The UK aims to support the Iraqi people and government in building a stable and democratic nation by realising Iraq’s economic potential, supporting long-term stability and working with Iraq to build partnerships in the region.

default Can the quiet Ayatollah of peace save Iraq from collapse?

Author: Hayder al-Khoei
Publication Date: October-November 2014
Key words: Iraq, Community Engagement, Culture and Ideology, Peacebuilding, Political Settlement


This short article describes the influence of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a Shia cleric who has played an influential and moderating role at key crisis points in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam in April 2003. It shows how an understanding of local culture and ideology, and working with respected local leaders, can assist in achieving more effective outcomes. The article will be relevant to those involved in the cultural, community and peacebuilding aspects of stabilisation planning.

default Fixing Iraq’s Internal Security Forces – Why is Reform of the Ministry of Interior so Hard?

Author: Andrew Rathmell
Institution: Centre Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Publication Date: 2007
Keywords: Iraq, Security and Justice


This paper argues that reform of national security institutions must be understood to be as much about political as well as technical processes.   An effective Ministry of Interior (MOI) is required for the stability of Iraq, yet coalition reform efforts have not been as successful as hoped, in part because technical approaches failed to recognise how the MOI reflects the political divisions and tensions within Iraqi society.  The MOI has to balance the interests of different groups and maintain technical and institutional competence while political struggles take place within and around it. 

default Insurgents in motion: Counterinsurgency and insurgency relocation in Iraq

Author: Pui-Hang Wong
Institution: United Nations University, Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT); UNU-MERIT Working Paper Series, No. 2014-045
Publication Date: 2014
Key words: Iraq, Conflict, Counterinsurgency (COIN), Monitoring and Evaluation, Planning, Stabilisation


The author examines the relationship between Counterinsurgency (COIN) measures in one district and levels of violence in others. The article uses complex statistical techniques that may not be of interest to the majority of readers. But its conclusions will be useful to academics and policy makers involved in evaluating the impact of COIN activities. It will also be of relevance to COIN planners examining how insurgents determine targets and methods.

default Iraq’s Displacement Crisis: Security and Protection

Title: Iraq’s Displacement Crisis: Security and Protection

Author: Lahib Higel

Institution:  Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International

Publication Date: 2016

Keywords: IDPs, humanitarian assistance, resettlement, disputed territories, liberation

Key lessons in the document

Higel highlights the need for comprehensive post-liberation strategies aimed at addressing security needs, reconciliation, community building, re-establishing rule of law and managing the process of property restitution and appropriate compensation as key to peace-building and co-existence.

default Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

Authors: Zachary Laub and Jonathan Masters
Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
Publication Date: August 2014
Key words: Iraq, Syria, Conflict, Counterinsurgency, Culture and Ideology, Planning, Stabilisation


This article is a useful “primer” which explains the origins and strategy of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It shows how policy mistakes can provide fertile ground for insurgents, and how one relatively small group can evolve quickly into a potent international threat. Although events have continued to move swiftly since the article was published, the historical analysis will be useful to stabilisation planners and practitioners being deployed to areas affected by ISIS activity. It will also be of value to those involved in the planning and implementation of counterinsurgency policy at national and international levels.

default Jihadi Rivalry: The Islamic State Challenges al-Qaida

Title: Jihadi Rivalry: The Islamic State Challenges al-Qaida

Author: Charles Lister

Institution:  Brookings Doha Center

Publication Date: 2016

Keywords:  Syria, Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra, jihadi, transnational, Sharia, caliphate, counter-radicalisation, localism, state-building

Key lessons in the document

Lister makes clear that the international community needs to ramp up the disruption of jihadi financial activities, counter-radicalization efforts and do more, more generally, to tackle state instability across the Muslim world to help close down the space in which jihadis operate. 

default Syria-Iraq relations: state construction and deconstruction of the MENA states system

Title: Syria-Iraq relations: state construction and deconstruction of the MENA states system

Author: Professor Raymond Hinnebusch

Institution:  LSE Middle East Centre

Publication Date: 2014

Keywords: state formation, imperialism, trans-state, sectarianism, state deconstruction, state-centric identities, ‘Somalisation’, Ba’thist

Key lessons in the document

Hinnebusch states that “Imperial boundary drawing in the Middle East” created a conflict-prone, unstable states system. Hinnebush notes that these artificially constructed states are increasingly susceptible to and afflicted by identity fragmentation, irredentism, sectarianism, insurgencies, and trans-state conflict.

default The Day After: What to expect in Post Islamic State Mosul

Title: The Day After: What to expect in Post Islamic State Mosul

© 2016 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Author: Tallha Abdulrazaq and Gareth Stansfield

Institution:  Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Publication Date: May 2016

Keywords:  Peshmerga, Shia militias, Saddam Hussein, Sharia, liberation

Key lessons in the document

Abdulrazaq and Stansfield make the point that if the “day after” in Mosul is not carefully managed to some pre-defined yet flexible notion of “success”, then the result could be another round of low-scale insurgency leading to a violent Sunni rebellion in subsequent years.  

The authors also warn that any prospect of a Kurdish territorial annexation of eastern Mosul and significant parts of Nineveh could provoke serious opposition among Sunni Arabs and Turkmens, as well as among Shia militias, thus complicating any attempts to bring stability to the post-conflict environment.

default The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots and Political Context

Title: The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots and Political Context

Author: Hassan Hassan

Institution:  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Publication Date: 2016

Keywords:  Jihad, Syria, Iraq, ideology, political Islam, Wahhabism, Sahwa, takfirism, caliphate, clerics

Key lessons in the document

Hassan makes the case for better understanding Daesh’s multifaceted ideology and its ideological appeal as key to defeating it. Hassan argues that until the “illusion of the group’s ideology is traceable straight to Salafism is dispelled, the world will not be able to understand the Islamic State’s appeal, or to defeat it.”

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