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Research Report

Iraq at War (Again): Perspectives and options for a long-term counter-terrorism and counter violent extremism strategy in Iraq

Grégory Chauzal
Sofia Zavagli
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2016
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 30

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-1)
  4. (pp. 2-2)
  5. (pp. 3-3)

    In response to the continuing insecurity in Iraq (and Syria) and the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an international coalition was set up at the invitation of the Iraqi governement in December 2014 to support the Iraqi forces in their mission to halt ISIL advances and defeat the organization, as well as to restore stability in the region. The operation’s mandate was defined as an effort by the United States and partner nations in the region and around the globe ‘to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq,...

  6. (pp. 4-6)

    After eight years of Shiite-led government in Baghdad from 2006 to 2014, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stepped down in 2014 in favour of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, from the same State of Law Coalition (SLC).³ Although a Shiite, Abadi’s political profile differs from that of his predecessor. The new prime minister has a nationalistic and pro-West posture, which detaches him from the Iran-supported parties, which are fairly influential in Baghdad today, and makes him a minority within the SLC majority. As the new leader, Abadi was immediately confronted with two main challenges: on the one hand by a new...

  7. (pp. 7-8)

    Foreign cooperation is today characterized by a concentration of means to support (i.e., to train, equip and assist) the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Kurdish militias (Peshmerga) actively involved on the ground. The long-term CT and CVE goals, however, imply more than a ‘simple’ kinetic approach.13

    a) Kurdistan and the international community: The winner takes all The Kurdish region is at the frontline of the fight against ISIL in the Middle East (as shown by Highway 47, which connects Iraq to the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital). Moreover, contrary to the divided ISF, the Peshmerga are...

  8. (pp. 9-17)

    The fight against ISIL is pivotal to Iraq’s current security and future stability. In a hypothetical ISIL-weakened scenario, a first step to building confidence would be for the defence forces and local governments to agree on a joint starting point for further steps as regards political and military strategies

    The following sections will briefly present the actions undertaken by the international community in Iraq, especially in the Kurdistan region, and then discuss those areas and niches where there is possible room for intervention, along the lines of a long-term stabilization approach with elements of CVE and CT, by the international...

  9. (pp. 18-22)

    A long-term stabilization process in Iraq will face a number of key challenges. This section will focus on these challenges and will identify possible entry points for international partners.

    The situation on the ground appears more volatile than ever, especially since the recent offensive of the Iraqi Security Forces to retake the city of Ramadi and the ‘ethnic’ difficulties encountered in Sinjar since the Peshmerga retook the city from ISIL.37 The fact that every military victory is today presented as a Peshmerga victory, even though the Kurdish units are not the only ones fighting the ISIL, could indeed complicate Baghdad’s...

  10. (pp. 23-25)

    The security volatility and the new diplomatic deal in the region (with Russia, and possibly Iran, acting as potential partners for Western countries) make it highly difficult to predict long-term military/security strategies and local evolutions in Iraq. The forthcoming elections – provincial elections in 2017 and presidential elections in 2018 – and Prime Minister Abadi’s current difficulties are factors that will directly impact upon the situation on the ground and international presence in Iraq.

    In order to build and implement a proper and effective long-term stabilization strategy, that also includes CVE as an integral part,, three conditions need to be...

  11. (pp. 26-26)