Outlook Iraq

The structural problems of Iraq, resulting from an endemic sectarian conflict and a difficult economic situation, are still making the country vulnerable to major external influence. The plans of many international actors to steer the national political agenda of Iraq (through economic pressure and proxy conflict, often in violation of national sovereignty itself) have contributed to making Iraq one of the main hotspots for regional and international tensions.

In 2020, the conflict between the United States and Iranian proxies escalated after a US drone killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. Moreover, Turkeys’ marked activism between 2019 and 2020 culminated in 2020 in two new military campaigns against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party – Partîya Karkerên Kurdistanê) in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan (Kurdistan Regional Government – KRG). The two operations, called Claw-Eagle and Claw-Tiger, prompted an immediate response from the PKK in the Iraqi portion of Kurdistan and fuelled tensions between political parties (KDP, Kurdistan Democratic Party and PUK, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and Kurdish militants (PKK, in Iraq and YPG – Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, in Syria). The threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) is still an issue, as the group relies on multiple pockets of resistance in Iraq allowing it to launch operations in various governorates of the country (in the south, in the Anbar deserts, in the areas disputed between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government and in Salah al-Din and Diyala governorates bordering Baghdad). Basically, the Iraqi security environment in 2020 was worse than in 2019, in contrast to the improvements between 2018 and 2019.

In economic terms, in 2020 the Iraqi economy was severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic emergency and the depreciation of crude oil, which resulted in a 9.7% GDP decline; this was coupled with an unemployment rate of 12.8% (25.16% in terms of youth unemployment). In addition, the Iraqi socio-political situation is fragmented, with sectarian parties dominating the Iraqi political environment and the effects of the protests that hit the country between 2019 and early 2020. Demonstrators still call for major economic and labour reforms, the fight against endemic government corruption and the need to put an end to the Muassasah (i.e. the subdivision of the country’s political system on a sectarian basis).

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