Conflict in Iraq (I)

IRRC No. 868

The war in Iraq presents challenges to all those involved in it, including humanitarian actors. In this issue of the Review, various authors look at the socio-political and humanitarian environment in Iraq today and assess the impact of the conflict on humanitarian law and humanitarian action. The issue is divided into two parts: the first part (Iraq I, December 2007 edition) comprises all articles dealing with the socio-political and humanitarian environment, while the second one (Iraq II, March 2008 edition) is concerned with humanitarian law and action.

It is hoped that the author's insights into these topics will contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of this conflict and point towards possible ways to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Table of contents

  • Editorial: Conflict in Iraq (I)

    In Iraq, the debate over the legality of the invasion by the coalition forces led by the United States was quickly overshadowed by concern about the behaviour of the warring parties. The relatively short military campaign brought the downfall of the regime of Saddam Hussein but also raised questions about the lawful conduct of hostilities and especially about the sensitive issue of collateral damage: the suffering inflicted on the civilian population and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure. Soon, questions involving the law of occupation moved to centre stage as coalition forces were changing Iraqi laws, installed a new interim government and declared a formal end to the occupation, covered by a UN Security Council Resolution.
    Toni Pfanner, Former Editor-in-Chief of the International Review

  • Interview with His Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan

    In the interview, His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal stressed the need for the application of humanitarian principles to the conflict in Iraq and evoked that justice and the respect of human rights must be ensured by all parties. One way to protect human rights is by establishing a common humanitarian order, a "law of peace", as the Prince calls it.

  • A new sectarian threat in the Middle East?

    A Shiite resurgence in Iraq has generated a region-wide Sunni backlash. After discussing the schism’s origins, manifestations and implications, the author concludes that the primary battle in the region is between the United States and Iran. The most effective long-term response to sectarianism itself, however, will likely come from systemic restraints that exist in the form of countervailing loyalties that prevent any single allegiance, such as religious adherence, from becoming paramount.
    Joost Hiltermann, Deputy programme director

  • Ethnicity, federalism and the idea of sectarian citizenship in Iraq: a critique

    The article discusses the “ethnic paradigm” that currently prevails in analyses of Iraqi history and politics. While acknowledging the strong forces associated with ethnic and sectarian loyalties in the country, the article points to three important indicators of the surviving Iraqi nationalist sentiment that cuts across these ethno-sectarian categories.
    Reidar Visser, Research fellow

  • The Kurds as parties to and victims of conflicts in Iraq

    After decades of fighting and suffering, the Kurds in Iraq have achieved far-reaching self-rule. Looking at the history of conflicts and alliances between the Kurds and their counterparts inside Iraq and beyond its borders, the authors find that the region faces an uncertain future. A federal and democratic Iraq however, could offer a rare opportunity for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish question in Iraq - and for national reconciliation.
    Inga Rogg
    Hans Rimscha

  • Islam as a point of reference for political and social groups in Iraq

    Iraq occupies a special position in the general context of re-islamization of Arab societies because of the US occupation and the absence of a viable State. The attempt to rebuild communities under the aegis of the United States led to a widespread withdrawal back into communities in which Islam plays a vital role. It looks as if a secularized form of Islam is likely to fuel the fighting, which is all the more inexpiable because each person believes he is fighting for survival as a member of his community.
    Pierre-Jean Luizard, Researcher

  • The strategic importance of the Internet for armed insurgent groups in modern warfare

    This article shows that groups engaged in a jihad have made the Internet their main outlet to the world. With a particular focus on Iraq, the author argues that the Internet does not serve as a platform of recruitment for jihad but is rather the most effective way for armed insurgent groups to win the “hearts and minds” of Muslims worldwide.
    Wael Adhami

  • The media and Iraq: a blood bath for and gross dehumanization of Iraqis

    While the end of the Saddam Hussein regime has reopened the way for vibrant media activity, the absence of security for members of the media has had a high human cost. The author further argues that there has been no serious attempt by the western or even Arab media to focus on the human side of Iraq. Iraqi civilian death tolls are treated as nothing more than statistics.
    Daoud Kuttab, Journalist

  • The crisis of professional responsibility in Iraqi journalism: avoiding incitement to violence and armed conflict

    The article promotes that the current journalistic challenges in Iraq necessitates a commitment by journalists to their professional responsibility. A code of principles could avoid the dangers of sliding into the implications that result from armed sectarian conflicts and could help journalists assist the victims and promote a spirit of tolerance and reconciliation in Iraq.
    Ahmad Abdel Majid, Professor

  • Assessing the human tragedy in Iraq

    Before a framework can be set for efforts centred on human security to combat chaos, instability and insecurity in conflict areas must be understood and discussed. This article analyses the human tragedy in Iraq. It shows that it extends beyond our current perception of the situation and emphasises the need for reconciliation between the various groups in Iraq.
    Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Secretary-General

  • Humanitarian implications of the wars in Iraq

    The current situation in Iraq could be described as a "war on civilians". Going beyond the direct victims of the conflict, this article deals with the daily problems faced by Iraqi society, such as the lack of security in terms of housing, education and health care. The forcible eviction of many Iraqis is, however, remains the main problem threatening the basic cohesion of Iraqi society.
    Nasir Ahmed Al Samaraie, Former ambassador

  • Wartime estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties

    Challenges exist when making reliable and valid estimates of civilian mortality due to war. This article discusses a framework used to examine war's impact on civilian, considers challenges common to each statistical approach taken to estimate civilian casualties and proposes other approaches to estimating Iraqi civilian mortality after fighting has ceased.
    Beth Osborne Daponte, Ph.D., Senior research scholar