Iraq's Disputed Internal Boundaries After ISIS: Heterogeneous Actors Vying for Influence

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Conflict between Erbil and Baghdad over the disputed internal boundaries (DIBs) has long been a central destabilizing feature of the post-2003 era. However, in recent years, two major events – the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 and the Kurdish independence referendum of 2017 – have transformed the two-sided dispute over sovereignty into a multi-sided competition between rival military and political groups. This report argues that any framework for resolving the broader conflict between Baghdad and Erbil must first prioritize curbing the continued fragmentation of administrative and security structures at the local level.


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