Iraq

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After nearly 25 years of Saddam Hussein's rule, Iraqis generally welcomed his overthrow during the 2003 invasion, but the post-Saddam years have seen increased religious conflicts, economic struggles, insurgency, and the continued and divisive presence of occupying forces. RAND research on the Gulf Wars and nation-building efforts in Iraq have helped to inform and advise both the U.S. government and military, and the nascent Iraqi government.

  • Silhouettes of militants atop currency and a map of Iraq, image by Sandra Petitjean/RAND Corporation

    Report

    Foundations of the Islamic State

    May 18, 2016

    A thorough examination of the Islamic State's history and practices is useful for designing a coordinated and effective campaign against it — and for understanding why the group might be able to survive such an effort and sustain itself in the future.

  • The Sinjar Resistance Units, an offshoot of a leftist Kurdish organization, and Abdulkhaleq al-Jarba, a Arab tribal militia, have opened up a new front against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, April 30, 2016, photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

    Commentary

    Partitioning Iraq: Make a Detailed Case, or Cease and Desist

    May 16, 2016

    The mostly non-Iraqi voices who want to divide the country into three ethno-sectarian cantonments—Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd—owe the Iraqi people extensive, detailed clarification. If neither the Iraqi Arab polity nor Iraq's most powerful political factions seek three-way partition, then the case should be closed.

Explore Iraq

  • Displaced people who fled ISIS arrive at a military checkpoint before being transported to camps in eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 25, 2017

    Commentary

    Stabilizing Mosul After the Battle Against ISIS

    U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have retaken the east bank of Mosul and are planning to take the west soon. The military operations that oust ISIS are crucial to the city's liberation but failing to get the civilian response right risks a widening civil war.

    Feb 9, 2017

  • Iraqi army gather during a fight with Islamic State militants in Rashidiya, North of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017.

    Commentary

    The Need for a Targeted Counter-ISIL Strategy

    Defeating ISIL is only possible if political conditions change in the Middle East, North and West Africa, and South Asia, and in ways that are exceedingly unlikely. The coalition should focus on reducing ISIL's ability to conduct attacks and on removing the underlying conditions that feed Sunni grievances.

    Feb 5, 2017

  • U.S. soldiers execute a fire mission to support Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive in northern Iraq, December 24, 2016

    Report

    Countering ISIL as a Transregional Threat

    The U.S. counter-ISIL strategy must recognize the long-term nature of the global violent jihadi threat. U.S. diplomatic and military actions should focus on reducing the appeal of ISIL and disrupting the transregional network that supports it.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • A family walks next to an Iraqi tank during a fight with ISIS militants in Rashidiya, north of Mosul, Iraq, January 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Is ISIS Breaking Apart?

    The coalition tasked with countering ISIS has made progress, and ISIS is sure to break apart further over the next few years. Any splinter groups that result could differ from their parent organization, so counterterrorism strategies will need to adjust.

    Jan 31, 2017

  • Report

    Calculating the Gross Regional Product of the Kurdistan Region — Iraq: Arabic translation

    Estimates the gross regional product (GRP) of the Kurdistan Region -- Iraq in 2012 (excluding natural resources) and describes efforts to set up a system for data collection and analysis to support future annual GRP calculation.

    Dec 21, 2016

  • A boy holds up a white flag in Mosul, Iraq, November 16, 2016

    Commentary

    What ISIS Leaves Behind in Mosul Will Reveal a Lot

    The capture of Mosul, Iraq, may produce a potential trove of information about how ISIS organized itself to run a large city. Collecting, analyzing, and disseminating this material will be a major effort, one of the most important as the city is liberated.

    Nov 18, 2016

  • News Release

    An Independent Kurdistan Would Impact Its Neighbors

    If the Kurdish region of northern Iraq were to become an independent nation the move would create important political and economic problems for the neighboring nations of Turkey and Iran, as well as for the Iraqi central government.

    Nov 14, 2016

  • Kurdish Peshmerga troops are deployed in the area near the northern Iraqi border with Syria, August 6, 2012

    Report

    How an Independent Kurdistan Might Impact Its Neighbors

    The Kurds make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never formed a permanent nation state. If the Kurdish region of northern Iraq were to declare its independence, the move would create political and economic problems for Turkey, Iran, and the Iraqi central government.

    Nov 14, 2016

  • A Peshmerga soldier talks with a boy who is fleeing the fighting between Islamic State and the Iraqi army in Mosul, Iraq, November 14, 2016

    Commentary

    What the Battles of Mosul and Aleppo Tell Us About Their Countries' Futures

    The battle of Mosul is not just about defeating ISIS. It is about restoring Mosul to the multi-ethnic city it once was. The Syrian government's style of warfare in Aleppo, however, accepts that Syria will remain a divided country.

    Nov 14, 2016

  • Smoke rises during clashes in the town of Bashiqa, east of Mosul, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, November 8, 2016

    Commentary

    How Will Jihadist Strategy Evolve As the Islamic State Declines?

    As ISIL experiences ongoing battlefield losses it will have to rework its strategy to sustain itself as a preeminent jihadist brand. Meanwhile, the group will likely place greater emphasis on smaller scale strikes that require less central direction.

    Nov 10, 2016

  • Iraqi special forces soldiers drive in a desert near Mosul, Iraq, October 25, 2016

    Commentary

    Can the Islamic State Lose Mosul and Still Win?

    The loss of Mosul would be a serious blow for the Islamic State but past insurgencies suggest it is far too early to count the Islamic State out.

    Oct 31, 2016

  • Report

    Calculating the Gross Regional Product of the Kurdistan Region — Iraq: Kurdish translation

    Estimates the gross regional product (GRP) of the Kurdistan Region -- Iraq in 2012 (excluding natural resources) and describes efforts to set up a system for data collection and analysis to support future annual GRP calculation.

    Oct 21, 2016

  • A convoy of Iraqi security forces advances on the outskirts of Mosul, ready to fight Islamic State militants, October 12, 2016

    Commentary

    After the Battle for Mosul, Get Ready for ISIS to Go Underground

    Only once ISIS's underground network is defeated will there be a real chance for enduring security and stability in Mosul.

    Oct 18, 2016

  • Syria Democratic Forces fighters inspect a center used by Islamic State religious police in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Demystifying the Islamic State

    To counter the threat posed by the Islamic State group, it is crucial to understand what the terrorist organization is and what it is not. Attributing all jihadist violence to a ruthless gang headquartered in Raqqa exaggerates the power of the group and plays into their propaganda and recruiting efforts.

    Aug 23, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the FY2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, February 2, 2015

    Commentary

    President Obama's Controversial Legacy as Counterterrorism-in-Chief

    There were no attacks like 9/11 during Obama's eight years in office. But there were plenty of terrorist adversaries. While he will be judged in part for his domestic achievements, Obama's counterterrorism choices are a major part of his legacy.

    Aug 22, 2016

  • Smoke rises after airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants in a village east of Mosul, Iraq, May 29, 2016

    Commentary

    Cutting the Islamic State's Money Supply

    Airstrikes have hit ISIL tanker trucks, oil fields, refineries, and banks, but it would be a mistake to view the group as a poor man's version of its old self. New steps are needed to counter its multi-million dollar taxation and extortion machine.

    Jul 21, 2016

  • Students hold a placard and candles during a vigil after a terror attack on Dhaka, Bangladesh, in Agartala, India, July 3, 2016

    Commentary

    Is the Surge in Terrorist Attacks Coincidence or Coordinated Campaign?

    Whatever the investigations of recent terrorist attacks reveal, the facts may be portrayed (or ignored) to fit narratives written even before the blood has dried.

    Jul 11, 2016

  • Officials count the ballots after the polls are closed in Cairo, Egypt, June 17, 2012

    Commentary

    It's Too Soon to Write Off the Arab Spring as a Failure

    Pessimistically declaring the Arab Spring a failure in 2016 would be as naive as optimistically declaring it a success in 2011. Something comes next—but what?

    Jun 15, 2016

  • Danish police search an apartment block in Ishoej, Denmark, for people suspected of having been recruited by the Islamic State, April 7, 2016

    Commentary

    Striking Back at the Islamic State's Foreign Fighter Pipeline

    Islamic State training camps are the breeding grounds of tomorrow's Brussels or Paris attacks, and their consistent penchant for training foreigners suggests that military and security officials need to get serious about how to deal with returnees from Iraq and Syria.

    May 31, 2016

  • News Release

    Declassified Documents Provide Insight into Origins of the Islamic State and How to Defeat the Group

    Looking at more than 140 recently declassified documents from the predecessors of the Islamic State, it is evident that the group has been operating for years with remarkable continuity in its philosophy, methods, and goals, including the long-standing aspiration for creating a caliphate.

    May 19, 2016