“ISIS Is One Piece of the Puzzle”

Sheltering Women and Girls in Iraq and Syria

by Jillian Schwedler
published in MER276

Yifat Susskind is executive director of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization based in New York. Jillian Schwedler spoke with her on October 28, 2015, the week after Yanar Mohammed, head of MADRE’s partner group the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), testified before the UN Security Council about women’s vital role in sustainable peacebuilding and about the task of sheltering women fleeing sexual violence, including from areas controlled by ISIS.

What are the basic challenges for your work in Iraq, where the state does not fully function?

Regional Responses to the Rise of ISIS

by Curtis Ryan
published in MER276

Regional responses to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have varied depending on regime perceptions of threat, not only from ISIS itself, but also from other potential rivals, challengers or enemies. Despite the jihadi group’s extensive use of violence in Syria and Iraq and its claims of responsibility for bombings and attacks in Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen—as well as France in mid-November—it was not necessarily the top security priority for any of these states.

The Significance of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr

by Hanna Batatu
published in MER102

Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was born at Najaf in 1930 into an Arab family known for its learning through the Shi‘i world. His fundamental points of departure, and the chief clues to his entire work, are the traditional Muslim propositions that God is the source of all power, the only legislator, and the sole owner of the earth’s resources. From the principle of God’s exclusive supremacy and the related idea that man owes homage to God alone, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr infers that “the human being is free and that no other human being or class or human group has dominion over him.” Similarly, the principle of God’s sole ownership of the riches of nature involves, in his view, the prohibition of “every form of exploitation...of man by man.”

Iraq's Underground Shi'i Movements

by Hanna Batatu
published in MER102

This article is an abridgement, by Joe Stork, of a paper prepared by Hanna Batatu in May 1981 and published in the autumn 1981 issue of Middle East Journal.

Two Shi’i parties are active in Iraq’s underground: al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya (Islamic Call) and al-Mujahidin. The Da‘wa is the older movement. It had its beginnings in the late 1960s in the holy city of Najaf. The Mujahidin were strongly affected by Iran’s popular upheaval, and emerged in Baghdad in 1979. In terms of material resources and popular support, the Da‘wa surpasses the Mujahidin. The latter, for their part, are distinguished by their energy, zeal and bold actions, and they are free of the taint of connection with the late Shah of Iran.

Another Benghazi

by Chris Toensing | published August 9, 2014 - 3:52pm

“We didn’t want another Benghazi.” Oh no, is that really why the Obama administration decided to bomb Iraq?

Do we have another bunch of fools in the White House who learn precisely the wrong lessons from their mistakes?

Not Much Better Than Bush

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers | published July 23, 2014

President Barack Obama got it right when he declared: "There's no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States."

But his Iraq track record doesn’t mark much of an improvement over the mess his predecessor made.

Nowhere to Turn for Mosul's Refugees

by Sophia Hoffmann | published July 15, 2014 - 10:51am

In 2006, 30,000 Iraqis arrived in Syria every month, seeking and receiving safe haven from US occupation and sectarian warfare as kidnappings, death threats, and bombings by air and land engulfed Baghdad and the southern governorates of Iraq. By 2011, an estimated 1-2 million Iraqis had fled to neighboring countries.

A New Normal for Iraqi Kurds?

by Denise Natali | published July 3, 2014

At first glance, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) seems to have come out ahead from the takeover of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Taking advantage of the power vacuum left by the flight of the Iraqi security forces from Mosul and its environs, the autonomous Kurdish authority has sent its peshmerga fighters into large swathes of northern Iraq, most notably Kirkuk and its oilfields. These gains have given the KRG new forms of leverage with Baghdad in negotiating Kurdish nationalist demands. They also have triggered expectations of Kurdish statehood among the Kurdish population of Iraq, a long-sought goal that could be bankrolled by large-scale, independent Kurdish oil exports.

Catastrophe and Consequence

by The Editors | published June 13, 2014 - 4:01pm

What is happening in Iraq is a catastrophe, but not a sudden one. The violence in Iraq has been worsening steadily over the last few years. And more to the point, today’s crisis is the consequence of failed policies and failed politics -- national, regional and international -- years and even decades in the making.

No understanding of today’s Iraq is complete without the background of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and ensuing Gulf war, and the 13 years of UN economic sanctions, all of which set the stage for the additional disasters that would befall Iraq with the US-led invasion of 2003.

Petraeus’ Real Failure

by Laleh Khalili | published June 12, 2014 - 12:38pm

On the sidelines of the catastrophic failure of the Iraqi army to hold back the militias of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (or ISIS, as it is usually known), and the fall of Mosul to that group, a debate is taking place in the United States about whether this turn of events is yet another black mark in the massive ledger of retired Gen. David Petraeus. As Anne Barnard of the New York Times tweeted, “Remember the ‘Mosul miracle’ under Petraeus?”