Understanding the Drivers of Conflict in Iraq

By Toby Dodge, Zeynep Kaya, Kyra Luchtenberg, Sarah Mathieu-Comtois, Bahra Saleh, Christine M. van den Toorn, Andrea Turpin-King and Jessica Watkins.

It has now been over a year since the liberation of Mosul by Iraqi government forces in July 2017. This victory marks a new stage in the violent conflict that has destabilised Iraq since regime change in 2003.

In some ways, this breakthrough can be compared firstly to the initial aftermath of the invasion itself from April 2003 until the insurgency transformed itself into a civil war in 2005, and secondly to the period following the US-led surge which started in February 2007 and lasted until the reconstitution of Da'esh and the fall of Mosul in 2014. As with the invasion and the surge, the organisational capacity of violent opposition to the post-2003 political order was shattered by the deployment of superior military force.

The defeat of Daʿesh and the retaking of Kirkuk created a window of opportunity for Baghdad. Before the elections of May 2018, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi publicly committed himself to post-sectarian politics and hoped the retaking of both Mosul and the disputed territories would bolster his popular standing.

However, his inability to implement a reform agenda while in office directly contributed to his disappointing performance in the elections. This, along with the low turnout, indicates that public opinion is focused on the need to reform the Iraqi state and its relationship with society and the economy, and that people will punish those politicians who fail to deliver change.

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(Source: LSE)

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