Emily Knowles

17 December 2018

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A year after Islamic State (IS) was declared defeated, a referendum on Kurdish independence, widespread protest, and political powerplay over the Iraqi defence sector is fragmenting the country. Drawing upon field research in Iraq, this briefing examines how choices made throughout the anti-IS campaign have contributed to several of the factors that are currently destabilising the Iraqi security sector:

  • International support to the Kurdish Peshmerga was a significant factor in the success of the anti-IS campaign. However, it may also have encouraged the decision to call an independence referendum in September 2017, which has reversed any surge in goodwill between the government and the Kurds that might otherwise have followed the anti-IS fight.

  • The proliferation of powerful armed groups, including the Popular Mobilisation Forces led to a certain level of ad-hoc decision-making among Coalition partners as to who to support and how to do so. Recent elections have revealed the political power that these groups now wield, contributing to the stalemate that means seven months after elections the cabinet has still not been confirmed. 

Image credit: Cpt John Baker/US DOD. 

About the Author

Emily Knowles is Director of the Remote Warfare Programme.