Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Kenneth Katzman. August 12, 2014.
Since the 2011 U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, sectarian and ethnic divisions have widened, fueling a major challenge to Iraq’s stability and to Iraq’s non-Muslim minority communities. Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have sided with radical Sunni Islamist insurgents as a means to end Shiite political domination and perceived discrimination by the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Iraq’s Kurds have been separately embroiled in political disputes with the Baghdad government over territorial, political, and economic issues, particularly their intent to separately export large volumes of oil produced in the Kurdish region. The political rifts–which were contained by the U.S. military presence but have been escalating since late 2011–erupted into a sustained uprising beginning in December 2013 led by the radical extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now renamed the Islamic State. The group and its allies took control of several cities in Anbar Province in early 2014 and in a lightening offensive captured Mosul and several other mostly Sunni cities in June 2014, aided by a partial collapse of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The ISF collapse enabled the Kurds to seize control of the long-coveted city of Kirkuk.
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