Cooler Heads Must Prevail to Prevent an All-Out Sunni-Shia War
Three bombings, including an attack on an elementary school, killed at least 19 people and wounded at least 167 in Iraq Sunday. Two suicide truck bombers exploded almost simultaneously Sunday morning at a police station and a school in al-Qubba, a predominantly Shiite area in the outskirts of Mosul. A third attack, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest, targeted Shiite pilgrims in northeast Baghdad's al-Qahira neighborhood. (CNN, 7 October)
On Saturday, 51 people were killed and 107 others were wounded in a suicide attack that targeted Shiite pilgrims in northeastern Baghdad.
Note: The frightful escalation of violence in Iraq could well lead to a cycle of sectarian violence, pitting AQI and the Sunni militants against Shia militias and Shia-controlled security forces in the country. It’s always been easy to provoke a religious war, but it is so difficult to put a stop to it once it is started.
In the past two months, bombings by AQI and its affiliated groups have killed so many that it seems they are starting a war on the Shias. The government in Baghdad has responded by mass arrests that seem so indiscriminatory, resulting in heightened frustration and resentment among the Sunnis. And the government is seen weak by both sides, and is increasingly under pressure by the Shia militias and their Iranian backers and organizers to retaliate forcefully against the AQI and the Sunnis.
The introduction of Iranian-back Shia militias into the country’s volatile situation, however, will erode whatever credibility the Maliki government and the Iraqi security forces still have among the Sunnis. The government and its security forces will be seen as controlled by the Shia militias and Iran, and in turn the AQI attacks will increase and intensify even further, bringing violent retaliation by the Shia militias and security forces. The cycle of violence will go on and intensify.
Cooler heads must prevail. This blogger has argued that Moqtada Sadr needs to be more involved in preventing the violence to get out of hand, stopping Malaki to use Shia militias in fighting AQI. If the cycle of violence intensifies, Sadr will be under pressure to intervene militarily on behalf of the Shias, and that’s when the Shia-Sunni violence will become an all-out religious war. The Iranians too must stop organizing Iraqi Shia militias to enter into an armed conflict with their opponents. A Sunni-Shia war in Iraq is not in the national interests of the Iranians either. The creation of a unified and truly non-sectarian government in Baghdad is the answer to the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country.
Photo credit: Map locating the latest series of attacks across Iraq. (AFP)