Iraq ends 2016 with its leaders publicly praising the country’s security improvements, yet internally it is deeply divided. In 2017, higher average oil prices ought to offer federal Iraq some relief, but it must manage military operations in the north and west, while the run-up to elections is accompanied by increasingly threatening rhetoric from rival Shia parties.

In military terms, the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has progressed positively through most of the year. Prime Minister Haidar al-‘Abadi and other officials have endlessly talked of “our forces’ successive victories,” while the national media down played failures. Although slow and interrupted by periodic setbacks, the general trend was clear, with territory controlled by IS gradually shrinking as Iraqi forces converged on Mosul in the northwest; the last remaining large city in Iraq under the militant group’s control. (CONTINUED - 2074 WORDS)