Last week the Iraqi government forces lost control over the biggest cities of Anbar province: Ramadi, the capital, and Fallujah. The both went under the control of the Islamic state of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which wants to create an “Islamic emirate”. Last year the death toll exceeded what it was in 2008, the bloodiest year so far, with around 9500 lives lost as a result of blasts and attacks. The Iraqi government cannot fully control the situation in the country, which is balancing on the brink of civil war. Actually the war is already raging within the Iraqi “Sunni triangle”. After Fallujah was seized by Islamists, the Iraqi regular armed forces delivered air strikes against the city trying to make the militants retreat. Around 18 thousand families fled the area, a few hundred people lost lives in clashes. The United Nations Security Council condemned the terrorists and endorsed the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed gratitude to the Council for its support in the fight against terror. Now the city is surrounded by government troops, off and on living quarters come under artillery shelling, no decision on launching the operation to finally regain control of the city is taken as yet. The tension in Iraq is exacerbated by the stand – off between two major branches of Islam – Sunni and Shiite. The Iraqi Sunnis are a minority, but in the days of Saddam Hussein rule they enjoyed a privileged position holding top government positions. The US-led intervention changed the state of things. Shiites grabbed the key state offices, including the one of Prime Minister. They took the reins of power and the control over financial flows provoking the widely spread discontent among Sunnis. Iraq has the following ethnic structure: Arabs account for 75-80 percent of population, Kurds – 15-20 percent, Turkmen, Assyrians and other minorities – 5 percent. 97 percent are Muslims (60-65 percent – Shiites, 32-37 percent – Sunnis), 3 percent are Christians and the followers of other religions. There are contradictions within Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities, off and on tribes and clans of each ethnic community clash too. For centuries the Iraqi Shiites were the “second rate” people, unequal to others and discriminated. Only with the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime they got a chance to be represented in government structures. With Iraq occupied by the United States and the allies, they kept away from getting involved into a drawn – out war with Americans in favor of using to their advantage the numerical superiority they enjoyed to win elections of any level and come to power. As a result, Shiites got overwhelming influence in the government offices and the parliament. The Sunnis, who controlled the country during the Saddam Hussein rule, were squeezed out of power structures what provoked their open opposition to the Shiite dominated al-Maliki’s government.
Today the three dominant groups – Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds – have failed to reach agreements which would establish peace in Iraq and let it remain one state.
On June 28, 2004 the interim coalition administration transferred the power to the national government formed with the participation of the three major ethnic and religious groups. In the fall of 2006 the Iraqi parliament approved the bill on federal structure of the country making legal the establishment of autonomous regions. The autonomous Kurdistan region is the story of success. It sets the example for the Shiites who demand the autonomy status for the regions with predominant Shiite population in the south of Iraq with the parliaments enjoying independence from the central legislative body, their own self-rule executive bodies and power agencies. The Sunnis oppose the federation which may put an end to their control over the oil revenues and the larger part of national economy.
Thus, the choice was made in favor of proportional representation in the government structures along ethnic – religious lines like it is done in Lebanon. The pattern has failed. The ongoing aggravation of the situation is the direct result of the policy the Iraqi government has pursued during the last three years. As soon as the US troops left in 2011, Nouri al-Maliki launched purges in the government squeezing Sunnis out. Now Shiites dominate power agencies, while the Sunnis are discriminated against and even repressed. The refusal to adhere to the principle of equal ethnic representation has brought the country to the brink of civil war provoking the Sunnis into joining the terrorist underground. Regional and outside forces’ interference into Iraqi internal affairs pours fuel on the country’s destabilization process.
The United States intervened in 2003. According to its plans, the country was to become an obstacle on the way of spreading the Iran’s influence in the Arab world or even, if need be, a springboard for attacking Iran. At that, the control over the territory failed to become the control over the country as a whole, Iran used the US foreign policy blunders to its advantage. Today Tehran and Bagdad manage to find a common language leaving the existing contradictions behind. Led by the Shiite community, Iraq orients its foreign policy on Iran. Its stand on Syria is a good example.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have traditionally treated Shiites as their enemies. The both try to do their best to create chaos in Iraq. The interests of international terrorism under the banner of Islam and local Sunni leaders, the yesterday’s opponents of Saddam Hussein, coincide; the money flows from Saudi Arabia made thousands of young Sunnis join the fight under the liberation slogans. As a result, a huge region has plunged into violence while Iraq has been becoming more like a battlefield for Saudi Arabia fighting Iran. Foreign jihadists flew into Syria, Lebanon is on the verge of collapse, Iraq is on the brink of civil war, the Taliban is opposing the Iran’s influence in Afghanistan, while anti-Shiite actions have become routine in Pakistan with the death toll of 600 Shiites in 2013. The Sunni jihadists go on a rampage everywhere the Shiites are a minority, be it Kuwait, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. Iraq is not the only country threatened by Islam religious strife. The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is a strategic absurd – the war without winners. The United States is responsible for inciting the conflict. Its interventions in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq, tipped the delicate balance of forces and provoked the regional competition between Riyadh and Tehran, which strives for dominance in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has nothing but sand and oil, it imports foodstuffs and water, its chances to win in the fight against Iran are negligibly small… The only thing Iran lacks is Saudi style of Wahhabism, which has provoked a wave of anti-Shiite sentiments in the Middle East and created a global net of multiple Islamic groups united under the Al Qaeda’s brand.
Washington has never stood in the way of Saudi Arabia; it shows no haste to prevent the civil war in Iraq. US State Secretary John Kerry emphasized that the Unites States would not aid Iraq.
Iran offers support to Iraq in its fight against Al Qaeda. Iran's deputy chief of staff General Mohammad Hejazi has said the Islamic Republic was prepared to provide military equipment and advice to Iraq to help it battle Al-Qaeda. «If the Iraqis ask, we will supply them with equipment and advice, but they have no need of manpower». He said there had not been any request from Iraq to «carry out joint operations against the terrorists». As yet Iraq has not approached Tehran with a request to launch a joint operation against jihadists; the contacts have been limited by logistical support and consultations. Iran realizes that bringing Iranian troops into Iraq would inevitably lead to a new escalation of tension in the Middle East. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, believes the hostility between the two major branches of Islam – the Sunni and Shia – poses a major threat to global security. He has a reason. Assuming the G8 presidency in 2014 Russia offers to put the fight against terrorism and radical Islam at the top of the G8 agenda being worked out for this year.