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Iraq Update: Chaos in Syria Spilling Over, Spilling Blood

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.

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  • alex scipio

    Again – build a fence around the entire region, sell them all the arms they want & put a phone booth in the middle. Call the civilized world when it’s over.

    Far worse than NAZIism. How did our “leaders” allow this to happen, and why do they continue to do so rather than just destroy it as we did that other tyrannical death cult, the NAZIs, which were not NEARLY as barbaric as islam?

    No future historian will ever understand how the West let islam grab so much power and devolve so many human beings to the Dark Ages without even putting up a fight. Insanity.

  • Kris

    “The conflict has dramatically fanned insecurities of Iraq’s ruling Shiite establishment.”

    Perhaps al-Maliki and Co should have considered a slightly more inclusive approach to governing? Do we need to once again pray for wise guidance from Ayatollah al-Sistani?

    “it plans to renew its violent campaign and ‘rock your seats of power.'”

    I doubt the Sharif will be amused.

  • Nathan

    I’m not convinced that Iraq’s government, while fragile, is as vulnerable to this particular sort of chaos as Syria is. The Islamists are part of the coalition that is fighting Assad, but they hardly did it on their own. Defectors from the military and the general public are (so far as I am aware) critical components of the Syrian rebels.

    While Iraq has its own problems, I really doubt that Islamists would have any real support from the public. As far as I’ve heard, Iraq’s basic democratic institutions are more or less intact and that’s a source of strength itself. Plus, Iraq’s government was born and raised fighting insurgents…I doubt it is ready to topple to them immediately.

    The danger is real, though.

    PS: In any case, I don’t think I’ll mourn the passing of any Ba’athist regime. Those folks are scary.

  • Andrew Allison

    Surely what we are witnessing is an Islam-wide revolt against minority-religion rule. History suggests that the revolution will be bloody, with the likely outcome being partition into Shiite- and Sunni-majority governed States. I fear that @1’s suggestion may, indeed, be the best approach.

  • Art Deco

    how the West let islam grab so much power and devolve so many human beings to the Dark Ages without even putting up a fight. Insanity.

    You know, homicide rates in Latin America are commonly between 6x or 10x the mode in the Arab world. I think about 70,000 people were killed during the Salvadoran civil war, which ran on for 12 years in a country with about 6 million people in it. Another 150,000 were killed during the succession of insurgencies and counter-insurgencies in Guatemala between 1960 and 1996. Did I mention the 250,000 or so corpses in Bosnia and Krajina, supplemented with those in Kosovo?

    One Arab country after another has a perfectly rancid political culture and sometimes that has horrendously sanguinary effects. However, there is a world of hurt out there.

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