A New Crisis In Iraq

Jun 17, 2014 By Aarathi

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ISIS man carrying the group's flag; cc CNN

Just when the U.S had brought the last of its troops home, trouble is brewing in Iraq once again. 

A militant group that calls itself the ISIS - Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has been taking control of large territories of land in Iraq and neighboring Syria since early June of this year. The governments in both Iraq and Syria have been weakened by internal civil unrest. 

Iraq has an ancient rich and colorful history. But over the last century, since 1920, when its current boundaries were marked out, it has been plagued by civil and political problems.

A Brief Background

Iraq has been successively under the control of the British (1920-1932) as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia, a monarchy (till 1958) as the Kingdom of Iraq, and under the dictator Saddam Hussein (till 2003) as the Republic of Iraq.

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Nouri al-Maliki; Iraq's weak leader

Saddam’s Ba’ath party which formed the government not only ruled brutally, but also were constantly at war with its neighbors, especially Iran and later Kuwait. This aggression, combined with rumors that Iraq had been stocking up on weapons of mass destruction, led to the U.S led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Saddam Hussein was deposed and a new interim government established. 

However, this American-led intervention was seen as interference by many of the warring ethnic communities in Iraq - the Sunnis, Shias and the Kurds. This has created a very troubled situation. Nouru al-Maliki, the country's Prime Minister, has not been successful in unifying the different groups. 

Since 2011, after the US withdrew the last of its troops, Iraq’s Shia-run government has been accused of sidelining the Sunni sects. Militant troops of Sunnis (from Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab states) including the ISIS have now directed their attempts at the government. In addition, the tense situation has been worsened by civil war raging in adjacent Syria since 2011. 

Current Situation

On June 10th this year, this year, the ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq’s 2nd largest city with over 2 million inhabitants. Now the militants have weapons and equipment left behind by the retreating army, in addition to a huge amount of funds from the city’s banks that they have looted. Even though ISIS is no longer associated with al-Qaeda, it now seems to have gained enough members and funding. The group is led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

The most recent city to fall into their hands is Tikrit. The ISIS is advancing towards Baghdad and is believed to be just 37 miles north of the capital. What has everyone afraid is that, if the militants establish an Islamic empire, they will impose harsh Islamic laws that could lead to oppression of women and other sects of Muslims. A militant state could also be a fertile place for terror groups like Al Qaeda to take root. 

The U.S is sending soldiers and firepower to protect the U.S embassy and other American interests in Iraq. The world will be watching, and debating the next steps.

Courtesy: BBC, CNN

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