Iraq: How to deal with a state with four armies?
This is an introduction to a commentary that was originally published on War on the Rocks on November 11, 2019.
This article discusses Iraq’s two traditional military institutions - the Iraqi Army and the Counter Terrorism Services - analyzes the development of the country’s two alternative military forces - the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces - and closes by suggesting a range of options for security sector development. The article benefited from two research visits to Iraq in 2019 made possible by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Without political change, meaningful security sector development won’t be possible"
Key features of the forces that make up Iraq’s complex national security architecture include weak capability, significant individual autonomy, fragmentation and differing constituencies, and foreign influence. How can these problems best be addressed? Security sector development in Iraq should proceed in lockstep with political reform, as the two are related. Without political change, meaningful security sector development won’t be possible, and without security sector development, Iraqi politics will remain volatile and vulnerable to the use of coercion and violence. In this context, Iraq and its international partners should accept a multipolar security architecture for quite some time to come, but work on the regulation, roles, and responsibilities as well as confidence between Iraq’s different defense forces.
Read the full commentary.