joost Hiltermann offers a preliminary analysis.

Also available in Français

Iraq’s Pre-election Turmoil

Given Iraq’s history of election-season instability, the upcoming presidential election could deepen existing tensions rather than unify the country. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group proposes several actions for the EU and its member states to work toward overcoming intra-Iraqi challenges.

Twilight of the Kurds

Kurdish officials once dreamed of forging their own state out of the ashes of the war against the Islamic State. Now they are fighting for their very survival.

Originally published in Foreign Policy

Also available in العربية

An Accounting for the Uncounted

The human cost of the war on ISIS has become too easy for Americans to ignore.

Originally published in The Atlantic

Our People

Maria Fantappie

Former Senior Analyst, Iraq