Iraq going down the Syrian path

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Published: Updated:
Enable Read mode
100% Font Size

We can easily understand the reasons why the situation in Iraq could get more complicated, by following up what is happening in Syria. The two countries are witnessing a political transition stained by blood. The difference between them is that Iraq has already witnessed misery, a security vacuum and the lack of political equilibrium.

The situation in both countries remains unsettled and both regimes are engaged in critical battles of survival on fragmented grounds against various groups which are actually very similar in both countries. These groups include al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, Shiite militias in Iraq, Alawite groups in Syria, the regime’s drained forces in both countries and foreign military and logistical support.


The geographical situation in the land of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers is parallel with the tribal expansion. The history and the fate of both countries are joined and embedded in the land of Mesopotamia. It is no coincidence that two Baathist regimes ruled Iraq and Syria via similar militaries and repressive rules. Chaos arose after the fall of the first and infected the second.

Iraq is the main news headline today. In order to understand what is happening there, we should observe the recent developments of Iraq’s division into three political and military areas: troubled areas in the north and west, threatened or involved areas - including the center of Baghdad and its surroundings - and quiet but concerned areas in the south and Kurdistan.

The three big provinces, Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin are witnessing a heavy rebellion against the state. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – the most brutal and daring organization in the world – is leading this rebellion. Many armed groups in the region are following ISIS and are eager to fight against the government and the regime’s representatives.

It is almost the same scenario that took place in Syria. At first, with the initial emergence of ISIS and al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army opposing Assad’s regime allied with them, only to later discover that the objectives of the al-Qaeda affiliated group were different. Thus, they became enemies. ISIS was no less dangerous than the forces of Assad’s regime, and this is how the war erupted between them.

Maliki’s government wants to punish its opponents, such as Mosul leader Usama al-Nujayfi, by letting their areas be consumed by terrorism. But the government fears that the danger may spread into its regions of influence, like Baghdad.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The number of armed insurgents in the province of Nineveh and Anbar is massive. ISIS has a few thousand fighters. The majority of the soldiers were associated with Saddam’s regime. This combination of armed forces can lead to the formation of a huge force threatening Baghdad, but it is most likely that it will end up like the Syrians rebels. The allied, armed rebel groups along with their tribal backers, will be fighting against these terrorist groups. The Anbar scenario will be repeated: when Anbar tribes allied with U.S. forces against al-Qaeda after al-Qaeda threatened them and intended to settle in their regions and rule them through their princes and jurists.

The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is now in trouble, especially as it was obviously cooperating with ISIS. It is obvious because it intentionally withdrew from the city of Mosul that fell without a single battle. Maliki’s government wants to punish its opponents, such as Mosul leader Usama al-Nujayfi, by letting their areas be consumed by terrorism. But the government fears that the danger may spread into its regions of influence, like Baghdad. It is expected for this monster to grow and threaten everyone, this is why it was unexpected that Maliki asked to be granted the right to declare a state of emergency.

In fact, he does not need to because he has ruled in a way that is quite similar to a state of emergency. He unilaterally governs Iraq. He is the defense and interior minister, and the commander of the armed forces, the intelligence, and the finance ministries. He also supervises the judiciary! Therefore, he does not need to declare a state of emergency, unless the reason behind it was to remain in power for a longer period of time by postponing the appointment of another prime minister.

Maliki is a dictator clinging to power. His opponents and allies are no longer interested in him. Shiite forces that chose him four years ago are not backing the renewal of his term this time. However, he is willing to burn Iraq if it would allow him to remain in power, for an alleged critical state of security and emergency. He is acting like Bashar al-Assad, the governor of Syria who has set his country on fire in order to stay in power, refusing all offers of reconciliation that do not guarantee his extended stay in power.

The fall of Mosul paves the way for a third phase of Iraq’s new history after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the withdrawal of U.S. forces. If the battles remain limited to where they are now, then perhaps it could generate a political solution that unites the different parties and ends the insurgency. If not, the circle of violence will expand towards the Kurdish north and center, where the stronghold of the regime lies, and the fall of Mosul will to a full-scale and horrifying civil war.

This article was first published in
Asharq al-Awsat on June 13, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
Top Content Trending