25 March 2019
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There appears to be little agreement among spectators over the motives and demands driving Iraq’s protest movement, which has grown in since late 2011. What isn’t in dispute is that protest activities are a permanent feature of the Iraqi political landscape and it seems that Iraq is not alone. Resource-rich Algeria was gripped by similar trends after its population took to the streets in reaction to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announced intention to run for a fifth term in upcoming elections.…
Iraq’s Sunnis have been abandoned by their government and are at the mercy of killers and war criminals who rival ISIS in their brutality.  Humanitarians have always faced a hard task in Iraq. Not only are there literally millions of people in need of aid, with the United Nations saying there are at least 1.3 million internally displaced persons in the country, but the length in time of the crisis has increased difficulties for aid workers. It would seem sensible…

Iran wants to rule Iraq without US presence Saturday, 23 February 2019 21:24

Calls by Iran-backed Iraqi militia leaders for the withdrawal of US troops have grown in the past month but it’s far from clear the efforts will be successful. The militia leaders have the loyalty of fighters enlisted in the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and are represented by the Fatah Alliance and its allies in parliament. They are rallying behind legislation that proposes to sever military and, by extension, political ties with the United States. Fadhel Jabir, a member of the…
The official proclamation of the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) was loudly celebrated throughout Iraq and even in Washington but a place untouched by such optimism is Mosul and its surrounding cities, which are now mountains of post-war rubble. France pledged 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) to help Iraq’s reconstruction when French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Baghdad January 14. The French gesture comes almost one year after donor countries pledged $30 billion to rebuild Iraq. Pledges at…

How Militias Affect Basra’s Protests Saturday, 02 February 2019 23:08

With protests originally sparking in July 2018, Basra continues to experience sporadic demonstrations. While many protesters initially emphasized the continuing lack of infrastructure in southern Iraq, slogans against Iran, and attacks against the Iranian consulate have emphasized frustration at Iran’s influence in the region as well. Iran’s influence is directly visible to these protesters, and is especially discernible in the attacks on protesters by Iraq’s Iranian-backed militias. These attacks highlight the complicated relationship between Iraq’s powerful militias—which predominantly recruit from south of Iraq—and the…
Baghdad signed into law one of its largest-ever spending packages last week after months of gridlock. At $111.8 billion, the 2019 budget is a nearly 45 percent increase on the previous year’s, featuring the highest deficit and second-highest spending volume in Iraq’s history since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. But despite desperate need for reconstruction funding after its devastating three-year war with the Islamic State, and with a crippled business sector beset by government corruption, Iraqi experts say…
Looking ahead at what 2019 will bring in Iraq is like walking through a hall of mirrors. Reality is distorted, vision is blurred and walking down the wrong path could find one crashing into glass.  For all the beginning-of-year predictions since 2003, few have been accurate, and 2019 will most likely be the same. Too many variables, too many outside actors and bevvies of black swans await the foolhardy prognosticator. Even the US, usually the most predictable of actors, cannot…
LONDON - In December 2017, Iraq announced the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS). While ISIS lost control of major population centres in Iraq, the country’s politics remain in gridlock. In the victory declaration of December 9, 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi praised the achievement of Iraq’s “heroic armed forces.” “Our enemy wanted to kill our civilization  but we have won through our unity and our determination,” he said. By the end of 2017, a coalition of Iraqi and international…
Twice last month, the Iraqi parliament blocked the appointment of key ministerial posts by Iraq’s new Prime Minister Dr Adel Abdul Mahdi. The main sticking point with certain party blocs in the parliament has been Mahdi’s insistence on the appointment of Faleh al-Fayadh as Interior Minister. Major blocs like Saairun, supported by the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have walked out of the parliament, leaving it un-quorate each time Mahdi has tabled Faleh al-Fayadh’s nomination. The issue has left the government…
MOSUL, IRAQ — Standing on what's left of the the roof of his crumbled home, Ahmed, an aging Mosul resident, trembles as he describes the deaths of his three sons.  A Russian Islamic State militant occupied Ahmed's house last year and a U.S.-led coalition airstrike targeted it. The strike killed the militant, and Ahmed's boys. Now, Ahmed says he cannot afford to rebuild his home for his two surviving children. "No one gave us a penny or a single dinar," he…

Iraq's Intra-Shia Struggle Over Iranian Influence Wednesday, 19 December 2018 22:04

Iranian-backed Shia militias inside Iraq, once viewed by many Iraqis as saviors who helped the country defeat the Islamic State, are destabilizing Iraq’s infant and fragile government and creating additional tension between Baghdad and Washington. There was a brief sigh of relief when an Iraqi government was finally formed in September. It took five months of wrangling after a national election in May. But the militias, more commonly known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or Population Mobilization Forces (PMUs), Iran’s major weapon…
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