Staff + Fellow Publications

Was Iraq’s recent election a democratic success? Depends whom you ask.

Originally published in The Washington Post Monkey Cage by IRIS Director Christine van den Toorn on May 23, 2018.

On May 12, Iraq held a remarkably successful and violence-free national election. A coalition of Shiite Islamists and communists led by Moqtada al-Sadr, running on a reform agenda, won the largest number of seats in the new parliament. Sitting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s coalition placed third. While the results have generated considerable optimism, allegations...

Kurdistan Politics at a Crossroads

With their legitimacy and credibility irreparably damaged, Kurdish political elites stand to lose seats and influence in Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Originally published in Sada, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by IRIS Director Christine van den Toorn on April 26, 2018. From March 25 to 30, Kurds demonstrated in Sulaimaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk in an unprecedented wave of protests against public salary cuts. In response, in Erbil and Dohuk dozens of journalists, activists, civil servants,...

Internal Divides Behind the Kurdistan Referendum

The Kurdistan Region’s “yes” vote in the independence referendum does not translate to unconditional support for independence in the short term. Originally published in Sada, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by IRIS Director Christine van den Toorn on October 11, 2017. On September 25, Iraqi Kurds voted in a referendum on independence. According to the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral and Referendum Commission (KIHERC), 93 percent of participants supported independence, apparently confirming the Kurds’ desire for...

The Wars after the War for Sinjar: How can Washington avert a new civil war

While the frontline with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) lies only 4.5 kilometers south of Sinjar, a potentially more dangerous threat looms much closer to home. Parts of northern Sinjar — a district separated by the now-infamous 70-kilometer-long mountain — were liberated in December 2014 . The district center south of the mountain was cleared of ISIL in November 2015 . A mixture of forces — independent Yezidis,...

Splits over Sinjar Strategy Leave Town in IS Control

Power struggles among rival Kurdish forces, several backed by the U.S., are frustrating a long-planned offensive to retake the city whose sacking drew the world’s attention to the IS invasion.

Originally published in Iraq Oil Report by Christine van den Toorn , Patrick Osgood, and Rawaz Tahir on November 8, 2015.


The Islamic State (IS) group's...

Kurdistan’s Missed Chance for Reform

Political deadlock within the Kurdistan Regional Government is hindering the shift from an executive to a parliamentary system.

Originally published in Carnegie's Sada Journal by IRIS Director Christine van den Toorn and Raad Alkadiri on September 15, 2015.


Over the past few weeks, disputes have grown over whether to extend Kurdistan Regional Government...


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