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What is going on in Iraq and why?
« on: June 17, 2014, 08:04:02 PM »
What is going on in Iraq and why?

As an Al Qaeda breakaway group seizes large section of northern Iraq, some patterns and explanations are emerging.

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HAIDAR HAMDANI / AFP/GETTY IMAGES
An Iraqi security officer stands guard in Najaf on June 12 as civilians wait to volunteer to join the fight against a major offensive by jihadists.

By: The Associated Press, Published on Thu Jun 12 2014

An Al Qaeda breakaway group, apparently backed by other Sunni groups and fighters, has seized a large section of northern Iraq after previously taking much of northeastern Syria with an eye toward establishing an Islamic state straddling the two countries. The situation on the ground is changing rapidly, but some patterns and explanations are now emerging:

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Re: What is going on in Iraq and why?
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2014, 08:04:48 PM »
Why now?

The group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is taking advantage of two trends: growing discontent among Iraq’s minority Sunnis toward Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government, which they accuse of discrimination; and the increasingly sectarian dimension of the Syrian civil war, as mostly Sunni rebels fight to oust a regime dominated by members of a Shiite sect.

Taking advantage of the breakdown of state authority, militant fighters easily cross the border. The Iraqi territory recently seized by militants is populated overwhelmingly by Sunnis, many of whom, at least for now, may see al-Maliki as more of a threat than ISIL. Signs are also emerging that ISIL is backed in its current campaign by former military officers and other members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.


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Re: What is going on in Iraq and why?
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2014, 08:06:07 PM »
Will Iraq be divided?

The recent developments have renewed the possibility, much discussed during the war a decade ago, that Iraq will be divided into three separate regions or even nations — the mostly Shiite section, made up of Baghdad and much of the south and east bordering Iran; a Sunni area, comprised of western Iraq and parts of the north; and a Kurdish zone, also in the north and including the cities of Irbil and Kirkuk, which Saddam tried to populate with Arabs.

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Re: What is going on in Iraq and why?
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2014, 08:09:02 PM »
What about the security forces?

Corruption and sectarianism are widespread problems in the security forces, with little sense of professionalism or loyalty to the Baghdad government — even though Shiites make up most of the army. Also, Islamic militants are terrorizing Sunni soldiers and police, in at least one case beheading an officer and then distributing a video of the attack.

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Re: What is going on in Iraq and why?
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2014, 08:10:03 PM »
What is the rebel strategy?

ISIL commands between 7,000 and 10,000 fighters, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The group’s military strategy is still somewhat of a mystery, but the extremists have cunningly crafted their tactics and message to meet local considerations.

In Syria, they are quite open about their ideology and goals, imposing their strict brand of Islamic law, banning music and executing people in the main square of the city of Raqqa, which they control. In Iraq, they focus on portraying themselves as the protectors of the Sunni community from al-Maliki’s government and have at least so far overlooked some practices they consider forbidden.


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Re: What is going on in Iraq and why?
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2014, 08:12:04 PM »
What’s the Kurdish role?

Kurdish fighters from the ethnic group’s autonomous enclave in the north are showing signs of taking a greater role in fighting back against ISIL. Their role is a potential point of friction because both Sunni and Shiite Arabs are wary over Kurdish claims on territory outside their enclave.

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Re: What is going on in Iraq and why?
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2014, 08:13:09 PM »
What is Iran’s position?

Iran’s president has blasted ISIL as “barbaric,” and its foreign minister offered his country’s support to Iraq in its “fight against terrorism.” Iran has halted flights to Baghdad and is beefing up border security. As a Shiite country, Iran shares an affinity with the current governments of Iraq and Syria.


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