Why Iraq Is On the Precipice of Civil War

These days, no one in Iraq is safe.

Last Wednesday, a bridal party was the target. On Thursday, separate attacks brought destruction upon civilians and police officers alike.

According to the UN, in May Iraq suffered its highest rate of violent deaths in five years.

This is a country standing on the edge of an existential precipice.

That being said, we can identify some of the factors that are feeding Iraq’s present security nightmare.

The immediate threat is a renewed Sunni-Salafi insurgency.

In 2007-08, afflicted by a “surge” of additional American forces, a relentless Special Forces campaign and suffering the fury of alienated Iraqis, Al Qa’ida in Iraq ( AQI) was gutted. Its mid-high ranks were decimated and its operational mobility severely restricted. The consequences were profoundly positive — violence plummeted. Sadly, the peace hasn’t lasted. Now, facing an Iraqi government that lacks the intelligence targeting capabilities of the U.S. government, AQI’s effective successor, the Islamic State of Iraq ( ISI), is wreaking havoc. Waging a campaign of murder against Iraqi Shia, these terrorists want to exacerbate an ongoing government crackdown against Iraqi Sunnis. Their sustaining objective is unambiguous — fostering a cauldron of chaos in which Iraqis detach into base sectarian alliances. In short, they desire a civil war.

Then, in April, the crisis literally exploded. First, the Iraqi Government launched a bloody attack against a Sunni protest camp. Next, in a move that reeked of sectarian persecution, Maliki suspended the licenses of a number of media outlets, including Al Jazeera. On May 17, more than 75 Sunnis were killed in various terrorist massacres. Collectively, these actions have fed into a growing groundswell of sectarian anger. Trust is perishing and in the fear, extremists have found new roots of sympathy. With unrelenting ISI attacks, growing government crackdowns and resurgent Shia hardliners, the storm clouds of civil war are gathering.

Unfortunately as if the above weren’t bad enough, Iraq’s crisis is further complicated by the broader sectarian tensions that are rippling through the Middle East. In Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah is now waging an open and unrestrained war against the Sunni-dominated rebellion. In Lebanon, suspected Sunni extremists are responding in kind. In a similar vein, the ISI recently claimed responsibility for the killing of over 40 Syrian soldiers who had taken shelter in Iraq.

Full article: Why Iraq Is On the Precipice of Civil War (The Atlantic)

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