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Ugly, Messy, and Dangerous Business in Iraq

The three big ethno-political groups in Iraq—Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds—are testing their respective strengths. The latest sign of the three-way competition becoming more intense is former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s trip this week to Qatar. Hashemi has been accused by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of “running death squads” and is wanted by the government in Baghdad. Just before his arrest, Hashemi managed to flee to Kurdistan, where he has remained for months, until this trip to Qatar. Why Qatar? Why now?

Qatar has been a leader in the Sunni pushback against Iran and a driving force in the battles against Qaddafi and Assad. Hashemi’s jaunt to the tiny peninsula comes on the heels of the Arab League conference in Baghdad, where Iraq was welcomed back into the fold of the Arab world after decades in the shadows. But the Baghdad conference was led by the Iran-supported Maliki and boycotted by the leaders of the Gulf Arab states, including Qatar, which sent only a low-level envoy. The enemy of thine enemy is thy friend; for Hashemi and Qatar, it’s a natural friendship.

Iraqi Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds are consolidating their respective positions in the new Iraq, drawing on international allies, securing ties to business and political bodies at home, striking new friendships and isolating enemies. It’s messy but perhaps necessary business before Iraq can steady itself and look to the future. The various groups in the country are testing their own strength and testing their rivals, looking to see how far they can push and how much they can get away with. With good luck, something Iraq hasn’t had much of lately, the groups may settle into some kind of uneasy compromise. Via Meadia hopes that Iraqi leaders’ international allies won’t do more harm than good in that process; the worst case for Iraq would be for Iran, the Gulf States and the Turks to use Iraq as a convenient site for their proxy wars.

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  • cas

    So, even though the Iraqi Kurds (who are predominately Sunni) have been persecuted by their Sunni “cousins” in the past, they’re defying the Shi’ite leadership in Iraq’s elected government, and providing shelter to the Vice-President, who is still sought by that gov’t for terrorism?
    How much longer before the Kurds announce an “independent” Kurdistan, and REALLY start upsetting the status-quo, as there are ethnic Kurdish terrirtiry / communities in Iran and Syria, and also a LARGE portion of eastern Turkey?
    And what would the US administration do then? Considering they have washed their hands of the entire region…

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