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  Global Views
Is Iraqon the Verge of Civil War?
By Tanveer Jafri
Contributing Writer
Last troop of US army leaving Iraq

As was foreboded, the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. It was feared that the Shia-Sunnirivalry in Iraq would flare up after the toppling of Saddam Hussein in April2003. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Arab military dictator who took over the reinsof Baghdad from Ahmad Hasan Al Barq in 1979 and continued to rule the countrytill 9th April 2003. Shiites form 60 percent of the Iraqi populationwhereas Sunnis account for 31 percent. During his despotic rule of 24 years, Saddam used every tool to crush his opponents, be they Shias, Sunnis or Kurds.

However, this tyrannical anddictatorial nature of Saddam provided the US an easy excuse to interfere inIraq in the name of unearthing weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in violence since the Americanoccupation in 2003. Many incidents of communal violence have been witnessed inall these years. Crowded markets, religious festivities, mausoleums, mosquesetc. have been endlessly targeted. Meanwhile, the local opposition against theAmerican presence kept on increasing. In accordance with Obama’s electionpromise of bringing back the troops from Iraq, the US ended its mission thisDecember after ‘disposing of’ Saddam and installing a ‘democratic’ government inBaghdad. Certainly, Washington played a major role in the formation of acoalition government and circumscribing sectarian violence to a large extent. Nowthat the US troops have left the country, fragile political system of Iraq isapparently coming under unprecedented strain.

On 19th December, an Iraqicourt issued an arrest warrant against Tariq Al Hashmi, the Vice-President ofIraq and the leader of the biggest Sunni party Iraqiya, on the charge ofinvolvement in “suspected terrorist activity.” Hearing this, Hashmi hid away inKurdistan. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shia, said, “We won’t allow anyinterference in Iraq’s judicial system. Saddam Hussein was prosecutedimpartially and Al-Hashmi’s case will also be impartial.” He appealed to theKurds to handover Hashmi to the government. The Vice President Tariq Al Hashmihas denied all the charges and said, “I swear before Allah that I havecommitted no crime.” Hashmi is ready to face the judicial proceedings but onlyat Kurdistan region.

Of late, communal tension has escalatedin Iraq. Violence has also been reported from some parts. 13 bomb blasts rippedthrough the capital Baghdad on 22 December, killing 75 and wounding more than200 people. Hashmi has claimed that violence has escalated only as a result ofthe warrant against him. According to him, it is difficult for Premier Malikito stop this violence. He has also accused Maliki of creating this “nationalcrisis.” Besides, a simmering political and constitutional crisis cannot bedenied. All the ministers belonging to the Iraqiya party have refused to attendCabinet meetings. In response, Prime Minister has threatened to sack them. Boththe groups of coalition are apparently getting ready for a showdown.

Current political situation in Iraq isharbinger of the fact that a civil war can break out anytime. If that happens,it would have repercussions not only for Iraq, but for the entire region. Sunniand Shia, the two major sects of Islam, are struggling to dominate the entireArab world. These struggles for predominance lead to the eight years long FirstPersian Gulf war between Iran and Iraq from 1980-88. At that time, Saddam had completebacking of Washington. When both countries got exhausted and suffered huge lossesafter fighting for eight consecutive years; they agreed to a peace truce underResolution 598 of the UN Security Council. During his reign, Saddam enjoyed thefull support of almost all the Sunni Arab states. This backing was based on thefact that he was a Sunni dictator. But when, owing to his belligerence, hetried to capture Kuwait in 1990, it set alarm bells ringing across the Arabworld vis-à-vis the ‘danger’ Saddam posed to other Arab states. Since then,many countries of the region turned against Saddam. America took the benefit ofhis isolation and occupied Iraq in 2003.

Iran is sympathetic to the Shia groupsin Iraq and is said to support them actively. Hence, Iran’s role in currentturmoil in Iraq cannot be ruled out. Coming days may turn out to be moreperilous for Iraq and it may witness a Civil War. What will come out of thischurning, remains to be seen. Whether the power will go to a single group aswas the case during Saddam’s rule? Or, will Iraq break up on sectarian linesand lose its influence in the region, in line with the wishes of the West?

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Other Articles by Tanveer Jafri
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Mr.Tanveer Jafri, who serves as contributing writer for The Seoul Times, is a noted columnist in India. He writes on a variety of issues including world peace, anti-terrorism, and national & international politics for numerous news dailies and portals in India. As a devoted social activist he is member of Haryana Sahitya Academy & Haryana Urdu Academy.






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