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Land Grabs in Iraq

The Competition Over ISIS-Freed Territory

Iraqi Sunni Muslim fighters from the Popular Mobilization Force in Anbar province, January 9, 2016. Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters

With the fall of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) seemingly imminent, nearly every Iraqi political group and its associated militia have been rushing to take control of the newly liberated territories in the governorates of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Salahadin. Those that have been the most successful are the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), an umbrella of over three dozen mostly Shiite armed groups formed in 2014 to fight ISIS, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of the two main Kurdish political parties in Iraq. (The Iraqi government, meanwhile, has been notably slow in reclaiming its own land.)

Some of the land that is up for grabs is rich in oil, and control over more territory would mean gaining more political leverage in Baghdad. What is more, the five governorates, in which the territories are located, were disputed even before the ISIS takeover in 2014. Both the semi-autonomous Kurdistan

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