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.
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.
The economy of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region is on the brink of collapse; only the central government in Baghdad can stop an economic free fall that’s already damaging the broader Iraqi economy. While a rapid, negotiated solution to this crisis is essential to stabilize and unify Iraq—and reassure investors needed for post-ISIS reconstruction—a host of complex issues over oil and the national budget stand in the way.
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.