Chaos in the states of Iraq and Syria

If protests and confrontations in Iraq last for more months, more foreign parties will become involved

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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When the Syrian revolution began, many thought it would not last for one year; it would either be suppressed and quelled by the regime at an early phase or it would spread and eliminate the regime. Its beginning was simple. A few children were detained in Daraa after they wrote anti-regime graffiti on Feb. 26, 2011. The revolution soon spread as protests erupted across the country from Damascus to Homs to Hama. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad practically succeeded in taking the country hostage and he also involved everyone in a war on his behalf.

Roots of crisis in Iraq

In Iraq the crisis began in Ramadi and soon spread to Mosul and it's still in its beginning. Its parties are limited and its demands are clear. There are Sunni protesters from clans and the former military whose revolution is being exploited by the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


Nouri al-Maliki wants to prolong the crisis in order to extend his time in power

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

If protests and confrontations last for more months, they will get complicated and escalate with time and more foreign parties will become involved. It will thus become difficult to predict which path it will take and how it will end. This is why if major players fail to contain the conflict today, tomorrow it will be more difficult. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki desires to prolong the crisis in order to extend his time in power. He's totally following in Assad's footsteps.

ISIS didn't fail to read the future when it called itself the "State of Iraq and Syria." The two countries have a mutual crisis as parts of their borders collapsed following attacks by the extremist ISIS and as government troops at the borders fled their posts. Syria and Iraq have become a land united by chaos for the first time in 100 years. The “League of the Righteous” and other extremist Shiite Iraqi militias are returning from Syria to Iraq to protect their areas and are thus leaving the regime of Bashar al-Assad to its fate. ISIS fighters, Sunni extremists, entered Iraq from Syria through open border crossings to support their comrades west of Iraq.

Iraqi paralysis

Chaos is expanding in the State of Iraq and Syria and superpower and regional nations have been forced to intervene. Meanwhile, Iraqi forces are dominated by their inability to address the situation. It's also unlikely that the new parliament will convene on time to choose its speaker and his deputies and that it will hold a second session to choose a prime minister. It has become unlikely because Maliki has made the situation difficult for his allies too. He threatens everyone, telling them that he's won the elections and that the people want him to suppress the revolt.

Without finalizing the new cabinet, which Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has urged, the situation may turn into a long-term civil war. The crisis has erupted at a time when Maliki's governmental term has come to an end. The government today is mainly a problem for the Shiite sect. The Shiites are the ones who can contain the crisis by not leaving it in Maliki's hands.

Maliki has been recently planning to stay in power for four more years. If he does, he will not eliminate Sunni protesters only but he will probably eliminate his Shiite rivals as well and rule the country in military style. The long duration of the struggle will lead to intra-Shiite and intra-Sunni struggles just like there are multiple fronts in Syria among the Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra Front, ISIS, the Assad regime and its allies.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Sunday, June 21, 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.
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