On May 12, Iraqis went to the polls to elect a new national parliament. In a surprise turn, a coalition led by controversial cleric Moqtada al-Sadr—a staunch opponent of both U.S. and Iranian influence in Iraq—won the most seats, as incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s coalition came in third. While the election campaign saw Iraqis turn toward a focus on issues and away from sectarianism, low turnout figures demonstrate that many are disenchanted with the political system.
U.S. Administration and military leaders, senior Iraqi representatives, and regional experts explored one of the most complex and consequential conflicts of our time. This event included a keynote panel with Stephen J. Hadley, General Joseph L. Votel, Ambassador Mark Green and Brett McGurk. USIP and guest experts navigated the key themes and provided insight on the terrain ahead in Iraq and Syria.
In the past few weeks, the Islamic State (ISIS) “caliphate” has collapsed. Syria’s Assad regime all but formally won the six-year war, a consolidation of Iranian and Russian influence. Saudi Arabia purged parts of its royal family. Lebanon’s prime minister abruptly resigned. Iraq’s Kurds voted for independence, triggering a confrontation with Baghdad. Years of U.S. and international engagement has failed to politically and physically rebuild fractured countries, and the very viability of states like Iraq and Syria has been challenged. Where is the region headed, and what are the U.S. roles amid this tumult? At USIP, distinguished Middle East analysts explored where the region is headed, and the U.S. roles amid this tumult.
As Iraq nears a military defeat of ISIS, Iraqis and their leaders are debating how best to sustain the security gains, prevent any extremist revival, and stabilize the country. They must shape a post-ISIS Iraq as the country finds itself amid increased regional tensions between the Gulf Arab States and Iran. A key voice in this debate—and an important Iraqi interlocutor with U.S. policymakers—is Dr. Saleem al-Jubouri, since 2014 the elected speaker of parliament. He spoke at USIP amid his meetings with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other U.S. officials.
Osama al-Nujaifi is one of Iraq’s three vice presidents. Hailing from Mosul, a city recaptured this year from the ISIS extremist group, he is secretary general of the United for Iraq Party, and the leader of the Sunni political coalition Muttahidoon. Vice President al-Nujaifi’s address at USIP was his only public appearance during his visit to Washington.
On August 1, USIP held an examination of the work required to protect and include minorities, and the roles that can be played by Iraq’s national government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the United States.
Following the Global Coalition's meetings in Washington, USIP held a conversation with Ambassador Ekkehard Brose, who co-chairs the Global Coalition’s “Stabilization Working Group”, and Joseph Pennington, deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq.
U.S.-backed military offensives, at Mosul in Iraq and at Raqqa in Syria, are squeezing the Islamic State (ISIS) from its last territorial strongholds. But what will replace ISIS rule? Persistent conflicts in both countries, including new ones fueled by ISIS’ brutal rise, continue to undermine stability. Can Iraq steady itself, even as ethnic Kurds have called a referendum on independence? In eastern Syria, what groups might fill the post-ISIS power vacuum? Will ISIS even be truly eliminated? On June 30, experts from the U.S. Institute of Peace held a Facebook Live discussion on the rising challenges.
After eight months of fighting for Mosul, Iraqi troops are closing in on the last of ISIS’s forces in the city. The government’s recovery of the main ISIS stronghold in Iraq will open a new phase in the country’s struggle for stability. Iraq must resolve longstanding domestic conflicts that contributed to ISIS’ rise in the first place and avert new cycles of vengeance arising from the terrorists’ brutal, three-year reign in Iraq’s northwest.
On March 23, the U.S. Institute of Peace held a half-day event to discuss past and upcoming elections that illustrate the risk of violence, with the aim of identifying promising ways to realize peace at the polls. Panelists included ambassadors to the U.S., leading election scholars, and the contributing authors of Electing Peace, a new USIP book that examines the effectiveness of common practices to prevent election violence.