Sunni Iraq And Syria

map - syria iraq

Patrick Markey has a Reuters Analysis piece today that deals with something I’ve alluded to in the past – that Iraq is headed for another eruptive episode in its ongoing civil war and it is a tossup whether the ignition point will be Kurds vs Baghdad, Kurds vs Sunnis or Sunnis vs Baghdad/Shiites. Markey has a detailed look at the latter as protests, bombings and armed confrontations build on a sense of marginalization, with Iraqi leader Nour al-Maliki using de-Baathification laws, accusations against Sunni leaders and Shiite fear to boldter his rule.

Already protests are becoming volatile. Iraqi troops shot five people in clashes in Falluja on Friday, illustrating the room for miscalculation with sectarian hardliners and Islamist insurgents trying to steer unrest into crisis.

ust outside Ramadi, Sunni men sleep in tents and pray along a blockaded highway, wrapping themselves in old three-star Iraqi national flags, chanting slogans and waving migwars, the wooden mace that Iraqis used to fight the British in the 1920s.

Defiant banners hung on tents call out: “No to Maliki’s Justice” and “I will not leave until I get dignity”.

In fiery speeches from clerics and tribal leaders, talk of reforms mixes with calls to topple the Shi’ite-led government and the more radical demand to split away an autonomous Sunni region in Anbar province along Iraq’s western flank.

“This is just the culmination of years of injustice against us,” said Munim al-Mindeel, a farmer sitting outside a tent decorated with anti-government banners. “Of course this was bound to happen. All pressure brings explosions in the end.”

… The Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been a prime mover in a drive to create a Sunni entity along the border with Syria, by force if needed, senior Sunni sources say.

…Al Qaeda’s local wing, Islamic State of Iraq, is also regrouping in the deserts of Anbar, and sending some fighters to join Syria’s rebels, Iraqi security officials acknowledge.

While moderates called for calm after Friday’s deadly clashes, in Falluja, small groups of protesters waved the black jihadist banner of al Qaeda. The group had claimed a suicide bombing that killed a top Falluja lawmaker days earlier.

Then there’s the civil war just across the border in Syria.

After any Syrian collapse, Iraqi Shi’ite officials see Islamist fighters turning their weapons back on Baghdad. Their worst case scenario is a Sunni population in revolt against Baghdad and becoming a magnet for jihadists.

“Everyone is asking where are we heading, no one knows,” said one influential Shi’ite leader. “Our biggest fear is that the regime in Syria collapses, then an Iraqi Sunni region will be announced next day, and fighting will erupt.”

The most effective rebel force in Syria is the Al-Nusra Front, designated a terror group by the U.S. and strongly affiliated with Al Qaeda. One of the reasons the Front is so effective is that it had a cadre of fighters who’d learned their craft in Iraq. This has been a chapter from the book of unintended consequences – another chapter being Mali.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The Kurds are playing the long game. They have been for years. They have a population that supports them and they have leaders who are nationalist before religious. Their strategy is likely to hold what they have in Iraq as the center piece of their eventual nation. They have, for the moment, a resource, oil, to support their efforts. They are now entering a phase where they could break off a piece of Syria and bring it home. Then they can turn to Turkey and Iran and get their people and land from those places. Like I said it’s a long game.

    The Sunni’s of that area have lost their center with the loss of Hussein. And that was not a people centered power base anyway. It was despot based. The same is true of the Assad faction in Syria.

    The Shia on the other hand do have some people bases of power. But they do not have a history like the Kurds except in Iran which is similar but different.

    If the Turegs are as sophisticated as the Kurds they can play the long game as well. But their resource base is not in place to support them and if there is oil in their sands it is too late for them to profit from it because by then oil will be defacto outlawed worldwide. If the Kurds are smart they see that handwriting on the wall too.

    The turbulence of the the Muslim world has been oil fueled. As oil gets banned the turbulence of the Muslim world will wane and become quaint.

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