• Iran Can’t Fulfill Its Hopes of a Shia Corridor Without Iraq

    Since the Iranian regime seized power in 1979, its goal has been for Iran to become a regional power and to restore the Shias as the rulers of the Muslim world. A cornerstone of its strategy is to build and control a land corridor stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.

    To extend its power and influence, Iran arms and supports proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as Shia militias in Iraq and Syria.

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  • The Arc of Crisis in the MENA Region

    On Tuesday, October 9th, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East held a conference to discuss the nature of foreign involvement in ongoing conflicts in the region as well as the resilience of Jihadism in the post-2011 period. The conference coincided with the launching of a report, “The Arc of Crisis in the MENA Region: Fragmentation, Decentralization, and Islamist Opposition,” which explores a number of trends in governance that have emerged since the Arab Spring.

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  • Iraqi Kurdistan’s Parliamentary Elections: Inflection Point or Plateau?

    The people from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) headed to the polls this week to elect 111 members of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. This is the fifth general election following the creation of the regional legislature in 1992, and it was the first since last year’s controversial independence referendum. The effects of the failed attempt at independence continue to reverberate among the powerful establishment parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who have shared control of the region since the establishment of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in early 1990s.

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  • A New Chapter in Iraq?

    After five months of political uncertainty, Iraq finally has a new prime minister.

    On October 3, Iraq’s newly named president, Barham Salih, picked Adel Abdul Mahdi, an independent Shia politician, to be the next prime minister and form a government. The appointment of Mahdi may have provided an opportunity to calm the protests that have roiled the southern Iraqi city of Basra since July.

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  • Iranian Attacks in Iraq Are More About Messaging Than Reality

    US and Iranian officials traded accusations earlier this month over an attack on Iran’s consulate in the southern city of Basra, followed by mortar or rocket attacks that appeared to target US missions in the capital, Baghdad.

    Tehran blames Washington for being behind the trashing of its consulate. The allegation was simply untrue. The protesters that did it were possibly loyal to the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr—whose bloc recently won the majority of seats in parliament—and is no ally of America by any stretch of the imagination. More likely the young men were angry over persistent unemployment, power cuts, and lack of services, and were probably behind the sacking—a means of venting against Iran because it is perceived as dominating the political class. 

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  • What Do The Renewed Protests in Iraq Mean?

    Civilian unrest in Iraq has refocused its attention on Haider al-Abadi and the Islamic Dawa party. Ongoing demonstrations this month in the southern city of Basra indicate trouble ahead for the Iraqi federal government and foreshadow an end to Haider al-Abadi’s run as prime minister, as he does not seek a second term.

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  • Three Pressing Barriers to Forming an Iraqi Government

    Protests raging in southern Iraq foretell the potentially dire consequences if political leaders in the country are unable to form a government in the coming months. Unrest has culminated, after subsequent summers with widespread power outages and frustration in a government widely perceived as corrupt, in at least fourteen demonstrator deaths since early July and protester clashes with Iraqi security forces.

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  • Reflecting on the Iran-Iraq War, Thirty Years Later

    This August marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War ending. This tragic eight-year conflict was a transformable event for Tehran and Baghdad. There were over one million casualties on both sides, and the conflict effectively transformed the entire Middle East, too.

    The narrative of “futile war” comes to mind when one tries to look at the Iran-Iraq War objectively and retrospectively. Who lost? Or, perhaps one should ask, who gained at the end of this almost decade conflict? The war had many air and ground battles across the 1,000 km border that neither Iraq nor Iran was able to declare permanent victory, or force their will and agenda on the ceasefire which took place on August 20, 1988.

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  • Badr Brigade: Among Most Consequential Outcomes of the Iran-Iraq War

    The burly, graying men in the mismatched camouflage arrived in the late winter of 2003, setting up camp within the green hilly folds of northern Iraq. They were members of the Badr Brigade, a Shia fighting force that had been sheltering in exile inside Iran during the reign of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. They told visitors that they were Iraqi patriots returning to their country to help take on Saddam at the invitation of the Iraqi Kurds.

    But the stickers on the Badr militamen’s outdated equipment immediately gave their origins away: “Property of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the major branch of the Iranian armed forces. Their history as a veritable Iraqi unit of the IRGC during the war between the two countries was known to all Iraqis.

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  • Handjani Quoted in the National on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi’s Support for US Sanctions on Iran

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