Iraq is on the Verge of a Violent Sunni–Shiite Confrontation

Avi Melamed ~ Inside The Middle East
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Immediate Intelligence Bulletin

Information Date: March 20, 2013

Event Date: March 2013

Information: Iraq is on the verge of a violent Sunni–Shiite confrontation

Information Details: According to varied neutral sources, the Sunni tribal leaders in the Al-Anbar province in western Iraq ordered their members to arm themselves immediately in order to confront Iraqi military forces heading towards the Al-Anbar area.

Information Platform: Varied

Platform Reliability: Varies

Source: Neutral, Varied

Source Reliability: Unknown

Information Validity: Unknown

Relevant Information: The majority of Iraqis are Shiites.

The Al-Anbar region in western Iraq is the major stronghold of Sunnis in Iraq.

Sunni-Shiite relations in Iraq are characterized by a long history of animosity and violence.

Accumulating information indicates a growing rage among Iraqi Sunnis for a variety of reasons including:

  • The support of the current Iraqi government for the Assad regime due to pressure from Iran on the Iraqi government to do so
  • The fact that Iranian arms and military reinforcements to support Assad make their way through Iraq
  • The involvement of the Iranian backed Iraqi Shiite Militia called the “Al Mahdi Army” in the war in Syria
  • Growing feelings of being discriminated against by the predominantly Shiite Iraqi government

This rage was most recently expressed in stormy demonstrations of Sunnis that swept the Al- Anbar area. Reportedly, following the demonstrations, the Iraqi government ordered the arrest of Ali Al-Hatim Suleiman, the Leader of the Al-Dalim Sunni Tribes.

Assessment: Sunni-Shiite relations in Iraq are traditionally tense and sensitive.

The combination of political instability in Iraq; the growing tension between the Sunnis and the predominately Shiite Iraqi government; the continuing daily bloodshed in Iraqi cities and the huge amounts of weapons stored by both sides presents the constant threat of a violent confrontation.

The war in Syria significantly increases the odds for such a confrontation.

Iraqi Sunni militants are already involved in the war in Syria. Many of them are members of the Sunni Militant Islam Group of Jabhat Al Nusrah which is affiliated with Al-Qaida and they fight against the Assad regime and its allies – the Shiites of Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as well as Iraqi Shiites.

The war in Syria has already infiltrated Lebanon and threatens to spark a Sunni-Shiite confrontation inside Lebanon. A similar process could very well take place in Iraq as well. A clear sign of this mounting tension occurred earlier this month when Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for killing 48 Syrian soldiers and 7 Iraqi soldiers in an attack on an Iraqi-Syrian border-crossing in Al-Ya-Rubyia located in the Al-Anbar province.

End Intelligence Bulletin

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