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.
Saudi Arabia has been forging links to Iraq since reopening its Baghdad embassy in 2016. Its adversary Iran has strong Iraqi ties. If Riyadh avoids antagonising Tehran, invests wisely and quiets anti-Shiite rhetoric, Iraq can be a bridge between the rival powers - not a battleground.
Ahead of parliamentary and governorate elections 12 May, campaigning officially began 15 April. Test of newly introduced electronic voting system 18 April reportedly exposed faults. Islamic State (ISIS) continued to launch attacks, especially against officials, in Diyala province in east, Kirkuk province in north and Nineveh province in north west; security source 14 April said roadside bomb in Diyala province killed local judge. Military 9 April reportedly killed prominent ISIS leader Abu Walid al-Checheni in Diyala province. Air force 19 April reportedly carried out strikes against ISIS base near Hajin in Syria with Syrian govt approval. Unclaimed suicide attack 8 April at political party headquarters in Anbar province in west killed four. Ambush on military convoy in Saladin province in north 11 April left five fighters of govt-aligned Shiite Popular Mobilisation Units dead; unclaimed bombing at their funeral 12 April killed sixteen. In far north, Turkey continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in early April: PKK forces claimed to have killed five Turkish soldiers 17 April and seven more 19 April, all in Barzan, northern Iraq.
Though the Islamic State (ISIS) is beaten in Iraq, the battle for the country’s political soul is not over. Baghdad should act to restore local governance in Sinjar, where ISIS terrorised the local community, and encourage the district’s displaced people to return home.
September’s independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan has pushed Baghdad to take control of Kirkuk and its oil fields from Kurdish control. To avert the threat of further direct confrontation, the two sides must agree to a reinvigorated UN-led effort to settle longstanding disputes over internal boundaries and shared oil revenues.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates face a stark choice: risk their gains in northern Syria through continued prioritisation of the PKK's fight against Turkey, or pursue local self-rule in the area they have carved out of the chaos of the Syrian war.
The U.S. campaign against ISIS in northern Syria both benefits from and is complicated by its partnership with an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group fighting against its NATO ally Turkey. The challenges will grow as the war on ISIS moves further east.
This report examines President Trump’s emerging counter-terrorism policies, the dilemmas his administration faces in battling ISIS and al-Qaeda across the Middle East and South Asia, and how to avoid deepening the disorder both groups exploit.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
In 2008-09, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) carried out an extensive study on what it called Iraq’s ‘Disputed Internal Boundaries’ (DIBs) and proposed specific ways forward to settle the question of the Kurdish region’s boundary and the disposition of the income derived from the sale of oil and gas located there.
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.
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.
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
The human cost of the war on ISIS has become too easy for Americans to ignore.
Originally published in The Atlantic
For decades, Washington has been content to indulge Kurdish dreams of independence. Why was Erbil willing to play along?