News / Middle East

Syria Spillover Worries Iraqi Officials

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Feb. 27, 2013.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Feb. 27, 2013.
Edward Yeranian
The deepening sectarian conflict in Syria is aggravating an already tense sectarian divide in neighboring Iraq.

Syrian rebel fighters and Iraqi government soldiers clashed near the Rabiya border post as it was captured by rebels last weekend.

Then on Monday, Iraqi officials said at least 42 Syrian soldiers who had sought refuge in Iraq were killed in a well-coordinated ambush by Iraqi Sunni insurgents. That attack in Iraq's restive western province of Anbar raised concerns that Iraq could be drawn into the Syrian civil war.

Iraq's Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaify, a Sunni, blasted the Iraqi army for allegedly taking sides in the conflict in Syria.

Nujaify said that border incidents must be avoided and that the Iraqi army must not meddle in internal Syrian affairs so that Iraq's own deep internal conflict is not exacerbated by outside conflicts.

Iraqi Sunnis have been holding mostly peaceful protests in the major Sunni population centers of western Iraq since late December. They are demanding that Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki release Sunni prisoners and share political power with Sunnis, whom they complain are increasingly marginalized.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Maliki warned that if rebels win in Syria, it could destabilize the region. He stopped short, though, of expressing direct support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is from Syria's Shi'ite-offshoot Alawite community.

Maliki reaction

Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University sees in Maliki a strong Shi'ite sectarian bias that is pushing him to support Bashar al-Assad mostly on sectarian grounds.

“Nouri Maliki and the Shia-led government have decided that the defeat of Bashar is a defeat for them," he said. "This has become this big Sunni-Shi'ite fight."

"Some years back I used to have fairly candid conversations with Nouri Maliki and he looks at the region through a sectarian lens," Ajami continued. "He sees Turkey as a Sunni power, a neo-Ottomanist strategy and he sees the Saudis and the Gulfies as Sunni countries invested in the fall of his Shia-led government in Iraq.”

But Middle East analyst Gary Sick said that Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia are furthering sectarian tensions in Iraq and promoting regional instability.

He said Saudi Arabia has not diplomatically recognized the Iraqi government.

"Because of the dissatisfaction [of] countries like Saudi Arabia" with the Shia-led government in Iraq, Sick said, it "started a process of vitriol that really is now getting worse and worse."

Iraq war unlikely

Still, analyst Ajami said that the sectarian divide is unliklely to lead to an overthrow of Maliki by the Iraq Sunnis.  

"I don't see a big war for Baghdad," he said. "I don't see the Sunnis in the Anbar, without money, without oil treasury, willing and able to bring down Nouri al-Maliki.”

Sick, however, predicts seerious consequences if Sunni rebels are victorious in Syria.

“One of the Iraqi ministers said over the weekend that the arms that were supplied to the insurgents in Syria, it was like supplying arms to insurgents in Iraq because they were definitely going to make their way into Iraq," he said.

"The Free Syrian Army or the opposition to Assad is almost overwhelmingly Sunni and they in many cases have tribal relationships that run right across the border into Anbar province,” Sick added.

A U.N. report issued in December described the fight in Syria as “overtly sectarian.” Anti-Assad rebel forces reportedly include Sunnis from Afghanistan, Libya and other countries.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs