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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora