Center for American Progress

Background Basics: Iraq’s Groups and Regional Actors

Background Basics: Iraq’s Groups and Regional Actors

Many groups influence the dynamics of the War in Iraq, both within and outside of the country. CAP has a primer for following the groups in the news.

Iraq: Sunni Arab Groups

Al-Anbar Awakening/Anbar Salvation Council: Alliance of Sunni tribes organized to fight Al Qaeda in Anbar province and supportive of the ruling national coalition.

Baath Party: A secular Arab nationalist party that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Islamic State of Iraq: Umbrella organization for Al Qaeda in Iraq and other jihadist and insurgent groups affiliated with its ideology. The ISI seeks ultimate control over Iraq’s Sunni insurgency.

Islamic Army of Iraq: Sunni nationalist insurgent group opposed to Al Qaeda-affiliates such as the Islamic State of Iraq as well as the ruling coalition.

Iraqi Accord Front: Sunni Islamist coalition that currently serves in the al-Maliki government but has threatened to pull out if promised constitutional changes are not delivered. The IAF is the main Sunni bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

Iraqi Islamic Party: Strongly nationalist Sunni Islamist party that is the main component of the IAF. Led by Tariq al-Hashimi, one of Iraq’s vice presidents.

Iraqi National Dialogue Front: A nationalist-oriented, Sunni party founded by Saleh Mutlak, the chief Sunni negotiator on the constitution who wound up opposing the constitution.

Association of Muslim Scholars: Formed by a group of Sunni Muslim religious leaders in Iraq, the AMS opposes the U.S. military presence and has voiced opposition to Iraq’s political transition.

1920 Revolution Brigade:
A Sunni nationalist group in Iraq named after the 1920 revolution against British colonial rule that has fought against elements of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Iraq: Shi’a Arab Groups

United Iraqi Alliance: The coalition of Shi’a religious parties commanding the largest number of seats in the Iraqi parliament. Along with the main Kurdish parties, the UIA keeps the current government in power.

Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council: Formerly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. SIIC is an Iranian-aligned Shi’a Islamist party headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and part of the leading Shi’a bloc, the UIA.

Badr Organization: The paramilitary wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, heavily suspected of infiltrating Iraqi security forces, especially the Interior Ministry.

Sadrist Movement: Shi’a Islamist movement headed by Muqtada al-Sadr that is strongly nationalist and anti-coalition. Sadrists recently left the al-Maliki government, though they remain a part of the UIA.

Madhi Army: Militia controlled by Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Widely suspected of perpetrating much of the anti-Sunni sectarian violence and infiltrating Iraqi security forces.

Dawa Party: Shi’a Islamist party that has provided Iraq’s two elected prime ministers, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki. Member of the UIA.

Fadhila Party: Anti-Iranian and anti-Sadrist Shi’a Islamist party. Fadhila controls the government of the main southern city of Basra and recently withdrew from the government and the United Iraqi Alliance.

Kurdish Groups

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: One of two main Kurdish nationalist parties, the PUK is headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Kurdistan Democratic Party: One of two main Kurdish nationalist parties, the KDP is led by Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani. Fought the PUK in the mid-1990s.

Kurdistan Regional Government: The KRG is an autonomous region comprising three Kurdish-majority provinces in northern Iraq. It is governed primarily by an alliance between the KDP and PUK.

Peshmerga: Long-standing Kurdish militia. Some peshmerga were integrated into the Iraqi national army, but many remain under the control of the KDP and PUK.

Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK: Turkish Kurd separatist organization that has used terrorism in its armed campaign against Turkey. The status of the PKK in northern Iraq is a major sticking point in Turkish-Iraqi relations.

Iraqi Cross-Ethnic and Sectarian Nationalist Groups

Iraqi National List: Non-sectarian parliamentary bloc headed by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and his Iraqi National Accord party.

Regional Groups and Diplomacy

Arab League: International organization composed of all Arab states. The Arab Peace Initiative has been promoted under the auspices of the Arab League.

Arab Peace Initiative: A 2002 proposal by Saudi King Abdullah, further adapted by the Arab League, to trade Israel’s return to its 1967 borders in return for comprehensive peace and normal relations with all Arab states. Discussion of the Initiative has been renewed recently by the Arab states and Israel.

Clinton Parameters: Presented by President Clinton at a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian officials after the collapse of the 2000 Camp David summit, the Clinton Parameters offered guidelines to address the fundamental issues at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli confl ict including final borders, refugees, and Jerusalem, among other issues.

Fatah: Secular Palestinian nationalist party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Negotiated the Oslo agreement and recognizes Israel.

Fatah al-Islam: Palestinian-Lebanese Islamist extremist group that fought Lebanese security forces in mid-2007. Not to be confused with the Fatah party headed by Abbas.

Gulf Cooperation Council: A loose alliance between the Arab Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Hamas: Palestinian Sunni Islamist political party with an armed wing that frequently engages in terrorism. Does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Hezbollah: Lebanese Shi’a Islamist party with an armed wing that engages in terrorist actions and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Organization of the Islamic Conference:
International organization consisting of most Muslim-majority countries.

Palestine Liberation Organization: Primary political organization regarded by the Arab League since 1974 as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and includes main Palestinian factions such as Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Palestinian People’s Party, among other factions, but does not include Hamas.

Quartet on the Middle East:
Established in 2002 and consisting of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, the Quartet has worked to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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