In recent weeks, the situation in Iraq has unraveled, with ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) overtaking much of the country. Iraq news today brings new information about how ISIS is challenging Al-Qaeda by declaring a new Islamic state as they strive to build on the centuries-old conflict of Sunni vs. Shiite in the region.
Creation of new Islamic state
The leaders of ISIS recently announced the restoration of the 7th-century Islamic caliphate. This had been a goal of the terrorist organization, one that changes their name from ISIS to simply the “Islamic State” to signify the breaking down of the borders between Iraq and Syria. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, will be the caliph, or leader, of the new state.
On June 29, 2014, Liz Sly and Loveday Morris wrote, “Militants making headway in Iraq and Syria declare creation of formal Islamic state” for The Washington Post about the latest in Iraq news today. The two stated that the announcement of al-Baghdadi as the leader of the “Islamic State” challenges al-Qaeda’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. It is unlikely that al-Zawahiri will accept al-Baghdadi’s self-proclaimed authority.
It is also unclear if “some of the other Sunni revolutionary movements fighting alongside the militants against the Iraqi government … will accept the Islamic State’s explicit rejection of national boundaries, including those of Iraq,” Sly and Morris wrote.
Inflaming Sunni vs. Shiite conflict
According to Kurt Eichenwald’s June 27, 2014, article for Newsweek, “Does This Mean Osama Bin Laden Has Won? If the Islamists Win in Iraq, Another Iran-Iraq War Is in the Cards,” what many Americans have not understood about al-Qaeda or the situation in the Middle East is the underlying effect the Sunni vs. Shiite conflict has in shaping all of the interactions in that part of the world. Eichenwald wrote, “Al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations have killed untold thousands of Shiites in the past 11 years.”
What’s more, ISIS is carrying out the intentions of Osama bin-Laden who wanted Sunnis to revolt against any “Western-supported governments in the Arab world and confront Shiites, whom he deeply opposed,” Eichenwald explained.
Iran, a Shiite state, has already crossed the border into Iraq to take on ISIS. If the Iranians succeed, then it most likely will serve to increase the Sunni vs. Shiite division and draw more followers to ISIS and their “Islamic State.” This leaves the U.S. in an unusual position. The U.S. government opposes ISIS, who are Sunnis, but also traditionally opposes Iran, who are Shiites. Therefore, the U.S. must not only let Iran know that it shares a “strategic interest with Iran’s Shiites,” but also, according to Eichenwald, not allow Sunnis to be marginalized in the governing of any Iraqi state in the future.
What happens next in Iraq
Many Americans are not sure what the U.S. government should do to get involved, or if they should even be involved, in this conflict. Fareed Zakaria posted on his blog for CNN.com, “U.S. position on Iraq incoherent” on June 26, 2014, with some insights into the situation that is going on in Iraq news today.
The problem, as Zakaria sees it, is that the U.S. foreign policy is focused on recognizing borders and the conflict is more fluid. Additionally, picking a side means choosing between Sunni vs. Shiite. “The Iranians, the Syrians and the Iraqi government all see ISIS as their enemy,” Zakaria said. In the end, he said that unless the U.S. is committed to sending a large volume of troops to the region, yet again, to remake the political landscape of Iraq, the best course of action for the moment may be to simply just watch and see how Iran and Syria handle ISIS and their “Islamic State.”
Should the U.S. be involved more or less in the conflict between Sunni vs. Shiite that is playing out in Iraq news today? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.