For the first time since the defeat of Da’ish, church bells tolled in northern Iraq last week to celebrate Easter. Palm Sunday saw large crowds turn out in Bakhdida district in a jubilant show of resilience that was reminiscent of the Easter processions held on the same streets before the northern offensive by Da’ish in 2014 and the subsequent occupation of much of Iraq’s north. The recuperation of communities decimated by the events of the last few years is under way and whilst the challenges facing the state are clear, the dauntingly bleak future many predicted for Iraq now seems rather vacuous. The latest numbers by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate a staggering 3,573,060 refugees have returned to their areas of origin following liberation at the hands of the Iraqi military.
All in all, Iraq is firmly on track to rehabilitate its security environment and continue to rebuild its military strength. However, robust contingency plans must be put in place to tackle the growing threat of a Da’ish insurgency, particularly in western Anbar and Kirkuk and a genuine push for alleviating post-referendum tensions must take place between Baghdad and Erbil as soon as possible so that a comprehensive security framework can be put in place for Kirkuk and other disputed areas.