Feature

Iraq: Al Qaida on the rise in Anbar province

Last week, an al Qaida group—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS—took control of the restive Sunni cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Iraq is imploding, said the Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates) in an editorial. Last year, more than 10,000 people were slaughtered in sectarian fighting and bombings, leaving Iraqis “nostalgic over the yesteryears of 2006–07 killings.” Last week, the al Qaida group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, took control of the restive Sunni cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province of western Iraq. Refugees are now streaming into Jordan. The Sunnis have legitimate gripes: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to provide basic services in Anbar province and the west. “A negotiated way out is the only solution.” Al-Maliki’s government will have to “act selflessly and impartially to establish the writ of the state.”

That would be a first, said Al-Adalah (Iraq). This uprising started when al-Maliki sent in troops to dismantle a Sunni protest camp—unrelated to al Qaida—in Ramadi. The group targeted, as well as another Sunni movement called the Military Council of the Tribes, is “not a natural ally” of ISIS. But now all find themselves more or less on the same side, battling the biased, Shiite-dominated government. It’s al-Maliki’s heavy-handedness in Anbar province that is fueling all the opposition. In fact, said Yusuf al-Kuwaylit in Alriyadh (Saudi Arabia), al-Maliki has turned Anbar “into an arena for racial and sectarian liquidation of Sunnis.” He is determined to keep the Sunnis down, even if it means civil war.

But Prime Minister al-Maliki is not to blame for al Qaida’s gaining a foothold in Anbar, said Quds (Iran). Saudi Arabia is. After a former Iraqi vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, fled to Riyadh, the Saudi regime there “allocated millions of dollars in aid to a number of tribal sheiks in Anbar province to continue their protests.” The Saudis can’t bear to see a Shiite-dominated government, allied to Iran, in charge of Iraq, and they will do anything in their power to bring it down. Fortunately, Iran’s government has offered al-Maliki whatever assistance he requires.

Well isn’t that convenient? said Al Quds Al-Arabi (U.K.). ISIS is just an excuse for al-Maliki to stomp all over the Sunni opposition. Al-Maliki declared a “great victory over the tents of a civil and peaceful sit-in” and turned “legitimate demands into a bloody conflict.” Just like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—another puppet of Iran—al-Maliki claimed to be acting against terrorists by razing his own cities, but in doing so, he opened up a space for terrorists to take over. In this case, though, he was abetted by the U.S., which gave him equipment and weapons and ordered him to fight the al Qaida militants of ISIS. “Al-Maliki considered this a U.S. cover to break his peaceful opponents, and not only the gunmen.” If Iraq degenerates into civil war again, there will be more than enough blame to go around. Some of it is for the U.S., some for the Saudis, some for the Iranians, but most of it belongs to al-Maliki.

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