Futuristic Readings No.3 -2020
Impossible conflicts in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region
– Futuristic Readings No.3
– Researchers: Dr. Yousif Goran, Dr. Omed Rafiq Fatah, Dr. Abid Khalid Rasul,
Dr. Hardi Mahdi Mika, Mr. Yasin Taha
– Centre for Future Studies – Sulaimani – Iraqi Kurdistan Region
– April 2020
Section One:Internal Conflicts and Government Formation in Iraq; Current Status and Possible Scenarios.
Section Two:Decentralisation: Difficulties and Potentials for Governance in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Section Three:Imprisoned Islamic State Members: Solutions and Risks:
The April issue of Ranan was published in parallel with the re-emergence of a sensitive and fate-determining national question in Iraq and its Kurdistan Region. Both jurisdictions are currently struggling to resolve three key issues; the formation of the new Iraqi Federal Government, the unresolved issue of centralised or decentralised governance in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the question of the re-emergence and future societal role of the imprisoned fighters and encamped families of the Islamic State. These are the most pressing risks currently facing the future of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the wider region. These three issues intertwine in such a way that if they are managed successfully, they can serve as the foundations for political and social security in Iraq and its Kurdistan Region. However, if mismanaged, they pose significant risks to both jurisdictions as they provide short- and long-term opportunities for threats associated with the issues to unravel rapidly. This issue of Ranan discusses and investigates these three issues and puts forward their current statuses, their difficulties and their future scenarios.
Section One:Internal Conflicts and Government Formation in Iraq;
Current Status and Possible Scenarios
In Iraq, political conflicts have come to define the obstacles before the country’s political process. These conflicts are an ongoing reality and re-surface whenever a new event unfolds, thereby frustrating the country’s political process. Since the establishment of the new Iraqi political system in 2005, these conflicts have not yet resolved. In truth, settling or minimising these underlying conflicts should have been a primary objective of the country in 2003 following the fall of the former Iraqi regime.
– Internal Paradigms of Iraq’s Conflicts
On the Iraqi macro level, three groups, the Shia Muslims, the Sunni Muslims and the Kurds are locked in a perpetual state of conflict. The conflict becomes visible in issues of ownership, identity, land, rights and political status. More in-depth observations of this conflict and an understanding of the social and sectarian issues underpinning them reveal the significant extents of these problems.
The internal rivalries of the Iraqi Shia community, which recently surfaced, casts a long shadow over Iraq’s political obstacles and crises. Through the authority of Ayatollah Sistani, Iranian influence, and a united effort to cement Shia hegemony in Iraq, the Shia community has in recent years managed to minimise their rivalries. Furthermore, the common threat posed by the Islamic State and the united Shia war effort continued to assist the community in containing their internal conflicts. However, in 2018, the declaration of victory over the Islamic State coincided with the 2018 Iraqi parliamentary elections. The Iraqi Shia community took part in the polls through five main coalitions and political factions. These political blocks were in fundamental disagreement and conflict with one another. At the same time, the US administration had ramped up its economic sanctions against Iran, crippling the country’s economy. In 2020, the US administration followed its sanctions regime with the assassination of Qasim Sulaimani, the then General of the Iranian Quds Force, and his Iraqi counterpart Abu Mahdi Mugandis by a drone strike. The killings pushed the internal conflicts of the Iraqi Shia community into a more precarious phase at a time when the Iraqi streets had packed with discontent and hostile mostly Shia protestors demanding government begin immediate political reform and provide essential services.
For the first time since 2003, the Iraqi government collapsed under pressure from protestors who were later backed with the influence of Ayatollah Sistani. The cabinet of Adil Abdulmahdi had little choice but to hand in their resignations. The fall of the government and search for a new government opened the door for the internal Shia conflict to re-surface. Following this, Iraq recorded another first when Mohamed Tofiq Al-Alawi, the Shia candidate selected to replace Adil Abdul Mahdi, failed to form a government. The selection of Adnan Zurfi, the new prime ministerial candidate following Mohamed Tofiq Al-Alawi, further inflamed the internal conflict. For the most part, three primary and several minor Shia political sides have been forcing the conflict; Al-Sairoon (led by Muqtada al-Sadr), Al-Fath (led by Hadi Ameri) and The State of Law Coalition (led by Nuri al-Maliki). Behind them was Al-Hikma (led by Amar Hakim), the Nasir Coalition (led by Haider al-Abadi) and other smaller forces such as the Islamic Fazila Party. Outside of these political forces, Iranian backed Shia militias have also gained a strong influence over the Iraqi political process. The power of these militias is such that some argue that they have the final say in internal conflicts and other Shia political sides realign their political positions to harmonise with their proximity to Iran. The primary problem for the Shia forces is their respective desires for hegemony, privileges and control, coupled with their unwillingness to compromise. Each side is aware that were they to voluntarily relinquish power then they will face the same fate that faced the Dawa Party and its leaders, Maliki, Jaafari and Abadi, also awaits them. Hence, they are aware that they must continuously take steps to avoid the same bitter experience of becoming sidelined and haemorrhaging supporters.
At present, the internal Shia conflict is the primary obstacle towards government formation in Iraq. The internal problems of Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish communities are the secondary and tertiary obstacles before government formation in Iraq.
– External Paradigms of Iraq’s Conflict:
Other persistent obstacles before the Iraqi political process, in particular the process of government formation, are regional and international conflicts. For example, the ongoing friction between the United States and Iran has wedged Iraq between their respective battles for regional influence. In recent months a series of events (such as; the bombing of military bases, setting the United States embassy in Iraq ablaze, the assassination of General Qasim Sulaimani, the attacks of pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and the political manoeuvring of both states) are demonstrative of the following:
1- After all the military, financial and political efforts the United States has made since 2003, it has no intentions for a quick exit from Iraq. On the contrary, its recent actions show that the United States is prepared to expand the use of its military, economic and political influence in the region to attempt to force its competitors in Iraq to withdraw;
2- For Iran, Iraq is strategically important, it is a complement to the Shia crescent in the Middle East, and it is geopolitically vital. At present, as Iran is politically and economically unstable and international sanctions continue to cripple the country financially, Iran’s leaders are also digging their heels in Iraq.
The conflict over Iraqi government formation, which internally and externally is subject to hot and cold periods, is currently becoming exposed through Adnan al-Zurfi’s failure to form a new government on 9 April 2020 and the selection of Mustafa al-Kadhimi as a potential prime minister. The process of government formation appears to have currently reached a cooling point in Iraq and compromise seems to have been reached, albeit on face value. However, this does not mean that the conflict will not again erupt. If this tenuous compromise does hold until the formation of a new government, then it will likely produce a weak government, similar to that of Abdulmahdi. The task of such a government would be to cloak the power and hegemony of shadow forces in Iraq that fall outside of government but have full influence over decision-making in the country without any accountability.
– Scenarios for Government Formation:
Scenario 1: Mustafa al-Kadhimi may succeed in forming a new Iraqi government. The dwindling protests in Iraq due to the COVID-19 outbreak may reduce the political pressure on Mustafa al-Khadhimi. Thereby, it will allow him to take advantage of support from the Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities, as well as the United States and Iran, to quickly appoint his new cabinet and secure a majority in the Iraqi parliament.
Scenario 2: Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s chances may fall to the same fate as and that of Mohamed Tofiq Al-Alawi and Adnan al-Zurfi with Iraqi conflicts once again obstructing the formation of a new government. The case may be that in his allotted 30 days to build a new government, Mustafa al-Kadhimi fails to satisfy the demands of the different internal or external sides, forcing him to withdraw his candidacy. Even if he succeeds to keep the various parties on-side, he could ultimately fail to form a government if parliamentarians do not back his cabinet.
This scenario could escalate to the point where no other prime ministerial candidates are available to be tasked with forming a new Iraqi government, as stipulated in Article 76 of 2005 Iraqi Constitution. In this case, the Iraqi President may have no choice but to guide Iraq towards a dissolving of parliament and early elections, as stipulated in Article 64 of the Iraqi Constitution, especially if public protests resume. Another potential outcome for Iraq is the implementation of Article 81 of the Iraqi Constitution, which allows for the Iraqi President to take up the post of Prime Minister for 15 days until a new prime ministerial candidate is selected. Both legal options are a threat to the Iraqi Shia community and their political forces. Therefore, to prevent the implementation of either article and to maintain their status and short-term privileges in Iraq keeping Adil Abdulmahdi in-post (even for a short period) may be the only way out of this predicament for the Iraqi Shia sides. However, the ultimate result of these short-term and long-term forecasts and possible scenarios is the potential for Iraq to tip towards further military conflict, especially if the Iraqi constitution fails to resolve the disputes between the different political sides.
Section Two:Decentralisation: Difficulties and Potentials for Governance
in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Decentralisation in its purest form consists of ‘transferring the processes of decision-making and implementation from central government to the administrative, political and geographic offices of state’. A state can achieve a decentralised model of governance through constitutional amendments, especially if it already has a decentralised system in place such as federalism. In such an event, the lesser units of State will have the power to make legislative, executive, judicial decisions. In the same vein, legislation can also provide for organising decentralised government. Devolving power in this way results in the formation of local units known as “local administrations.” In most examples, these local administrations only have authority over general public policy implementation. Therefore, based on well-known legal and constitutional principles, decentralisation depends on the following:
1- The division of the State into several geographic units (regionals, autonomous regions, provinces) where each has a legally appointed representative;
2- Awarding decision-making powers to each unit through either legislation or the constitution allowing it can make independent decisions on self-governance and the provision of its required resources;
3- Residents of each unit having the authority to elect their local decision-makers through direct local elections;
Each unit having financial independence in regards to raising all of, or the majority of, its required funds from local resources.
The establishment of decentralised systems varies between different jurisdiction as each has its own historical experiences, political culture and administration. One can never directly implant one decentralised model from one domain to another and expect the system to work. The character of each State determines the decentralised system it creates. These truths also hold for Kurdistan.
– Decentralization and culture of government in Kurdish society:
Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is the result of a unique history of experience, political culture, economy, and society. Hence the establishment of an active and sound decentralised system of governance requires an understanding of Kurdistan’s often neglected historical and cultural intricacies.
While Kurdistan has historically seldom had the opportunity for political and administrative independence, before 1851 and the fall of the Baban Emirate at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, the culture of governance in Kurdish society was for millennia decentralised. The geographic, social and economic reality of Kurdistan has always supported semi-independence and decentralised governance. While modern European nations have developed through the roles played by the political middle classes and a commercial mindset, in Kurdistan the political, economic and social realities of its Emirates prevented the development of multi-levelled nationalism, including on the administrative level. Therefore, until the mid-19th century, most of Kurdistan was administered through socially suitable decentralised models.
In the period between the fall of the last semi-autonomous Kurdish emirate in 1851 and the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 1992, there have been two distinct experiences in Kurdish self-governance; one in Sulaimani in 1919 and one in Mahabat in 1946, both by local governance. These jurisdictions had many internal and external motivations that prevented them from attempting to expand their respective territories.
The establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 1992 was seen as a significant moment for uniting Kurdish political administration and rhetoric. However, the truth remained that both dominant political parties in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq had divided the Kurdish territories between themselves as far back as the Kurdish revolutions against the Iraqi Ba’athist government. This division has deep roots in Kurdish geography and culture and was not based on the preferences of the two parties. Instead, these two territories were subject to two separate but parallel experiences. Following the 1992 elections in Kurdistan, both dominant political parties (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party) attempted to build a united centralised government without taking into account Kurdistan’s geographic and cultural realities. Despite its early successes, the inherent weakness of Kurdistan’s co-governing culture only allowed the experience to last two years before it ultimately failed. Foreign interference and the strength of will for local administration in the different jurisdictions of the political parties. This failure resulted in a civil war (1994-1997), geographic partition and dual administration until 2005.
Following the unification of the two Kurdish administrations in 2005, Kurdish leaders were unable to unite the Kurdish government entirely. For a period after 2005, both parties maintained control of their respective administrations’ ministries of Peshmerga affairs and finance.
Furthermore, the echoes of the two administrations model (yellow and green) continued to reverberate in all Kurdish political, social and economic sectors. The desire for local governance through the decentralisation of power away from Erbil, the Kurdish capital, was more potent in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s zone of influence. As a result, discussions arose around a series of proposed laws aimed at decentralising power in Kurdistan and reducing the power hegemony of the centre (Erbil). Politically, decentralisation became the slogans and dynamo behind several less dominant political parties. despite the tug of war between the centre and the peripheries, after 15 years of administrative unification neither the government in Erbil was able to consolidate power nor could the provinces and independent local administrations entirely establish decentralised authority in their respective jurisdictions.
– Models for the Implementation of Decentralisation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Currently, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has three distinct experiences with implementing Decentralisation:
1- Administrative decentralisation: a formal and legally established division of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq into small geographic units (Provinces, Townships, Districts, etc.).
2- Regional decentralisation: an informal division of administration established through the status quo as a result of the region’s different political and cultural histories. This division became a practical reality as a result of the Kurdish civil war (1994 – 1997) between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. It came to be known as “dual administration” and divided the Kurdistan Region into two seperate administrative zones; the Green Zone, controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Yellow Zone controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
3- Sub-local decentralisation: both a formal and informal model of decentralisation. In the Green Zone, two further administrative units were created, which were smaller than the Sulaimania province. These two were the Garmianand Raparin administrations. However, despite the decision to establish a Soran administration and a Zakho administration being formally requested in the Yellow Zone, both have yet to be founded.
– Difficulties of Decentralisation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq:
While the implementation of a decentralised administrative model in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is multi-levelled, there are significant difficulties for its implementation. The biggest obstacle is likely the lack of financial independence. Just as the Kurdistan Region of Iraq cannot function without economic support from the Iraqi Federal Government, so too would the local administrations struggle to survive without financial backing from Erbil. A second obstacle is the lack of attention paid to the established vehicles and processes that are in place to regulate local elections to the local administrative units. Below the provincial level (Townships and Districts) not a single official has ever been elected by direct local vote. A third difficulty is the representation of the provinces in the capital city, Erbil. Some Kurdish citizens and political parties continue to view the city of Erbil, the Kurdish capital, as Sulaimaniyah’s rival city. They do not consider Erbil as a politically open national capital as Kurdistan’s local administrative units, like the provinces, are not represented in Erbil.
– Reform in Governance and Decentralisation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
A discussion on the future of decentralisation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is a debate on the future of the whole political system. However, going forward the following scenarios are possible;
Scenario 1: In the short term, the system remains unchanged, and there is no implementation of reforms to resolve ongoing problems in governance. This scenario will not only leave the issues unresolved but also reduce the likelihood of the formation of a robust governing system, which is consented by residents across the different region of Kurdistan. Furthermore, it will weaken national sentiment at the expense of regionalism.
Scenario 2: Going forward, where there is no implementation of reform and no separation or devolution of power, then problems already inherent in the governing system may deepen. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq may face more events reminiscent of the “dual administration” system or the powers awarded to the provinces may begin to destabilise the region both politically and administratively, resulting in a political and administrative split nationally.
Scenario 3: This scenario is dependent on the condition that there is a strong will in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to strengthen, make more active the governing system in the region and change it where necessary towards a more politically decentralised system. It is also dependent on the will to maintain and strengthen those powers that double as symbols national sovereignty.
The argument in this scenario is a re-establishment of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on a Federal model that devolves power over several levels (national, autonomous, provincial, and townships). This re-establishment would separate power between the capital and the provinces and create autonomous zones in the region (the capital, and four separate autonomous regions which would later increase to incorporate the Iraqi disputed territories).
Furthermore, general national powers should remain under the authority of the capital with parliament and national government having jurisdiction over exclusive powers (international relations, relations with Baghdad and security). In contrast, the autonomous zones would possess powers over local issues and have local governments and parliaments. Several new provinces would form each autonomous zone. Also, space would be left in the new system to incorporate the Iraqi disputed territories when they return to Kurdish control. Implementing this decentralised political system requires the consideration of the following recommendations:
1- Strengthen the pillars of decentralisation in all its forms. For example, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq should adhere to regular and timely elections for officials and councils in all national (Capital and autonomous zones) and local units (provinces, townships and districts), and also allow local units the autonomy to raise and spend funds locally.
2- Enshrine in law the forms of decentralisation that have to date remained only geographic and cultural, such as the pre-unification realities of the “dual administration” governing model. This formalisation will free the territories from being managed as political party zones of influence and allow them to become official autonomous zones, each representing their unique politics, economies, cultures and histories. Legislation would organise these zones, and local elections would, in turn, allocate administrative power to local councils, who would have authority over the zones income and expenditure.
3- The current provincial system of governance in Iraq is dated and is the product of a century of centralised Iraqi politics. Hence, if the will is to create an active decentralised political system, then a positive step would be to increase the number of administrative units (Provinces, Townships and Districts). Such a solution is fitting for Kurdistan as its territory is naturally divided by mountains and rugged and challenging terrain. For example, the autonomous administrations of Garmian and Raparin can unite into a new province in Sulaimania, and the townships of Soran and Akre in Erbil and Duhok respectively can also become new provinces. These new provinces can then become part of the new autonomous zones.
4- To strengthen the united national government in regards to common national interests, and to reinforce confidence in power and collective national identity, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s international politics and security needs to remain exclusively the domain of the federal government in Erbil. The recommendation to Keep decision making over international politics and security centralised will work to strengthen national sentiment amongst the population of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Furthermore, the central power in Erbil needs to be an independent administrative unit and only have authority over national matters. It should be a symbol of national unity, and the Peshmerga and internal security agencies should be politically and administratively united.
5- In the model to implement devolution of power to the regions and local governments, it is not a requirement for all the local units to exercise the same levels and types of power. Instead, a higher law or new constitution could create an unbalanced power model, in which there are nuances in how much power it awards each autonomous zone or local administrative unit depending on the requirements and demands of each. For example, one autonomous zone or local administrative unit may desire power over economic and financial policy while another may desire more authority over education and health policy. A higher law or constitution will award each autonomous zones and administrative units different powers (political, economic, administrative, educational, health). In many countries around the world, such unbalanced power models already exist. For example, multiple autonomous territories make up the Spanish State, in which two (Catalonia and the Bask Region) exercise different and expanded local powers. Also, in Italy, of all its regions, only five (Siviglia, Sardinia, Tirunelveli, Aosta Valley and Friuli Venezia Giulia) have been awarded expanded powers under Article 116 of the Italian constitution. Hence, this model can also be implemented in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has a culture and politics dominated by centralisation. It also has a lack of experience, expertise, and robust institutions to run local administrative units effectively. Together they present significant obstacles to any decentralisation project to reorganise power in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Yet, the failure to build a new and accepted decentralised model only increases the threat of regional polarisation and deep divisions. Therefore, going forward the process of development, and maintaining stability and unity in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq presents significant risks.
Section Three:Imprisoned Islamic State Members: Solutions and Risks
After the war against the Islamic State restarted at the end of 2015 in Syria and Iraq, the number of imprisoned Islamic State fighters and associates increased exponentially. The last stand of the group’s Syria based fighters and their ultimate defeat in Syria’s Baghuz resulted in the arrest of the majority of the group’s Syria based fighters. Similarly, in Iraq, the last stance of the Islamic State’s Iraq based fighters in Hawija in Kirkuk resulted in the arrest of dozens of its combatants. These arrests marked the end of the Islamic State militarily and geographically.
– Imprisoned Islamic State members: Figures and Distribution:
To date, there are no precise figures for the number of imprisoned Islamic State members. The sensitivities around the issue and the lack of information available to national governments and international human rights organisations make such a count difficult. This difficulty is compounded as many of the prisoners originate from third countries and hold different nationalities. Furthermore, host states are keeping the most dangerous prisoners hidden to use them as political pressure cards in future. However, our research found the figures to be as follows:
1- In Iraq, there are approximately 19,000 Islamic State prisoners spread over 15 federal prisons. Of this, trials have been conducted for 3,000, all of which have been sentenced to and given the death penalty.
2- In Syria (by which we mean north-eastern Syria’s Rojava Canton), the Syrian Democratic Forces are holding approximately 12,000 Islamic State prisoners across eight primary prisons. The Syrian State is also holding prisoners, although they have yet to provide official figures.
3- In Turkey, official statements indicate that it has 700 Islamic State fighters imprisoned.
4- In Jordan, there are approximately 300 imprisoned Islamic State fighters.
These figures are significant and concerning. They also present a threat to international peace and security. Hence, the issue is often referred to as a ticking time bomb. In all, the prisoners are believed to hold citizenship from 54 different states. These figures do not account for the families of the prisoners who at present are contained in specialised camps. There are more than 100,000 inhabitants in these camps, the majority of which are children who have yet to undergo any de-radicalisation program.
– Islamic State Prisoners: Between Law and Political Conflicts:
As many of the Islamic State prisoners (approximately 3,000) hold European citizenship, in a public statement, US President Donald Trump suggested European nations take back their respective citizens. Donald Trump’s announcement caused unease among European states. For several legal and political reasons, European countries are unwilling to repatriate Islamic State members and their families. For the most part, European governments believe that while the issue is humanitarian, it is also a military and security problem. At present European governments are concerned that other countries, like Turkey, will use the issue to apply political pressure against them and their interests.
On the opposite side, the Syrian Democratic Forces feel burdened with these prisoners. Providing prison security for is costly and requires approximately 8000 security guards. This is in addition to the significant costs being shouldered by the Syrian Democratic Forces to provide health provisions and essential services for the camps holding the families of prisoners. Another element of the issue is the question of legal codes and trials as the Canton’s of north-eastern Syria have abolished the death penalty. In all, only four states (Australia, Russia, Sudan and Iraq) have, to date, repatriated families of Islamic State fighters.
Risks and Scenarios Going Forward and the Status of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in the Issue
A severe and unresolved issue that becomes more pressing by the day is the issue of Islamic State children who currently make up approximately 60 percent of camp populations. One working hypothesis is that as these children, most of whom have become radicalised, come of age, they will have sufficient numbers to form a significant army. Furthermore, the State of the Rojava canton is becoming progressively less stable as a result of regional and international conflicts and the financial and humanitarian pressures on them are so high that it is unlikely that the administration in Rojava can maintain prisons and camps in the long-term.
Three practical problems have also worked to complicate the issue. The first was the escape of 750 Islamic State family members and 180 Islamic State prisoners as a consequence of Turkish military operations in Syria. The second was the withdrawal of United States forces from north-eastern Syria. The third is the threat COVID-19 presents with respect to the future of the international coalition and contagion in prisons.
These issues are a challenge to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in two respects. First, the Region hosts several federal prisons holding Islamic State prisoners. Second, the Iraqi disputed territories currently host the most Islamic State activity with an estimated 2000 fighters currently operating in those territories.
Scenario 1: The international community’s aversion to local trials results in the formation of an international court to try all foreign Islamic State prisoners and send them back to the respective home nations.
Scenario 2: The issue of Islamic State prisoners remains unresolved, but de-radicalisation programs allow for the repatriation of Islamic State children to their countries.
Scenario 3: The Islamic State resurges in a new form and once again changes the regional dynamics. When the Islamic State launched their initial attack on Mosul in 2014, they initially freed prisoners from Badush. This experience suggests that the prisons were and remain the best centres of radicalisation for the Islamic State. Abu-Bakir al-Baghdadi’s experience is a strong example of the indoctrinating and radicalising power of prisons for the Islamic State.
In conclusion, we can argue that the threat posed by Islamic State prisoners to the international community and the local region is significant. The general withdrawal of the forces of the United States and the International Coalition from the area (as was seen in Qaim, which hosted the base that oversaw operations against the Islamic State in western Iraq and the Albukaim Region of Syria) raises the threat level posed by Islamic State prisoners. Furthermore, the United States and the International Coalition have abandoned both the K1 Military Base in Kirkuk and the Giara Military Base in Mosul. Hence, based on current developments, we assess the third scenario is the most likely outcome. Its realisation will threaten the Kurdistan Region of Iraq primarily. The majority of this threat is expected to face the Iraqi disputed territories as 2000 Islamic State fighters are currently based there.