January 5, 2013
THE ARABS’ 30-YEARS WAR: What A Car Bomb In Iraq Means For The Civil War In Syria.
Iraq’s volatile mixture of Sunnis and Shia is once again boiling over, and the civil war next door in Syria is not making matters any easier. Iraqi fighters are operating in Syria on both sides of the war. The U.S. recently determined that the Nusra Front, which claims credit for several spectacular attacks on Syrian regime targets and is one of the strongest rebel groups, is virtually identical in personnel and ideology to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Iraq’s and Syria’s troubles are closely related—a fact the mainstream media often forgets, choosing instead to stubbornly define the Syrian war as a fight for democracy against a dictatorship and the violence in Iraq as a contained sectarian conflict. This shortsightedness fails to recognize that across the Middle East Sunnis and Shia are engaged in a struggle for political power and religious legitimacy. Sunni rebel groups backed by Sunnis in the Gulf are fighting a Shia regime in Damascus backed by a Shia theocracy in Iran. The same is happening in Iraq, where a Shia authoritarian regime backed by Iran is fighting Sunni groups backed by the Gulf Arabs. Other actors, like the U.S., Turkey, and the Kurds, make this a truly volatile international conflict. . . . This is the broad outline of what we see as a Sunni-Shia war for the Arab world, and its two most volatile fronts, Iraq and Syria. If Assad falls, this conflict won’t be over.