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Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)

Crisis Group Role

Maria Fantappie is Senior Adviser at the International Crisis Group working on security, conflict, politics, governance, and social issues on Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish regions. Between January and August 2018, she served as Senior Strategic Adviser on Security Sector Reform Coordination to the EU mission in Iraq, seconded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Maria has conducted fieldwork in Iraq and Syria since 2009 and has engaged policymakers on her research at some of the highest levels of government in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. 

Areas of Expertise

  • Civil-Military relations
  • Institutions and social change in the Middle East
  • Iraq, Syria, Kurdish politics

Professional Background

Maria first joined Crisis Group in 2012.  In 2018, she was seconded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the EU mission in Iraq where she advised the Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA) on the implementation of the security sector reform program with special focus on Iraq’s national security legislation.

Before joining Crisis Group, Maria was a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut and associate researcher at the Institut français du Proche-Orient (IFPO). She has taught at American University of Iraq in Suleimani and Sciences Po Paris. Maria completed her PhD at King’s College London, Department of War Studies, and earned an MA and MPhil with distinction from Sciences Po Paris, Department of Middle Eastern Studies.

Selected Publications

In addition to publishing numerous research outputs and policy reports for Crisis Group and Carnegie, Maria’s writing appeared in Foreign Affairs, The New York TimesRevue Moyen Orient and Ashark al-Awsat, among others. She is also a contributor to Limes, the Italian Review of Geopolitics, and has published for the Istituto Affari Internazionli (ISPI).


  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Italian

In The News

18 Aug 2019
[A rocket attack on Baghdad's Green Zone] was a way to test the limits of the Americans. Whoever did it is aware that the red line for the Trump administration is bloodshed. Financial Times

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)
9 Apr 2019
The designation of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] as a terrorist group actually has more impact in the countries neighbouring Iran than Iran itself. Financial Times

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)
28 Mar 2019
The problem with this administration in the U.S. is that it is all about money and boots on the ground, but that is not how it works in the [Middle East]. It is all about relationships. New York Times

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)
26 Oct 2017
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. The New York Times

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)
23 Oct 2017
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. Middle East Online

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)
25 Sep 2017
[The Iraqi Kurdistan referendum's] impact on Iraq will depend less on its turnout and results, and more on how Kurds and Iraqis will react to the vote and manipulate its results to achieve their political aims. Al Jazeera

Maria Fantappie

Senior Adviser, Iraq (Consulting)

Latest Updates

A New Generation of Activists Circumvents Iraq’s Political Paralysis

Researching the talks on forming a new Iraqi ruling coalition, our Senior Adviser for Iraq Maria Fantappie finds a country whose youth, women, civil society, officials and even politicians are hungry for bottom-up change to a stalemated, top-down system of governance. 

Also available in العربية
Q&A / Middle East & North Africa

Iraqi Kurdistan’s Regional Elections Test a Brittle Status Quo

The fallout continues to settle after Iraqi Kurdistan’s fraught independence referendum one year ago. In this Q&A, our Iraq Senior Adviser Maria Fantappie surveys the political landscape ahead of the first regional legislative elections since the plebiscite.

Twilight of the Kurds

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

Also available in العربية

How to Mitigate the Risks of Iraqi Kurdistan's Referendum

A century-long quest for an independent Kurdistan has encouraged Iraqi Kurds to exploit Iraq’s ongoing crises and schedule a referendum on 25 September 2017. But the referendum is more a reflection of Iraq’s disorder than the Kurds’ readiness for statehood, and the vote’s outcome could exacerbate internal and regional tensions.

Also available in العربية

The Politics of the Kurdish Independence Referendum

On September 25, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani plans to hold a referendum on Kurdish independence. The results will not be legally binding, but in calling for a vote, the Kurdish leadership has put its own society and its foreign partners into a bind. Although the vote may extend the lifespan of a Kurdish leadership otherwise in decline, it calls for unity that mutes domestic dissent and risks provoking crises that will leave Kurdistan externally exposed.

Originally published in Foreign Affairs

Also available in العربية