A money-and-death triangle is emerging in the area to the north and east of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Absent any monitoring, intelligence legwork, or other broader security and political economic interventions, this oil-rich area stands to become a hotbed of terrorist operations and money harvesting and could see the return of activities that could again kick up dust storms of sectarianism.
This triangle is home to nearly 1,200 active members who survived the campaign to dismantle the ISIS caliphate. It is spread across over 17,000 square kilometers (6,500 square miles) of topography consisting of hills, mountains, valleys, and large swaths of desert and farmland, which accounts for something like 5% of Iraq’s surface area. Indeed, this could be a prelude to ISIS’s re-empowered underground camps, stockpiles, and investments, leading up to a full-blown comeback, particularly since the majority of ISIS field commanders and fighters operating in these territories are locals.