Kawa Hassan Talks to EL MUNDO on How ISIS Benefits from Coronavirus Spread in Iraq

Media Coverage | April 14, 2020

On April 11, EWI's Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa program Kawa Hassan gave an interview with EL MUNDO to discuss the resurgence of ISIS in Iraq, amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

Click here to read the interview on EL MUNDO (in Spanish). Click here to read a translation of Hassan's comments in Arabic.

Read an English tranlsation of Hassan's comments, below. 

Recent ISIS attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians are worrying, yet, they haven't gained sufficient media and policy attention due to the preoccupation of the world with the spread of COVID-19.

In this regard, ISIS is benefiting from four factors. First, coronavirus has forced the government and security forces to focus on containing the spread of the virus. Second, lack of coordination and cooperation between federal security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga have created a security vacuum in the disputed territories—after the Kuridsh referendum in 2017, Iraqi security forces and the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) regained control of these territories and the Pehmerga were forced to withdraw to the Kurdistan region. Third, military attacks by paramilitaries against the U.S.-led international coalition have forced the coalition to scale down their support to the operations of Iraqi forces against ISIS. Fourth and final, due to the fear of being infected with coronavirus, the U.S.-led international coalition and NATO training mission suspended their operations [for two months).

Taken together, these developments have given ISIS a new lease of life. According to some Iraqi media, ISIS has changed its tactics. Now, they operate in small groups in the disputed territories, they conduct long term surveillance of Iraqi security forces and then wait for the right time to attack by taking advantage of bad weather and relaxing posture of Iraqi forces.