The year 2014 was a horrible one for Iraq. The national election held in April was preceded by two ominous trends: an increasingly strong, armed insurgency from the Sunni Arab population and an increasingly sharp sectarian conflict within the mainstream political system, driven by actions of both the Shia Islamist-dominated government and Sunni Arab political leaders. A divisive election with a disputed result was followed by a strong insurgency, and while both pan-Arab and Iraqi Sunni media tended to frame it as a “revolution” driven by oppressed Sunni tribesmen, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), a brutal terrorist group with a globalist Salafi-Jihadist ideology, was its primary driver.
The crucible event of the year was the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s most populous Sunni-majority city in the northwest province of Nineveh, to ISIS jihadists on June 10. The city did not fall without resistance, as is sometimes said, as federal police units fought a four-day gun battle for the city, while army divisions, including two garrisoned right outside the city, watched on. Once resistance in the city collapsed, several Iraqi army divisions, weakened by sectarian divisions and riddled with corruption, collapsed almost overnight, and terrorists overran much of northern and western Iraq. These events were a watershed for Iraq, and especially for its Sunni Arab population, and it is Sunni Arab politics since 2014 which is the focus of this chapter.