With the USA speeding up the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq due to the spread of COVID-19, many Iraqis fear that their country will become "a new battleground
" between Iran-backed militias and the Islamic State group (IS), according to a Foreign Policy report dated 6 April 2020. The report refers to the most recent issue of the Islamic State group"s propaganda magazine, Al-Naba. In it, IS members are urged "to step up their attacks on "˜crusader nations" while they are distracted by the Corona virus". The IS magazine also points out that "Western nations will not want to deploy their troops abroad in the midst of the pandemic". Foreign Policy thinks there has been little support for IS in Iraq ever since the scope of the group"s atrocities became known. However, "popular resentment of Iran-linked actors is growing" and in the past this evolved into widespread Sunni support of IS.
Henriette Kats, Persecution analyst at World Watch Research, comments: "The outbreak of COVID-19 has further complicated the security situation in Iraq. It might take some years before IS is fully back on its feet again, but the group did demonstrate its ability to bounce back once before, after US forces left in 2011. Such a resurgence would affect the whole population, especially religious minorities such as Christians. Since the territorial defeat of IS, the main source of pressure on Iraqi Christians has been from Shiite Iran-backed militias. If IS did return to strength, that pressure would most likely increase, with Christians finding themselves caught in the crossfire. That could then be the straw that breaks the camel"s back and cause the remaining Christians in Iraq to up and leave."