Iraqi youth who came of age during the post-2003 turmoil share a sense of hopelessness and disempowerment. Across the political spectrum, they feel trapped: join a protest movement or militia, or emigrate. Even amid the severe challenges the government and its partners face, this generation must be prioritised, lest Iraq’s most important resource become a major security threat.
U.S.-backed govt forces and allied militias made gains in campaign to retake Mosul in north from Islamic State (IS), taking control of city’s eastern half. Head of Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) 19 Jan declared city-centre districts under govt control. Security forces 19 Jan pushed IS out of Tal Kyf, 10km NE of Mosul, and 22 Jan seized road linking Mosul to Dohuk, 90km north. PM Abadi 25 Jan said eastern Mosul “fully liberated”. Knights of Mosul anti-IS insurgents in IS-controlled parts of Mosul reportedly passed intelligence to security forces and killed high-ranking IS members during month. IOM 19 Jan said almost 159,000 people had fled Mosul since offensive began 17 Oct. IS claimed multiple bombings in Baghdad’s Shia districts early month: blasts 2-3 Jan killed 59, twin bombings 8 Jan killed twenty at marketplaces in Jamila and Baladiyat districts. IS 1 Jan killed seven policemen near Najaf, 146km south of Baghdad, 2 Jan killed seven policemen in Samara, 125km north of Baghdad, and four soldiers at barracks near Baji, 210km north of Baghdad. Following dispute over Turkey’s participation in Mosul offensive, PM Abadi 8 Jan met Turkish PM in Baghdad to reestablish diplomatic relations and reduce Turkish military presence in north. National security minister 8 Jan discussed cooperation against “terrorism” with Syrian President Assad in Damascus. French President Hollande and Defence Minister Le Drian in Baghdad 2 Jan reaffirmed commitment to fight against IS. Parliament 30 Jan recommended govt should “respond in kind” to U.S. President Trump’s ban on citizens of Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries entering U.S., govt 30 Jan said it had asked U.S. to reconsider ban on its citizens, PM Abadi 31 Jan said govt would not ban U.S. nationals entry citing U.S. support for fight against IS.
The US-led coalition’s military assistance to Kurdish forces against the Islamic State (IS) is inadvertently accelerating intra-Kurdish fragmentation. The West should coordinate its aid better, build upon Iraqi Kurdistan’s past efforts in transforming its peshmergas into a professional military, and encourage Kurdish coordination with Iraq’s central government in the fight against IS.
The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.
An alliance between the local military council and the jihadi ISIL group is keeping the besieging Iraqi army at bay around Falluja, but unless Sunni alienation is addressed, the city risks a new round of devastating conflict.
With Sunni Arab frustration at a boil at home, unprecedented Sunni-Shiite polarisation in the region and deadly car bombings plaguing the country, Iraq is inching toward relapse into generalised sectarian conflict.
The demise of Iraq’s Al-Iraqiya Alliance, at threat of marginalisation, would remove the country’s sole credible political representative of a very important community: the secular, non-sectarian middle class.
Exxon didn't care [about the political impacts of their decision]. And this was of course music to the Kurds’ ears.
It is true that Turkey is stepping into a foreign country, but it is also true that some of the Iraqi actors have strong links to regional powers. So how to draw the line between what is Iraqi and non-Iraqi? It's kind of difficult.
[In Iraq, the U.S. and other nations are channelling resources into local Sunni coffers, a tactic used during the U.S.-led occupation.] What’s at stake is re-establishing the same sort of political order that actually led to the rise of [the Islamic State]. We have to be careful not to repeat the same mistakes of the past.
In Kirkuk, the extremist group's defeat risks rekindling old ethnic and religious conflicts — unless cooler heads prevail.
Originally published in Foreign Policy
In a keynote speech for the World Water Week in Stockholm on 28 August 2016, our MENA Program Director Joost Hiltermann assesses the role of water in Middle East conflicts – even, potentially, when used in the cultivation of Yemen’s beloved stimulant, qat.
Originally published in Es Global
Originally published in The New York Review of Books
The recent storming of Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone by protesters led by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr brought to the surface a long-standing dilemma.