Iraq’s ties with Syria, new regional alliances forming over sectarian identities

In the face of sanctions against Syria and the Arab League ousting Syria, Iraq has held friendly relations with Syria-abstaining from sanctions and the ousting by the Arab League.  Al-Maliki will take a role in mediating between Al-Assad and the Syrian government and their opposition to end months of violence and killings.

Al-Maliki stepping in as mediator for Assad’s government and the opposition is speculated for a multitude of interrelated reasons.  Al-Maliki faces growing border control issue with Syria with rebels and refugees escaping into Iraq.  Also, with such repression from the Syrian government, the predominately Sunni opposition groups could find refuge with Sunni opposition groups in Iraq. Al-Maliki has also warned that violence and spillover will enter Iraq, igniting sectarian divide among Iraqi Sunni populations.

Some argue, Al-Maliki’s actions could be an effort towards a strengthening of regional alliances.  This mediation Al-Maliki will be overseeing between the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition groups will resemble the same talks Al-Maliki hosted in his own country.  This was speculated as a method to fraction opposition groups from collaborating with each other to against their collective enemy-the Iraqi government.  This could serve as a similar tactic in the Syrian talks.  It is clear that Al-Maliki has a strong interest in keeping the Alawite government in place so as to not usher in a opposition like extremist Sunni leader.

Whatever the reason, Iraq has also increased relations with Syria economically and otherwise.  The growing relationship between Syria and Iraq could be setting up the scene for the new tri-relationship conjectured between the two countries and Iran.

There is agreement from Iraqi populations in support for Al-Maliki’s role as mediator.  Some Iraqi Shiite leaders feared if the Syrian government fell-a Sunni leader would come to power. If this were to happen, it would further fraction Iraq into sectarian divides.

“In October of 2011, Al-Maliki, a Shiite, urged Syria to open up its political system to end one-party Baath rule (El Gamal, 2).” Al-Maliki has been clear about his distaste for the Baath party.  The Syrian government, though run by the minority elites of the Alawites, two-thirds of the federal governments house has assigned seats to the Baath party members—always having majority.  This being the case, the wishes of the people in Syria are often never realized due to the makeup of the government and their stark contrast between the government officials and house—this has been a point of frustration for the Syrian people.  Considering the religious makeup of the country, predominately Arab, with the majority of the population Sunni and about 10% Alawite-a minority in power is also a point of frustration for the people.  The same situation could be seen in Iraq before the fall of Saddam with a minority Sunni leadership with a predominately Shi’I country.

 

Al-Maliki has a major interest in making sure the Alawite government stays in place-who are more closely aligned with the Shiite beliefs.  While supporting Al-Assad and his government, Iraq has also increased ties and relationship with Iran.

Al-Maliki has an interest in strengthening its relationship with the Syrian government and not helping its opposition.  Iran and Syria have a longstanding relationship.

Regional sectarian feuds are the fear of many leaders in the MENA states and this is the explanation for a lot of their behaviors. The Syrian government believes that regional sectarian identities are responsible for inciting sectarian opposition against the Syrian government.

 

 

Reference:

El Gamal Rania, Editors Markey, Patrick and Hares, Sophie. 2011. “Iraq says ready to

Mediate with Syrian opposition.” Chicago Tribune News. 1-2.

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