Iraq: A Land of Chaos and a Nest for Extremism

Tribal fighters near Qayyara, Iraq, November 2016. Alaa Al-Marjani / REUTERS

Extremist groups have generally grown in the Middle East over the past decade, and Iraq is one of the countries in the region that has been in serious trouble since the fall of Saddam in 2003. The growth of extremism in Iraq is the result of various factors at the domestic, regional and international levels, among which the internal situation has played a major role. The confrontation of foreign forces with the remaining elements of the army in the post-US invasion Iraq in 2003 and the formation of resistance groups, especially among Sunni groups loyal to Saddam, led to widespread chaos in the early years of the occupation. The initial power vacuum and lack of national sovereignty have exacerbated the situation since 2006 with the arrival of forces from other regions such as Afghanistan and the recruitment of extremist groups, as well as the inability of foreign forces to provide security.

The political crisis of 2010 and the division of political posts after months of struggle, with the display of separatist tendencies, exacerbated the security situation in the country, especially in the western regions. At the end of 2011, when foreign troops withdrew, despite the emphasis of Iraqi political officials and security forces on the ability to maintain internal security, security situation remained unchanged. These crises took shape within a group and manifested themselves in the lineup of Shiite leaders in the 2014 election. The combination of these shortcomings in 2014 led to the invasion of ISIS forces from the Syrian border and the loss of large parts of western and northwestern Iraq in the provinces of Salah al-Din, Ninawa and Anbar.

Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr march in Najaf, June 21, 2014.
Alaa Al-Marjani / Courtesy Reuters

The formation and spread of extremist groups in Iraq has historical roots, which have been reinforced during the post-independence years by the inefficient policies of the ruling governments of the country, resulting in a major rift between different parts of the country. Iraq has always been prone to internal and ethnic conflicts due to the divergent ethnic, religious society and also discriminatory actions of the ruling governments. So the spread of extremist currents in Iraq are the result of the rushing in government construction, multiple social divisions, political obstructions, and ultimately the inefficiency of the governments.

Freelance Middle East Analyst and Researcher