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

Iran-backed armed groups targeted Israel, Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish militants persisted, and Islamic State (ISIS) attacks killed several soldiers; govt requested end to UN assistance mission.

Iran-backed groups maintained regional pressure on Israel. Following unprecedented escalation between Iran and Israel in April, Tehran-aligned Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed over two dozen drone and missile attacks on Israel, including cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat, Ashkelon as well as Nevatim military base; attacks proved ineffectual. Israeli military 30 May reported interception of cruise missile, likely launched from Iraq, aimed at Israel-occupied Golan Heights.

Türkiye targeted Kurdish militants; Kurdistan leader made rare visit to Iran. Amid ongoing preparations for potential large-scale operation in summer, Türkiye carried out airstrikes targeting alleged Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Hakurk, Gara and Qandil regions of Kurdistan region, claiming to have killed dozens of PKK members (see Türkiye); PKK IED attack 22 May killed Turkish soldier. Kurdistan President and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Nechirvan Barzani 5 May arrived in Iranian capital Tehran, meeting President Raisi and Supreme Leader Khamenei; meetings sought to normalise ties and overcome historic tensions. Barzani sought Iran’s support to delay Kurdistan regional elections, reflecting KDP’s perceived disadvantage vis-à-vis its rival after Supreme Court annulled eleven quota seats under de facto control of KDP.

ISIS staged deadly attacks. In deadliest ISIS attack in months, group 13 May killed six soldiers in Mutaibijah town between Salah al-Din and Diyala governorates. ISIS 15 May killed one soldier in al-Dibis district, Kirkuk governorate; 22 May killed one between Diyala and Salah al-Din provinces.

Govt requested end of UN assistance mission in Iraq (UNAMI). Govt 12 May confirmed PM Sudani had requested that UN Sec-Gen end UNAMI mandate by end of 2025, arguing mission established in 2003 is no longer necessary for political stability; minority groups opposed decision given UNAMI’s role in resolving territorial disputes and tensions over budget between Erbil and Baghdad. Meanwhile, parliament 18 May convened to elect speaker of parliament for second time since Nov but failed to award either of top nominees required simple majority; brawl between two opposing Sunni MPs ended session prematurely.

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In The News

15 sep 2022
Installing a monarchy that wasn’t very popular and that was overthrown in 1958 was the ignition for the many problems that the modern Iraqi state has faced. AP

Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq

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Lahib Higel

Senior Analyst, Iraq
Lahib Higel

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