How Mosul fell: the role of coup-proofing in the 2014 partial collapse of the Iraqi security forces

  • Quint HoekstraEmail author
Original Article


The Islamic State’s capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul in June 2014 was a seismic event. How can this be explained? This article answers this question by turning to the literature on anti-coup d’état measures and its side effects. It argues that, to prevent a military coup, Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki engaged in extensive ‘coup-proofing’ methods such as purging rivals, ethnic staking, creating a parallel security force, and increasing intra-government surveillance. These measures were highly effective in preventing a possible military putsch but did greatly reduce the Iraqi troops’ capacity and willingness to fight. Ethnic stacking in particular resulted in mass troop desertions when the Islamic State advanced in 2014. In advancing this argument, this article not only helps us better understand the dramatic fall of Mosul, but may also assist states to strengthen other international assistance programmes for governments fighting domestic insurgencies.


Iraq Coup-proofing Nouri al-Maliki Counterinsurgency Islamic State 



The author would like to thank Reinoud Leenders, Martin Coward, and one anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this article, which first started as the author’s MA thesis submitted to the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.


The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, or publication of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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