All-Out Civil War in Iraq?


Iraq is edging closer to all-out sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Muslims as a series of car bombings and shootings killed at least 90 people and left many others injured.

Casualty figures are returning to a level not seen since the civil war of 2006-7. Most of the car bombings targeted markets, bus stops and other places crowded with civilians. A total of 10 car bombs killed 46 people and injured 150 in Baghdad, and another two bombs in the Shia port city of Basra in the south killed a further 13 and injured 40. In the town of Balad, north of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded next to a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing six Iranians and one Iraqi, a police officer said.

In the overwhelmingly Sunni province of Anbar in west Iraq, 12 policemen, kidnapped from a bus travelling on the main road between Baghdad and Jordan on Saturday, died during a botched rescue mission. The policemen were reportedly all shot in the head, suggesting that they had been executed by their captors during an attempt to free them.

The Sunni Arabs in Anbar, which sprawls across the west of the country, are increasingly in a state of armed rebellion. The security situation has deteriorated sharply since an attack by government forces on a peaceful protest by Sunni at Hawaijah in Kirkuk province on 23 April in which at least 44 people were killed. Eight policemen, including two officers, were killed in an attack on a police station in Haditha yesterday and a further four police were killed and three wounded in an attack by tribesmen in Rawa. Both places are in Anbar.

On Saturday, in the provincial capital of Ramadi, security forces tried and failed to arrest Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha, nephew of a powerful tribal leader, alleging that he is connected with the killing of five soldiers. Armed tribesmen fought back to prevent the arrest during which two people were killed.

The overall level of violence in Iraq has increased markedly in recent weeks as al-Qa’ida in Iraq gains in strength. The Sunni, one fifth of Iraq’s 33 million population, are emboldened by the Sunni uprising in Syria. Their protests against discrimination and persecution were largely peaceful for the five months up the Hawaijah massacre, but they are turning to armed resistance against government security forces.

“The moderate Sunni are losing ground,” says Iraqi political scientist Ghassan al-Atiyyah. Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has been criticised for failing to conciliate the Sunni protesters before the current wave of violence. The dominant Shia majority in Iraq are frightened that they will be the victims of a Sunni counter-revolution. The Shia-run security forces are likely to retaliate in kind over the killing of so many policemen in Anbar.

The bombing and shootings have killed over 200 people since last Wednesday, with Sunni and Shia bombers alternating in attacking each other’s neighbourhoods. These tit-for-tat bombings are different from those over the last five years when bombings were almost all carried out by al-Qa’ida against Shia and government targets.

Bomb attacks on Sunni in the last few weeks suggest that Shia militias, responsible for mass slaughter of Sunni civilians in the past, are again active. During the civil war  Sunni were driven from many mixed areas in Baghdad into a few enclaves.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
November 28-30, 2015
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxembourg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving