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.

  • A U.S. Army medical helicopter flies over the Army's 3rd Infantry division's convoy on its push towards Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2003, photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    Report

    Lessons Learned from the Battle for Baghdad

    Jun 12, 2019

    A review of the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, offers insights and recommendations that could help leaders avoid the same mistakes in future conflicts. One important lesson is that DoD war plans need to include actions to ensure long-term stability.

  • U.S. Army soldiers deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve await aerial extraction via CH-47 Chinook during a training exercise in Iraq, October 31, 2018, photo by 1st Lt. Leland White/U.S. Army National Guard

    Report

    It's Time to Make a Full and Enduring Commitment to Iraq

    Apr 14, 2020

    American interests will suffer if strategic competition in Iraq is abandoned. U.S. policymakers should pursue a commitment to Iraq before opportunities are lost. The best way to establish that commitment is through robust, long-term, small-footprint assistance to the Iraqi Army.

Explore Iraq

  • Commercial Book

    Institution Building in Weak States: The Primacy of Local Politics

    The international community‘s approach to building state institutions needs its own reform. This innovative book proposes a new strategy, rooted in a rigorous analysis of recent missions.

    Jun 26, 2020

  • Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two move in a tactical formation during a training evolution to locate, identify, render safe and dispose of an IED, July 12, 2010

    Commentary

    Competition in Iraq

    Tensions between the United States and Iran reached a boiling point in January 2020 when Iranian-backed forces attacked American military and diplomatic facilities on Iraqi soil, and the U.S. retaliated. Policymakers and experts again asked: Why are we in Iraq? What would happen if we left, and why would it matter?

    Jun 5, 2020

  • U.S. soldiers load onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as they leave Al Qaim Base, Iraq, March 9, 2020, photo by Spc. Andrew Garcia/U.S. Army

    Report

    Weighing U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

    Supporting a stable and friendly Iraq is in the long-term interest of the United States. This does not require continuing the combat assistance mission, but would mean maintaining a small force of military advisers to help train and develop Iraqi capabilities so that Iraq could defend itself.

    May 19, 2020

  • Infographic

    Estimating the Economic Benefits of Levant Integration: A Look at the Numbers

    This infographic helps users assess values of economic integration in the Levant in a variety of ways.

    Feb 24, 2020

  • A demonstrator holds a picture of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a protest in Tehran, Iran, January 3, 2020, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/West Asia News Agency/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran Claws Back Its Regional Influence

    Last year, Iran faced protests at home as well as in Iraq and Lebanon, where thousands rallied against Tehran's regional hegemony. But with its recent machinations and the fallout over the killing of Soleimani, Iran has succeeded in changing the regional conversation.

    Jan 17, 2020

  • Blog

    Iran, Mental Health and Jail, Russia: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Iran and Iraq following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, supporting those experiencing mental illness in jails, Russia's hostile measures, and more.

    Jan 10, 2020

  • An Iranian mourner holds a picture of late General Qassem Soleimani as people gather to mourn him in Tehran, Iran, January 4, 2020, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Will Iran Respond to Soleimani's Killing—and Where Will the Escalation End?

    Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani's death will reverberate in the Middle East region for a long time. The United States must know its end game and be able to respond to this changing landscape of its own making, without stumbling into another full-fledged conflict that the Trump administration itself, Congress, and the American people have said they do not want.

    Jan 7, 2020

  • Members of Iraqi security forces in front of U.S. Embassy during a protest, in Baghdad, Iraq, January 1, 2020, photo by Khalid Al Mousily/Reuters

    Commentary

    Baghdad Siege Wasn't Benghazi, and Never Will Be

    Given the heightened tension between the United States and Iran and the ongoing instability in Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad may very well be attacked again. If such an attack were to be successful, it would be more akin to the fall of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon than the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

    Jan 6, 2020

  • Following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, members of Iraq's parliament voted to expel American soldiers from Iraq, January 5, 2020, photo by Iraqi Parliament Media Office/Handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    Iraq's Vote to Expel U.S. Troops Is Iran's True Victory

    If American soldiers are ejected from Iraq, the consequences may be far-reaching and damaging to U.S. strategic interests. What options remain to reset the relationship between Washington and Baghdad?

    Jan 6, 2020

  • Hezbollah supporters attend a funeral ceremony rally to mourn Iran's Qassem Soleimani, in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, January 5, 2020, photo by Aziz Taher/Reuters

    Commentary

    All-Out U.S.-Iran War Is Unlikely. But Low-Level War Expected to Continue

    Iranian retaliation for Soleimani's killing and counter-retaliation by the United States seem likely. But Tehran and Washington have good reasons to inflict limited pain without engaging in a full-scale war.

    Jan 6, 2020

  • U.S. Army soldiers man a defensive position at Forward Operating Base Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, December 31, 2019, photo by Maj. Charlie Dietz/Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs Handout via Reuters

    Commentary

    Can Iraq Evict U.S. Forces?

    The Iraqi parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from Iraq. This vote was nonbinding, and the Iraqi caretaker government cannot pass laws, but it does indicate that a majority in parliament wants U.S. forces to leave.

    Jan 6, 2020

  • Militia members hold a portrait of Iranian Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani during a protest of an air campaign in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition, Baghdad, March 31, 2015, photo by Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

    Blog

    Iranian Commander Soleimani Killed: RAND Experts React

    The White House has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike authorized by President Trump killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani just outside the Baghdad airport in Iraq. We've rounded up how RAND researchers reacted to the news.

    Jan 3, 2020

  • Iraqi demonstrators carry pictures of people who were killed during ongoing anti-government protests in Nassiriya, Iraq, December 4, 2019, photo by Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iraq at the Crossroads

    The protests gripping Iraq pose an extraordinary challenge to Baghdad's political leadership, which must move the country ahead or step aside. Unless it finds the will to compromise for the common good, the governing class could risk thrusting the country into civil war.

    Dec 18, 2019

  • Blog

    Medicare, Climate Change, 'Superbugs': RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on opening Medicare to Americans at age 50, how to assess climate change plans, antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," and more.

    Nov 22, 2019

  • An Iraqi demonstrator gestures during the ongoing anti-government protests in Najaf, Iraq, November 18, 2019, photo by Alaa Al-MarjaniReuters

    Commentary

    The Arab Spring in the Upside-Down

    Where the original Arab Spring protests removed authoritarian leaders, the current demonstrators in Iraq and Lebanon are trying to topple popularly elected governments. This could have dramatic implications for the future of representative democracy in the Middle East.

    Nov 21, 2019

  • A demonstrator reacts as he walks in front of Iraqi security forces during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, November 14, 2019, photo by Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

    Commentary

    Don't Overestimate the Power of Iraqi Protests

    As protests in Iraq grow, a “good news” narrative seems to be developing that they are a significant blow to Iranian influence. But the bigger story is not who is up and who is down between Washington and Tehran; it is that yet another Arab public has taken to the streets demanding change.

    Nov 14, 2019

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq, October 21, 2019, photo by Ari Jalal/Reuters

    Commentary

    How the U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Provides a Boost to ISIS

    President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria could provide the ISIS terrorist group with the time and space to regrow its organization and extend its networks throughout the Middle East. The longer-term strategic effects of the decision could reverberate in the region for years to come.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, in Erbil, Iraq October 21, 2019, photo by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Syrian Withdrawal: Where Things Stand

    Without an orderly process for its national security decisions, the Trump administration has defaulted to the worst option regarding Syria. The sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces has left an opening for Russia to exploit. It also left the Kurds, a U.S. partner, to fend off a Turkish assault.

    Oct 21, 2019

  • A Turkish army howitzer is positioned near the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 17, 2019, photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

    Commentary

    Indecision in Washington Compounded the Kurds' Dilemma

    Core qualities of statesmanship and statecraft have been notably lacking in charting the U.S. administration's Syria end game. This has compounded the unavoidable costs of withdrawal with charges of betrayal and a retreat under fire.

    Oct 18, 2019