The Islamic State in Iraq

1st April 2019
Author: Dylan O'Driscoll

This rapid review synthesises the literature from academic, policy and NGO sources on the Islamic State’s (IS) current and historical operations in Iraq, as well as the historic and current drivers of violent extremism in Iraq. Although IS has been defeated territorially it remains active across Iraq, particularly in the rural parts of Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Diyala, and Anbar. It has also managed to set up a stronghold for its operations within the Hamrin mountain range. IS has returned to the pre-2014 insurgency tactics and focuses its attention on targeted assassinations of government officials and key tribal and village officials seen to be working with the government. This has allowed IS to exert control over rural areas where it easily operates at night. At the same time, it carries out kidnappings and robberies in order to finance its operations. Analysts argue that IS is slowly building its physical and non-physical infrastructure in these areas in order to increase attacks and facilitate the spread of its operations. Although IS attacks have decreased during its current reorganisation phase, IS has focused its attention on higher quality targets. The large amount of finances IS managed to gain whilst holding territory enabled investment in legitimate and illegitimate businesses in Iraq as the Caliphate fell. This ensures that IS still gains funds in Iraq, although nowhere near the previous level

Suggested Citation

O’Driscoll, D. (2019). The Islamic State in Iraq. K4D Helpdesk, Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


1st April 2019


Continent: Asia

Country: Iraq