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.
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.
Islamic State (ISIS) continued to launch sporadic attacks: assault on barber shop in Khanaqin, Diyala governorate in east near Iranian border 9 Feb left nine people dead; militants killed at least 27 members of govt-aligned Shia militias Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) in Kirkuk 20 Feb; suicide bomber 24 Feb reportedly killed two policemen at Kirkuk oil field. Kurdistan Regional Govt (KRG) representatives met with PM Abadi in Munich 17 Feb but failed to resolve standoff; federal govt maintained restrictions on KRG, including international flight ban, and Kurds refused to relinquish control of their territory’s border crossings. In south, recurrent tribal conflict in Basra and neighbouring provinces threatened stability, at times resulting in revenge killings and firefights: clans and tribes clashed over water quotas in Dhi Qar province early Feb.
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.
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.
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.
[Kurdistan Regional Government of President Masoud Barzani] may have made a miscalculation of historic proportions by proceeding with the [independence] referendum over the objections of just about everyone who counts.
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?
The Islamic State’s defeat is looming, and with it a host of diverse challenges overshadow Iraq’s future, ranging from outright confrontation between Erbil and Baghdad to the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of myriad armed groups previously involved in the anti-ISIS campaign. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to support the Erbil government to exit the current political crisis and encourage security sector reform in Iraq as a whole.