Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 1)
Iraq’s new prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was reportedly hand-picked at meeting in Beirut by the leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah. Yet the man they chose is far from a radical. Close examination of Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s career shows him to be an experienced, honest and gutsy politician, friendly to the U.S. and hardly in Tehran’s pocket. The task he faces is gargantuan, but Mr. Abdul Mahdi has hidden strengths.
Will Kurdistan get a second chance?
The independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan was clearly a miscalculation by President Massoud Barzani. His assumption that Erbil could present a bill to Baghdad for services rendered in defeating Daesh was swiftly trumped by realpolitik. Now, the question is what can be saved from the debacle, and whether war can be avoided in Kurdistan itself.
Opinion: How Kirkuk could trigger a new major war
Iraqi Kurdistan’s disastrous decision to press ahead with an independence referendum has allowed the Iraqi federal government to reassert control over Kirkuk and its vital oil fields. But an even bigger consequence of Baghdad’s resurgence could be a potential conflict with its erstwhile sponsor, Tehran. Any such confrontation would quickly become regional in scope, bringing in Saudi Arabia, the United States and possibly Israel.
The contours of a future Middle East emerge
Events are moving fast in the Middle East. The hoped-for rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. that could bring an end to the war in Syria appears to have collapsed. Growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could spark a war at any moment. But the most explosive issue for this region of minorities is the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.
As Kurdish influence grows, statehood is still distant
War and chaos in Syria and Iraq have catapulted the Kurdish minorities in those countries into a position of unprecedented influence and even military power. Turkey is meanwhile waging a counterinsurgency campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the country’s southeast, while Iran’s relations with the Kurds and other national minorities remain tense. ...
Global trends: players and paths for Islamic State (part 1)
There is little doubt that Islamic State is here to stay as a headache in the Middle East. The only question is how serious a headache for local and foreign powers it will be by mid-2017. Even under the best-case scenario, its clandestine cells will remain active in eastern and northern Syria and in the Sunni areas of Iraq. ...
Turkey and Russia: a slow-fuse time bomb in the Middle East
The war for public opinion over the Middle East is heating up between Moscow and Ankara. Since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on its border with Syria in late November, the recriminations have been flying. Each of these powers is accusing the other of playing Daesh’s game, one by supporting the moderate opposition, the other by propping up Syrian President Bas...
ISIS: Its origins, strategy and prospects
ISIS has expanded its influence in Syria and Iraq and risen with speed to terrifying power in its efforts to resurrect an Islamic state across the entire Fertile Crescent and into Africa and Asia. But the strategy of ISIS, one of the wealthiest and most violent jihadist groups in history, has led to the start of its undoing. Its aspirations to rule are becoming inc...
The rise of the Kurds could define new shape of Middle East
The war with ISIS has given Iraqi Kurdistan the opportunity to demonstrate its strength, order and cohesiveness. What the Kurds have achieved in Iraq is permanent. Iraqi Kurdistan will never again be subservient to Baghdad. This leaves not only Iraq, but the government of Turkey concerned about what a new Kurdish political entity might mean. ...
Violence and political turmoil drive Iraq closer to civil war
Religious sectarianism could cause Iraq's political system to collapse and lead to the country's fragmentation. The civil war in neighbouring Syria has united al-Qaeda affiliates with less radical Sunni circles in both countries in a struggle against the Alawite-led government in Damascus and its allies, the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and...