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.
Sinjar has yet to recover from the ravages of 2014, when ISIS subjected the population to unrelenting terror. Thousands remain displaced. To persuade them to return, the Iraqi federal and Kurdish regional governments will need help from the current residents in improving governance and security.
Largest parliamentary bloc resigned amid deadlocked govt formation, while Türkiye struck Shiite militias for first time and continued to target Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates. Stalled govt formation efforts entered ninth month; in protest of deadlock, 73 lawmakers from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc 12 June resigned and Sadr 15 June announced he would withdraw from political process, raising prospect of Sadr encouraging street protests; parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi 12 June accepted resignations. Parliament 23 June held emergency session for replacement MPs to take their oath. Earlier in month, parliament 8 June approved emergency food security bill backed by Sadr, allocating $17bn for food, gas, electricity and public service salaries. Drones allegedly launched by Shiite paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Forces’ (PMF) 30th battalion 2, 9 June targeted Türkiye’s Zilkan base in Bashiqa, Ninewa governorate; group has launched eight attacks on base this year. In response, reports suggested Türkiye 9 June launched indirect fire against 30th battalion, resulting in two casualties in Ninewa plains, in first Turkish assault to date on PMF group not aligned with PKK; tit-for-tat attacks between Türkiye and PMF could increase in disputed areas of Ninewa. Meanwhile, Türkiye continued operations targeting PKK in northern Iraq; notably, in Sinjar district of Ninewa, Türkiye 15 June allegedly conducted airstrikes against PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) positions in Sinuni town, killing two and injuring seven. Turkish drone 17 June targeted vehicle in Kalar town in Sulaymaniyah governorate, killing four PKK militants. In Kurdistan, judicial council 4 June rejected federal supreme court’s Feb ruling that declared regional govt’s development of oil and gas fields outside federal supervision “unconstitutional”. IED-laden drone 8 June hit Pirmam road near U.S. consulate facility in regional capital Erbil, injuring three; security forces claimed Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for attack, while Iranian media said strike targeted Israeli secret service. Low-level Islamic State (ISIS) attacks and counter-ISIS operations continued throughout month; notably, security forces 3 June announced killing four ISIS members in Wadi al-Qathf region in Anbar governorate.
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.
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.
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.
Once again, the Islamic State may be poised to recover from defeat in its original bases of Iraq and Syria. It is still possible, however, for the jihadist group’s many foes to nip its regrowth in the bud.
Should U.S.-Iranian tensions escalate to a shooting war, Iraq would likely be the first battleground. Washington and Tehran should stop trying to drag Baghdad into their fight. The Iraqi government should redouble its efforts to remain neutral and safeguard the country’s post-ISIS recovery.
[Iraq is] already part of Saudi-Iran tensions and will forever be a part of them as long as they exist.
[Shiite Muslim cleric] Sadr has been selling himself as a viable option, and a central one in Iraqi politics.
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.
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 trend here is that the U.S. is withdrawing (from Iraq). If they are not doing it now, then they are doing it eventually.
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.
Turkey is increasingly relying on airpower in its fight against the PKK. New parties have been drawn into the conflict as it spreads to new theatres in Iraq and Syria, which, for now at least, complicates potential efforts to settle things down.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Lahib Higel about the Tishreen uprising that upended Iraqi politics and what President Biden’s announcement that U.S. forces will end their combat mission in Iraq means for the country.
A short illustrated look at the story of Iraq's internal displacement crisis.