Topic Area: Iraqi Civil War
Introduction to the Committee
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the main executive body of the United Nations Organization. Its composition includes the five permanent members – United States of America, French Republic, and Great Britain, Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China and 10 non-permanent members given seats for a period of 2 years. In addition, the Security Council can call upon non-member countries’ representatives if it feels that their national interest is at stake, by the agenda at hand. The scope of the Council is outlined in the following chapters of the United Nations Charter: V, VI, VII, VIII, XII. It has the following prerogatives, amongst others, laid out in the UN Charter:
a) Maintenance of International Security and Peace,
b) Submitting annual or, if required, special reports to the General Assembly for its consideration,
c) Coordinate with the Military Staff Committee to establish an international system for armament regulation,
d) Establish subsidiary organs to aid in the fulfilment of its agenda,
e) Call upon parties engaged in a dispute to settle their points of conflict by the following means: negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means as deemed fit by the Council members,
f) Investigate any dispute that may result in future conflicts,
g) Investigate any complaints lodged by members states or nonmember states, subject to special conditions,
h) Use the following mechanisms: complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication and diplomatic relations to deal with acts which involve any threat to peace, breach of peace, or act of aggression taken by the parties,
i) Negotiate with the concerned member nations of the United Nations Organization who have made available their armed forces, assistance, and facilities, such as right of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security,
j) Encourage the pacific settlement of disputes by means of playing a mediating stake in regional arrangements between the parties involved,
k) Establish, amend or authorize any decision pertaining to the Trusteeship System of the United Nations.
Introduction to the Topic
While continuous cycles of warfare have ravaged Iraq and left the state machinery crippled, rendering it wholly incapable of dealing with the emerging threat from ISIS, the United Nations and other related actors have largely considered Iraq in light of their own interests.
As of yet, the situation within Iraq has not been considered with respect to the consequences, threats, and risks posed to the Iraqi people – rather, respective countries seek to quantify and determine the threat posed to themselves through instability within Iraq. The threat of ISIS has been recognized and embraced by the world. The recent Paris attacks, for which ISIS claims responsibility, are a testament to the rising tide of violence that is beginning to grip nations around the globe.
In 2014, U.S military advisers were compelled to return to Iraq, having withdrawn earlier in 2011. However, it has since been recognized that the threat of ISIS within Iraq is a long-term conflict, one that could not be simply be quelled through unilateral or multilateral military action. Before embarking on solution finding and resolution-making, it is important to understand the roots of the conflict and the ramifications on the Iraqi infrastructure. The following sections of this study guide will begin by providing a brief history of the topic area and proceed to explicate the identified causes of conflict within the region.
History of the Topic
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center1 identifies that ISIS was established within a time frame of 9 years, dating from 2003 to 2011. The formation of ISIS is causally linked with the failure of the U.S in establishing an effective post-conflict Iraqi civil and political infrastructure. This also includes the establishment of an effective Iraqi army and police force to ensure stability and security across the country. However, following the displacement of Saddam Hussein in 2003, a power vacuum exposed the gaping holes in Iraq’s governance and security structure. During the time the U.S was stationed within Iraq, it attempted to facilitate a democratic process whereby a Shi’ite regime was put in place. However, the already destabilized social fabric of Iraq became further imbalanced because of the lack of representation of the Sunni minority within Iraq.
Iraqi society became increasingly polarized as the Shi’ite regime alienated the Sunnis. Consequently, the AlQaeda branch in Iraq in 2004 took advantage of the Sunni isolation and quickly mobilized an insurgency which took advantage of the security vacuum in Iraq. The spread of Al-Qaeda in Iraq laid the foundations of instability. Through 2004 to 2006, guerilla forces led by Al-Qaeda waged war against American forces, coalition forces, and the Shi’ite population. In 2006, the ISI (Islamic State in Iraq) was formed as an umbrella network for several jihadi organizations that waged a guerilla war against the U.S. However, towards 2011, the U.S significantly weakened ISI through a combination of political and military moves that appealed to the Sunni minority in Iraq and dealt crippling blows to the ISI’s militia.
However, following the withdrawal of the U.S in 2011, ISI became further strengthened in 2012 and ISIS was found. As a result of the outbreak of civil war in Syria, ISI spread towards the bordering Syrian territory and formed a branch called the Al-Nusra front. Due to dissent and non-compliance between the ISI and the newly formed Al-Nusra front, Al-Qaeda and ISI were increasingly at odds and ISIS was formed. In the period following 2012, ISIS made significant military strides through acquiring more and more territory within Iraq. It found new, innovative ways to fund itself and set up its governance centers within Iraq. It has since then extended its locus of control towards Syria and has formed diverse tactics to further its influence.
Economic Aspect of the Conflict
First, the country cannot reach economic efficiency which in turn results in a lack of economic development. For instance, less schools and hospitals shall result in a fall in the standard of living and human capital in the country as social mobility and basic health care suffers detriment.
Second, the lack of trade integration results in less exports and foreign investments, which in turn effects the macro economy in a plethora of ways – less economic growth, less competitiveness, less employment opportunities and less international partnerships.
Third, the environmental damage that results from ISIL’s strategic takeovers are usually microcosms of wider economic and political damage. For instance, in April 2014 the Nuamiyah Dam on the Euphrates was captured by ISIS. The water was diverted to “flush” out government forces. The most affected areas included Karbala, Najaf, Babylon and Nasiriyah. Not only farms were damaged but 12,000 families had their homes destroyed, which led to environmental damage in form of debris, desalination, flooding etc. Apart from these general effects of ISIL on Iraq, other economic issues pertain to ISIL’s spillover effects of the oil supply takeover, the international funding controversy and the modification of important cultural artefacts present in Iraq.
The Role of State Sponsored Terrorism
Having seen one of the major financial backbones of the Islamic State, it is important to consider the international community’s stake in the issue. Iraq holds specific strategic interest because of its geographical position – it borders Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest, and Syria to the west. Therefore, this unique geopolitical position makes Iraq’s neighboring countries culpable of accepting proxies, which may result in destabilization and vested interests fulfilled. Coupled with this unique geopolitical position being present, there is 11 also the case of Iraq being divided internally – which serves as a power struggle – between three ethnic-religious entities. Namely, they are the Kurds, the Sunni Muslims and the Iraqi central government, which takes a pro Shiite Muslim stance. Funding has also been linked to be a proxy means of advancing the cause of these three different entities in the region, serving as a sort of ‘internal proxy war’.
In terms of classification based on these three identities, ISIL has been labelled as a pre dominantly Sunni Muslim outfit ever since it emerged. Therefore, there have been open cases in which Sunni Muslim majority countries have been blamed of supporting ISIS financially. First, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki openly accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting ISIS. Pertaining to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, he told France 24 in 2014 that, “I accuse them of inciting and encouraging the terrorist movements. I accuse them of supporting them politically and in the media, of supporting them with money and by buying weapons for them.” Yet, Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s governments have both denied any involvement in the issue. But the role of the government should be differentiated from the role of nationals present in the country who can provide financial support to ISIS by various mechanisms. These mechanisms of procuring financial resources can be done by ISIS using other means apart from State Sponsored Terrorism.
First, there is a trend of rich ISIS apologists providing aid to ISIS by stating on paper that the money is going towards charities and Non-Governmental Organizations. But in reality, insurgent activities are being carried out with the money that was procured. Second, new application based technology such as WhatsApp and text messaging has been used to communicate “drop-off” addresses, where funds and supplies are placed for ISIS. Third, ISIS has significant control over land in Iraq and Syria; it taxes this land from the local populace in order to garner funds for its terrorist network. Fifth, kidnapping has been proved profitable as well – in 2014, ISIS received $45 million in the form of ransom. Sixth, Islamic doctrines of charity and alms have been used by ISIS to collect donations in order to fund its operation. Delegates are urged not to look at the civil war in Iraq and the ISIS threat as an isolated event. Instead, they must extract broader themes from the current situation and expand them to produce a general framework that details how similar incidents or situations can be dealt with. One such situation is the financial aspect of ISIS and how terror financing and the revenue-generation activities of terrorist organizations should be curbed. Granted, not all terrorist organizations will have similar methods of finance, however, there is a similarity in the solutions that can be applied to curb terror financing wherever it may exist in the world.
The Political Aspect of the Crisis
Regarding the State of Iraq, the current constitution was enacted in 2005. Iraq’s legislature branch is formally titled, “The Council of Representatives” whilst the overall system of government is characteristic of a Federal Parliamentary Republic. The current President is Mr. Fahad Masum whilst the Prime Minister is Mr. Haider Al Abadi. This was the outcome of the 2014 Iraqi Parliamentary elections in which the voter turnout was approximately 60%.
Problems Threatening the Established Political System
These elections were marred by the current sociopolitical situation present in Iraq during the period up to and during the election time frame. A series of events happened; some symbolic ones included:
- April 22, 2014| Militants in military uniforms killed 10 guards and attacked a balloting center. These militants showed up during nightfall in Daqouq, Iraq stating they wanted to carry out a search. Instead, they engaged in the above mentioned act of aggression.
- April 28, 2014| Six suicide bombers struck polling sites around the country as security force members voted in advance, killing at least 27 people.
- April 28 2014| Anbar province in Iraq openly fortified by ISIL militants with machine guns to stop any government personnel to come and conduct electoral activities. Apart from the above mentioned acts of political coercion and lack of law and order, other factors contributed to the wider political problem in Iraq which exemplified an array of political repression: Political candidate in ISIS controlled areas were told to not campaign in order to marginalize them politically.
Furthermore, ISIS especially focused on Sunni Muslims to stop playing part in the political process. Candidates in the Anbar province was abducted by the militant group and extorted to not run in the elections. Furthermore, the nature of the Iraqi democracy is one that is not developed independently. The 2014, elections were the first after the United States’ forces withdrew in 2011. But the previous Prime Minister, Mr. Nuri Al Maliki insisted on running for a third term. This shows that the institution of the office of Prime Minister and the government in general needs to develop more in order to curb such tendencies of political monopolization. Another brand of challenges, apart from the implicit actions of ISIS on Iraq stem from ISIS’ explicit action in the political process.
With the onslaught of ISIS, it was observed that certain sectarian tendencies worsened. The conflict between the Shia, Sunni, Yazidis, and Kurds became more violent. It is then crucial to understand what caused these divides to form and what worsened them over time to be able to solve them. Persecution of Yazidis One of Iraq’s oldest surviving minorities; the Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking group found predominantly in Northern Iraq. Their marginalization stems from being labeled as “devil-worshippers” which has made the Yazidis unpopular with Muslim groups in the region. ISIS has carried out violent operations against the minority in the form of brutal massacres, and forcing of women and children into sex slavery. In August 2014, thousands of Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar for protection as ISIS forces encroached into their territory and threatened everyone who didn’t convert to Islam. US-led Airstrikes focused on ISIS 16 Strongholds helped numbers to escape into Syria, however thousands were left behind. UN sources confirmed that for the month of August alone, 5,000 Yazidi men were executed and 7,000 women were forced into sex-slavery. Due to the extent of the violence, the United Nations in 2015 declared the actions of ISIS against the minority group as a possible genocide.
But the persecution of the Yazidi population doesn’t end with ISIS; numerous Sunni and Shia civilian groups have been known to assist ISIS’s efforts in targeting Yazidis. This reflects a deeper aspect of the ethnic discrimination that may have arisen due to a lack of understanding and tolerance. With the expansion of ISIS, the Government of Iraq along with the International community has done little to aid the plight of the Yazidi people. Occasional assistance and aid is given but largely, they are left at the mercy of their oppressors.
The Sunni-Shia Conflict
The tensions between Sunni and Shia populations can be seen as an age old divide arising from differences in religion. But another way to approach this is to see it as a more political issue than a religious one. Ever since Saddam Hussein’s demise in 2003, the rifts between the two sects have increased. This can be observed in the difference in overt displays of sectarian affiliations pre-war and post-war (2003). In the pre-war era, openly claiming sectarian affiliation was considered taboo within Iraq. Political affiliations were more or less secular, without religious tendencies taking center stage at any given point or time. In the post-war era, citizens were forced to declare a sect on all state issued documentation.
This alone can act as a testimony as to how politics shaped sectarian differences. Moreover, representation in government post-war favoured the Shia more than the minorities as was apparent during the time Nouri alMaliki was in office. But this paved the way for a greater problem at hand. The actions of ISIS have also given rise to Shia and Yazidi Militias.
It is said that the conflict saw its impetus come from the ISIS’s initial attacks in 2014 on the Shia population within Iraq, specifically when ISIS successfully captured Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. These attacks were then responded to by Shia militia and government forces alike, by carrying out massacres of Sunni civilians residing within the region, as a form of revenge. These revenge killings have added fuel to the already lit fire between the Shia and Sunni sects within the region. As ISIS expands and the sectarian conflict worsens, we see Iraq tilting more and more towards a civil war. Hence, it is of utmost importance that such a conflict is avoided and the possibility of Iraq becoming a safe haven for more terrorist organizations is prevented. Kurdish Populations The Kurds are settled within the Middle East, dead centre between Syria in the west, Iran in the east, Iraq in the south, Turkey and the states of the former Soviet Caucasus in the North.
The Kurdish people have previously been under British 17 colonial rule (after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918), and saw conflict with the Iraqi government during Saddam Hussein’s tenure as he launched his “Anfal” campaign. Today the Iraqi Kurdistan enjoys a semiautonomous status within a federal system. It can be argued that it acts more or less like an independent state given its separate army and means of revenue through the selling of oil on its own on a price much lower than Iraq’s, and through their own pipelines. In 2014, Iraqi Kurdistan introduced its independence plans stating it’s a “natural right” but put it off for later to focus on fighting ISIS as it sent in Peshmerga forces. As of now, Kurds are the only ethnic group providing the bulk of opposition against ISIS’s campaign within Iraq.
The Peshmerga forces are being aided by international powers such as the United States in its struggle through assistance via air strikes, and supply of arms. Since last year, the Peshmerga have managed to expand significantly and retake strongholds of ISIS including Sinjar and Kirkuk. Given the Kurds nationalist tendencies over the years, this expansion is worrying for some. For now the motive is to fight ISIS but in the near future, what could this expansion and control of major cities by the Kurds mean for Iraq as a whole? There are already tensions between Shia militias and Kurds over key cities and their loyalties.
Questions a Resolution Must Answer
1. What are the current problems, in order of priority, which threaten Iraq and are contributing to the devolution of the Iraqi civil and political infrastructure?
2. What are the steps that can be taken to curb ISIS financing in order to cripple its economic capabilities?
3. What are the steps that can be taken to address the shortcomings of Iraq’s political infrastructure?
4. How can Iraq’s government and governmental institutions be empowered so that they can re-establish their political power?
5. How do the ethnic issues occurring in Iraq contribute to the conditions conducive for a civil war and what are the solutions that can be implemented in Iraq to halt the ethnic conflict?
6. Does the destruction of cultural and heritage sites pose a significant risk to Iraq? What are the steps that can be taken to prevent further harm to Iraq’s cultural heritage?
7. Can the Islamic State be negotiated with, considering that it shows the characteristics of a ‘state’?
8. What is the role of the Islamic State in contributing to the ongoing refugee crisis effecting Syria?
9. What are the effects of the geo-political factors involved in the Iraqi Civil War?