Iraq

HD’s mediation efforts in Iraq aim to promote the stability of the country through inclusive and sustainable dialogue between local actors and the Iraqi Government, as well as political dialogue among Sunni opposition political leaders and the Iraqi Government.

Background

The Islamic State (IS) has been almost totally militarily defeated in Iraq. The political crisis in the country is interlinked with the security situation. Areas such as Anbar, the Baghdad Belts and Salahaddin, where the population is mostly Sunni, have now been liberated from IS but are at risk of a resurgence of violence among local communities as well as between communities and Iraqi security forces. The Mosul battle waged in October 2016 exacerbated divisions within communities between those who are seen to have co-operated with IS and those who have been targeted by the group and who may now be seeking revenge.

While the Sunnis are represented in the Iraqi Government mainly through the Islamic Party, the Sunni community continues to feel politically marginalised. This is linked in part to the fact that the same Sunni leaders and factions have been exercising a monopoly on political positions since 2003; this in turn has fostered a gap between the Sunni communities and their representatives. In this context, HD has adopted a bottom-up approach which seeks to open channels of dialogue among political leaders, civil society representatives and local power brokers to work towards a political consensus and avoid the crisis repeating itself.

At the international level, many Sunni Iraqis in exile have embraced hardline positions against the government and contest its legitimacy. They are thus either denied entry into Iraq or sought after for charges.

HD seeks to identify a new generation of political leaders from within the country as well as within the exiled opposition, which could engage in dialogue to develop a common Sunni political platform in order to promote stability.

Activities

HD engaged in Iraq since 2016 following a request by the National Reconciliation Committee to support the Iraqi Government in addressing political, social and security-related grievances at the local level; as well as gaps in dialogue which may lead to political deadlocks.

In this context, HD organised a series of meetings in Anbar in 2016 and 2017, as part of which Iraqi government representatives met with all Iraqi opposition factions for the first time.

The meetings resulted in Anbar representatives, who were previously not able to return to Iraq after former Prime Minister Maliki imposed politicized warrants on them, being allowed to return. similarly, policemen from Ramadi, who had been fired after the city fell to ISIS, were reinstated, and men detained at the Razaza crossing between Baghdad and Anbar were released.  

In April 2017, HD also organised a meeting in the Baghdad Belt, seeking to reconnect Sunni tribal leaders from Abu Ghraib and the Prime Minister’s office. The Iraqi government had not returned to this region since 2003. As a direct result of the meeting and ensuing discussions, the Government agreed to remove explosives left by the IS in Abu Ghraib, which allowed the return of more than 30,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

HD also facilitated dialogue among Iraqi communities in Diyala, Salaheddin, Ninawa, and the Baghdad Belts to encourage the tribal leaders to support social reconciliation, prevent sectarianism and elaborate key political demands. This dialogue is particularly important in localities where both Shia and Sunni communities coexist as it contributes to reducing conflicts.

HD has additionally been promoting dialogue within the Sunni opposition, including those in exile, as well as between the Sunni opposition and the Iraqi Government to work towards improving stability and political representation. To complement these efforts, HD encouraged interaction among the new generation of Sunni leaders by organising rounds of discussion for them to federate and speak to the Iraqi Government with a unified voice.

HD is also supporting the organisation of discrete meetings held outside Iraq between representatives of the government and political representatives of the Sunni opposition who are supported by regional actors. These initiatives have led some Sunni opposition actors being allowed to return to Iraqi political life, improving the Iraqi Government’s relations with other states in the region.

This phased dialogue process has helped build up a caucus of influential Sunni leaders from inside and outside Iraq who will be able to engage with the Iraqi Government and Shia leaders in discussions surrounding the country’s future. These activities could also contribute to supporting Iraqi Government’s national settlement efforts.

Donor support

HD would like to express its gratitude to the German Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway for their support to HD’s activities in Iraq.