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

AU Takes Action on Boko Haram, Defers on S. Sudan

African Union is moving forward with a request for a military force to stop the spread of Boko Haram insurgency in West Africa; Ban Ki-moon welcomes decision to form a five-nation force More

Mass Protests Held for 58 Killed in Pakistani Shi'ite Mosque Bombing

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims took to the streets across Pakistan Saturday to protest a powerful bomb blast at a mosque in Sindh province during Friday prayers, killing dozens of people More

Williams Wins Australian Open with Straight-Set Victory over Sharapova

The win is Serena Williams' sixth in Australia, and her 19th overall Grand Slam title 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.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid