Iraq Civil War
Middle East analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in London argued many in the West are making too much of the role of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] militants in the battle against the Maliki government. "There is too much concentration on ISIL and the militants. There is a lot more to that than ISIL and the militants," Shehadi said. "Underneath that is a genuine discontent and marginalization on the part of mainly Sunni constituency and one should not address ISIL as being the main protagonist. It affects the solution. It affects the way you seek a solution." Shehadi went on to stress that “underlying discontent" among Sunni tribes is what sparked the revolt against the Maliki government. “ISIL," he insisted, “jumped in to take advantage of the rift or discontent." The “solution" to the conflict, he claimed, “is to address the discontent, not to address ISIL."
By the summer of 2013, jihadi fighters, who once held sway over most of Iraq's Sunni areas until they were beaten by US and Iraqi troops and their local tribal allies during the “surge" campaign of 2006-2007, were again on the ascendant. The conflict in neighboring Syria and discontent among Iraq's minority Sunnis had dramatically escalated the threat posed by al-Qaida, leading to violence unseen in Iraq since the height of the US-led war five years earlier. Throughout, the security forces of Iraq's Shi'ite-led government were outmatched, unable to bring security to Baghdad or protect Shi'ite areas in the south, much less sweep fighters from northern Sunni areas under their grip.
Iraqi forces made progress in retaking territories controlled by ISIS. In October 2015, Iraqi forces and their allies recaptured most of the country’s largest oil refinery in Baiji, a strategic city between Baghdad and Mosul. In November 2015, Kurdish forces took control of towns and sections of highway around Sinjar, between Mosul and the border with Syria. In December 2015, the Iraqi forces and their allies launched a major offensive to retake control of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
ISIS attacks boosted the number of internally displaced persons — estimated at 4 million people at end-June 2015 (almost one sixth of the entire population). Close to 10 million Iraqis (almost one third of the population) including 250,000 Syrian refugees needed humanitarian assistance.
A UN report released 19 January 2016 detailed the severe and extensive impact on civilians of the ongoing conflict in Iraq. The report was compiled by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). At least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 were wounded between 01 January 2014 and 31 October 2015. Another 3.2 million people have been internally displaced since January 2014, including more than a million children of school age.
Of the total number of casualties, at least 3,855 civilians were killed and 7,056 wounded between 1 May and 31 October last year – the period covered by the report, although the actual figures could be much higher than those documented. About half of these deaths took place in Baghdad.
ISIL killed and abducted scores of civilians, often in a targeted manner. Victims include those perceived to be opposed to ISIL ideology and rule; persons affiliated with the Government, such as former Iraqi security forces (ISF), police officers, former public officials and electoral workers; professionals, such as doctors and lawyers; journalists; and tribal and religious leaders. Others have been abducted and/or killed on the pretext of aiding or providing information to Government security forces. Many have been subjected to adjudication by ISIL self-appointed courts which, in addition to ordering the murder of countless people, have imposed grim punishments such as stoning and amputations.
The report detailed numerous examples of killings by ISIL in gruesome public spectacles, including by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings. There were also reports of the murder of child soldiers who fled fighting on the frontlines in Anbar. Information received and verified suggests that between 800 and 900 children in Mosul had been abducted by ISIL for religious education and military training.
The United Nations said 02 January 2017 that terrorism and other acts of violence in Iraq killed at least 6,878 civilians and wounded another 12,388 in 2016. But the casualty figures may actually be higher because they do not include civilians who were killed or injured in Iraq's western Anbar province during the months of May, July, August and December. The numbers "have to be considered as the absolute minimum," according to the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
The U.N. said civilian casualty figures for December are lower compared to previous months, despite noticing an increase in terrorist bombings toward the end of the month that targeted civilians. "There is, no doubt, an attempt by Daesh (an Arabic acronym for Islamic State) to divert attention from their losses in (the Iraqi city) of Mosul and, unfortunately, it is the innocent civilians who are paying the price," said Jan Kubis, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Iraq.
UNAMI reported that 7,512 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2015.