Sunni-Shi’ite battles spread like wildfire

We are seeing a region divided, where fighters cross borders to support their brethren in other countries such as Syria. Meanwhile, internal conflicts within the Sunni and Shi’ite camps are spreading across borders.

August 4, 2013 06:43
2 minute read.
IRAQI SUNNIS wave national flags, Dec. 31, 2012

IRAQI SUNNIS wave national flags 370. (photo credit: Ali al-Mashhadani/Reuters)

Two of Iraq’s most prominent Shi’ite leaders, Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al- Hakim, called on Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki to resign because of his lack of action in the midst of non-stop bombings and security lapses, according to a report on Wednesday in the London based daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

A week ago, 500 al-Qaida-affiliated prisoners escaped from Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons. Iraq is in the headlines almost every day as another bombing or attack takes a heavy death toll in the sectarian war between the ruling – and majority – Shi’ites and the Sunnis. The security situation has continued to deteriorate, especially since US forces completed its withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011. The US eventually was able to keep a lid on the violence by drastically increasing its military presence and by paying off various tribes.

The war raging next door in Syria has also inflamed sectarian tensions in Iraq as the Sunni rebels fight the Iranian allied regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The rebels are resentful of the fact that the Shi’ite regime in Iraq is facilitating Iran’s involvement in the Syrian war.

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Iraq has been allowing their Shi’ite coreligionists in Iran to send planes through their airspace on their way to Syria.

Meanwhile, Sunni radical groups linked to al-Qaida have been carrying out attacks against Shi’ite sites in Iraq.

Moreover, there are reports that both Sunni and Shi’ite fighters from Iraq are participating in the sectarian conflict in Syria.

How long will it take for the sectarian war in Syria to spread to Iraq? If Assad falls and the Islamist dominated opposition takes over, tension between the two countries would be greatly increased and it’s likely the new Syrian regime would aid their Sunni brothers in Iraq against their Shi’ite rulers.

Meanwhile, spurred on by the events in Egypt, opponents of the regimes in Tunisia and Libya have taken to the streets.

Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party said on Tuesday it was ready to form a new government – a compromise demanded of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, which he was unwilling or unable to make.

“Ennahda was freaked out by Egypt, it is definitely a nightmare scenario for them,” said Monica Marks, a Tunisia-based analyst.

Tunisia also suffered the loss of eight soldiers last week when Al-Qaida linked fighters attacked. These fighters are based in the mountainous region near the Algerian border. Jihadists who fled Mali following the French intervention there are reported to have taken refuge in this region.

We are seeing a region divided in a Sunni-Shi’ite battle, where fighters cross borders to support their brethren in other countries such as Syria, and where funds and supplies are sent as well. In addition, we have internal conflicts within the Sunni and Shi’ite camps, which also are spreading across borders. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups are struggling for power against other Sunni leaders in the region – in the Gulf States and in Jordan, where the government is being destabilized from refugees from Syria.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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