Commentary

Iraq Sees Spike in Violence

Middle East In Focus

Middle East In Focus

After months of relative silence, Iraq is once again attracting the attention of the international community and regional observers. Unfortunately, the renewed interest in Iraq comes about as the country reels back from a wave of violence that has seen over 100 dead and many more injured. While al-Qaeda has been identified as the perpetrator of the attacks, some have suggested that the real culprit is Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s policies and alleged discrimination against the minorities in Iraq.

Reflecting on what they perceive as a dangerous drift toward violence, the Saudi Gazette editorial notes: “Everything that Maliki has done has appeared calculated to undermine a cohesive Iraq. As a result Iraqis are paying a terrible price. Al-Qaeda has focused its bloody crimes on Shias, in the expectation that they will retaliate against Sunnis and the death squads will be back on the streets. Its terror assaults on Kurds in the north are designed to encourage separatists. The aim is an Iraqi disintegration, in the ruins of which the terrorists can plant and grow wider operations, like maggots in a corpse.”

Considering the timing of the violence, the Gulf Times editorial characterizes that attacks as “a terrible crime against humanity…. Terror strikes are not uncommon unfortunately, especially in the Muslim world, but the fact that there exist convoluted minds who can orchestrate such despicable acts during the Holy Month of Ramadan is something that is hard to digest and even harder to forgive....Whatever motivates them, the fact remains that Iraq, once a leading civilization, is now struggling to stand on its feet. With various political groups jostling for power and outfits like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq thrown into the mix, it’s a situation the international community, especially the countries in the neighborhood, can ignore at their own peril.”

According to most observers, including the Khaleej Times staff, “The country, of late, has seen renewed political tensions, which to a great extent had acted as catalyst in providing unscrupulous elements with an opportunity to stage a comeback. The acrimony between Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his allies, especially a vice-president, has been at the heart of the dispute — unnerving achievements that the government had attained since the pullout of US forces.... It is incumbent upon the government to revisit its peace strategy, and ensure that it doesn’t slide back into anarchy.”

The Peninsula, on the other hand, wonders whether the latest carnage is “a sign that the country is headed towards another round of vicious sectarian bloodletting that peaked in 2007? ...It’s time for the Nouri Al Maliki government to wake up from its slumber and work for a united Iraq and for Arab countries to persuade him to run a fully representative government which treats all sections of people equally....The Syrian crisis too is having an impact on the streets of Iraq….The government in Baghdad has been more sympathetic to the Assad regime than the fighters in Syria, which has only helped deepen the divide between Iraq’s Sunnis and their government.”

In fact, it appears that the developments in Syria have had a greater impact on Iraqi politics than previously thought. The Daily Star’s Rami Khouri reminds his readers that Syria and Iraq are part of the same political tradition: “What should we make of the fact that the two countries where the Arab Socialist Baath Party ruled for many decades are now poster children for wrecks of modern Arab statehood that have descended into urban warfare? Syria and Iraq are not only sad places today for the suffering their people endure in conditions of rampant violence. They are sad also for their modern legacy as police states that demeaned their people so grievously that they provoked several popular uprisings the regimes tried to put down with brute force.”

Finally, there is a sense that the Maliki government in Iraq has been more likely to back the Assad regime than the Free Syrian Army. While it is not clear whether this has affected the attitude of Syrian rebels toward Iraqi refugees in Syria or not, according a report by Azzaman’s Sarri al-Rawi “Iraqi refugees in Syria say Syrian rebels have been targeting them on sectarian grounds as conditions in Syria are worsening by every passing day. Thousands of Iraqis have returned home and there are reports of at least 23 Iraqi refugees killed since the latest bout of fighting in Damascus....Iraqi members of parliament have blamed the government for inaction. The government says it is doing its best to get the Iraqis back home and has planes at the Damascus International Airport waiting for those willing to return. But the refugees say it is no longer safe to travel to the airport.”


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