On Wednesday July 17, 2019 a shooting took place in a restaurant in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, that allegedly killed a Turkish diplomat serving in the consulate, Osman Kose, and two Iraqi civilians. Reports claim that three assailants with alleged Islamic State (ISIS) allegiances were behind the shooting and quickly killed as well although investigations are still pending. No group claimed the attack with the PKK spokesperson denying its involvement. The Kurdish Regional Government condemned the shooting vowing to investigate and offer any assistance to the Turkish Government. The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, attended the funeral for the diplomat today.

Read More

Since the ratification of Iraq’s constitution in 2005, the government formation has been an excruciatingly protracted process. While the constitution does not require a specific distribution of appointments by sect or ethnicity, the multitude of political blocs and the ethno-sectarian interest networks forced an allotment of cabinet positions among the diverse components of the Iraqi population. While inclusive governance is an admirable goal, it can be a formula for failure when merit is sacrificed for the sake of meeting ethno-sectarian quotas. With only a few exceptions, Iraqi ministries have been treated as fiefdoms to be controlled by the ministers or their parties and face little accountability or transparency requirements. Even in the few cases when ministers have resigned—or were removed from office for proven corruption or mismanagement of public funds—they later returned to senior political positions or left the country unscathed. For this reason, filling cabinet posts has turned into ferocious horse-trading among influential Iraqi leaders. 

Read More

In early May, the United States deployed an aircraft carrier group, a bomber wing, and a Patriot Battery to the Gulf region reportedly in response to threats by Iran and its proxies. At the time, the potential for escalation seemed high with the Air Force flying “deterrence missions” and Iranian military leaders referring to the aircraft carrier as a “target.” Shortly after the United States announced the deployment, four ships—including two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian ship—were damaged and intelligence reporting of possible attacks prompted US Embassy Baghdad to evacuate non-essential personnel. In fact, after the evacuation, a rocket landed less than a mile from the embassy compound that appeared to have been launched from a Shia-dominated area of Baghdad. Around the same time, Houthi rebels in Yemen, who receive support from Iran, used drones to attack an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia and may be responsible for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Read More

The 2003 US invasion of Iraq ushered in a new era in the country’s modern history, with many accomplishments and setbacks. The invasion ended a fifty-year period of autocracy that regressed from a benevolent dictatorship to absolute tyranny. Though there have been critiques, protests, and anger towards the government over the past fifteen years, Iraqis have shown a desire to reform their political system and have shown no tendencies toward destroying the political system or regressing to the tyrannical past. Given all the blood and treasure invested in Iraq as well as its strategic importance, the United States should take note of the progress Iraq has made and work with Iraqis to double down on their results thus far to ensure the positive trajectory only continues. 

Read More

Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the US President Donald Trump, is on his way to six countries in the Gulf states to discuss and present part of his long awaited Israel-Palestine peace process plan in private meetings with foreign diplomats. He is expected to visit Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey over the next few days. While the plan is still held tightly secret, experts are speculating on the selection of countries Kushner is to visit and what that implies for the plan. Below are Atlantic Council’s Middle East experts analysis on the implications of this visit and what it means for the later unveiling in April this year.

Read More

Spending the last two weeks of 2018 in Iraq offered a window into Iraqi politics, the economy, and how Iraqis are coping on a variety of issues. My trip began with a conference, and despite the socially and politically contentious issues under discussion—citizenship, identity, inclusive governance, human development, education, among others—and the diverse ethno-sectarian background of the participants, there was a consensus on the most fundamental issue: that Iraqis must build their own nation together and focus on the future, rather than dwell on the injurious past.

Read More

On December 10, 2017, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the battle to liberate Iraqi territories from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Iraqi Army, Special Forces, and Federal Police, supported by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs) and the Peshmerga, fought for every inch of territory that was occupied by the terrorist group. Iraq was not alone in this fight. An international coalition, led by the United States, offered significant military help in the form of air support, logistics, and invaluable advisory assistance on the ground.

Read More

Some commentators recently celebrated the Iraqi election as a sign that democracy is taking root in Iraq’s soil. This optimistic view is justified given the bleak situation of democratic transformation in the region. Authoritarianism in the Middle East persists as the common model of governing, even in countries that witnessed popular uprisings and demands for regime change just a few years ago.

Read More

Iraq’s 2018 parliamentary elections, simultaneously embodying continuity and change, will be held in a particularly divisive atmosphere. The elections are taking place in the shadow of the devastation left behind by the conflict with ISIS and serious splits within the governing Shia party. As a result, voting on May 12 will be a litmus test for the mood of the country in the wake of a tumultuous few years.

Read More

Following the 2005 election of Iraq’s National Assembly, the winning Shia Islamist coalition selected Ibrahim al-Jaafari, then a senior leader in the Dawa party, for the position of Prime Minister in the transitional government. Dawa is the oldest Shia Islamist party, but not the largest. Competing groups within the Shia alliance selected a member in the party for the position to sustain minimal unity, which was threatened by the fierce competition between the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the Sadrist movement.

Read More



    

RELATED CONTENT