The Danger of Renewed Sectarian Violence in Iraq

  • 3 February 2010

The suicide attack targeting Shiite pilgrims in Iraq last Monday – that left scores dead and several others wounded – is a warning sign that attempts are once again being made to trigger sectarian violence and take the country back to the days of bloodshed which had significantly declined during the past few months. It appears that efforts are being made to create an impression that Iraq’s security situation is fragile, its political scene is chaotic and hence the country is not ready for the legislative elections scheduled for March 7.

Renewed sectarian violence in Iraq is a desperate attempt by extremist and terrorist elements to inflame the country once again as has happened in the past. This proves the contention that such forces thrive on incendiary security situations and incite violence between Sunnis and Shiites to drag the two sides into bloody confrontation. Extremist elements take advantage of these political disputes and exaggerate them to divert the attention away from their crimes against the Iraqi people.

These powers, who are driven by malicious intent, are igniting the conflict by trying to exclude some candidates from the upcoming Iraqi elections further fuelling tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Sunnis believe that the exclusion of candidates is targeted at them and will hamper their political role even though Shiites are also in the list of those excluded.

Experience has shown that sectarianism is the biggest problem in Iraq and it has often become a tool for powers, within and outside the country, to harm Iraqi interests and threaten its unity and security. There are also other contentious issues and controversies in Iraq which have got intertwined with the agendas of foreign powers that do not want Iraq and its people to progress and feel secure about their interests. These objectives are contrary to the interests of the Iraqi people and has been the most dangerous threat facing the country in recent times. Hence cohesion between people of various sects and ethnic groups is essential to Iraq’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity.

Iraq is on the verge of an important legislative elections and conducting it in an atmosphere of peace and security is in the country’s interest. This can only be achieved by pushing forward a political process and by strengthening the foundations of the system in a manner that helps the country achieve national solidarity on major issues that relates to the future of Iraq. The future of Iraq’s political system will be defined by the relationship between its various sects and this will truly help the country achieve national reconciliation. However, for this to happen all political and religious forces must put supreme national interest before their narrow sectarian considerations and deal seriously with internal disputes that fan extremism and terrorism.

Harmony among the various sects and the spirit of upholding national unity should be the driving force for different political powers in Iraq. They must also respond to attempts being made by divisive forces and convey a clear message that there is no return to sectarian violence in Iraq and that the country is moving forward and towards the restoration of its Arab and regional role.