Sunday, January 5, 2014

Al-Qaida Linked Groups Spread Syria's Civil War

This analysis is timely in light of the recent report of a Muslim arson attack against an Orthodox Christian library in Tripoli.

by John Rossomando — IPT — 1/3/2013

Syria's civil war is spilling over into Iraq and Lebanon. The al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra have announced plans to enter Lebanon militarily to counter Hizballah, which has played a key role in keeping Bashar al-Assad in power.

A car bomb went off in Beirut neighborhood Thursday killing at least four people and wounding 77 others. It came less than a week after another car bomb hit downtown Beirut, killing a prominent Hizballah critic. Two other bombs rocked Lebanon last summer and a suicide bomber attacked Iran's embassy in November.

Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper reported in November that security sources said that ISIS had decided to carry out suicide attacks in Lebanon against Shiite targets.

ISIS has also stepped up attacks in Iraq's Anbar province, the hotbed of the post-Saddam insurgency. The terrorist group killed at least 32 civilians Friday in clashes with Iraqi police and Sunni tribesmen. Gunmen also blew up the police headquarters, the office of the local council and the mayor's office in Fallujah.

The al-Qaida militants reportedly control half of the city. Violence also spread to nearby Ramadi after police tore down a Sunni protest camp that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the "headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaida."

The Maliki government's heavy hand has alienated many in Iraq's Sunni minority and has left them with few outlets to express their grievances.

Ramadi was a similar hotbed of insurgency violence during the Iraq War before the U.S. teamed with Sunni tribesmen to fight al-Qaida.

Large swaths of Ramadi have also been taken over by ISIS fighters. The New York Times reports that Abu Risha, a Ramadi tribal sheikh who fought alongside the Americans against al-Qaida, is considering helping the Iraqi government to fight the ISIS.

"We were all surprised that the terrorists left the desert and entered your cities to return a second time, to commit their crimes, to cut off the heads, blow up houses, kill scholars and disrupt life," Abu Risha told the Times. "They came back, and I am delighted for their public appearance after the security forces failed to find them. Let this time be the decisive confrontation with al-Qaida."

Iraq witnessed its largest death toll in five years during 2013. More than 8,800 people, including 7,818 civilians, were killed across Iraq in 2013. This includes the 759 Iraqis who were killed in December alone.

ISIS sees an opportunity to advance its cause of creating a single transnational state based on Islamic law by broadening Syria's civil war into neighboring countries.