Foreign Policy Blogs

The Islamic State in Iraq and Soft Partition

Two days ago, I wrote a brief post about an apparent exodus of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) operatives to neighboring Syria – resulting in an abrupt drop in violence in the capital city of Mosul, and a surprising lull across Nineveh province in the northwest part of the country.

Today, at least 60 people were killed, and more than 200 wounded in a wave of car bombings and small arms fire across the country. The attacks were concentrated in Shi’a neighborhoods in and around Baghdad, and while many targeted government security installations and bureaucratic facilities, innocent civilians took the brunt of the casualties.

The Iraqi government issued a prompt condemnation of the violence, and laid the blame squarely on AQI. However, in 2006, AQI joined forces with a number of other paramilitary forces with aims to establish an “Islamic caliphate” in the Sunni dominated western part of the country. The organizations allied themselves under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq. The Mujahideen Shura Council, Jeish al-Fetiheen, Jund al-Shaba, Katbiyan Ansar, and Jeish al Taiifa al-Mansoura have declared themselves member-militias. All told, these organization comprise the bulk of western Iraqi, Sunni fighters- and the bulk of formal “insurgency.”

Largely homegrown, it appears that many fighters duty bound to the Islamic State of Iraq have elected to remain “in country,” as opposed to joining the increasingly violent rebellion in Syria. Today’s violence suggests they remain ready and willing to violently target Maliki’s stranglehold on Shi’a majorities, and in so doing, construct an independent western state.

A brief aside: On Tuesday, Tom Ricks (over at Foreign Policy Magazine) tipped his hat to LTC. Joel Rayburn (now, of the Hudson Institute) for his comments regarding Iraq’s race to a soft, sectarian partition.

After today’s vicious attacks on the central government and Shi’a civilians, we should recognize what they’re fighting for:

The Islamic State of Iraq

Sunni terror tactics are hardening Iraq’s sectarian lines in concert with the Maliki government’s refusal to share power. It’s not surprising that many Iraqis are steeling themselves for a deep devolution of power that amounts to the soft partition of the state.

The tragic consequence of a broken nation.