The Obama administration hoped it could walk away from Iraq without consequences. Unfortunately, this has been far from the case. Nouri al-Maliki’s ever closer ties with Iran have pushed him to support Assad in Syria despite Assad’s earlier support for Sunni and Baathist insurgents in Iraq. At home, Maliki has stoked sectarianism by purging Sunnis from his government and edging right up to open revolt with the Kurds in the north. Things are coming to a head.The FT‘s editorial page sounds a grave warning:
The US and its allies, discredited by their blundering in Iraq, have little margin for manoeuvre – and Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi Kurd president they relied on to referee the sectarian jostle, has been felled by a stroke. But they had better concentrate their residual influence to prevent the dissolution of Iraq. At a time when Syria also risks break-up, even the smallest possibility of a cross-border Sunni jihadist emirate linking western Iraq with eastern Syria should be treated as a strategic nightmare.
Iraq could very conceivably get as violent as in Syria itself, opening a major new front in the fierce religious war smoldering all across the fertile crescent. Strategic nightmare is right.