An international conference opens in Kuwait Monday to plan ways to rebuild Iraq and secure it against renewed extremist violence following the three-year war against ISIS. A USIP team just spent nine days in Iraq for talks with government and civil society leaders, part of the Institute’s years-long effort to help the country stabilize. The Kuwait conference will gather government, business and civil society leaders to consider a reconstruction that Iraq has said could cost $100 billion. USIP’s president, Nancy Lindborg, and Middle East program director, Sarhang Hamasaeed, say any realistic rebuilding plan must focus also on the divisions and grievances in Iraq that led to ISIS’ violence and that still exist.
Sarhang Hamasaeed tells us why the results of the non-binding Kurdistan independence referendum matter, and explains the need to prevent an escalation of tensions that could lead to violence with Shia...
Sarhang Hamasaeed reviews a tense week in which the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces clashed in the disputed area of Kirkuk. With ISIS driven out of Kirkuk, renewed tensions dating back to 2014 have re-emerged between the Iraqi Army and Popular Mobilization Forces Hamasaeed tells us why a political dialogue process is central to protecting minorities, and avoiding Shia and Sunni clashes.
The strategic clash between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen masks multiple layers of conflict underneath that have deepened—and in some ways altered—the country’s fractures in local politics, society and security. The chaos has devastated Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, and has the potential to burst beyond the nation’s borders and further destabilize an already troubled region. It also allows the likes of the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to thrive.
Looking at the maneuvers by Iran and the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen from afar, the battlefield looks a lot like a black-and-white contest for regional power. But as the U.S. considers escalating its role in the conflict—and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis visits Riyadh this week—it is essential to understand how local realities can get lost in a proxy war.
Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi, a leader of the nation’s Sunni minority, called for a national dialogue that would effectively reboot Iraq’s post-ISIS political life by forging a binding consensus on religious rights, federalism, justice reform and distribution of national wealth.
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Sochi on Tuesday to discuss efforts to end the Syrian civil war. The presidents of Iran and Turkey are scheduled to meet Putin on Wednesday as Russia promises to scale back its military presence in Syria and push for a diplomatic solution.
As Iraqi and Kurdish forces recapture most territory from ISIS, the future of minorities in Iraq remains uncertain. To an even greater extent than Sunni and Shia areas destroyed by ISIS, minority communities face continuing security risks, humanitarian needs, a devastated economy and the imperative of reconciliation.
The impasse between Iraq’s central government and its Kurdistan Region is building into an economic problem, and both sides need to quickly find a way to negotiate a solution. While political conflict between the authorities in Baghdad and the regional capital of Erbil has been quieter since Iraqi troops ousted Kurdish forces from disputed territories in October, the Kurdish region’s economy is unraveling, with risks for both sides.
The violence of extremists—and the chaos they spawn—takes place in towns, villages, streets and homes, not along some far-off front line. That’s where extremist groups seek recruits and where residents they victimize plot revenge, said the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Sarhang Hamasaeed in a Ted Talk-style presentation during the Jan. 10 “Passing the Baton” conference. While national and international efforts to bring peace to such areas can help, dialogue and mediation at the community level has...