Iraq has been ravaged by cycles of warfare, a massive refugee crisis, crippling sectarianism, and the violent spread of the self-styled Islamic State. As the U.S. military helps roll back ISIS, stabilization will require Iraqis to mediate and resolve the complex communal conflicts that long have weakened their state. Since 2003 the U.S. Institute of Peace has provided financial and technical assistance to civic groups and government institutions involved in peacebuilding efforts. Current initiatives include local reconciliation in ISIS-liberated areas, support for Iraqi minorities, helping facilitate police-community dialogues, and informing policy discussions. Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in Iraq.
In a surprise turn, preliminary results from Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary vote indicate that 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 Iraq prepares to vote on May 12, the public debate has been just a bit unusual. Following the country’s war against the Islamic State extremists, candidates are seeking votes with appeals across sectarian lines and more discussion of issues than in any other election campaign. This change is incremental but is one of several that make this a moment to step back and measure Iraq’s evolution since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Despite what Iraqis have suffered over 15 years—or perhaps because of it—the will to democratize is alive and growing. A real meaning of these elections is this: If the United States and the international community can sustain their engagement, Iraq has a chance to stabilize, and to turn back the inevitable future attempts to revive extremist violence.
As Iraq’s parliamentary elections approach this weekend, destabilizing disputes with the Kurdistan Region remain unresolved. Perhaps the most intractable, and least discussed, is how to address the insolvency of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). It’s a simmering crisis that threatens Iraq’s economic future and political unity, and one that the central government needs to step up and help defuse.
Diplomats and peace practitioners often cite lack of familiarity with the religious landscape as a barrier to their engagement of religious actors. In 2013, USIP launched an initiative to address this need by developing a methodology for systematically mapping and assessing the religious sector’s influence on conflict and peace dynamics in discrete conflict settings. These mappings, which have been done or are underway in Libya, South Sudan, Iraq and Burma, help illuminate recommendations for effective partnerships within the religious sector for peacebuilding.