Syria Developments, a Model for Iraq Unrest Scenario

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hossein Kebriaeizadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

The recent wave of tribal unrest in Sunni-dominated provinces in the west of Iraq and increased activities against the central government of Iraq by a Western - Arab axis in the region are notable developments from a number of viewpoints. The above developments followed the recent arrest of Mohammed Al-Majhool, head of the Iraqi Finance Minister Rafie Al-Issawi’s security guard in addition to nine bodyguards of the minister on December 19, 2012.

To find the real motives behind this new political current, due attention should be paid to Baghdad’s policies since the fall of the country’s former dictator, Saddam Hussein. As everybody knows, the post-Saddam Iraq, 60 percent of whose population consists of a Shia majority, has been trying to reclaim its strategic standing in the region by relying on the people’s support for the Iraqi government’s reforms in foreign policy. Such an approach calls for the expansion of political and military relations with two important political players: Iran and Russia. On the other hand, an Iraq which had decided to restructure its foreign policy in order to become a member of the anti-Israel resistance axis could not remain indifferent toward the fate of another country which connected two sides of that axis; that is, Syria. Therefore, in a summit session of Arab heads of state, Baghdad offered its all-out support for Syria, thus, becoming a target for the enmity of the aforesaid Western - Arab axis. As a result, failure of that axis in Syria caused its members to reach the conclusion that to conquer Syria they have first to overcome the Iraq barrier because weakening of the resistance axis would be the key to entry of the Free Syrian Army into the Syrian capital, Damascus.

After the goals and motivations are revealed, the next step is to discuss methodological similarities between approaches that the aforesaid Western - Arab axis has taken to tribal unrest in Iraq, and its ongoing approaches to the crisis in Syria.

The fact that the political symbols of the Syrian government’s opposition, known as the Free Syrian Army, were brandished in anti-government demonstrations in the Iraqi cities of Al-Anbar, Salahuddin, and Mosul by protesters, as well as the main location of the Iraqi protests which is a highway connecting Iraq to Jordan and Syria, are telltale signs of reliable links existing between developments in Syria and the ongoing unrest in Iraq.

The next important factor is the main protagonists behind the unrest. According to the Lebanese news website, Al-Nakhil, Fattah Al-Sheikh, the former member of the Al-Iraqiya List has revealed that head of the Al-Iraqiya List, Ayad Al-Alawi, and the fugitive former Iraqi vice president, Tariq Al-Hashimi, are closely cooperating with Nawaf Al-Fares, the former Syrian ambassador to Baghdad. All these figures are known collaborators with the Saudi regime. On the other hand, the main body of the protesters consists of tribal people in such Iraqi provinces as Al-Anbar most of whom are pro-Saudi Sunnis. Therefore, entry of elements of the Free Syrian Army and the third generation of Al-Qaeda into the abovementioned Iraqi provinces has revealed, beyond any doubt, the role of Saudi Arabia in Iraq’s protests.

In the meantime, a measure similar to the establishment of the Free Syrian Army in Syria is already underway in Iraq. According to Udai Al-Khadran, the governor of Al-Khalis, the remnants of the Iraqi Baath party are doing their best to form a free army in Iraq’s Diyala province. As a result, an organized group headed by Izzat Ibrahim, a former senior official of the Iraqi Baath party and a deputy to Saddam, is trying to establish a “free army” in Iraq’s Diyala province.

To top the aforesaid measures and to fan the flames of all-out tribal skirmishes for the purpose of elevating them to the level of a full-scale national crisis, an essential role should be also played by a media arm. The Qatar-based Aljazeera network has apparently undertaken that role. In a way similar to Syria unrest, the channel has dispatched reporters to Baghdad, Mosul, Samarra, Al-Ramadi, and Fallujah to give direct coverage to protests and implement a scenario in Iraq which bears undeniable similarities to the scenario which is already in gears in Syria. The media have designated a Friday as the “Friday of Dignity” for the Iraqi protesters and have been trying to introduce similar symbols as well. Concurrent with those protests, there have been reports about test-run of a Baathist channel from the Iraqi city of Fallujah with the financial support of Qatar. The network has started its preliminary programs by broadcasting songs, photos and films related to Iran-Iraq war which also include some footage on the operations carried out by Fedayeen Saddam (Saddam's Men of Sacrifice).

Turkey forms the third side of this triangle which is trying to use its diplomatic finesse to turn Iraq’s small-scale unrest into a full-fledged crisis. This would pave the way for the implementation of a plan proposed by the US Vice President Joe Biden for the disintegration of Iraq into three Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish regions.

Under these circumstances, several factors have come together and have provided notable capacities in order to deal a drastic blow to the anti-Israeli resistance axis through Iraq which call for more vigilance on the part of the Iraqi officials and the other members of that axis. Those factors include Saudi Arabia’s money and ideological capacity to mobilize Sunni tribes in Iraq, Turkey’s diplomatic efforts, the media power of Qatar, and the United States’ experience which is being administered through the establishment of Awakening Councils in Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province that is currently the gravitational center of the unrest in Iraq.

Key Words: Syria Developments, Iraq Unrest Scenario, Western - Arab Axis, Free Syrian Army, Friday of Dignity, Awakening Councils, Kebriaeizadeh

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