Predicting the shape of Iraq’s next Sunni insurgencies


Abstract: All politics and security is local in Iraq. Therefore, the analytical framework for predicting the shape and intensity of Iraq’s next Sunni insurgencies should also be based on the unique characteristics of each part of Iraq. The Islamic State and other insurgents are bouncing back strongest and quickest in the areas where the security forces are either not strong enough or not politically flexible enough to activate the population as a source of resistance against insurgents.

New insurgent attacks by the Islamic State were springing up in Mosul before the ashes were even cold from the climax of the liberation battle in June 2017. With the Islamic State holding just one square mile of western Mosul, the group marked the start of the Eid religious festival by launching a wave of suicide-vest and car-bomb attacks in liberated east Mosul on June 23-24.[1] As their last inner city defensive pocket was crumbling, Islamic State forces at the edges of the city launched a 40-man raid into the Tanak and Yarmuk districts on the outer western edge of Mosul city on June 26, panicking citizens into leaving the ostensibly liberated area.[2]

These incidents, and others like them, underline the manner in which Islamic State fighters have transitioned fairly smoothly and quickly from open occupation of territory back to the terrorism and insurgency tactics that they utilized prior to 2014. All eyes are now on how the Islamic State and other Sunni militants in Iraq will adapt to the loss of terrain, but there is no need to guess. A great deal of evidence is already available in the areas that have been liberated since 2014, a theme that this author and Alexander Mello developed in an October 2016 article in this publication on threat trends in Diyala province.[3] This piece proposes an analytical framework for assessing the future strength and shape of Iraq’s Sunni insurgencies and will draw some lessons from the pre-2014 era.