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Making Sense of the Turmoil In Iraq

January 7, 2014

(Left, Al Qaeda fighters take control of Fallujah on the weekend.) 

Turmoil reflects Sunni-Shite Divide

The US-Saudi-backed war in Syria is threatening 
to upset the fragile regional balance of power. It's the old 
Illuminati tactic: divide and conquer

"Two years after U.S. troops ended a near-decade long presence in Iraq, the once high hopes for restoring peace, development and democracy after Saddam was toppled are being dashed. The country is increasingly marred by a combustible mix of instability and violence."

by RA
Our Iraq Correspondent

More than seven years after U.S. troops dealt a severe blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq, killing its chief, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an affiliate of al-Qaeda, captured the Iraqi city of Fallujah last weekend. 

Fallujah, which covers about a third of Iraq's territory, is home to some 300,000 people and is located about 64 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital Baghdad in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province. The city was the center of the insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that brought Shi'ite majority to power.

The latest round of violence intensified when Iraqi police broke up a Sunni protest camp in Anbar earlier last week. More than 100 people have been reported killed in heavy fighting since last Friday.


The ISIL relatively easy success in taking over Fallujah marks an important and dangerous escalation in Iraq's sectarian violence from routine car bombs and suicide attacks to more direct ground battles. It also tests the tenure of Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. The latter heads a Shiite-dominated government which has been struggling to impose control over the vast oil-rich country following the U.S. drawdown in 2011. 

ISIL has been tightening its grip on Anbar province in a bid to create a Sunni state bordering Syria's rebel-held eastern desert provinces. The recent developments come on the heels of one of the bloodiest years since the end of the Iraq war. The civilian death toll passed 8,000 in 2013. 

Iraqi Prime Minister has pledged to eradicate terrorist fighters from Anbar province after losing control of Fallujah. And although the Iraqi armed forces declared that ISIL militants could be defeated in a few days, al-Maliki ordered them to temporarily postpone a large-scale assault in order to allow tribal leaders in Fallujah time to expel the Sunni Islamist militants themselves.

The tribes of Anbar decisively helped tip the balance of the insurgency in 2006 and eliminate al-Qaeda by publicly siding with the Iraqi army and U.S. forces. However, ISIL resurgence has divided people in Anbar this time around, as many of them accuse al-Maliki of marginalizing Sunnis and of being a puppet of Shi'ite Iran. Armed Sunni tribesmen from the area are therefore fighting on both sides. 

Moreover, the Iraqi army is overwhelmingly made up of the Shi'ite majority. Although it has launched multiple airstrikes against fighters over the past few days, it has been prevented from entering Fallujah by local tribesmen. Despite being opposed to al-Qaeda, many locals do not support the Shi'ite dominated government of al-Maliki. 


Seizing control of Fallujah highlights the growing strength of ISIL. By expanding its presence in the Sunni-dominated desert province near the Syrian border, ISIL militants aim to secure a base to wage more attacks on Syria.

The ongoing civil war in Syria is conspicuously pitting Sunni fighters against the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. The war is spilling over to neighbouring countries, mainly Iraq and Lebanon, and has exacerbated sectarian divisions across the Middle East. Major regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran back opposite camps in the conflict. The Iraqi government aligns itself with al-Assad regime. 

Consequently, the sectarian violence in Iraq stems from the civil war in Syria and threatens a fragile regional sectarian balance of power. 


Two years after U.S. troops ended a decade-long presence in Iraq, the once high hopes for restoring peace, development and democracy are being dashed. The country is increasingly marred by a combustible mix of instability and violence.

The war in Syria aside, the resurgence of extremist Sunni militants is hardly surprising. Al-Maliki's stubborn pursuit of sectarian and divisive politics has caused the inevitable resistance. More specifically, his failure to reconcile with Sunnis and other alienated Iraqi factions has  disenfranchised large numbers of Sunnis and pushed them into al-Qaeda's lap.

The country requires greater participation by all factions, and chiefly the Sunnis, in the political process. In addition, fairer distribution of oil wealth and the creation of more jobs would reduce Al Qaeda's appeal and shield the country from the repercussions of the Syria war. 

Otherwise, Iraq is set to plunge sooner rather than later into another vicious cycle of bloodshed.


Comments for "Making Sense of the Turmoil In Iraq"

Giancarlo said (January 9, 2014):

Thanks to Bob & Dan: well said & done..

Dan said (January 8, 2014):

Bob (below) is right. This week's Fallujah news is propaganda. 'Al Qaeda resurgence in Iraq' implies the US Army was fighting Al Qaeda in Fallujah ten years ago. People with long term attention span remember it was Iraqi blowback for our gratuitous occupation of their country. Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with 911 or "Al Qaeda". The 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' were a US State Department and British Home Office lie for a unwarranted invasion and occupation.

Now the media is lying to us again. Rewriting the history of 2004. Like this on NPR

NPR insults the soldiers who were there. It's a slap in the face of the soldiers who died (on both sides) in Fallujah in 2004 to write al CIA-DUH into the Iraq war. Read my lips - Al Queda can't 'return' where they never were. Get it straight -- 'Al QAEDA' is a franchise mercenary CONTROLLED OPPOSITION armed and funded by the beneficiaries of these wars. I get so God damned sick of the LIES.

Everyone must study the history of Mid East geopolitics all the way back to collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Start with DEVIL's GAME by Robert Dreyfuss for the crash course.

Bob said (January 7, 2014):

This article does not help us make any sense of the turmoil. In fact I would suggest it muddies the water even more by re-enforcing the myths and misconceptions (Shiah vs Sunni, nationhood, monarchy etc.) that sustain the continuing colonization of the area. Lord Curzon was instrumental in the years following WWI, in setting the ground rules that afflict the area to this day.

Making sense of the turmoil in Iraq, as in all the parts of the former Ottoman Empire, means understanding the dynamics of the dismantling of the Ottoman Khalifah, the Picot-Sykes accord between France of England, and of course the Zionist colonization of the area.

Remember that the Ottoman Empire was the most powerful empire ever. It straddled the globe but in its waning years became a target for the European countries who were themselves the tools of the powers that be. The goal was to exploit the resources of the area. The method was the balkanization of the different cultures. The unity of the people, tenuous as it was under Ottoman rule but still manageable, had to be destroyed - whether cultural, religious or intellectual. Concepts such as patriotism, nationalism, socialism, monarchy and secularism, concepts totally foreign to Islam, were introduced and encouraged by the colonial powers. The educational system was 'modernized' i.e. secularized. The arab language and the rich intellectual history of the area was disparaged and minimized. Various scoundrel quislings vied with each other before the European victors to control their fiefdoms and garner some of the favors of the money powers, and so betray their people and destroy their heritage.

The madness of that area of the world that we see today all goes back to those crucial years following (what we call) WWI. The European victors imposed a series of tyrants in the area, all beholding to European powers who were themselves beholding to the money powers. This is where the turmoil began in earnest, and the people are still struggling to free themselves of this tyranny. The political puppet masters have now moved to America but the money powers are still the same bunch.

The article describes events, but does not make any sense of the situation.

I'm sure there are other readers that can add even more insight to this important part of the world.

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at