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

  • 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

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Winning the Peace in Iraq: Don't Give Up on Baghdad's Fragile Democracy

    Following years of war, Iraq's parliamentary government is stable and concerned with governance rather than sectarianism. But the work is not yet complete, and the author stresses diligence and patience before a lasting peace can be achieved.

    Oct 11, 2019

  • Iraqis watch as a truck burns on a roadside after an attack by suspected insurgents on a highway west of Baghdad February 15, 2006, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Realities of Civil War

    Civil war is not a pretty thing to see or be a part of. Those understandably engaged with the intense debate over whether or not the president should be impeached should not suggest that impeachment would result in civil war in our country. There are peaceful means available for us as Americans to follow in order to solve the problems at hand.

    Oct 9, 2019

  • Commercial Book

    Commercial Book

    Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America's Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

    The dramatic insider account of why we invaded Iraq, the motivations that drove it, and the frustrations of those who tried and failed to stop it, leading to the most costly misadventure in US history.

    Sep 17, 2019

  • Tool

    Tool

    The Levant Economic Integration Calculator

    This online tool allows policymakers and the public to examine how a comprehensive free trade agreement among the countries of the Levant could create significant new economic opportunities, substantially reducing regional unemployment.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • Loading cargo onto a container ship in Istanbul, Turkey, photo by Czgur/Getty Images

    Report

    Potential Benefits of Economic Integration in the Levant

    A comprehensive free trade agreement among six of the core Levant nations—Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey—could increase their average gross domestic product by 3 to 7 percent. It could also reduce regional unemployment rates by 8 to 18 percent.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • An Israeli soldier stands guard under an Israeli national flag in the Jordan Valley near the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim, January 2, 2014, photo by Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

    Commentary

    Israel’s War with Iran May Be Going Too Far

    Israel has a right to defend itself from Iranian threats to its country. American leaders should consider balancing support for Israel's efforts to counter Iran with firm redlines about activities negatively impacting American interests.

    Sep 16, 2019

  • News Release

    News Release

    Follow the Money: How the United States Can Counteract the Islamic State's Plans for a Comeback

    With the end of its territorial caliphate, the Islamic State will almost certainly attempt a comeback. Such efforts will require money. A new RAND report examines the group as an insurgency and a self-styled caliphate, with a focus on how the group managed its finances, drawing from the literature, the group's documents, and interviews with individuals who lived under the caliphate.

    Aug 8, 2019

  • Armed fighters over a background of Syrian, Iraqi, and U.S. currencies and gold ingots, photos by zabelin, Cimmerian, Vitoria Holdings LLC, and johan10/Getty Images

    Report

    U.S. Efforts Are Essential to Counter an Islamic State Comeback

    The Islamic State can no longer rely on local funding sources as it did when it controlled territory. But as an insurgency, its expenses are far lower. With revenue from criminal activities and the cash it hoarded, the group will survive as a clandestine terrorist movement. Counterfinance, intelligence, and possibly military action will be needed.

    Aug 8, 2019

  • Research Brief

    Research Brief

    The Battle for Baghdad: Institutionalizing Army Lessons for Urban Combat

    This brief recounts the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, and offers lessons learned and recommendations to enable leaders and soldiers to be better prepared in future conflicts.

    Jul 3, 2019

  • Bomb blasts and artillery fire thundered across Baghdad as U.S. forces tightened their grip on the capital's fringes and brought up more troops, April 6, 2003, photo by Faleh Kheiber/Reuters

    Commentary

    Changing the Way America Goes to War

    America's vast power, and the weakness of most of its enemies, has allowed it to get away with a striking absence of deliberative judgment when deciding on war, as the Iraq case makes clear. But that free pass is coming to an end. It's time for the United States to rethink the way it decides on wars of choice.

    Jun 25, 2019