Podcast: Escalating Protests in Iraq


Crisis Brief is a new special edition of ISW's Overwatch podcast series intended to provide timely updates on unfolding crises with implications for U.S. national security.

Crisis Brief: The Risk of an Iranian Military Response (Update #6 - October 8, 2019)

Iran signaled it may send Iranian security forces to Iraq, ostensibly to secure the upcoming Arbae’en pilgrimage. But Iran may alternatively be preparing these Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) to help suppress Iraqi protests. The LEF previously helped the Bashar al Assad regime attempt to suppress the Syrian rebellion as early as 2011. The Iranian Regime has used it more recently to quell domestic protests. The unit may assist Iran’s proxies in Iraq to do the same. Nicholas Carl, an Iran expert from the Critical Threats Project, discusses this possibility and its implications with ISW’s Research Director Jennifer Cafarella.

Listen on Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. Read the transcript here.

Crisis Brief: Iran's Coup by Proxy (Update #5 - October 7, 2019)

The Iraqi prime minister’s concessions to protesters reflects one aspect of the ongoing crisis, but it is only part of the story. There remains an ongoing competition for the future of Iraq. ISW Research Director Jennifer Cafarella and the Critical Threats Project’s Iran Analyst Nicholas Carl discuss the Iraqi government’s recent actions, what the information environment tells us about the situation on the ground, and how the Iranian regime is positioning its proxies as it vies for greater control.

Listen on Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. Read the transcript here.

Crisis Brief: What Could Happen Next (Update #4 - October 4, 2019)

This update outlines possible paths of escalation of the Iraq crisis. Multiple reports of assassinations and other targeted killings of activists and demonstrators reflect an attempt to suppress the protests through intimidation, likely by Iran's proxies. Leading Shi'a political figure Muqtada al Sadr called for the dissolution of the government and a new election in an attempt to oust the sitting Prime Minister, who has failed to address the crisis. A parliament session is reportedly scheduled for October 5th. It remains unclear whether a reshuffle in the political leadership in Baghdad would ameliorate protest demands, however. ISW's Iraq expert Samantha Leathley joins Jennifer Cafarella to discuss developments on the ground and what ISW is watching for next. 

Listen on Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. Read the transcript here.

Crisis Brief: How We Got Here (Update #3 - October 3, 2019)

This update addresses the political dynamics that have lead to recent mass protests against the Iraqi government. ISW's Research Director Jennifer Cafarella zooms out to discuss how key actors, domestic political competition, and Iranian influence over the last several years have shaped the current crisis. Crisis Brief is a special edition of the Overwatch series intended to provide timely updates on unfolding national security crises.

Listen on Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. Read the transcript here.

Crisis Brief: Baghdad Protests Morning Update (Update #2 - October 3, 2019) 

Iraqi protesters have defied a government curfew in Baghdad, triggering renewed clashes with security forces. The death toll is now at 19 with hundreds wounded. The internet remains severed as the Iraqi government tries to disrupt the protest momentum and minimize reports of civilian casualties. ISW Research Directer Jennifer Cafarella and CTP Iran Analyst Nicholas Carl discuss what has transpired in the last 12 hours and what to watch for next.

Listen on AppleSpotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. Read the transcript here.

Crisis Brief: Baghdad Protests (Update #1 - October 2, 2019) 

Crisis Brief is a special edition of the Overwatch series intended to provide timely updates on unfolding national security crises. In this installment, ISW's Research Director Jennifer Cafarella discusses a deteriorating political-security situation in Iraq. Mass protests against the Iraqi government have spread to eleven predominantly Shi'a provinces. Iraqi government forces have used live ammunition in multiple provinces and are fighting with protesters to secure Baghdad International Airport. This update describes the unfolding crisis and the possible trajectories for further escalation. 

Listen on AppleSpotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. Read the transcript here.