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  • Author: David Witty
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: More than a decade ago, the United States created the elite Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service to conduct, coordinate, and lead CT efforts within the country. The CTS generally thrived in this role, even as Iraqis viewed the group with suspicion owing to its secretive operations, forbidding look, and avoidance of publicity. Beginning in 2014, though, the service experienced a dramatic boost in popularity after spearheading the ouster of Islamic State forces from Iraqi territories. In this respect, the CTS far outshone other elements within the Iraqi security architecture. But the anti-IS effort entailed a vastly expanded role for the CTS, straining its capabilities, producing high casualties, and raising questions about how the group should position itself in a future Iraq. In this new study, David M. Witty examines prospects for the Counter Terrorism Service in Iraq's post–Islamic State landscape. Despite the group's impressive performance in recent campaigns, he argues that it should return to its CT focus and that Washington can help drive this by conditioning future aid on these terms. The high cost of not doing so could include stunting the healthy growth of other Iraqi security entities.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Global Focus
  • Author: Lina Khatib
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a hybrid jihadist group with a declared goal of establishing a “lasting and expanding” caliphate. Its strategy for survival and growth blends military, political, social, and economic components. Yet the U.S.-led international intervention against it has largely been limited to air strikes. The gaps in the international coalition’s approach as well as deep sectarian divisions in Iraq and the shifting strategies of the Syrian regime and its allies are allowing the Islamic State to continue to exist and expand.
  • Topic: Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arab Countries, Syria
  • Author: Anthony H Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The events in Iraq over the last month have shown that any success in Iraq requires both the Iraqi government and the United States to go far beyond the war against ISIS, and makes any partisan debate over who lost Iraq as damaging to U.S. national interests as any other aspect of America’s drift toward partisan extremism. The war against ISIS is a critical U.S. national security interest. It not only threatens to create a major center of terrorism and extremism in a critical part of the Middle East, and one that could spread to threaten the flow of energy exports and the global economy, but could become a major center of international terrorism. It is important to understand, however, that ISIS is only one cause of instability in the region, and only one of the threats caused by spreading sectarian and ethnic violence.
  • Topic: Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State has been moving aggressively to exploit the chaos of Libya since last summer, with profound risks for the Mediterranean region and beyond Libya is a perfect breeding ground for an expanded Islamic State, with large amounts of heavy weaponry, systemic lawlessness, a divided population, and sustained armed conflict The group has formed three active and capable groups in Libya-in Tripoli, Fezzan, and Barqa-all of which have conducted deadly attacks in recent months The phenomenon of Islamic State affiliates-beginning in the summer of 2014, before which the group was entirely focused on Iraq and Syria-is actually in the tradition of its arch-rival al-Qaeda the presence and power of the Islamic State in Libya will likely increase as conditions in Syria and Iraq deteriorate for the group, and conditions in Libya continue to worsen.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Libya, Syria
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Since August 2014, the US-led air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has successfully inflicted casualties on ISIS and weakened its oil revenues. However, the same efforts have also accelerated the rise of the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the near-collapse of nationalist rebel forces. In "Defeating the Jihadists in Syria: Competition before Confrontation," Faysal Itani of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East details the unintended consequences of the coalition air campaign and proposes a revised US strategy. He argues that the United States can effectively assist nationalist insurgents to defeat ISIS and the Nusra Front by enabling them to compete with and contain these groups before ultimately confronting them. Itani writes that the US-led campaign thus far and the train-and-equip initiative set to begin next month undermine and weaken nationalist rebel forces. He criticizes these efforts for failing to provide sufficient support to the rebel forces, while directing them to target ISIS instead of the regime. Meanwhile, the Nusra Front and other jihadist organizations have greater resources and have been effective in targeting the Assad regime. As such, nationalist rebel forces and local populations have increasingly aligned with the Nusra Front and even tolerate ISIS in order to protect themselves against regime violence, criminality, and chaos. Itani's proposed US strategy offers a practical and workable response to the rise of jihadists groups in Syria; this revised strategy seeks to support rebel forces to compete with the Nusra Front for popular support and to take control of the insurgency, contain ISIS, and build capacity for an eventual offensive against the jihadists. This approach will build on positive results in southern Syria by significantly increasing direct financial and material support and training for vetted nationalist groups that have already shown significant success. Simultaneously, in the north the campaign can provide sufficient material support to nationalist forces while expanding coalition air strikes to target ISIS's frontlines, allowing the nationalist insurgency to defend and govern territory. Only once nationalist insurgent forces have successfully competed with the Nusra Front and contained ISIS can they confront and ultimately defeat the jihadist groups in Syria.
  • Topic: Politics, Terrorism, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Robert Sedgwick
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Columbia International Affairs Online
  • Abstract: A brief overview and timeline examining the origins and trajectory of the little known terror group that was initially shunned and finally disowned by al-Qaeda as it developed into the world's most feared militant Muslim organization.
  • Topic: Islam, Post Colonialism, Terrorism, War, Counterinsurgency, ISIS, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Anbar is not the only front in Iraq on which Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), now operating as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), is fighting in 2014. ISIS has also established a governorate in Diyala. Its spokesman has named the province the central front in the sectarian conflict he has urged. The security situation and sectarian tension in Diyala province are grave. ISIS has returned to fixed fighting positions within Muqdadiyah, Baqubah, and the Diyala River Valley. Shi'a militias are now active in these areas as well. Increasing instances of population displacement demonstrate the aggregate effect of targeted violence by both groups. It is important to estimate the effects of this displacement and the presence of armed groups within Diyala's major cities in order to understand how deteriorated security conditions in this province will interfere with Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections. Furthermore, violence in Diyala has historically both driven and reflected inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian violence in other mixed areas of Iraq, including Baghdad. Diyala is therefore a significant bellwether for how quickly these types of violence will spread to other provinces.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Lori Plotkin Boghardt
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington should look for small changes in Kuwait and Qatar's political and security calculus that could provide opportunities to support counter-terrorist financing measures there. On April 30, the U.S. State Department noted that private donations from Persian Gulf countries were "a major source of funding for Sunni terrorist groups, particularly...in Syria," calling the problem one of the most important counterterrorism issues during the previous calendar year. Groups such as al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, are believed to be frequent recipients of some of the hundreds of millions of dollars that wealthy citizens and others in the Gulf peninsula have been donating during the Syrian conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Border Control
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Washington, Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Syria, Qatar
  • Author: Azeem Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: The Syrian civil war has allowed al-Qaeda to recover from its setbacks up to 2010. Its main affiliate in the region seems to be testing a new strategy of collaboration with other Salafist-Jihadist groups and a less brutal implementation of Sharia law in areas it controls. In combination, this might allow the Al Nusrah Front to carve out the sort of territorial control of a region (or state) that al-Qaeda has sought ever since its eviction from Afghanistan. On the other hand, Syria has also seen a civil war between two al-Qaeda inspired factions (Al Nusrah and the Iraq based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS]) and indicates there are limits to its ability to cooperate with other anti-Assad factions and gain popular appeal. The extent that the Syrian civil war offers the means for al-Qaeda to recover from its earlier defeats will determine whether the organization has a future, or if it will become simply an ideology and label adopted by various Islamist movements fighting their own separate struggles.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Charles C. Caris, Samuel Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: The Islamic State's June 2014 announcement of a “caliphate” is not empty rhetoric. In fact, the idea of the caliphate that rests within a controlled territory is a core part of ISIS's political vision. The ISIS grand strategy to realize this vision involves first establishing control of terrain through military conquest and then reinforcing this control through governance. This grand strategy proceeds in phases that have been laid out by ISIS itself in its publications, and elaborates a vision that it hopes will attract both fighters and citizens to its nascent state. The declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, however, raises the question: can ISIS govern?
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: James Andrew Lewis
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Americans are reluctant to accept terrorism is part of their daily lives, but attacks have been planned or attempted against American targets (usually airliners or urban areas) almost every year since 9/11. Europe faces even greater risk, given the thousands of EU citizens who will return hardened and radicalized from fighting in Syria and Iraq.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, America, Europe, Syria
  • Author: Arabinda Acharya
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis
  • Institution: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: ISIS is fighting an insurgency deeply influenced by the principles of Maoist protracted political warfare and moreover informed by the successes and failures of previous Al Qaeda movements in Iraq from 2006-2008, and of other jihadist groups attempting to seize and hold territory in countries like Somalia, Yemen and Mali. This analysis argues that, whether it survives or not, ISIS has set a political separatist precedent, the effects of which are yet to be fully understood and addressed by the international community.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Insurgency, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Arabia, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The loss of government control in a major city may be just the wakeup call Iraqi politicians need to embrace a more ambitious reconciliation agenda.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The Mosul crisis highlights how ISIS has established a potent cadre of foreign jihadists who freely operate across the rapidly disappearing Iraq-Syria border.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Phillip Smyth
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Iran's proxy groups have been working closely with Iraqi government forces for some time and will likely become more important to Baghdad in light of recent events.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Knights
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Encouraging signs have emerged that the collapse of federal government control in Iraq may have slowed and that Baghdad is beginning the transition to counteroffensive operations to regain ground. Massive mobilization of largely Shiite volunteers has given Baghdad an untrained but motivated "reserve army" that can be used to swamp cross-sectarian areas around the Iraqi capital. All available formed military units have been pulled out of reserve and brought toward Baghdad to defend the capital. In this effort, all Department of Border Enforcement units have been relocated from the country's borders, and Iraqi army and Federal Police units have been redeployed from southern Iraq. Isolated federal government units are scattered across northern Iraq, in some cases hanging on against Sunni militants with the support of adjacent Kurdish forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Law Enforcement, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Jeffrey White
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Events on the battlefield will reveal the true effects of the crisis, but the ISIS campaign in Iraq could ultimately help the Syrian opposition and hurt the Assad regime.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Jihadists are steadily capturing territory and resources and establishing a state in Syria and Iraq. The most capable jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), now controls swathes of territory, energy resources, and sophisticated military hardware in both countries. Although the extremists are currently occupied with fighting other nonregime armed groups and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, these efforts are a means to an end: building a state from which to confront and target the United States, its allies, and its interests in the region. These jihadist groups also bring boundless suffering to the populations they control, and serve as a magnet for and inspiration to jihadists worldwide.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: No region has seen more of its people travel to fight in Syria than North Africa; more than 3,000 Tunisians have traveled there as of last April, and more than 1,500 Moroccans This is a repeat of a decade ago when large numbers of North Africans traveled to Iraq to fight there as well, in proportions far above those of neighboring countries A significant number of recent North African fighters have conducted suicide bombings in both Iraq and Syria, highlighting that the deadly ideological message of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups is finding purchase in North Africa The reasons for this export of extremists include incomplete political reforms that have failed to redress serious societal issues, persistent high youth unemployment, and a failure to cope with the apparent high levels of disaffection, despair, and anger that drive people to choose violent extremism.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Turkish parliament's vote to authorize the deployment of military forces in Syria and Iraq provided a legal and official framework for such action It may appear to be a positive step in degrading and destroying the putative Islamic State (IS), however, the parliament in its vote used the broader term "terrorist organizations," thus the landscape for Turkey, Syria-Iraq, and regional states and interests remains exceptionally complex Though there is nearly universal and implacable opposition to IS among all actors in Syria and Iraq, Turkey's future role-depending on steps taken-could aggravate tensions not only with Arab Gulf states and Kurdish elements in Syria and Iraq, but Iran, Russia, and the Iraqi government Turkey's desire to create a buffer zone on the Syrian side of its common border remains one of the most sensitive issues Amid reports of increased IS pressure on Kobani, Kurdish PKK has insinuated Turkey will be to blame-not IS-for creating conditions for the refugee crisis, and threatens to resume opposition activity in Turkey. The Turkish parliament's vote Thursday to authorize use of its army and military facilities in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) may appear at first look to be a positive step for the broader coalition. The measures-to be determined-are in addition to any financial, diplomatic, humanitarian, and support activities for the anti-IS coalition. However, parliament's vote did not entail Turkey's officially joining the coalition. After the recent deal-details yet to be revealed-to bring home over 40 hostages IS had taken from Turkey's consulate in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014, pressure increased for Turkey to take military steps in the anti-IS fight. A factor increasing the possibility of military action is Turkish special operations forces' guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, a Turkish enclave in Syria reported to be increasingly surrounded by IS. Though there is almost universal animus toward IS in the region, there is also nearly uniform resistance to Turkey's perceived unilateral military involvement in Syria and Iraq, outside the framework of the anti-IS coalition. Turkey's next moves may cause more conflict than benefit in the anti-IS fight. Indeed, the political landscape for Turkey's moves at home and abroad remains extraordinarily complex.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The following IntelBrief is excerpted from The Soufan Group's recent long-form report on The Islamic State, which takes an in-depth look at the extremist group's operations across Iraq and Syria. From late 2011 up to today, The Islamic State has shown itself both tactically and strategically adept. After years of surviving as a persistently violent criminal/terrorist gang able to mount multiple synchronized attacks in urban areas in Iraq but little more, it achieved unparalleled gains when the collapse of government in northern and eastern Syria allowed it to expand across the border. At the same time, the sectarian approach of then-Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki had made the Sunni minority in Iraq ready to support any group that appeared to have the potential to reverse its increasing marginalization. It's accurate to say the group would still exist-but in nothing like its current form-had only one of those two catastrophes-Syria and Maliki-occurred; that both played out as they did made what has happened seem an almost inevitable accident of history.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The deliberate targeting and killing of journalists by The Islamic State (IS) and the resulting lack of outside reporting has created a nearly information-free zone for the group to fill with its own messaging. The group's embrace of the decentralized nature of social media has allowed its many thousands of cyber-supporters to create and operate their own ministries of propaganda. Abu Mohammad al-Adnani is the official spokesman for the group, but the notion of an official spokesman does not really apply to IS in the way it has applied to al Qaeda; the crowdsourcing of messages negates the need for a single point of contact.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Communications, Mass Media, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, North Africa, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: For a group that feeds on chaos, The Islamic State (IS) itself is rigidly structured and organized. The growing bureaucratic and administrative demands on IS as it attempts to govern the areas it controls-while under increasing military pressure-will stress the group and its structure like never before. The group benefits from ruling over populations that have little experience in effective government services, meaning that the very conditions that helped fuel IS's rise now give it wide latitude to deliver sub-par services for at least the near-term without risking revolt, at least for reasons of shoddy governance. From the caliph-level down to the district level, the group has a repetitive three-office ruling structure that provides easy-to-understand lanes of responsibility and authority, which is vital for a growing organization whose sole membership requirement is belief in its cause.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Like a tumor, the Islamic State (IS) feeds off the vitality of its unwilling hosts, sustaining itself from the economies of the areas it controls Efforts to deprive IS of its million-dollar-a-day revenue will be as difficult as it will be vital, since the group takes a percentage of local economic activity; hurting those economies to deprive IS of money will be counter-productive The coalition efforts to defeat IS militarily must be sufficient enough to thwart its advances while remaining targeted enough to ensure the vulnerable population doesn't unite with IS in collective suffering Destroying mobile oil refineries is an effective use of air power to deny IS more finances but it will prove less effective against destroying the percentage IS takes from everyday transactions that it calls taxes In short, the solution is to remove IS from the money, not the other way around, which only will only weaken and radicalize already struggling populations.
  • Topic: Economics, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Armed Struggle, Insurgency, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Danya Greenfield, Barbara K. Bodine
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: With the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the explosion of violent conflicts from Tripoli to Gaza, the Middle East is looking more unstable and unpredictable than ever. While the focus in Washington is centered on jihadist extremists in Iraq and Syria at present, the threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) against the United States continues. Top al-Qaeda leadership in Yemen is hailing the territorial gains of ISIS in Iraq, and some al-Qaeda operatives are imitating ISIS' techniques such as public slaughters of those deemed infidels, prompting fears of cooperation between two of the most active Islamist militant networks. Recent aggression by the Houthi movement, a Zaydi Shia rebel militia, against state institutions and tribal opponents has opened a new front of instability and security vacuum that AQAP is all too ready to exploit. Inattention to the interconnected nature of tribal conflict, terrorist activity, poor governance, economic grievances and citizen discontent is proving to be a dangerous combination for both Yemen and the United States. The Yemeni context may seem far from the current focus on Baghdad and Damascus, but getting the US strategy right in Yemen will have consequences for regional stability and core US interests throughout the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Economics, Terrorism, Foreign Aid, Labor Issues, Reform
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Arabia, Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The question of Sunni Arab participation in Iraq's political order that has plagued the transition since its inception is as acute and explosive as ever. Quickly marginalised by an ethno-sectarian apportionment that confined them to minority status in a system dominated by Shiites and Kurds, most community members first shunned the new dispensation then fought it. Having gradually turned from insurgency to tentative political involvement, their wager produced only nominal representation, while reinforcing feelings of injustice and discrimination. Today, with frustration at a boil, unprecedented Sunni-Shiite polarisation in the region and deadly car bombings surging across the country since the start of Ramadan in July, a revived sectarian civil war is a serious risk. To avoid it, the government should negotiate local ceasefires with Sunni officials, find ways to more fairly integrate Sunni Arabs in the political process and cooperate with local actors to build an effective security regime along the Syrian border.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Political Economy, Terrorism, Fragile/Failed State, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Sam Khazai, Daniel Dewit
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The last active US combat forces left Iraq in August 2010, marking the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the beginning of Operation New Dawn. Some 49,000 advisory troops, four advisor assistance brigades, and a limited number of special operations forces (SOF) remained to train, advise, and assist Iraq's security forces after that date, including the military, intelligence, and police. Until the end, these US troops continued to serve a number of other important security functions: carrying out kinetic operations against Iranian-backed and other militant groups; providing training to the ISF; taking part in joint patrols along the borders of the Kurdish provinces and helping integrate ISF and Kurdish forces; and acting as a deterrent to Iraq's neighbors–in particular Iran.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Ahmed Ali, Kimberly Kagan, Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Escalating violence in Iraq crossed a new and very dangerous threshold this week. Al Qaeda in Iraq launched a concentrated wave of car-bomb and other attacks specifically against civilian Shi'a targets in and around Baghdad. Shi'a militias are mobilizing and have begun a round of sectarian killings facilitated by false checkpoints, a technique characteristic of the 2006-2007 period. Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki has taken a number of steps to demonstrate that he remains in control of the situation. The expansion of Shi'a militia activity, however, is likely to persuade many Iraqis that he is either not in control or is actively abetting the killings. The re-mobilization of Shi'a militias in Iraq coincides with the formal announcement by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah of his organization's active military participation in the Syrian civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq's sectarian mass-murder attacks coincide with the announcement by AQI's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al Nusra, that attacking Hezbollah is that group's primary target henceforth. The stage appears to be set not merely for the collapse of the Iraqi state into the kind of vicious sectarian killing and sectarian cleansing that nearly destroyed it in 2006 and 2007, but also for the expansion of that sectarian warfare throughout both Mesopotamia and the Levant.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) announced "The Soldiers' Harvest," a new campaign on July 29, 2013, immediately after the Abu Ghraib prison attack. AQI then declared that event the conclusion of the "Breaking the Walls" campaign, which apparently achieved its goals: to stoke sectarian violence by targeting Shi'a communities; and to reconstitute the veteran AQI fighting force by breaking former members out of Iraq's prisons. ISW has assessed that AQI has reconstituted as a professional military force. It is therefore crucial to examine the first 60 days of the new "Soldiers' Harvest" campaign for indications of what AQI means to accomplish this year. Initial indications suggest that AQI will seek to establish control of key terrain in Iraq while targeting any Sunnis who work for the government. The campaign name, "The Soldiers' Harvest," refers in particular to the intimidation and displacement of the Iraqi Security Forces, especially through the destruction of their homes.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Daryl Press, Keir A. Lieber
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Nuclear terrorism is often described as the single biggest threat to U.S. national security. The fear is that a hostile state could surreptitiously transfer a nuclear weapon or fissile material to a like-minded terror group, thus orchestrating a devastating attack on the United States or its allies while remaining anonymous and avoiding retaliation. This fear served as a key justification for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and it helps drive current arguments in favor of a military strike against Iran's nuclear program.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran
  • Author: Marina Ottaway, Danial Kaysi
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocratic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements. Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Democratization, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, War, Fragile/Failed State, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Kurdistan
  • Author: Austin Long
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
  • Abstract: War is fundamentally a clash of organizations. Organizations provide the vital mechanisms that mobilize and convert resources into combat power as well as applying that combat power against the enemy. This is true not only of conventional militaries, but also of insurgent and terrorist groups. Organizational capacity is thus a crucial determinant of success in conflict. Stephen Biddle, for example, attributes heavy causal weight for success in modern conventional military conflict to the relative capacity of military organizations to employ a set of techniques he terms “the modern system.” Philip Selznick argues that organization is equally crucial for success in political combat, where subversion of other organizations is as important as brute force.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Sam Wyer
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: This report examines the political, religious, and military resurgence of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. Forces, identifying the group's key actors, their present disposition and strategy, and their regional expansion. AAH is an Iranian-backed Shi'a militant group that split from Moqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) in 2006. Since that time, AAH has conducted thousands of lethal explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces, targeted kidnappings of Westerners, rocket and mortar attacks on the U.S. Embassy, the murder of American soldiers, and the assassination of Iraqi officials.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Wicken
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: On Sunday, Iraqs Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death by hanging after he and his son-in-law were convicted of organizing the murders of a security official and a lawyer. All told, Hashemi is subject to more than 150 charges of terrorism based upon allegations that he used death squads to target his political opponents. The verdict carries distressing implications for short-term domestic security in Iraq and for diplomatic relations with neighboring Turkey, where Hashemi currently resides and has been based since his trial began. While some observers view the case against Hashemi in purely sectarian terms, the targeting of a Sunni politician in a Shiite-led state, the sentence in fact highlights the pernicious nature of personal rivalries within Iraqi politics. Further, it demonstrates the politicization of the Iraqi judicial system under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has commandeered Iraq's legal institutions in order to consolidate power around his inner circle.
  • Topic: Democratization, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Sam Wyer
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Since the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Iraq in December 2011, the rate and lethality of attacks against civilian targets have steadily risen. Most notably, there have been seven major attack waves, defined here as a series of simultaneous and coordinated attacks that target at least 10 cities within one day. The attacks targeted a combination of security posts, government facilities, and Shi'ite shrines and neighborhoods. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an umbrella organization formed in 2006 for many Sunni insurgency groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), has claimed credit for a large majority of these attacks.3 This summer has seen a further alarming development with the announcement of ISI's "Destroying the Walls" campaign.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Clint Watts
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The attacks of September 11, 2001 spawned a decade of al Qaeda inspired radicalization of disaffected Middle Eastern and North African youth and a handful of young Western men. Ten years later, foreign fighters to Afghanistan, Iraq and other jihadi battlefields appear to be declining while in contrast analysts have pointed to an uptick in United States (U.S.) based “homegrown extremism” - terrorism advocated or committed by U.S. residents or citizens.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Martin Harrow
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Video-recorded decapitations have an enormous impact, they are cheap and easy, and they allow the terrorists to exploit the potential of the Internet. With these advantages, the tactic would have been expected to quickly spread across the globe as a favored tactic. Yet, years after its invention in 2002, this has not happened. This paper using evolutionary theory finds that video-recorded decapitations have not caught on for locally specific reasons: in the West because the tactic is less accessible than one might expect; in Iraq because of the unwillingness to be associated with Zarqawi, and in the Afghan context, it has not spread because it is mainly relevant for mobilizing resources from abroad, which is not a priority for the Taliban. These are however situational variables, and just as suicide bombings took years to spread, there may be campaigns of video-recorded decapitations as conditions change.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iraq, Middle East, Taliban
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: During the coming months, the US must reshape its strategy and force posture relative to Iraq and the Gulf States. It must take account of its withdrawal of most of its forces from Iraq, and whether or not it can give real meaning to the US­Iraqi Strategic Framework Agreement. It must deal with steadily increasing strategic competition with Iran, it must restructure its post-­Iraq War posture in the Southern Gulf and Turkey, and define new goals for strategic partnerships with the Gulf states and its advisory and arms sales activity. It must decide how to best contain Iran, and to work with regional friends and allies in doing so. In the process, it must also reshape its strategy for dealing with key states like Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Yemen.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Arabia, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Dr. Magnus Ranstorp
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: For decades, sweden has been regarded as the relative backwater of international terrorism. Even Usama bin Ladin had mentioned Sweden as immune from terrorism in an al-Jazira broadcast in October 2004. This sense of immunity was shattered twice in December 2010. First, a suicide bomber struck in the Nordic countries for the first time ever on December 11. The Swedish security service, Säkerhetspolisen (SÄPO), had no record of the bomber before the attack, as he had studied and lived for a decade in the United Kingdom. At the same time, he admitted he had traveled to Iraq to perform jihad. Second, four Swedes were arrested later that month for planning to conduct a protracted Mumbai-style attack on the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Copenhagen, Denmark. The men were arrested after driving from Sweden to Copenhagen to execute the attack. Third, SÄPO produced a report on violent.Islamist extremism which outlined that it had identified about 200 extremists in Sweden; more than 80% were socially connected, and most lived inside the three major cities of Sweden, with more than half residing in Stockholm.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Mumbai
  • Author: Ellie B. Hearne, Nur Laiq
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Counterterrorism has, in the last ten years, come to the fore of international relations, and remains in the news almost daily. This is due in large part to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, which in turn have also prompted something of a backlash against such military or “hard” approaches to countering terrorism. Partly in response, states and civil society have sought out softer, often preventive, measures to deal with violent extremism, many of which have been deemed more successful than military approaches and less likely to foment a new generation of violent extremists. However, problems remain.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq
  • Author: Shantanu Chakrabarti
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, University of Calcutta
  • Abstract: On 18th July 2010, in one of the deadliest single terrorist strikes in Iraq this year, nearly forty three persons were killed and many were left seriously injured. The prime target of the latest terror strike were the members of the so called 'Sunni Awakening' Movement, consisting of motley groups of Sunni tribesmen of Iraq who have been recruited and used by the US army and the Iraqi administration as vigilante groups to target the insurgency groups and Al Qaeda operatives within the country since 2006. Similar Shiite vigilante groups have also been propped up in Iraq primarily to target Shiite insurgency groups like the Al Mahdi. Though such terror strikes in conflict ridden Iraq and Afghanistan have almost become incidents of everyday occurrence, the recent attack signifies another ominous trend- the American efforts to extend their version of a privatized counterinsurgency war, oblivious to the associated dangers and long term implications in areas where such strategy is being implemented.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counterinsurgency, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Arabia
  • Author: Yalım Eralp
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Global Research in International Affairs Center, Interdisciplinary Center
  • Abstract: The Lisbon Summit was important for two reasons. Firstly, the acceptance of a new strategic concept, the seventh since NATO was founded. The new concept comes after the Al Kaide attacks, the Afghan and Iraq wars and a greater threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons. In addition, relations with Russia were reset, making them of strategic importance. The second important aspect is the acceptance of a missile defence system whereby all populations, territory and forces will be protected.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iraq
  • Author: Andy Johnson, Scott Payne
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: A key component of US strategy to defeat global terrorist groups like al Qaeda is denying them the physical space to operate with impunity. The ability of the US and our allies to train foreign military and security forces can be an effective tool in both preventing terrorists from establishing a foothold in vulnerable states and empowering foreign partners to move against terrorists where they exist today. Yet the current array of US training programs is fragmented, ad hoc, and underfunded. Moreover, overreliance on contractors to provide large scale military and police training in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a collective cost of $48 billion, has led to findings of poor performance, wasteful spending, weak oversight and insufficient accountability.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, North America
  • Author: Bryan Groves
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Department of Social Sciences at West Point, United States Military Academy
  • Abstract: The lead up to the Iraq War and its conduct has highlighted significant differences in traditional perspectives, capabilities, and methods. While terrorism has been America's central fixation since 9/11, Europe still sees terrorism as one of several important threats today, with proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failed states, regional conflicts, and organized crime among other top tier threats. The U.S. possesses a comparative advantage in intelligence gathering and kinetic strike cabability. This military strength has enabled the U.S. to favor it as its top tool in waging its global war on terrorism (GWOT). On the other hand, Europe's tendency toward employment of troops for nation-building and peacekeeping missions is in line with its strengths and its preferences. Europe countries also favour an extensive consensus building period of diplomatic maneuvering to establish a widely accepted multilateral response to threats, America under the current administration, however, has insisted on remaining.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, International Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, America, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Brian Fishman
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI) is a shadow of its former self, primarily because broad sectors of Iraq's Sunni population rejected it after more than three years of active and tacit cooperation. Anger over AQI's brutal radicalism infused the Sunni backlash against jihadists, but AQI also made two fundamental strategic overreaches that exacerbated its alienation from Sunnis in Iraq. First, it incited a sectarian backlash from Iraqi Shi'a without the means to defend Iraq's Sunnis from the onslaught it provoked. Second, AQI created a formal political entity, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), to dominate Iraq after a U.S. withdrawal without adequate support from Iraq's Sunni population.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Hassan Mneimneh
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: September 11, 2001, marked the coming to the fore of the “jihadist international,” a loosely connected movement of militant and terrorist groups worldwide with a common ideology and increasingly shared tactics and methods. While such groups still have limited recruitment potential eight years on, they have inflicted substantial physical damage and have forced free societies to take costly precautionary measures. Perhaps most alarming, the global jihadist movement has continued simultaneously to feed off of and perpetuate the growing radicalization that Muslim culture has endured over the last few decades.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: William D. Anderson, Jr.
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: With the United States currently engaged in difficult and taxing counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, renewed emphasis has been focused upon the country's cap abilities and priorities vis - à - vis this type of warfare. Within the military, the Air Force has been especially and increasingly criticized for being too enamored with a Cold - War era conventionally minded force structure and for not shifting aggressively to meet the threats of COIN - style conflicts that many predict will be pervasive throughout the Global War on Terror.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Terrorism, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq
  • Author: Deborah Isser, Peter Van der Auweraert
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Iraq has experienced several waves of mass displacement over the last forty years that have left complex land and property crises in their wake. As security has improved and some of the nearly five million displaced Iraqis have begun to come home, resolution of these issues are at the fore of sustainable return.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Ethnic Conflict, Migration, Religion, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Robert G Patman
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Politics
  • Institution: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Abstract: The US national security state was fashioned at the beginning of the Cold War to contain the global threat of the rival superpower, the Soviet Union. However, this security framework did not wither away with the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the USSR. The events of September 11 starkly exposed the limitations of a state-centric approach to international security in a globalizing world. But the Bush administration falsely assumed that the traumatic events of 9/11 came out of a clear blue sky, and that a rejuvenated national security state would eventually overwhelm the 'new' threat of terrorism. The dangers of persisting in this direction were shown by the US-led invasion of Iraq. Far from closing the gap between the US approach to security and the operation environment of a post-Cold War world, Bush's war on terror undermined the international reputation of the US and presented the American taxpayer with a huge and probably unsustainable burden. All this highlighted the need for a more multilateral direction in US security policy in the post-Bush era. Such an approach would not only correspond better to the realities of today's interconnected world, but also serve as a buffer against the extension of the power of government that had been witnessed in America during the Bush years.
  • Topic: Security, Cold War, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, America, Soviet Union