May 2, 2013

Sunni insurgency: Iraq's dissolution and beyond

Iraq's political dilemma has deepened yet further with the bloody clash between the Iraqi Shiite-dominated army and the Sunni protesters in Hawija in southern Kirkuk, that later spread to elsewhere in the Sunni region. However, that was expected. Inspired by the Syrian revolution, demonstrations in the predominately Sunni cities in central and northern Iraq started almost five months ago against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's anti-Sunni policies. They have made seven demands, but the demands have fallen on deaf ears. Now chaos and rebellion spreads in many of the Sunni cities in the northern and central parts of Iraq. Does that signal the beginning of Iraq's dissolution? Or does it suggest the beginning of a sectarian conflict beyond Iraq?              
The Sunni rebellion against the Shiite-led government of Mr. Maliki that was sparked last week has multi-dimensional consequences for the future of Iraq, the Syrian revolution, regional alliances and the sectarian conflict.          
It can be said that the demonstrations in the Sunni cities that began in early January were the first step toward a Sunni region in the central and northern Iraq. But the clashes between demonstrators and the Iraqi army could be considered a bolder step from Sunnis toward forming their region after becoming hopeless about Mr. Maliki's policies that have especially targeted Sunnis, including their leaders. Now, chaos and rebellion are all over the Sunni cities including Musil, Sunnis' biggest city. Sunni fighters are mainly tribal members are trying to establish a de facto Sunni region. Then that means the three-region solution is slowly becoming real, which would seemingly lead to the dissolution of a country called Iraq that has never been fully integrated.          
Here, eyes cannot be blind to the regional powers' role in what's happening in the Sunni cities. A report leaked by Kurdish media in northern Iraq shows that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in line with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is pushing on Sunnis to seize Mr. Maliki in Baghdad and later topple him. Some other reports suggest that Sunni regional powers are pushing Sunnis to build their own region to help the Syrian opposition to attack from Iraq, because most of Iraq's border with Syria is from Anbar and Musil, which are Sunni cities. This is also because they think Mr. Maliki cannot be toppled without overthrowing the Syrian dictator.          
Recent developments in the Sunni region of Iraq have a strong linkage with the Syrian revolution. Protest in the Sunni region first started in Anbar; this city is neighbor to the Syrian city of Dir al-Zur, one of the most anti-Assad cities in Syria. So, the demonstration culture has crossed from the Syrian border to Iraq. If one observes, it can easily be found that the demonstrations that have now developed into armed rebellion have been organized and run just like Syria's.          
What matters most here is the sectarian image that the clash between protesters and the Iraqi government has; that signals another round of sectarian conflict, but what is different this time is that it's very likely to cross the border and engulf the whole region, as we already have it in neighboring Syria.          
To avoid the worst scenario, regional powerhouses, especially Iran and Turkey, should do more to ease the tension and push both sides to stop the violence. Also both Sunni protesters and Mr. Maliki should give up on some of their stubbornness and compromise. However, if Sunnis, like Kurds, want to have their own state, they should be allowed to do so: After all, no one should be forced to live in a state that is already suffering from instability; otherwise, the oblivion will become despair.

This article first appeared on Today's Zaman - here: