Written in early 2017, the paper looks at the rise of ISIS in Iraq, its structural and ideological base and its probable restructuration into a localized guerilla
Since the First Gulf War starting in 1980, Iraqis have not experienced any decade of stability and internal security. Conquering large swathes of territories in the summer of 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has added to the country’s legacy of conflict and sectarianism. After the unexpected rise of the militant faction and its taking over of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, many external states and internal groups jumped into the fight against ISIS which represents the common enemy to a composite group comprising the “Global Coalition” of 68 partners led by United-
States of America’s (US), the Iraqi Armed Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) overlapping the Global Coalition, Turkish Armed Forces and finally the different factions of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) which are made of mostly Iranian-backed Shia groups and less multiple Sunni and Christian militias. Due to its relatively coordinated firepower against ISIS, this multifarious front has resulted in positive advancements on the ground.
Considering that the international coalition’s strategy will certainly bring total defeat to ISIS in the near future, this essay will look into the aftermath of Iraq’s battle against ISIS and argue that the country now is at the crossroads of its destiny. Indeed, the country’s turmoil will not end with the recovery of Mosul and the flight of ISIS fighters into Syria unless Iraq’s leadership tackles the social and political fault lines of the Iraqi state. Although the fight against ISIS has served as the rallying cry of all the aforementioned actors, it has concealed the conflictual internal relations between the Federal Government in Baghdad and the KRG, the rise of Shi’i militias and the further marginalization of Sunni populations and finally the broader reshuffling of regional relations where Iraq is entangled in the Saudi-Iranian rift. Arguing that insecurity has been the primary factor behind the disintegration of Iraq’s social fabric, this essay will seek to provide an understanding of the country’s adverse contemporary developments leading to sectarianism and the likes of ISIS.
Additionally, it will offer a road map for the improvement of Iraq’s political situation while refuting the case that Iraq does not represent a “real country”.