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Iraqi Officials Fear Full Blown Civil War
Posted on May 4, 2013
After the deadliest month of political fighting in five years, Iraq appears to be sliding rapidly into a new civil war that “will be worse than Syria,” leaders say.
The escalating violence has residents of Baghdad stocking up on rice, vegetables and other foods in case fighting or curfews prevent them from getting to shops. “It is wrong to say we are getting close to a civil war,” a senior Iraqi politician said. “The civil war has already started.”
The already-tense security situation in Shiite-dominated Iraq unraveled when roughly 36 Sunni Arab protesters were killed at a sit-in in a town north of Baghdad late last month. Observers say Sunni and Shiite Muslims are staying away from each other’s territories. Iraq’s population is majority Shiite.
“Signs of deteriorating security are everywhere,” writes Patrick Cockburn, The Independent’s Middle East correspondent. “Al-Qa’ida showed its reach on Monday when five car bombs blew up in overwhelmingly Shia southern Iraq, leaving 21 dead. The Sunni fundamentalist group, which had a resurgence in 2012, is responsible for killing a majority of the almost 1,500 Iraqis who have died in political violence so far this year.”
Cockburn explains that “The crises in Iraq and Syria are now cross-infecting each other. The two-year-old uprising of the Sunni in Syria encouraged their compatriots in Iraq, who share a common frontier, to start their own protests. These began last December and, until the army killed and injured scores of protesters at Hawijah, were largely peaceful.” Sunnis in Iraq drew courage from the knowledge that they are a majority in the region, though they are minority in their own country.
“The revolts in the two countries are ever more running in parallel,” Cockburn continues. “Al- Qa’ida in Iraq last month announced that it had founded the al-Nusra Front, the most effective Syrian rebel military force, devoted half its budget to support it and sent experienced al-Qa’ida fighters to Syria as reinforcements.”
Ghassan al-Attiyah, a political scientist in Baghdad, says that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has alienated the country’s Sunni population by consolidating support among the Shiite. “[Maliki] may have won over the Shia but he has lost Iraq,” Ghassan said. He thinks the keys to the current crisis are Maliki stepping down and a more neutral prime minister taking his place.
“It is not likely to happen,” Cockburn writes. “The Shia of Iraq suspect that they may be facing a fight for their existence. These fears may be exaggerated, and deliberately inflated by the government, but they secure Mr Maliki’s political base. The Iranians have their openly expressed doubts about him, but they do not want to see him displaced while they are fighting to save their ally in Syria.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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