Street protests have engulfed Baghdad and southern cities such as Nasiriya and Diwaniya since 1 October, causing a staggering death toll of at least 110 victims in seven days. This deadliest outburst of violence from popular protests since the 2003 U.S. invasion has shaken the foundations of the already fragile government led by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
The prime minister is on thin ice. In the aftermath of the May 2018 elections, a drawn-out tug of war over government formation produced broadly acceptable but politically weak office holders. Neither the prime minister nor any of his cabinet members belong to the main parliamentary blocs (al-Fatah, a Shiite Islamist coalition with links to paramilitary groups and Iran, and Sairoun, an alliance between followers of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and the Communist Party).… Seguir leyendo »
For much of 2019, Crisis Group has warned that a trigger event could spark direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, on one side, and Iran on the other, precipitating a regional conflagration. The combination of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, Iranian pushback, the spiralling civil war in Yemen and the paucity of de-escalation channels available to the rival actors has primed the region for such an outcome, even if neither side wants it. Now more than ever, cooler heads are needed to lower the temperature, break the escalatory cycle and chart a diplomatic off-ramp.
The exact nature and provenance of the attacks remains disputed.… Seguir leyendo »
What’s at stake in the 30 September elections?
Voters in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq will choose the 111 members of the Kurdistan National Assembly, in the fourth election since the body was founded in 1992 and the first since the Kurdish independence referendum on 25 September 2017. At stake, as usual, is the equilibrium between Iraqi Kurdistan’s dominant political parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). This time, however, the fate of the PUK also hangs in the balance, as it faces a challenge from opposition rivals, the Gorran and New Generation movements.
At issue is also the relationship of the Kurdish region’s institutions – the Assembly, the judiciary and the executive, including the presidency – to the KDP and PUK.… Seguir leyendo »
Just a few months ago, it appeared that the Kurds of Iraq and Syria were the biggest winners in the war against the Islamic State. Bolstered by alliances with the very Western powers that had once betrayed and divided them, they dared to dream that they were on the verge of undoing what they perceived as a historic wrong, when geopolitical maneuvering denied them a state following the end of World War I.
Yet, instead of witnessing the creation of an independent homeland, the Kurds have suffered a major setback. As the military campaign against the Islamic State winds down, the United States and its allies’ enthusiasm for using the Kurds as their proxies against the jihadi organization has not translated into long-term military or diplomatic backing and certainly not into support for statehood.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the Islamic State began seizing significant amounts of territory in northern Syria and Iraq, policy makers and analysts have focused primarily on the question of whether America should arm the Kurds to fight the jihadi group.
But this debate overlooks a key flaw in America’s Kurdish policy: while military support for the Kurds in Iraq and Syria has increased, the development of a corresponding political road map to deal with Kurdish entities in the region has lagged behind. Washington’s exclusive focus on enabling the Kurds to fight the Islamic State risks creating new problems that could plague Iraq and Syria for much longer.… Seguir leyendo »
The West, believing that Iraq’s Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, are its best hope in Iraq, has been sending them millions of dollars in weapons and training. But because of the way in which those weapons have been channeled to the Kurds, the assistance is undermining the U.S.-led campaign and threatening to undo a decade of progress in turning the peshmerga into a professional force. Ultimately, it will render the Kurds a less effective partner.
The military aid is uncoordinated, unbalanced, unconditional, and unmonitored. Because of the lack of oversight on weapons’ allocation, and because the weapons come with no strings attached, officials can direct them to their own affiliated peshmerga forces, empowering loyalist officers and entangling the rest of the officer corps in petty rivalries.… Seguir leyendo »
Loin de la guerre contre l’organisation de l’État islamique (EI), un autre conflit se joue au sein de la société kurde d’Irak. Cette dernière est divisée par une ligne générationnelle tracée par l’histoire du Kurdistan : alors que les plus de cinquante ans ont assisté à la création progressive d’une région autonome ou ont fait leurs armes dans la résistance contre le régime de Saddam Hussein (1979-2003), la majorité des jeunes nés dans les années 1990 a grandi, s’éduque et travaille au sein d’un Kurdistan déjà semi-souverain. Ils ne connaissent qu’une réalité structurée par leurs parents et coupée de l’extérieur, notamment du reste de l’Irak.… Seguir leyendo »
Here is a new Iraqi paradox: whatever progress the Shi’ite Muslim-dominated Baghdad government makes against jihadi insurgents occupying large swathes of north-western Iraq, it is simultaneously undermining what is left of the Iraqi state, whose frailty and malfunctions created the environment in which jihadism was able to surge in the first place.
The dereliction of the Iraqi state was already powerfully illustrated by the takeover of one-third of Iraq, including the city of Mosul, by Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) in June 2014. Security forces proved rotten to the core despite a decade of training and expansion. Local Sunni Arab elites were revealed to have turned their backs on their constituencies in favor of a corrupt, corrosive relationship with authorities in Baghdad.… Seguir leyendo »