Friday The 13th – A Nightmare On Arab Street


Recent events in Iraq look like the beginning of a long feared nightmare scenario for the Middle East – that the Syrian Civil War would become a wider Sunni versus Shia regional war, involving Syria, Iraq, Iran, and maybe even Lebanon. Iran is already involved in helping Assad’s Shia regime in Syria, so now, with their intervention in Iraq to fight a Sunni terrorist faction (ISIL, also known as ISIS) already involved in the Syrian war, it’s now time to think of a new name for this larger war.

This must be seen as a great opportunity by Iran, as they can now establish a land bridge to Syria, enabling them to bring their full military might to bear on all the Syrian rebel factions. Before, Iran’s support for Assad’s regime primarily consisted of volunteers, and small arms and ammunition flown in piecemeal. But now, full divisions of tens of thousands of well-equipped professional soldiers with tanks, armoured cars, mass artillery, and a capable air force could sweep its way through Iraq and into Syria, changing the whole balance of forces there.

Maliki in his panic and desperation has made a tragic mistake by inviting in Iranian forces. With Iranian troops in Iraq, it is unlikely they will leave. They will probably seek to dominate Iraq’s politics, and transform it into a client state. This will also badly damage efforts at reconciliation between the Shiite dominated Iraqi government and the Sunnis, who have always been suspicious of Iranian influence. Maliki was already doing a poor job at dealing with the distrustful Sunni minority by mistreating the Sahwa militia, persecuting many Sunnis, and keeping Sunni political figures out of the government. Now Sunnis, who might still have believed in national unity in the face of the threat from the old ‘al Qaida in Iraq’ (now rebranded as ISIL), will have little enthusiasm for an Iranian led Shia alliance. Already, many Sunni civilians have shown support for ISIL terrorists advancing through Iraq.

A possible sequel to this nightmare though, is even more disturbing; that if Iran either achieves a total Shia victory, or at least reduces Sunni resistance to a manageable low level guerilla conflict – Iran could achieve domination over the Middle East. The conflict could leave Iraq and Syria dependent on Iranian power, and transform them and the Hezbollah controlled territory in southern Lebanon into client states of an Iranian Shia empire. But this would just be the start of clerical Iran’s supreme wish – a border with Israel. Iran would be able to build up its considerable forces along the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon for an ultimate doomsday showdown with Israel. Iran might even have a nuclear bomb by then. A nuclear holocaust and Iranian domination of the Middle East could be the greatest disaster of the 21st century.

The first part of the nightmare will be bad enough though. The mass suffering and death in Syria, which many in the West find excuses to not care about, will become much, much worse. Don’t think the intense hatred and trauma-induced bloodthirstiness that this conflict will create won’t find its way to the West. Expect the age of Islamist terrorism to get worse.

As jihadists take aim at Baghdad, Iran steps in to help historical foe