Iraq, long a stronghold of both Shia and Sunni Islam, as well as a haven for religious minorities, increasingly represents a country in which religion and sectarianism constitute divisive forces, expressed in both politics and violence. An insurgency with considerable transnational aspects is tied up in domestic issues of governance and sectarian representation.
1The contest for power on the basis of sectarian identity has been a recurring theme in Iraq's modern history. After the removal of Saddam Hussein, poor governance and mismanaged reconstruction policies exacerbated suppressed sectarian divisions.
2ISIS constitutes a rebranding of the post-2003 Sunni insurgency, and the organisation has a decade's worth of experience in mobilising Iraq's Sunni Arab tribes and militants against the Iraqi state.
3Violence in Iraq is inherently tied to the actions and situation of its regional neighbours. In particular, the conflict in Syria has exacerbated regional sectarianism, and Iraqi Shia militias have fought alongside the Syrian regime and Hizbullah.