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.
Iraq’s landmark 2018 national elections—the first since the military defeat of ISIS—presented an opportunity for a much-needed course correction for the country’s sclerotic political process. Unfortunately, that opportunity was not seized properly. The vote was marred by claims of widespread fraud, low voter turnout, a delayed results announcement and a protracted government formation process. Originally scheduled for the spring of 2017, Iraq’s parliament recently delayed provincial elections again, moving the date to early April 2020. The election delay will give Iraq’s institutions further time to do the important work necessary to get these elections right and, thus, get Iraq’s politics on the right track. But, it is urgent for this work—bolstered by support from the international community—to start now.
After Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003, Iraq’s new leaders struggled to chart a democratic course after decades of dictatorship. It suffered through a civil war, political turmoil, widespread economic corruption, sectarian tensions and an extremist insurgency, led by the Islamic State, that seized a third of the country.
Nadia Murad, the sad-eyed, soft-spoken Nobel laureate and voice of the Yazidi genocide, warned that her people along with Christians and other minorities are slowly disappearing from Iraq. Faced with challenges that include uncertain security, lack of health care, stalled reconstruction and inability to leave refugee camps, Yazidis and other minority groups urgently need international help if they are to survive as components of Iraq’s national character, she said.
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.
For almost a decade, the U.S. Institute of Peace and its Iraqi partners have supported ethnic and religious minority communities in Iraq as part of the Institute’s broader mission of helping the country strengthen communal and institutional resilience. Employing innovative approaches to peacebuilding, USIP seeks to empower minority groups including Christians, Faily Kurds, Kakayees, Sabean-Mandaeans, Shabaks, and Eyzidis (Yazidis) to solve inter-communal disputes, and to advocate at all levels of government for their rights, access to services, and security.