Iraq continues to suffer while being mostly ignored

I stopped doing daily updates on Iraq because I’d run out of things to say apart from reporting casualty figures, and there are better places to check for that kind of thing. But the situation there is still awful:

While July is still the month with the highest death toll at 1,057, September was not far behind with deaths numbering nearly 1,000. With Baghdad being the most affected area, the death toll is continuously rising, specifically in Shia districts.

As BBC reported, most of the violence has been blamed on Sunni Islamist militants connected to al-Qaeda in Iraq.  A recent statement posted online by ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, claims the bombings at the mostly Shia districts were paybacks for a “campaign of torture, displacement, detainment and liquidation” of the Sunni minority.

Emphasizing that the militants are “Sunni” is accurate but is also potentially misleading, because Iraqi violence still hasn’t taken on a widespread sectarian characteristic. The violence in Iraq is being perpetrated by Islamic terrorists who are Sunni and have at times tapped into Sunni feelings of disenfranchisement to fuel their violence, but who have attacked non-militant Iraqi Sunnis just as heavily as they’ve attacked Shiʿites. However, if this Time piece is accurate, the Maliki government may be about to boost the potential for a wider sectarian civil war:

Two weeks ago, reports emerged that the Iraqi government planned to form a “special division” in Baghdad composed of Shiʿite militias to fight al-Qaeda, a charge al-Maliki’s government has denied. Such a division would likely consist of groups who played major roles in the 2006–07 sectarian bloodbath, and rearming those militias could rekindle a fiery era during which each morning brought the grisly sight of dead bodies along the edges of Sunni and Shi‘ite neighborhoods.

This would be a potentially catastrophic error. The thing that has kept ISIS’ terrorism from sparking a full-on civil war has been the fact that Shiʿa paramilitaries haven’t responded to these attacks by targeting Sunnis. For the government to effectively start sanctioning Shiʿi militias would change that situation entirely. There was a report in August that the Maliki government was once again train and equip the Sahwa, the Sunni militias that were used effectively to counter Sunni extremists back in the heady days of the Surge. This makes a lot more sense from the standpoint of keeping the violence as contained as possible, and maybe this time Maliki won’t abandon those Sunni tribes once he doesn’t need them anymore, which is what led to the Sunni discontent that ISIS has been exploiting.


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