“Security crises in Egypt, Syria and other countries are overshadowing rising death tolls and new fears of civil war in Iraq, once the top U.S. priority in the Mideast. However, the prospect that sectarian violence could fuel instability beyond Iraq’s borders remains a concern for the Obama administration,” AP reports:
Egypt, once reliably stable, has disintegrated over deadly street riots and attacks that killed more than 600 people Wednesday during protests over the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Jordan, a key U.S. ally, is threatening to collapse under financial strain caused, in large part, by more than 1 million refugees who have crossed into the country from Syria. The U.S. is also leading peace talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities, and watching a growing threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. A threat from al-Qaida led to the closing of 19 diplomatic posts across the region last week.
“That’s a pretty large agenda,” said Jon Alterman, a Mideast expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Iraq is no longer viewed as central to everything the U.S. cares about in the Middle East. But Iraq is still relevant to a wide range that the U.S. cares about.”
The war in neighboring Syria has given a new lease of life to Al Qaeda in Iraq, says a former senior adviser to the Iraqi government.
“What we see today is Al Qaeda coming back with vengeance,’ says Laith Kubba, senior director for Middle East and North Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy. “The frequency and the scale of those attacks indicate they have built an infrastructure and this is not going to be beat easily,” he told the BBC.
“Iraq could handle these challenges one at a time but all of them at once – regional tension, Syria, domestic politics, and Al Qaeda – makes it difficult for the government to manage,” he said.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the political class have been criticized for adopting a sectarian approach to governance and failing to deliver basic services to the country’s citizens.
“It would help if they were more inclusive in their politics,” said Kubba. “More military or security measures will not resolve the problem. You need more intelligence and cooperation from citizens.”