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WASHINGTON – Some of Shi’ite Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s leadership decisions have had the effect of boosting Sunni-Shi’ite conflict, leading some regional observers to suggest that the country may be heading for a three-way split, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
That split would mean that a portion of the country would be under Shi’ite influence, another portion under Sunni control and a third up north under Kurdish rule.
Concerns over a sectarian conflict have increased since U.S. troops left Iraq last December. Al-Maliki has kept Sunnis out of his government, which has prompted more Sunni opposition.
The Iraqi prime minister recently caused serious internal dissension after canceling a scheduled reconciliation conference that was to be held earlier this month. The conference was supposed to bring these factions together to settle differences.
The cancellation, however, has had the effect of emphasizing the differences even more. In addition, Al-Maliki had accused his Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, of terrorism and he escaped the country and has been hiding out in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Officials there refuse to hand over al-Hashimi to the Iraqi’s Shi’ite government.
In addition, al-Maliki also has been a major supporter of the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a position that also has created consternation especially with Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis have gone so far as to call al-Maliki an Iranian agent, given his closeness to the Iranian government.
Al-Maliki also is at odds with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has warned the Iraqi prime minister that Turkey could intervene in Iraq should there be a sectarian conflict. Turkey has sent in troops in the past into the northern part of Iraq to chase down members of the outlawed Kurdish PKK terrorist group whose members use the area as a base from which to launch attacks into Turkey.
Erdogan, also a Sunni, backs the Saudis and, like them, is concerned about the plight of the minority Sunnis in Iraq since the Shi’ites took power after the overthrow of the Sunni regime of President Saddam Hussein by U.S. and coalition forces in March 2003.
Turkey also is experiencing increasing tensions with Syria due to the growing sectarian conflict occurring there.
“Esteemed Maliki should know this – if you start a period of conflict in Iraq within a sectarian struggle, it will be impossible for us to remain silent,” Erdogan recently warned.
For some time, Turkey has sought Sunni and Kurdish support while Iraqi Shi’ites have gravitated toward Iran. In response, al-Maliki has declared Turkey to be a “hostile state” with a sectarian agenda.
In backing the Kurds, Erdogan also has his eye on the oil in the northern part of Iraq under Kurdish control. Al-Maliki recently halted oil exports from the region, upsetting the Kurdistan regional government.
While Iraq is Turkey’s second largest trading partner, with more than half with the Kurdistan region, the ensuing sectarian conflict poses the prospect of spilling over throughout the region.
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