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 2014, Islamic State militants committed genocide against religious and ethnic minorities, particularly Yazidis and Christians, across northern Iraq. Kidnapping, rape, and murder marked this campaign of terror; thousands fled their homes. Six years later, with ISIS defeated militarily and its leader, Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, dead following a U.S. raid, many displaced Iraqis have yet to return to their homes. The obstacles they face range from bureaucracy to a fear for their lives amid signs of an ISIS resurgence to Turkish airstrikes against groups Ankara sees as threatening its national interest.
As the United States and Iraq engage in important talks this month, USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed says the focus should be “Iraq-centric policy,” even as Baghdad “is under a lot of pressure from Iran and its allies … to use the dialogue to put pressure on the United States to withdraw its troops and limit U.S. influence.”
Since October 2019, Iraq has been rocked by multiple crises. Protesters hit the street last fall to demand an end to corruption and foreign interference, an overhaul of the political system, and economic justice, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi in November. Several attempts to form a new government failed until Mustafa al-Kadhimi succeeded in May. At the beginning of 2020, the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani resulted in ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran that largely played out on Iraqi soil. Then the coronavirus descended up Iraq.
The Conflict and Stabilization Monitoring Framework (CSMF) is a data collection tool adapted to the Iraq context from USIP’s Measuring Progress in Conflict Environments framework. CSMF collects data directly from Iraq’s conflict-affected communities using a set of 48 indicators tied to four core conflict and stabilization dynamics: community security, rule of law, governance, and livelihoods. The CSMF was created to establish a robust evidence base for peacebuilding in Iraq using systemic, longitudinal data.
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.