Over the crackle of an audio tape posted online Sunday, the leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia warned the government of Iraq that it plans to renew its violent campaign and “rock your seats of power.” The Iraqi Islamist surge may get some backup from the Syrian civil war next door.Monday’s devastating string of bombings and shootings have left about a hundred dead and hundreds more wounded. The Shiite elite in Iraq are bracing themselves for a Syrian-Iraqi Sunni surge as the opposition in Syria becomes more varied, and in some cases more unsavory. WSJ reports:
The conflict has dramatically fanned insecurities of Iraq’s ruling Shiite establishment.Iraq’s Shiite-led government is under assault from the same Sunni extremists who have taken up the fight in Syria, many of them linked to al Qaeda, according to Izzat al-Shahbandar, a senior member of Iraq’s Parliament and close aide to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.In recent weeks, Mr. Shahbandar said in an interview, Iraq has stepped up its intelligence-sharing with the Syrian regime. The findings, he said, is that many of the same al Qaeda-linked militants are active in both countries and frequently travel back and forth. “We have names on our wanted list that disappear for a while and then resurface in Syria, and vice versa,” he said.
It’s important to note that this is not so much a new problem as it is an old one flipped on its head. Throughout Bashar al-Assad’s reign, Baathists would slip from Syria into post-Saddam Iraq with ease, and the Syrian regime’s fingerprints were all over some bombing campaigns. And just as Iran would truck IEDs into Iraq, so too are we finding that it is sending Revolutionary Guards to shore up Bashar in his time of need.In light of this history, this new influx of fighters is merely the latest transaction in a brisk but sordid trade in violence across the Syria-Iraq border. Here’s a particularly disturbing question to consider: If the Syrian opposition manages to bring down the Assad regime, how hard would it be for some of its jihadist elements bring down the fragile government in Iraq?As we’ve written, the knock-on effects of the Syrian bloodbath are only beginning.