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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

Islamic State (ISIS) attacks killed dozens, U.S.-led coalition forces formally ended combat mission, and deadlock over govt formation continued following disputed election results. Surge of ISIS attacks on Peshmerga forces along border between Kurdistan region and disputed territories continued early Dec; notably, ISIS 2 Dec killed ten Peshmerga and three civilians in at-tack on Khidir Jija village in Makhmur region; 5 Dec reportedly killed four Peshmer-ga and one civilian in Qara Salem village. ISIS same day took control of Luhaiban village before Iraqi security forces recaptured it next day. ISIS 6 Dec killed four Peshmerga in attack near oilfield between Kirkuk and Makhmur cities. In southern city Basra, rare motorcycle bomb 7 Dec killed four and injured 20; while attack remained unclaimed, Basra governor blamed ISIS. In Diyala governorate, ISIS attack killed three soldiers in Qara Tapa. Ahead of 31 Dec deadline for withdrawal of coalition troops, National Security Advisor Qasim al-Araji 9 Dec announced end of Coalition Forces’ combat mission. Coalition next day announced start of new “advise, assist and enable mission” consisting of 2,500 U.S. troops; pro-Iran paramilitary groups subsequently condemned largely unchanged troop numbers. Two rockets 18 Dec hit Green Zone near U.S. embassy in capital Baghdad. Federal Supreme Court 27 Dec ratified final election results, after rejecting fraud allegations submitted early month by Fateh Alliance leader Hadi al-Ameri, who requested results be annulled. Meanwhile, Shiite parties continued negotiations over govt formation. In Sinjar district, Turkish airstrike targeting vehicle outside Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) headquarters 7 Dec killed local commander Marwan Badal in Khanasour village; protests against Turkish airstrikes 12 Dec set fire to Iraqi army vehicle in Sinuni town. Turkish defence ministry 9 Dec announced death of three soldiers in PKK attack in northern Iraq; Ankara launched retaliatory air attacks reportedly killing PKK-affiliated militants in northern Iraq throughout month. Syrian PKK-affiliated Revolutionary Youth Union members 15 Dec clashed with Iraqi border authorities at Fishkhabour-Semalka border crossing, demanding return of Syrian Kurdish fighters’ bodies killed in Turkish airstrike; clashes prompted closure of border point, sparking fears among humanitarian agencies about access to Syria.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

7 Oct 2021
[Shiite Muslim cleric] Sadr has been selling himself as a viable option, and a central one in Iraqi politics. Washington Post

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
2 Jun 2021
Successive [Iraqi] governments since the military victory over ISIS have failed to integrate the PMF. It has become a force in itself, pursuing its own interests. Al Jazeera

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
12 Dec 2020
In comparison to previous protests [in Iraq's Kurdish north] these are significant as the current fiscal crisis affects larger swaths of the population. The Washington Post

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
27 Sep 2020
The trend here is that the U.S. is withdrawing (from Iraq). If they are not doing it now, then they are doing it eventually. The Washington Post

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
4 Sep 2020
It seems that what is left of ISIS networks now is that they are getting organized in smaller groups of five or six people who may not be connected to each other even. New Delhi Times

Berkay Mandıracı

Analyst, Turkey
30 Mar 2020
If the United States is forced out of Iraq in an ugly, contentious fashion, it could poison the bilateral relationship. (Quoted with Maria Fantappie) War on the Rocks

Sam Heller

Former Adviser, Non-state Armed Groups

Latest Updates

Iraq’s Tishreen Uprising: From Barricades to Ballot Box

The huge demonstrations that rocked Iraqi cities two years ago reverberate still, with the main grievances unaddressed. Protests could arise anew at any time, risking another lethal crackdown. The government should hold those who harmed protesters accountable and work to ensure clean elections in October.

Also available in العربية

Hundreds of Thousands of Iraqis Are Still Internally Displaced

A short illustrated look at the story of Iraq's internal displacement crisis.

Exiles in Their Own Country: Dealing with Displacement in Post-ISIS Iraq

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis remain uprooted and unable to go home after the war to defeat ISIS. The worst off are those, mainly women and children, perceived to have jihadist ties. Iraq and its partners should find ways to end their displacement.

Also available in العربية

Iraq: Fixing Security in Kirkuk

Federal forces now patrol Kirkuk, the diverse, oil-rich province disputed between the central and Kurdish regional governments. The arrangement is unsettling communal relations, with Kurds feeling excluded. With outside help, Baghdad and Erbil should design a joint security mechanism including a locally recruited multi-ethnic unit.

Also available in العربية

When Measuring ISIS’s “Resurgence”, Use the Right Standard

Memories of the Islamic State’s 2014-2015 “caliphate” peak in Iraq and Syria colour views of its present capacity, leading officials and observers either to exaggerate or understate its threat. In Iraq, the group does pose a danger. Gauging it properly is key to containing it.

Also available in العربية

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Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq