This paper notes that conflict in Iraq has become increasingly sectarian, and has affected minorities the most. Among its findings it highlights roots of the violence: Sunni alienation following the ‘sectarianisation’ of the political system; feelings of insecurity as a result of sectarian militias and the increasingly Shia make-up of the Iraqi Security Forces; and structural tensions including lack of services and jobs and discrimination against minorities.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq left a legacy of violence and a political system which was increasingly used by political leaders for sectarian advantage. After a period of relative stability, violence increased in Iraq during 2014, to levels last seen during the sectarian conflict in 2006/7. Since the beginning of 2014, an extreme jihadist group ISIL/Da’esh, who are also active in Syria, has gained control of territory in the mainly Sunni and contested areas of Iraq including Kirkuk, Diyala, Anbar, Salah al Din and Ninewa. As of October 2014, the fighting has caused the internal displacement of 1.8 million people and there are 5.2 million who need urgent humanitarian assistance.
Recommendations for action emerging from the literature include: i) use ideas to combat ISIL/Da’esh; ii) do not give in to a sectarian narrative; iii) address the underlying issues; iv) address the conflict in Syria v) make ISF and other institutions inclusive; vi) recognise minority rights; vii) clarify the status of disputed territories; viii) deal with militias and human rights abuses; ix) develop an inclusive regional security structure; x) cut off support to ISIL/Da’esh; and xi) provide conflict-sensitive military support.