Today, our guest blogger, Chris Chapman, returns with a new post on Iraq’s continued troubles…
Syria and Egypt garner the most press when it comes to current coverage of the Middle East. Yet, a rising tide of violence in Iraq should not be ignored. Iraq, the country the United States spent eight years and countless dollars engaged within, is teetering on the edge of intense conflict. Recent waves of sectarian attacks are reminding analysts of the mood in Iraq during 2006-2007 when the country nearly fell into civil war.
An increase in car bombings, suicide attacks, and jailbreaks have marked a resurgence of Al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq. But the violence is not solely being directed by Sunnis against Shiite Muslims. Within October alone, Iraq has seen multiple attacks on Sunni and Shiite targets. On October 15 in Kirkuk, a bomb exploded in a crowd of Sunni worshippers coming out of a mosque to celebrate Eid al-Adha and killed 12 people. On October 13, a string of bombings across the country, many in Shiite areas, killed up to 42 civilians at commercial areas, public spaces, and a funeral. On October 12 a car bomb exploded in Samarra killing 17 people. These are not battles such as in Syria, these are women and children being killed going about their daily lives. Reports show that since an April crackdown by the Iraqi government on a Sunni protest camp in Hawija, over 5,000 people have died in sectarian violence. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is creating an environment of fear and doubt. Fear of public safety and doubt that the Shiite led government can keep the country stable are on the rise.
The brazen attacks in popular community sites exemplify Al-Qaeda’s mission to destabilize the state. And in doing so, it is pulling Iraq further away from democracy. The al-Maliki government’s crackdown on terrorism led to a renewed emphasis on a strong internal security apparatus and consolidation of power within the government. People found guilty of terrorism are subject to the death penalty. In fact, last week 42 people were executed on charges of terrorism and 68 people received the death penalty in 2011.
The danger of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is real. Already ISIS is entrenched in Syria fighting. Reports show they are killing and kidnapping civilians. If Iraq falls into a civil war alongside Syria expect reports of this type to be more common. One reason for the invasion of Iraq was to foster stability in the region, but this recent evidence only points out the failings of that endeavor.
Chris Chapman is currently a Research Intern at the NESA Center and an M.A. candidate at American University’s School of International Service
Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.