News / Middle East

Call to Arms Raises Fears of Iraqi Sunni-Shia War

Call to Arms Raises Fears of Iraqi Sunni-Shia Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
June 14, 2014 1:43 AM
Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric has issued a call to arms to worshippers, to defend the country against an advance by the Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, or ISIL. ISIL forces have captured large swaths of Iraq’s north and are just tens of kilometers from the capital. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, fears are growing of a Sunni-Shia sectarian war.
Call to Arms Raises Fears of Iraqi Sunni-Shia War
Henry Ridgwell
Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric has issued a call to arms to worshippers, to defend the country against an advance by the Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, or ISIL. ISIL forces have captured large swaths of Iraq’s north and are closing in on the capital. Fears are growing of a Sunni-Shia sectarian war.

Iraqi government forces are battling ISIL militants just 80 kilometers from Baghdad.

The speed of the Islamists’ advance has shaken Iraq and its allies.

ISIL draws strength from anti-government feeling among Iraq’s Sunni population, according to Ranj Alaaldin of the London School of Economics.

“They know that in places like Mosul, in Anbar, in the Nineveh province more generally, that they can get local support," said Alaaldin. "That the local community themselves are disenfranchised or they feel alienated by the central government in Baghdad, the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.”

 
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
 
  • Formed by members of al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria and Iraq
  • Aims to establish an Islamic emirate across Syria and Iraq
  • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
  • Believed to have 5,000 to 7,000 fighters
  • Has launched high-profile attacks in both countries
Thousands of civilians - mainly Shias - are arriving at recruitment centers in Baghdad to volunteer to fight the militants.

Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a call to arms Friday. His spokesman, Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi Al Karbalaie, delivered the message.

The sheikh said “We call on all citizens who can carry weapons and fight the terrorists in defense of their country, its people and its holy sites to volunteer and join the security forces to fulfill this sacred goal.”

Professor Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute in London said Iraq’s Sunni-Shia divide threatens to erupt into civil war.

“If it is entirely seen as a Shia counteroffensive against the Sunnis, that could end up strengthening actually ISIS’s control. And it could end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy of dividing the country,” said Eyal.

 
Iraq cities: Mosul, Tikrit, Beiji, Kirkuk, Karbala, Fallujah, BaghdadIraq cities: Mosul, Tikrit, Beiji, Kirkuk, Karbala, Fallujah, Baghdad
x
Iraq cities: Mosul, Tikrit, Beiji, Kirkuk, Karbala, Fallujah, Baghdad
Iraq cities: Mosul, Tikrit, Beiji, Kirkuk, Karbala, Fallujah, Baghdad
A return to the darkest days of sectarian bloodshed would provide a fertile recruiting ground for extremist groups like ISIL, said Alaaldin of LSE.
                         
“I don’t think they can take Baghdad in the same way they did Mosul. What they might try to do instead is to trigger a civil war, create the kind of instability we saw in ’06 and ’07. The only difference is this time round, the Americans aren’t there,” said Alaaldin.

United States and coalition troops withdrew from Iraq in late 2011. Washington has not ruled out a military response to the ISIL advance. But the West is highly unlikely to get deeply involved in any conflict in Iraq or Syria, according to Shiraz Maher of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College London.

“Not least because there is a lack of political will and public opinion that won’t support it. So essentially what you have is two failed states [Iraq and Syria], in which you have these completely ungoverned spaces and right now the jihadists are holding them. Who’s going to change that balance of power?” asked Maher.

Analysts say ISIL’s offensive once more has laid bare the bitter sectarian fault lines of Iraq. They fear that the very future of the Iraqi state is uncertain.
 
  • Iraqi Shiite tribal leaders chant slogans against the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in Baghdad, June. 13, 2014. 
  • People clean a street now under militant control, in the northern city of Mosul, June 13, 2014. 
     
  • Members of Iraqi security forces stand guard during an intensive security deployment in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad, June 13, 2014. 
  • Volunteers who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants gesture from an army truck, Baghdad, June 13, 2014. 
  • A volunteer waits to register to join the Iraqi army. The volunteers want to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants who have taken over Mosul and other northern provinces, Diwaniya province, June 12, 2014. 
  • Sunni Islamist militants gained more ground in Iraq overnight, moving into two towns in the eastern province of Diyala, while U.S. President Barack Obama considered military strikes to halt their advance towards Baghdad. Seen here are members of Iraqi security forces chanting slogans, Baghdad, June 13, 2014.
  • Volunteers who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants chant slogans, Baghdad, June 13, 2014.

     
  • Members of the Kurdish security forces take part in an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Kirkuk, June 12, 2014.

     

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kiri from: Khmer Kingdom
June 14, 2014 8:36 AM
This chaos has been long expected as mistrust and unresolved religious issue run deep between both Islamic sect and of course the wonderful job USA politician n inteligence agency have made all this to happened.Take the devil out let Satan loose.Iraq,Syria in no longer a peacefull n beautiful nation and cradle of civilization but a mankind graveyard and in someway other nation will be effected.US definatelly in this people agenda.

by: ali baba from: new york
June 14, 2014 6:40 AM
If they want to fight each other.it is their business. Us should not go in the middle of it. .

by: Shaw from: Mauritius
June 14, 2014 12:15 AM
While viewing the coming war, we can not think about the origin of the war, we can not think about the previous Iraq, we can not think about those citizenes in the War. The war shall not invove citizenes in by the excuse of religious.

by: Daves Not Here from: USA
June 13, 2014 11:25 PM
Do nothing. Let this war play out. The best thing we can do is stop interfering.
If they get too spooky... Bomb them from orbit.
Oh and our war dead.. died for nothing... face reality.
WMDuped.
In Response

by: Kiri from: Khmer Kingdom
June 14, 2014 8:46 AM
Dave not here,Your govt.cant effort to do nothing,they have to do something as they have open the pandora box for all this unfortunate thing to happen.Your govt.have manage to take out the djin but let satan loose.In one way or the other Islamic arm group always have US in their agenda for whatever your govt have cause
Your young man n women have always fight for scholarship from military and die forthe biz community to prosper.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs