Press Release: "Beyond the Islamic State: Iraq's Sunni Insurgency"


  Contact: John D. Lawrence

(202) 293-5550 x205

The Institute for the Study of War Releases
Beyond The Islamic State: Iraq's Sunni Insurgency

ISW identifies "the most difficult requirement for the 
counter-ISIS campaign"


WASHINGTON, DC - On October 6, the Institute for the Study of War released a new report on Sunni insurgent groups other than ISIS in Iraq.  Although the global community is now focused on the ISIS threat and is building an anti-ISIS coalition, this report shows that these other violent Sunni groups "remain a threat to the government of Iraq even if ISIS is removed." 


The authors conclude that "a strategy to destroy ISIS requires that...the Sunni population once more decides to side with the Iraqi government to fight ISIS on behalf of the state. This will likely be the most difficult requirement for the counter-ISIS campaign."


This report was co-written by Sinan Adnan and Aaron Reese, an Iraq Research Assistant and Deputy Research Director, respectively.  "Sinan Adnan" is a pseudonym for an Iraqi-American employee of ISW whose identity ISW is protecting for security reasons.  He has served with the U.S. military and has contributed to many Iraq research products while at ISW.  This is his first full-length report.


ISW's President, Dr. Kim Kagan, said "Sinan's work has informed ISW's research from behind the scenes for quite a while.  His understanding of on-the-ground realities in Iraq is keen and few could bring insights into the various Sunni insurgent groups as he can."


This report states that the "success of a ground war against ISIS in Iraq depends upon the Sunni population."  After the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, former Prime Minister Maliki's political marginalization of Sunni leaders and sectarian command of the Iraqi Security Forces spurred an anti-government protest movement. The protest movements spawned the resurgence of an organized, overt militant opposition after the ISF killed civilians while attempting to clear a protest camp in 2013.


The lack of national-level Sunni leadership also feeds support for these groups.  Former leaders have lost credibility and no longer represent the Sunni population.  Therefore, Baghdad must make a concerted effort to appeal to Iraq's Sunni population to mend this split which is a critical vulnerability of the Iraqi state. Getting the Sunni population to cooperate with the Iraqi government to expel ISIS is far from a foregone conclusion but is key to a counter-ISIS campaign.


Read the full report here. 

For media inquiries, please contact John Lawrence at [email protected] or at (202) 293-5550 x205.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation's ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. Visit us at