Iraq and the Syr­ian cri­sis

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

Iraq and Syria share more than 605 km of bor­der. Both coun­tries are eth­ni­cally and re­li­giously mixed, in ad­di­tion to be­ing the only two coun­tries to have been ruled by the Baath party.

For the last decade, Syria has played a neg­a­tive role with re­gard to Iraq's se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity. Fol­low­ing a string of ex­plo­sions tar­get­ing Iraqi in­sti­tu­tions and min­istries in 2009, the Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter blamed the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment for most of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks tak­ing place in Iraq. In ad­di­tion, the Prime Min­is­ter in­di­cated that there were many ter­ror­ist train­ing camps in op­er­a­tion around Syria, go­ing on to ac­cuse Damascus of giv­ing ter­ror­ists from dif­fer­ent Arab coun­tries ac­cess to Iraq.

No mat­ter what the mo­ti­va­tion and agenda be­hind the Syr­ian regime's po­si­tion against the Iraqi po­lit­i­cal process, it cer­tainly played a ma­jor role in the vi­o­lence of 20032011. But now the vi­o­lence has blown back onto Syria, con­sum­ing ev­ery­thing in its path and keep­ing Damascus busy fight­ing the do­mes­tic fire.

Now that the Syr­ian con­flict has taken a new path with French and US strikes on the hori­zon, it is worth study­ing how this might af­fect the al­ready volatile Iraqi sit­u­a­tion.

Here I would like to lay out sev­eral sce­nar­ios:

- Lim­ited strikes against Syr­ian chem­i­cal and bal­lis­tic ca­pa­bil­i­ties, re­sult­ing in more ag­gres­sive sup­port from Damascus's al­lies, which could lead to more Ira­nian over­flights through Iraqi skies and more ag­gres­sive mili­tia ac­tiv­i­ties in Iraq...

- Wide­spread war and mul­ti­player in­volve­ment lead­ing to pres­sure on Iraq from Damascus's al­lies to res­cue the Syr­ian regime. At the same time, Sunni pow­ers in the re­gion will push Sunni mili­tias in Iraq to act more ag­gres­sively in or­der to keep the Iraqi gov­ern­ment wing sup­port­ing Syria busy.

- On­go­ing con­flict and con­tin­u­ing sec­tar­ian ten­sion in Iraq, cou­pled with fur­ther sup­port for the mili­tias on both sides from re­gional play­ers.

The most re­cent Rus­sian at­tempt to block any at­tack against Syria through the new pro­posal of putting Syria's chem­i­cal weapons un­der UN su­per­vi­sion seems to have slowed the mo­men­tum against Syria. But the ques­tion, amidst the civil war and chaos, is whether it re­ally is pos­si­ble or prac­ti­cal to con­trol the weapons? The move cer­tainly served to em­bar­rass the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and to fur­ther com­pli­cated the de­bate in Wash­ing­ton over pos­si­ble strikes against Syria.

How­ever, a puz­zling ques­tion re­mains unan­swered: how is the on­go­ing civil war and blood­shed in Syria to be brought to an end? Is that on any­one's agenda?

Iraq at this stage is in dire need of na­tional unity and con­sen­sus. Iraqi lead­ers must sit down and talk face-to-face to dif­fuse in­flamed ten­sions. The Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter needs to play a more pos­i­tive role with re­gard to solv­ing the pend­ing is­sues with the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment and to deal­ing with the de­mands of the Sunni mi­nor­ity in a more pos­i­tive and ef­fi­cient way.

Only if the elec­tions law is passed in the coun­cil of rep­re­sen­ta­tives over the com­ing weeks can we be­gin talk­ing about na­tional elec­tions in the spring, which will in­evitably ex­ac­er­bate on­go­ing sec­tar­ian ten­sions.

Ob­serv­ing the na­ture of the po­lit­i­cal de­bate and sys­tem­atic vi­o­lence, I would call it po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence which in some weeks man­i­fests it­self more as a sec­tar­ian war. Even though it seems that the real sec­tar­ian bat­tle in Iraq has been de­layed as re­gional play­ers are pre­oc­cu­pied with the Syr­ian con­flict, any twist in the Syr­ian sit­u­a­tion and dom­i­nance of one side over the other will lead to fur­ther med­dling in Iraqi af­fairs through more ag­gres­sive sup­port for dif­fer­ent groups by re­gional play­ers.

As Iraqis, we are faced with a grave re­spon­si­bil­ity and a great op­por­tu­nity. If we fail in mak­ing the united Iraqi state and iden­tity a re­al­ity, then we must pave the road to a peace­ful so­lu­tion and al­ter­na­tive, which I be­lieve lies in the for­ma­tion of Sunni and Shi­ite fed­eral re­gions. Only then we will be able to de­ter at­tempt to push Iraq to­wards wide­spread civil war and blood­shed, pave the road to a more suc­cess­ful ad­min­is­tra­tion and pre­vent the coun­try's di­vi­sion.

It is time for the Iraqi po­lit­i­cal blocks and par­ties to take a more se­ri­ous and re­spon­si­ble look at the fu­ture and the chal­lenges that lie ahead. What looms on the hori­zon is dark and de­press­ing. Brave and self­less de­ci­sions are re­quired, and the Iraqi peo­ple de­serve a brighter and more peace­ful fu­ture.

Last but not least, Iraq must be­come more ac­tive in sup­port­ing Syr­ian refugees as an in­ter­na­tional and hu­man­i­tar­ian duty, while re­main­ing ab­so­lutely neu­tral with re­gard to the Syr­ian sec­tar­ian con­flict.

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