On May 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the Iraqi government would overhaul the country’s security strategy and personnel as a wave of attacks killed more than 300 people in May.
“We are about to make changes in the high and middle positions of those responsible for security, and the security strategy,” Maliki said at a news conference. “I assure the Iraqi people that they (militants) will not be able to return us to the sectarian conflict”, he said.
Actually, sectarian tensions in Iraq are being inflamed by the brutal US-led proxy war against neighboring Syria. Some groups linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq, such as al-Nusra Front have long played a prominent role in the Syrian civil war, sending militants through Anbar Province to fight against the Syrian government.
Today, the political conflict has become very rough, especially in Anbar Province,” said Watheq al-Hashimi, who heads the Center for Strategic Studies in Baghdad, to RFE/RL. “The security situation remains a very big problem facing the government and the Iraqi people. But in Anbar it has become an especially complicated case because of the presence of al-Qaeda fighters there and rebel Syria fighters from the Syrian Free Army.”
Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist groups have also increased their terrorist attacks in the country. According to UN data, April was the deadliest month in Iraq since June 2008. Some 712 people, including 161 policemen, were killed. Another 1,633, including 290 policemen, were wounded in “acts of terrorism and violence”.
Attacks also took place in the capital Baghdad and the Shia-majority city of Basra in southern Iraq. Numerous Shia mosques and residential areas were targeted. While no one claimed responsibility for these attacks, they were assumed to be the work of the above-mentioned terrorist organizations.
There have been fierce clashes between the Army and militants. In Suleiman Beg, the army used helicopters against gunmen who had seized control of a police station. The army also killed 31 militants who had taken over the eastern part of Mosul and it needed three days to clean the city.
Foreign sponsorship of terrorism
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, alongside with the US and other Western states, are openly supporting terrorist groups in Syria, in a war aimed at isolating and weakening this country, Iran and the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance. At the same time, Saudi Arabia and Qatar also want to undermine the Maliki government in Iraq, which has refused to back the war against Syria and maintains close relations with neighboring Iran. Saudi and Qatari propaganda channels Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera keep carrying out a media war against Iraq and its government.
Turkish and Qatari support for Syrian insurgents is tantamount to a declaration of war against Iraq, which will suffer from the fallout of an increasingly sectarian conflict next door”, Hadi al-Amiri, an Iraqi politician, told Reuters. “Presenting money and weapons to al-Qaeda (in Syria) by Qatar and Turkey is a declaration of armed action against Iraq. These weapons will reach Iraqi chests for sure.” He added that Turkey and Qatar have stymied all efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict peacefully.
Actually, Iraq has all the reasons to support Syria. The same terrorist groups fighting Assad, like al-Qaeda in Iraq or the al-Nusra Front are the same, or similar, ones that have been committing crimes and terrorist acts in Iraq for many years. If these groups won the war in Syria there is no doubt that they, along with their Saudi and Qatari sponsors, would turn against Iraq even further. Therefore, the security of Iraq is being fought currently in Syria.
For their part, Israel and some US-Zionist circles seek to promote a partition of Iraq on the basis of sectarian lines. The terrorist campaign is, in this sense, a means to achieve that goal. Israel and Zionists want to divide the Muslim and Arab countries in order to avoid their becoming strong states, which would hinder Israeli and US plans to create an Israeli-dominated Middle East and loot the oil and other natural resources of those countries. In this effort, they are helped by Takfiri and Wahhabi groups, which also seek to keep Muslims divided.
The foreign-promoted terrorist campaign in Iraq has had severe damaging effects on the economy of a country that has not recovered from the US-led sanctions, war and long occupation, which destroyed the country, its infrastructure and its economy as well as killed about two million people. The high rate of unemployment, the lack of electricity and the serious deterioration of the oil industry are only some effects of that war, whose real objective was precisely the destruction of Iraq.
Sunnis supporting Maliki
The other means of destabilizing Iraq is through the political protests, which have taken place in some Sunni-majority Iraqi provinces. However, many Sunnis quickly understood that their protests were being manipulated by extremist Takfiri groups and foreign forces -which have been making irrational demands, such as the release of bloodthirsty terrorists, the derogation of the antiterrorist law or the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from Anbar- in order to weaken the Iraqi government. This is a major reason why the protests have been fading away.
On the other hand, the claim that the Sunni population is entirely against the government is a blatant lie. For example, one influential Sunni tribal leader in Anbar, Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes, has repeatedly supported Maliki´s government. Hayes was the deputy leader of Anbar’s Awakening Council when it was created in 2006 to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Hayes told RFE/RL that the movement was then seized by a brother of the founder, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who was killed by a bomb in Ramadi in September of 2007.
Abu Risha´s brother, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, took over Anbar´s Awakening Council against the opinion of the other founders and moved it towards extremism. Hayes and another Anbar Awakening founder, Wisam al-Hardan, have split from the movement due to their differences with Ahmed Abu Risha.
Hayes created his own political group and has joined Maliki´s political coalition. His older brother, Muhammed al-Hayes, now leads more than 3,000 fighters in Ramadi who are part of a Sunni militia called The Sons of Iraq. It operates under the auspices of Iraq´s Defense and Interior ministries. Hardan has become the leader of another Awakening group – the Iraqi Awakening – which also supports Maliki.
In contrast, some leaders of the opposition parties have joined extremist groups or share their agenda. The most prominent of these individuals is Iyad Allawi, a former member of Saddam Hussein´s party and CIA agent, who leads al-Iraqiya List. Recently, he stated that protests in the Sunni-majority provinces would not stop unless Maliki resigns. Allawi has also strong links with Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
For his part, Maliki has responded by saying that some “politicians bear the responsibility for the sectarian escalation because of their statements, calls for violence and sectarian positions. Ignorant people pick up on that and go out bearing weapons and calling for fighting.” He accused these leaders of stoking unrest,”The sectarian speeches at the demonstration sites are giving the insurgents a reason to kill.”
Maliki wins the provincial elections
Significantly, the surge in violence took place just some days after the April 20 provincial elections, in which Maliki-led State of Law coalition obtained a got a clear victory and remained as the first political force in the country. The party obtained a majority in seven of 12 provinces where the elections took place. Along with its allies, other Shia parties, Maliki´s coalition is expected to rule in nearly all these provinces.
In Baghdad, Maliki won the elections by getting 20 of the 58 seats. The second place was for the Sadrist movement, lead by anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr. His party, Al Ahrar, and its allies got 11 seats. The third post was for the bloc of Sunni parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, which claimed 7 seats.
The other Shia bloc, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council. also had good results. It got the same number of seats as Maliki in Wasit province. For its part, Al Sadr´s bloc obtained the most seats in the southern Shia province of Maysan.
The big defeated in the elections was the Iraqiya List, which lost a great deal of support in all provinces. In fact, it was unable to obtain more than three seats in any of the provinces. In 2010, the Iraqiya List got the largest number of seats in the parliamentary elections, two more than Maliki´s coalition. However, the sum of the State of Law´s seats and those of its allies gave Maliki the majority to form a government.
However, al-Iraqiya List has fragmented since then. Some of its leaders, such as al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, have abandoned the party and set up their own electoral blocs. Moreover, more and more Iraqis condemn al-Iraqiya´s links with extremist groups and some countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Turkey, which have an anti-Iraqi agenda.
In conclusion, Maliki´s position remains solid in Iraq. The armed forces are united and loyal and the majority of the population supports the government and opposes to the sectarian plots. In contrast, the extremist forces and the political enemies of the prime minister have lost political and electoral support. They are becoming more and more fragmented and divided. From the military point of view, armed groups are relatively weak in the country and the political circles that support them fear to push the country into a civil war, in which they would likely be destroyed.