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Guest Post #8: A quick primer on the real dynamics of the Iraq situation by A Durai

Saurav Jha @SJha1618

Updated: June 16, 2014, 9:32 PM IST
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Like Sudan, Iraq has a large problem of uniting two ethnicities - Arab and Kurd into a united nation state with equal rights for both. Iraq under Saddam and the post-Saddam nation failed to unify the nation, wreaking division within the country on ethnic lines and ultimately laying the ground for a further sectarian split between Sunni and Shia. Over the last few years, post-Saddam Iraq has been precipitously corroding on these lines.
The north is slowly being transformed into a Kurdish autonomous state acting to in effect seceding from central government control. Similarly, the west and central regions have become Sunni territories mobilizing on the fear that Iran and sectarian Shia ideologies threaten their way of life. Many Sunnis also feel that they have been side-lined in the new Iraq.

Some interlocutors believe that the Maliki government's failure to integrate the Sunni populations is due to the influence of Maliki's overwhelmingly Shia power base as well as strong Iranian influence. Therefore the failure to eliminate sectarianism and perpetuation of continued competition between Shias and Sunnis is leading to a de-facto partition of Iraq as we knew it.

The recent take-over of the second largest city in Iraq - Mosul and other Sunni dominated cities (Tikrit in Central Iraq and many cities in the western province of Anbar) by militants is essentially a result of Sunni frustration. While most media currently appears focused on the role of the terrorist group - Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), they would do well to recognise the backstop role that 'local' elements in these areas are playing.

The constituents of the coalition who have taken part in the take-over of these regions are as follows:

-ISIS - well covered in the media so I won't delve any further.

-Naqshbandi Army - Formed by a group of former Sunni Baathist Iraqi army officers. The group is heavily experienced in fighting coalition troops - particularly in the battle of Fallujah. Regional intelligence sources say that it is this group that worries the Iraqi security establishment the most.

-Moderate Tribesmen - largely from the Dulaimi tribe. The Dulaimi tribe is the largest Sunni tribe based in western Iraq. They have protested significantly since last year due to disaffection and failure of the Al-Maliki government promises to reduce unemployment, corruption and improve public services.

Over the ensuing days what will become clear is the level of local support (in terms of intelligence, logistics and manpower) that ISIS and other Sunni groups might receive particularly in the capital of Iraq - Baghdad. Indeed, fighting has reached the Iraqi capital Baghdad. What is more, the Iraqi military has spent the last few days preparing in anticipation of conflict breaking out within Baghdad. The world will realise that this military action is unprecedented and coordinated with other Iraqi Sunni forces against the Al-Maliki government with the support of regional and international backers. Last Sunday, the coalition of "revolutionary tribes" issued a statement announcing the start of their fight for Baghdad. So the mask of 'ISIS' as it were is being lifted.

The Indian government should now consider preparing contingency plans to evacuate Indian citizens and diplomats from Baghdad. Politically, it is advisable that the Indian government continue to 'watch' the situation closely while urging a return to normalcy.

Ananth Durai is a London-based commentator on regional affairs with a special interest in West Asian political and security issues. The views expressed by him are personal. You can catch him on Twitter@ADurai

Follow Saurav Jha on twitter @SJha1618
First Published: June 16, 2014, 9:32 PM IST

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