‘US opened Pandora’s box in Iraq, regional sectarian violence almost impossible to stop now’

22 May 2013 — RT

“Everyone in Iraq must be terrified that the situation in Syria is spilling over into Iraq” Bambery said as Tuesday’s attacks in the country kill over 40, a day after over 70 people were murdered, escalating fears of all-out sectarian war between minority Sunnis and majority Shiites.

In the biggest incident on Tuesday, a car bomb exploded near a Sunni mosque in Baghdad killing 11 people and injuring 21.

In a separate incident, a bomb outside a cafe in southern Baghdad killed six more and wounded 18.

A decade after the hanging of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is bitterly divided between the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites and with no power-sharing deal insight, violence is again on the rise.

“It is based on the decision by the Americans when they occupied Iraq to separate Iraq off into these three areas,”
 Bambery told the viewers.

It is also being fueled by the Syrian conflict where predominantly Sunni insurgents are fighting President Assad. Another Syrian neighbor, Lebanon is seeing Shiite Hezbollah forces fighting alongside Assad’s troops, a minority Shiite-linked Alawite sect.

Overall it is estimated by the UN that over 700 people died in Iraq in April, a number Bambery warns will only rise as “we have now seen an alliance of al-Qaeda elements in Syria and al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, who are involved in sectarian violence in both countries.”

RT: The Sunni demand for more independence, is it a realistic goal?

Chris Bambery: I think it is realistic given the Kurds in the North have effectively separated from the rest of Iraq. But I think this is unfortunate decision. It is based on the decision by the Americans when they occupied Iraq to separate Iraq off into these three areas. Iraq has been a unified country for a long time. And yet doing so based on the sectarian headcount by dividing the country up, particularly be excluding the Sunni from having any control of the oil fields was a recipe of the sectarian conflict. And that’s what we’ve seen. But what is adding spice to that is the question of what is happening across the border in Syria, because we are seeing an alliance between al-Qaeda elements in Syria and Sunni Salafists in Iraq – they’ve united – and have been involved in these attacks. And I think everyone in Iraq must be terrified that the situation in Syria is spilling over into Iraq. Indeed across the region we are seeing a possibility of further tension, a possibility of it spilling over in Lebanon. This sectarian violence which is terrible in Iraq is becoming very intertwined with what is going on in Syria with almost an open border between the two countries there.
RT:  Would handing more self-rule do anything to stop the violence?
CB: I don’t think it would stop the violence. I don’t think the people carrying sectarian attacks particularly the targeting of Shia are motivated by the issue of creating an autonomous region for the essentially majority of Sunni population. They are motivated by sectarianism, let’s be honest about this. Even if they were granted the autonomy inside Iraq, they are going to use that as continuation for that kind of sectarian killings. As I said they are spurred on by what is happening in Syria, which is increasingly a sectarian conflict, my answer is no- that would not stop sectarian killings. I think, unfortunately they are only likely to get worse.
RT:  Where would the line be in allowing more freedom to self-govern and the country’s disintegration?
CB: Yes, the country is disintegrating. As I say, Americans have to take the blame for that because of the system they imposed in Iraq, giving independence to Kurds in the North, who of course were allies with them against Saddam Hussein, and then they are suggesting they would split the Shia alliance in the rest of Iraq and that opened up a Pandora’s box, which really is almost impossible to stop now. But this is not going to stop sectarian violence. I think people across the world should be absolutely clear the responsibility for that does lie on Americans and what they did in 2003 and the subsequent occupation of that county.

RT: What about Syria – is it heading in the same direction? 

CB: That must be the fear. Because I say there is almost an open border between Syria and Iraq. There are many refugees from Syria inside Iraq and we have now seen an alliance of al-Qaeda elements in Syria and al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, who are involved in sectarian violence in both countries. We have Iraqis fighting along with Free Syrian Army and Islamists inside Syria. So the possibly because of this, in fact I would say it is spreading – and  increasing the sectarian campaign in Iraq is becoming deeply connected to that inside Syria.  Geography of instability is spreading and that threatens to destabilize elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly Lebanon.

RT: With Lebanon’s Hezbollah now involved in Syria – how much will this influx of military manpower going to shift momentum in the fighting?

CB: I think the fighting has been in impasse for some time. Neither side is capable of producing decisive victory. Whether Hezbollah is battle-training fighters, battle training against Israelis can shift the balance, let’s see. But let’s be clear as well there is intervention from the other side. It is clear, everyone and their dogs knows, the Saudis, the Qataris pouring arms, the Americans are providing training and if Hezbollah increases its intervention on the side  of the Assad regime, I think that it is likely that they are pushing for Western intervention. Some of the governments in America and Britain seem quite keen on increasing, arming the rebels inside Syria and proving other means. So, I think we are seeing very dangerous time and I think when the moment comes to the question about Syria, one is very important, I think, the decision to exclude Iran from next week’s conference in Geneva on the possibility of political solution is profoundly mistaken, because there can be no agreement between the various powers in the world over the question of Syria with no Iran at the table.

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