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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid