Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Iraq Situation Report: April 26 - May 10, 2016

By Patrick Martin, Hannah Werman, and ISW Iraq Team

Key Take-Away: Iraq’s political crisis has degenerated further as a majority of Iraqi parties, including the Kurdish parties and the Sunni Etihad bloc, have boycotted parliament sessions following the April 30 breach of the Green Zone by Sadrist demonstrators. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s cabinet reshuffle process has not only resulted in a major disruption of government, but the Kurdish parties’ boycott has increased the stakes. A quorum is not attainable without the Kurds, who are leveraging the crisis by increasing their rhetoric regarding independence. The political crisis comes amid a series of ISIS spectacular attacks, particularly in Baghdad, during the Kadhimiyah pilgrimage. ISIS is also resurgent in the south, where it launched several spectacular attacks far from the front lines. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have, however, made significant gains in Anbar, recapturing the southern bank of the Euphrates River between Ramadi and Haditha and beginning clearing operations south of Fallujah. However, explosive attacks in Diyala, central Salah al-Din, and Baghdad – areas that are suffering from political crises or public instability – demonstrate that ISIS will attempt to use its attack capabilities to exacerbate the political situation. ISIS can also increase instability and provoke further political backlash by boosting its attack capabilities in southern Iraq, where the security forces are not present in large numbers. The political situation bodes ill for the stability of the country, especially as ISIS sees opportunities to further divide Iraq along sectarian lines through targeted violence and as it ramps up its capabilities in Iraq in preparation for a likely Ramadan campaign for June 2016.