Randa Slim: Seven Key Turning Points in the Post-2003 Conflict in Iraq

Author:Randa Slim Date:2019-05-28

On the evening of May 27, 2019, the Institute of International and Strategic Studies (IISS), Peking University (PKU) held the 36th seminar of "North Pavilion Seminar" series. Randa Slim, Senior Fellow and Director of Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program at the Middle East Institute, Washington D.C., gave a seminar entitled "Seven Key Turning Points in the Post-2003 Conflict in Iraq". The seminar was hosted by Gui Yongtao, Vice President of the IISS and Vice President of the School of International Studies (SIS), PKU.

By focusing on three aspects: (1) the root causes and driving forces of the conflict in Iraq, (2) the seven key turning points in the post-2003 conflict in Iraq, and (3) the way for Iraq to build a path to lasting peace, Slim discussed the changes in situation in Iraq since 2003.

Slim believed that there are four key driving forces of the conflict in Iraq. The first is the conflict between Iraq state national identity and struggle for political power; the second is the contradictions between different ethnic groups and within each ethnic group; the third is the structural factors; the fourth is the impact of geopolitics. Specifically, the driving forces are the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites and the conflict within the two sects, the revolutions in other countries in the Middle East, and the instability in the Iraqi regime.

After 2003, there were seven key turning points in the conflict in Iraq, which are: (1) the emergence of a national-sectarian political system in 2003, (2) the Sunni-Shiite conflict (in August 2003), (3) the U.S surge (in 2007), (4) the Shiites' increased control over the Iraqi regime (in 2008-2013), (5) the development of ISIS (in 2014), (6) domestic demonstrations (in July 2015), and (7) the attacks on ISIS.

Slim stressed that the U.S. involvement in and withdrawal from the conflict in Iraq, policy changes, and misunderstanding of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) are the important factors influencing the conditions in Iraq. The conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites and the two sects' struggle for political power, as well as the terrorist activities of ISIS have also had a negative impact on Iraq, exacerbating the situation.

Finally, Slim made several suggestions on how Iraq would seek lasting peace in the future. First, government governance should be strengthened, including strengthening stability of the regime, improving national security, and promoting economic construction. Second, attention should be paid to marginalized groups, such as those without proof of identity, those who are persecuted by ISIS, and those who are mistaken as being pro-ISIS. In addition, efforts should be made in the construction of the judicial system, the reconciliation of ethnic groups, and the reconstruction of relations between different regions. Settlement of these issues and challenges can provide opportunities for Iraq's future peace.

During the discussion session, Slim had in-depth exchanges and discussions with teachers and students present at the seminar on issues such as the Iraqi political system, the impact of the U.S.'s withdrawal from Iraq, the Iraqi jihad and displaced people in Iraq, and the conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites. (Contributed by Zhang Qiqi) 

Editor: Li Fangqi, photography: Zheng Peijie


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