Iraq is suffering from a new surge in sectarian violence. The EU and the international community have expressed their concerns over the growth in instability in the country, and stressed the importance of an inclusive political process and the holding of free and fair elections, planned for April 2014.
Since the departure of US forces in 2011, the situation in Iraq has steadily worsened. The instability in the country is explained by the failed reconciliation between Sunnis and the Shia-led government. Since spring 2013, Iraq has been suffering a protracted surge in violence, with recurrent bomb attacks a particular threat, to a level not seen for five years. The current spiral of violence was ignited by the killing of Major-General Mohammed al-Karawi, commander of the Iraqi Seventh Army Division, on 21 December 2013 in Anbar province. In response, the Iraqi Government launched operations to clear a protest camp in Ramadi that had reportedly been transformed into a headquarters for al-Qaeda leaders. In January 2014, pro-al-Qaeda fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) infiltrated Fallujah and Ramadi after months of mounting violence in, mainly Sunni, Anbar province. Government forces recaptured Ramadi, but faced entrenched rebels in Fallujah in the heaviest clashes in years. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that up to 300 000 Iraqis – some 50 000 families – have been displaced due to insecurity in this province. It is reported that Iraq has seen about 1 500 civilian deaths from violence since the beginning of this year (9 475 in 2013). In addition, the negative repercussions of the Syrian conflict and disputes with the autonomous Kurdistan Region over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk have increased Iraq’s political instability. In this general context of crisis, national parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on 30 April 2014.
In its conclusions of 10 February 2014, the Foreign Affairs Council expresses, on behalf of the EU, its deep concern over the deteriorating security conditions in Iraq, the terrorist threat and the situation in the Anbar province. The Council believes that all of Iraq’s political and religious leaders should engage in dialogue and speak out against sectarianism and violence. The Government of Iraq is strongly encouraged to take decisive measures to promote reconciliation. The Council reaffirms the EU’s commitment to assist Iraq in its transition to democracy, underlines the importance of the April elections and finally welcomes the good progress in implementing the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (applied provisionally since August 2012) and the successful holding of the first EU-Iraq Cooperation Council on 20 January2014.
In its resolution of 10 October 2013 on Iraq, the European Parliament (EP) expressed its concerns over the surge in instability. The EP believes that all Iraqi political leaders should work together to put an end to sectarian violence, and to bring the Iraqi people together. The EP is concerned about the spill-over of violence from the conflict in Syria to Iraq. The resolution calls on the international community and the EU to support the Iraqi Government, by promoting initiatives for national dialogue. Finally, neighbouring powers are invited to engage in the stabilisation of the region.
The US believes that Iraqi leaders from all communities should work together to isolate militant groups from the broader population. The US is working closely with Iraqi political and security leaders to combat those groups. On 10 January 2014, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a statement supporting government efforts to address the security situation. The UNSC stressed the critical importance of an inclusive political process, as well as the holding of free and fair elections in April 2014.