Iraq is no stranger to conflict. Since its formation in 1932 the country has been subject to British occupation in WWII, internal military revolts, one-party states with oppressive rule, border disputes with its neighbours (particularly Iran), multiple conflicts over the northern Kurdish region, war with Kuwait (and a multinational coalition), and a widely publicised invasion from the US-led coalition following suspicions of the development of weapons of mass destruction.

After the defeat of the Saddam Hussein government in 2003, many troops from the US-led coalition remained in the country to support the sovereign Iraqi government that was established the following year. Shortly after, criticism of the government and its foreign support escalated into an armed conflict, in which a number of opposition groups became involved and in which the perpetrators of a large number of attacks were unable to be identified. In 2011, the USA withdrew their last troops from Iraq and it was the first year since the invasion that the conflict in Iraq did not pass the intensity threshold of war.

However, in 2013, Iraq’s intrastate war with the terrorist group Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS, formally ISI, also known as ISIL or IS, and in Arabic Da'eesh) escalated to war level. ISIS seeks to establish an Islamic State and is also very active in Syria, as well as maintaining limited territorial control in Libya and Nigeria and affiliates in other nations. ISIS and other Sunni militant groups have been fighting the government, which is supported by Shiite militias, Kurdish Peshmerga, pro-government Sunni tribal fighters, Iran, and a US-led coalition. According to the UN, 12,282 civilians were killed in 2014, and by mid-2015 over 3 million people were internally displaced. ISIS launched a large-scale operation in northern Iraq, resulting in considerable territorial gains and ISIS announcing an Islamic State, covering parts of Syria and Iraq, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaiming himself as caliph (religious leader). Following ISIS’ territorial expansion, an international coalition conducted hundreds of airstrikes against major Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Peace attempts

Despite Iraq’a current crisis with ISIS continuing to see horrific violence in 2015, there have been past examples of peace attempts (and some successes) in other conflicts for Iraq. The country’s interstate war with Iran ended in 1988 with a UN-brokered ceasefire, and the last prisoners of war were exchanged in 2003. Even though the two countries improved their diplomatic ties and enhanced their cooperation in the fields of economy and trade in recent years, the border line between both countries remained a controversial issue. However, in 2013, a border agreement was reached and the foreign ministers of both countries announced that they had managed to renegotiate an agreement and wanted to implement the original 1975 Algiers Accord.

The international community is concerned about citizens from around the world joining with the ISIS in the current conflict, with Australia recently coming to an information agreement with Iran concerning Australians travelling to join the Islamic State, and France planning to open a controversial rehabilitation centre for young people returning after fighting alongside Islamic militants.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has been active as a political mission in Iraq since 2003, advising and assisting the government, but the continuation of violence (going on two generations of fighting since the 2003 invasion), coupled with the unprecedented displacement of civilians, is raising concerns for the possibility of nurturing reconciliation in Iraq. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are both attempting to address this overwhelming issue.

October 19, 2020

Iraq has been one of the hardest hit countries in the MENA region by the coronavirus. With 213 deaths per million people as of the end of August 2020, Iraq’s death rate is about twice that of the global average.

January 18, 2020

"The peacebuilders in Iraq have been targeted by the militias, by the Iraqi government, by many different groups just because they're trying to promote peace..."

October 5, 2018

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

July 28, 2018

Lebanese peacebuilder Sawssan Abou-Zahr reviews "The Business Plan for Peace: Building a World Without War" by Scilla Elworthy, founder of Peace Direct.

June 30, 2018

In a new series of reports from the United Nations, violence in Iraq is declining at a rapid rate – even during the holy month of Ramadan.The data, which was released by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Iraq Body Count database earlier thi...

June 27, 2018

Check out which countries ranked in the top 5 of the latest Global Peace Index, as well as peace trends over the last 10 years and the cost of violence to the world's economy.

June 8, 2018

The 2018 Global Peace Index has been released, with Iceland ranking the most peaceful country for the 10th year in a row.

This is the twelfth edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peaceful...

June 1, 2018

USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed analyzes what led to al-Sadr’s victory, and what happens next.

May 27, 2018

Leading peacebuilders and journalists met in New York recently to figure out why peace doesn't often make the headlines, and how that can change...

May 18, 2018

A new tech project connecting ordinary citizens around the world has impressed global leaders like Barack Obama, and will launch new 'portals' this year...

April 27, 2018

This series from Women for Women International introduces us to eight women who have taken their destiny into their own hands and are empowering others...

April 27, 2018

Karim Wasfi became famous when he set up his cello at a Baghdad bomb site. We speak with the renowned conductor about his plans to 'flood' the city with hope.

March 16, 2018

Meet our team, bringing you peacebuilding news from around the globe...

February 2, 2018

Recent protests in Iran and the uprisings of the Arab Spring were both sparked by economic tension, so why is economics taboo in news from the Middle East?

January 27, 2018

Check out our top picks for peace initiatives to keep an eye on this year...

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