Monday, February 13, 2012

Iraqi Sunnis for Syria

Tim Arango and Duraid Adnan report on Sunni Arab Iraqi support for Syria's opposition:
"A belated celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on the outskirts of this western Iraqi city on Saturday quickly took on the trappings of a rally for Syria’s rebels. Young boys waved the old green, black and white flag Syria adopted in the 1930s after declaring independence from the French. Others collected money to send aid and weapons to the fighters opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s government across the border...

"It is increasingly clear that Syria’s sectarian war is becoming the regional conflict that analysts have long feared. The rush of recent events — including bombings and assassinations in Damascus and Aleppo, and intensifying violence in northern Lebanon coming directly out of the sectarian hostilities in Syria — suggest that the Assad government now also faces antagonists across its borders...

"Tribal leaders and security officials describe a small but increasing flow of weapons to Syria from Anbar Province and areas around Mosul, the northern city that is a headquarters for Al Qaeda in Iraq. For some weapons smugglers the price of an automatic rifle has increased dramatically — to $2,000 from about $300, according to one account."

I am bothered by this. For one thing, concerns about arming the opposition go just as much for Iraqis as they do the U.S. or NATO. What's especially troubling here is the overt sectarian nature of the alliances, a sectarian which will make lasting peace in Syria difficult while further aggravating religious tensions across the Arab world. Finally, transnational salafi jihadists such as Iraq's al-Qaeda affiliate are also directing their attentions toward Syria. While I'd rather Bashar al-Assad be their target than the United States, an ongoing military struggle in the heart of the Arab world could provide a platform for them to again become relevant to Arab public opinion after being sidelined by the mostly peaceful protests of 2011. This, in turn, will serve as justification for further clampdowns.

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