The fight against ISIS helped to bring parts of Iraq’s deeply fractured society closer together, but that fragile unity is now under pressure. While the Kurds are expected to vote in an historic popular referendum on September 25 to pursue independence, the lack of political inclusion and security for Sunni Arabs—which facilitated ISIS’s rapid expansion—remains unsolved. Meanwhile, Iran’s growing influence in Baghdad and its support of militias throughout Iraq has added to the sectarian divide and the country’s political dysfunction.
On October 5, Hudson Institute hoted a panel discussion on the implications of the referendum and the way forward. Hudson Senior Fellows Eric Brown and Jonas Parello-Plesner, having recently returned from Kurdistan, examined how the scheduled referendum is likely to impact stability and political reconstruction after ISIS, as well as discussions both between Erbil and Baghdad and among Kurdistan, Turkey, and Iran, which all have independent interests in the referendum’s outcome. Hudson Adjunct Fellow Michael Pregent visited Mosul after it was liberated from ISIS and will assess Iran’s positions and influence throughout Iraq and what it means for unity and for U.S. national interests.