The Iraqi government was created by a constitution in 2005, after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The government is led by a Kurdish President, Barham Salih, a Shia Prime Minister, and a Sunni Arab Speaker, Mohammed al-Halbousi. The Prime Minister is the dominant leader. The population of Iraq is estimated to be 38 million, with two official languages, Arabic and Kurdish. Currently, the once powerful Islamic State (IS) Caliphate (both in Iraq and Syria) is in decline. The Kurdish areas in the north desire to secede from Iraq, although their referendum failed. Recently there have been protests against the government, and against Iranian influence, which have resulted in over 400 hundred deaths, and prompted the resignation of PM Mahdi.
Since 2011, Iran has exercised increasing control over the central government in Baghdad, and now dominates it. Qassem Soleimani, the Commander of the Quds Force, Iran’s special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has met with numerous Iraqi leaders and visited the Kurdistan region, and the IRGC has brought in thousands of troops from Iran or from other allied Shia populations in Lebanon, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. More than 2000 IRGC and allies have been killed in Iraq. The Iranians also control, train and support the 100,000 – 120,000 man PMF in Iraq, with perhaps 50,000 directly influenced by Iran. After the KRG was pushed out of Kirkuk, Iraq rewarded Iran with the oil. Iran may be pressuring Iraq to purchase the S-400 missile system from Russia.
Turkey has stationed 2000 troops in northern Iraq, along with several thousand mostly Sunni Arabs from Mosul, where they have helped to train Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga and Sunni fighters. The central government of Iraq has objected to their presence. The Turks have also threatened Kurds from the PKK that are currently stationed in Iraq, and they have attacked them. The Turks until recently got along with the KRG, until the September 2017 independence referendum antagonized Turkish President, who fears Kurdish nationalism. The Turks seek to block Christians or Shia Muslims from living in the areas they are controlling.
ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began as only ISI, Islamic State of Iraq, a splinter group of Al Qaeda. Its main goal is to create a caliphate, an Islamic state consisting of only Sunni Arabs spanning all of the Middle East. ISIS was founded by Abu Musab Zarqawi, who operated under Osama Bin Laden in Iraq. Zarqawi was later killed by US airstrikes in 2006. Today, Abu Omar al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi is the leader of ISIS. ISIS targets Kurds, Shiites, Christians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Westerners and anyone else who is not a Sunni Arab. Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi declared final victory over the Islamic State after Iraqi forces drove the last remnants of the group from the country. In 2018, top U.S. military leaders marked the “end of major combat operations against ISIS in Iraq” and a change to the U.S.-led coalition’s mission in the country. However, while ISIS has largely lost the territory it controlled, it is still very active in conducting terror attacks.
According to the United Nations about 3.2 million people remain displaced in Iraq. The last estimate by Abadi put the cost of post-war reconstruction at $50 billion, a figure calculated before Iraqi forces retook Mosul. The U.S. government has provided nearly $1.7 billion in humanitarian assistance for Iraq since the Islamic State takeover of the north in 2014. One estimate of the number of Iraqis killed since the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 is 236,546. Since the U.S. invasion (October, 2016), 3,693 American soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines in combat, and 4,541 American personnel, have been killed in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia Fact Sheet
Turkey Fact Sheet
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