Iraq’s top diplomat in Washington, D.C., cried foul Friday over Kurdish government charges that Iran backed Iraq’s campaign to retake Kirkuk. “The KRG has been mounting what I call a campaign of quasi-disinformation, trying to paint this as an Iranian-led affair,” Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. Fareed Yasseen said of the ...

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi published an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday, denouncing the “illegal” referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq last month, but more importantly, making an impassioned case for Iraqi unity in the aftermath of ISIS’ defeat. The potential break-up ...

This September, voters in the territories controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq voted overwhelmingly to declare independence from the central government in Baghdad. In response, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran have conducted joint military exercises around the KRG in an unprecedented show of solidarity between three historic ...

The surprise advance of Iraqi troops into the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk on Monday raises a spectre that has haunted Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion: Can the country remain united? In a referendum held this September by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), 90 percent of Iraqi Kurds voted in ...

This September, voters in the territories controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq voted overwhelmingly to declare independence from the central government in Baghdad. In response, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran have conducted joint military exercises around the KRG in an unprecedented show of solidarity between three historic ...

Iraqi forces seized the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk on Monday, according to Kurdish and Iraqi officials, leaving Washington scrambling to respond to the surprise dawn assault. American officials seemed taken aback by the attack, with the State Department saying only it was closely monitoring the situation in Kirkuk and the ...

The United States has long sought to export its system of liberal democracy abroad. In places where military juntas and dictators have risen – and where U.S. national interest aligns – the U.S. government has sought to implement regime change through both covert and overt means. While these efforts are ...

The concept of regime change – toppling a hostile or distasteful foreign government and replacing it with a friendly one – has long tantalized U.S. policymakers, inspiring covert actions like the U.S.-supported Iranian coup in 1953 to U.S. military invasion and occupations, such as Iraq in 2003. Under the Trump ...

Today, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq is holding a historic referendum on Kurdish independence. Kurds are widely expected to overwhelmingly vote Yes, a result that threatens once again to undermine the fragile Iraqi state – split between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regions – and is causing consternation throughout ...

Until 2003, Iraq and Saddam Hussein posed perhaps the most direct military threat to Iran in the region. Haunted by the memory of bitter trench and chemical warfare during the eight year Iran-Iraq war in the ‘80s, both countries eyed each other warily for decades. The 2003 U.S. invasion, which ...

Iran’s principal regional nemesis was removed when Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown by the United States in 2003. The new Iraq quickly fell under the leadership of powerful Shia Islamist parties, most of whom had sheltered in Iran to avoid Saddam’s persecution. One example is Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s ...

Since the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 2011, Iran has been able to exert powerful influence over its majority-Shia Arab neighbor. This became especially apparent in the years following ISIS' rapid territorial gains in Iraq in 2014. Today, Tehran funds and trains Shia militia in Iraq, enjoys ...

No terrorist group has capitalized on networked technology more than ISIS, both for recruitment messaging and commanding their fighters on the ground. The internet is their response to asymmetric disadvantage. Where they lack in infrastructure and resources of a state, they use the web to plan attacks, solicit money and ...

The liberation of Mosul by the Iraqi military presents the Trump Administration with an opportunity to both stabilize the region by continued successful counterterrorism and to challenge Iran. As the Administration pursues its objective to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, continued military assistance is likely to be required. On ...

With the liberation of Mosul from ISIS and the impending conquest of the “Caliphate” capital Raqqa, the U.S. is at a decision point in the Middle East. But it does not yet have a coherent strategy, as has been pointed out by Emile Simpson in a savvy piece in Foreign ...

On September 25, Iraqi Kurdistan is set to hold a referendum on independence. There are plenty of strong voices around the globe in support of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s (KRI) right to self-determination, but questions surround both the timing of the vote as well as the KRI’s preparedness for ...

The territorial battle against ISIS is nearing its final stages in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already declared that the ISIS caliphate has fallen and, in Syria, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are pushing deep into the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa. However, as victory looms, new and ...

Nearly three years ago, the Islamic State (ISIS) catapulted to the top of the news worldwide after the group seized vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, used Mosul’s revered Great Mosque of al-Nuri to announce the creation of an Islamic caliphate, executed tens of thousands of civilians, and committed genocide ...

There are two schools of thought about the nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Some experts say the group is nearly vanquished as it struggles to hold on to Mosul, Iraq, and prepares for the inevitable fight for its capital in Raqqa, ...

The territorial battle against ISIS is nearing its final stages in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, U.S. coalition-backed Iraqi forces have trapped the remaining ISIS defenders in one tiny pocket of Mosul, and in Syria, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are pushing deep into the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa. However, as ...

The Iraq-Syria border has emerged in recent months as the hottest piece of real estate in the multi-sided struggle between the Islamic State (ISIS), anti-ISIS fighters, and Iran’s militia proxies. Why is this? I’ve stood on the Iraq-Syrian border many times and it is not much to look at. Empty ...

The U.S.-led military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria appears to be nearing its end. In Mosul, Iraqi military forces are now pushing into ISIS’s last pocket of resistance in the Old City as allied militias cut off ISIS forces near Tal Afar. In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces ...

If you take Defense Secretary James Mattis at his word, the United States in coming years will be doing nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, once the ISIS and Taliban forces are defeated. That was the repeated message Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford gave last week to House ...

Russia’s Defense Ministry released a statement Friday that it is investigating whether it had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, along with several other senior ISIS officials, in a May 28 airstrike that targeted a senior ISIS leadership meeting in a suburb of the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, ...

After eight months of grinding conflict, Iraqi commanders are now confident that the battle to retake Mosul from ISIS is in its final phase. Pushing across the Tigris River, Iraqi Security Forces have liberated nearly all of western Mosul and, although defeating ISIS’ last stand in the densely packed urban ...

The battle for the strategic Iraqi city of Mosul has reached its final stage as Iraqi forces close in on the Islamic State’s last stronghold in Mosul’s Old City. The liberation of Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city and the capital of oil-rich Nineveh province, would mark a watershed moment in ...

After almost eight months of fighting, the battle to liberate Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, from ISIS is nearing its end. The Iraqi army has taken over 90 percent of the city and, although resistance will be fierce in the last remaining pocket of ISIS resistance in the Old City, the ...

It is likely that Iraqi security forces and international partners will soon liberate Mosul from ISIS’ three-year hold. However, without proper governance over the city, security gains will be fleeting. In 2014, before ISIS’ takeover of Mosul, security in the city was divided amongst several competing political loyalties: Shiite-led Baghdad ...

On March 17, an airstrike allegedly carried out by coalition troops in Mosul, Iraq, killed a large number of civilians, with some reports putting the number of civilian deaths around 200. Officials at U.S. Central Command acknowledged it had opened a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment into the matter. The ...

It is probably not a bad thing that U.S. President Donald Trump recently dispatched Jared Kusher, his son-in-law and his Administration’s jack-of-all-issues, to Iraq. As one of the few White House advisers implicitly trusted by the president, Kushner may be the person to quickly get the President’s ear about what ...

Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America is a firsthand account of the CIA’s controversial interrogation program – which most famously included such techniques as waterboarding – by one of its architects, psychologist James Mitchell, who also served as an interrogator, and ...

This week, The Cipher Brief’s Executive Producer and Reporter Leone Lakhani speaks to John Nixon, author of “Debriefing The President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein.” John was the first CIA analyst to question the Iraqi leader after his capture. He specialized in profiling world leaders for the CIA and spent ...

President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order on Monday, temporarily halting entry into the country for people without valid visas from six predominantly Muslim countries and suspending the United States’ refugee program. This is a somewhat narrower version of the travel ban the President signed just a week after ...

This week The Cipher Brief’s Executive Producer and Reporter Leone Lakhani speaks to John Nixon, author of “Debriefing The President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein.” John, who spent much of his career profiling Saddam, was the first CIA analyst to question the Iraqi leader after his capture. In the first ...

On January 28, President Donald Trump signed an order for the U.S. military to review the campaign against ISIS and develop a decisive plan to defeat it within 30 days. Given the threats that ISIS poses to our homeland, our allies, and partners, we argue this is the right approach. However, destruction of the ISIS “state” in Iraq and ...

President Trump wanted a military plan from his generals to “totally obliterate ISIS.” Instead, he is getting a series of political-military options put together not just by the Defense Department, but with input from the departments of State and Treasury, plus the Intelligence Community. “We’re in the business of providing ...

Last Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi appeared on Iraqi television to announce “a new phase in the operation” to retake Mosul. “We are coming to Nineveh,” he said, “to liberate [the] western side of Mosul” from the grasp of ISIS. This is welcome news. The fight to liberate ...

Last October, I published a summary of the coalition battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS in The Cipher Brief, stressing that inside the one battle there were six “campaigns” – military or political in nature – that would shape Middle Eastern and counter-terrorism developments. This piece updates that analysis in ...

The Trump Administration has inherited a complex set of problems in Iraq. Most pressing among them is the ongoing campaign to recapture Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, from ISIS. The operation to liberate Mosul has met fierce resistance, but Iraqi forces – with coalition aid – control the eastern half of ...

Syrian opposition officials are meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana to begin talks on a final peace agreement. Representatives from Russia and Turkey are expected to lead the negotiations with support from Iranian diplomats. A ceasefire deal – brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran – went into effect Dec. ...

Islamic State (ISIS) has engaged in weapon manufacturing on an industrial scale, with output running into the tens of thousands, according to a new report from Conflict Armament Research (CAR).   It operates a highly bureaucratic, centrally controlled manufacturing process, which integrates quality control, inventory management, and production forecasting systems. A ...

MOSUL, IRAQ — Ahmed Salam received a printed citation signed by an Islamic State fighter for shaving his beard and wearing tight-fitting, Western-style clothes. Considering how others were treated for similar infractions under the extremist group’s rule in Mosul, Iraq, Salam got off extremely light. “If Daesh (what Iraqis call ...

Should we think of Iraq as a solution rather than a problem? For most Americans, Iraq is immediately associated with words like:  disaster, problem, mess, intractable, resource drain, incubator for ISIS, and worse.  For the Obama Administration, it was a place to disengage from militarily and politically.  And, above all, ...

As Iraqi Army forces enter Mosul proper and anti-ISIS coalition forces encircle the city, the complex and bloody operation to safely wrest a city of approximately one million people from the grip of ISIS militants will continue to dominate headlines. However, for the region’s power players, the question of what ...

Over the past month, the exchange of words between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has reached a bitter crescendo. Focused primarily on the Turkish military base at Bashiqa in northern Iraq, which Abadi says is an unsanctioned violation of Iraqi territory, the diplomatic ...

The Mosul operation, launched on October 17, has once again highlighted the complicated nature of Turkey’s involvement in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Ahead of the offensive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made repeated appeals for Turkish troops to partake in the operation, warning against the liberation of ...

In the coming months, and possibly weeks, the Iraqi Security Forces, with the help of a diverse group of fighters spanning the Iraqi political spectrum, will raise the Iraqi flag atop the Ninevah Provincial Government Center in Mosul. This symbolic gesture will signal to Iraq, and to the world, that ...

The good news: all signs point to a final attack on ISIS in Mosul by Iraqi forces and the American-led coalition. This struggle has received much media attention, and even presidential campaign play, and for good reason. Both quantitatively (size of coalition forces, size of the city and population) and ...

From victories in Ramadi, Fallujah, and towns and principalities in between, the Iraqi army and its coalition allies have steadily rolled back the territorial gains made by the terrorist group ISIS over the past two years. On Sunday, the Iraqi Prime Minister announced the beginning of the campaign to wrest ...

With the Islamic State (ISIS) having lost more than 40 percent of its territory in Iraq since its height of control in January 2015, all attention has turned to ousting the group from its stronghold in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in a televised ...