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Scaling Up the EU’s Involvement for a Secure and Stable Iraq

by Hannah Barrett

Table of contents: I. Assessing Iraq’s Needs Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic II. The Extent of EU Involvement in Iraq – Programs & Funding III. Scaling Up the EU-Iraq Partnership

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I. Assessing Iraq’s Needs Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic


The COVID-19 health crisis has forced many governments around the world to operate on the basis of damage control and prevention. However, in the Middle East, many countries are struggling to contend with the pandemic on top of ongoing civil conflicts, the cycle of poverty, weak public infrastructure, mass displacement, and humanitarian disasters. These layered challenges are especially prevalent in Iraq. The European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations unit (ECHO) estimates that around 1.5 million Iraqis remain displaced as a result of proxy conflict and terrorism, and a total of 4 million Iraqis are in need of humanitarian assistance. (1)


The large presence of Syrian refugees (about 250.000) sheltering in Iraq places an extra strain on Iraqi civil authorities and the already limited provision of essential services, such as water, sanitation, electricity, healthcare, and education. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the preexistent lack of public health infrastructure across the country. (2) This is also reflected in the rate of COVID-19 fatalities in Iraq. As of 4 September, 2020 Iraq has counted 242,284 cases of COVID-19 and 7,201 fatalities, which may have increased since the time of publication.


Iraq’s tenuous security situation continues to aggravate these humanitarian challenges. In addition to the resurgence of IS activity in the north, Iraq is caught in the middle of an ongoing proxy conflict between Iran and the United States, which endangers the civilian population and threatens to destabilize national security. The Iraqi public is incredibly pessimistic about the presence of American troops and the activities of Iran-backed militias, and does not want to be ensnared in a larger conflict between the U.S. and Iran. (3)


However, as the United States begins to disengage with Iraq, its growing national security crisis presents an opportunity for the EU to take advantage of its status as a privileged partner of Baghdad. The EU, along with individual member states such as Germany, has secured a precious commodity from Iraqi officials: trust. (4) Capitalizing on mutual trust, the EU could enlarge its role in the future of Iraq by increasing monetary and humanitarian aid and incorporating the values of human security into new regional security dialogues. Such actions would align with the EU’s security and economic interests, as well as its geopolitical ambitions to extend its role as a regional security partner and mature global leader (5).



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1) (ECHO), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. Iraq (​​​​​​​)
Factsheet. (2020).
2) Ibid.
3) MDPD KAS in Brussels. Navigating Stormy Weather: Dissecting the European and U.S. Contribution to Security & Stability in Iraq. Podcast Audio. 2020.
4) Ibid.
5) Ibid.





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Dr. Susanne Conrad

Susanne Conrad (2021)

Policy Advisor Rule of Law and Security in Subsaharan Africa +49 30 26996-3471


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