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Conclusion: The Iraq legacies and the roots of the ‘Islamic State’

Version 2 2024-06-03, 15:44
Version 1 2015-04-23, 12:24
posted on 2024-06-03, 15:44 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan
With the deadly ISIS advance, the sudden rousing of Shia militias and the threat of Kurdish secession, Iraq faces a host of deep-seated and intractable problems. Together, these events raise a number of serious questions, not just for Iraq and its future but also for the broader Middle East, the United States and its Coalition partners and the international community. While these challenges and questions will drive much academic debate, political analysis and media discussion in the months and years ahead, they are not the central purpose of this chapter. While there is always a risk in commenting on unfolding events, including the potential to overstate their significance and likely long-term impact, it is difficult to ignore the significance of the deadly ISIS advance and all that has happened since. This chapter argues that key to understanding these events is coming to terms with the three varied and complex legacies of the 2003 Iraq War. The first central legacy of the Iraq War is the ongoing consequences of several critical mistakes made by the US-led Coalition before, during and immediately after the 2003 intervention. The second legacy addressed here is the fact that the 2003 war shattered – perhaps irreversibly - Iraqis fragile cultural mosaic and its rich and complex history of overlapping and intersecting communities, ideologies and narratives. The third and final legacy of the 2003 Iraq War detailed in this chapter is its significant regional and global consequences – from spiralling sectarianism across the Middle East to a profound challenge to America’s status as the last remaining superpower and its use of military power for ‘humanitarian’ ends. The argument here is that these three important legacies set in train a sequence of events that have served as the collective catalyst for the expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ from mid-2014.


Chapter number








Publication classification

B1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2015, Edinburgh University Press




Isakhan, B


Edinburgh University Press

Place of publication

Edinburgh, Scotland

Title of book

The legacy of Iraq: from the 2003 War to the ‘Islamic State’