Iraq at a Crossroads – Political Consolidation or Further Disintegration?

KAS and MEIRSS hold a panel discussion on the upcoming Iraqi elections

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On December 9, 2017, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the military victory over the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq. However, the political fragmentation of the country as well as the conflict between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government are still adding to the instability of the country. On January 29, the KAS Syria/Iraq office and the Middle East Institute for Research and Strategic Studies (MEIRSS) held a panel discussion in Beirut on the political situation in Iraq and the upcoming elections in May 2018.

The panelists were Harith Hasan Al-Qarawee from the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East of the Atlantic Council and Akeel Abbas from the American University of Sulaymaniyah. After welcoming words by Julien Courson from MEIRSS and Lucas Lamberty from the KAS Syria/Iraq office, Al-Qarawee argued that the upcoming elections would likely maintain the status quo of Iraqi politics. This is especially due to the sectarian election strategies of the competing parties and the Iraqi process of government formation, which is usually marked by the establishment of large coalitions and the distribution of ministries to many different parties. He then summarized the challenges of Iraq and emphasized that after the years of ISIS rule, and considering the current conflict between Baghdad and Erbil, it is important to create new economic perspectives in order to stabilize the country.

Abbas focused on the tensions in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the Kurdish parties and highlighted that the independence referendum in September 2017 was behind closed doors opposed by many Kurds. He explained that the conflict between the three largest Kurdish parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Gorran Movement – escalated over the struggle with the Iraqi government for Kirkuk in October 2017. Abbas explained that the increasing differences between the parties have weakened the Kurds’ position towards the Iraqi central government. However, with the upcoming elections, new Kurdish parties could win political influence, which would induce a fundamental change of the relations between Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurds.

The attending audience included embassy staff, regional experts, members of the Lebanese Forces party and students, who all contributed actively to the subsequent discussion.

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Lebanon, January 31, 2018

Lucas Lamberty from KAS opens the panel discussion
The guests and panelists of the discussion