On February 5 the most protected “green zone” of Baghdad was rocked by four explosions. At least 33 people were killed and several dozen injured. Two car bombs exploded in the vicinity of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. Another explosion , which was executed by a suicide bombers , sounded at the entrance to the “green zone”, the fourth explosion erupted in a restaurant situated in the popular urban area.
In recent months the security conditions in Iraq has been deteriorating rapidly. According to the Ministry of Health of Iraq , more than a thousand people were killed in bombings in January of this year . Among them 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen. Additionally, more than 2 thousand people were injured.
If these numbers are to be compared with January’s record of the last year, the number of victims has tripled. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in his last televised speech said that “the fight against terrorism will continue.” ” All those who support terrorism will be a target of the security forces,” – said the head of the Iraqi government. ” The international community must take a clear standing in relation to the countries and organizations that support extremists, and force them to stop this support, both financial and political,” – he said , alluding to Saudi Arabia and a number of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf member states.
On January 30 a group of militants while attempting to take a hold of the Ministry of Transport took several dozen of hostages, a number of them was killed during the rescue operation.
The next day – January 31 – terrorists carried out a missile attack on the international airport in Baghdad. According to local law enforcement agencies, a total of 3 missiles was launched during this attack. One of them exploded on the runway , the second hit a plane, the third exploded behind the perimeter of the airport.
And all this is happening against the backdrop of a major military operation in Anbar Province, the stronghold of Sunni extremist organizations. This operation that involved armored vehicles, aircraft and heavy artillery started on December 23. However, the militants managed to fight back, they killed Maj Gen Mohammed al-Karawi, along with another 17 senior officers of the 7th Division, a backbone of the Iraqi troops involved in the elimination of hotbeds of terrorism. This string of assassinations triggered another large-scale operation against the bases and supply routes of terrorists in the Horan valley. The skirmishes are taking place between the city of Ramadi and the Syrian border , since this space was infiltrated by hundreds of extremist from Syria, those from the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” and “Al-Qaeda”. In order to change the situation Lieutenant-General Rashid Falih was appointed the Operation Commander in Anbar Province on January 20, he replaced General Abdul Aziz that had to step down due to health issues. General Falih is believed to be one of the most resolute military commanders in Iraq. His appointment was associated with the intentions of the Iraqi authorities to bring the situation under control as quickly as possible. But the results weren’t too convincing, since the militants from Sunny organizations recaptured the cities of Ramadi and Felludzha . In this situation, the United States urgently shipped drones for Iraqi Air Forces, so that they could launch air strikes against bases of the Islamists.
However, signs of improvement are yet to be seen . According to some sources, Iran can assign a number of operatives from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to break the situation in favor of Baghdad. Until now, the Iraqis tried to fight on their own, without direct military assistance from Tehran . However, as the date for parliamentary elections approaches, Iraqi authorities may as well resort to external assistance , given the fact that Sunni terrorist groups are funded and armed by foreign sources , primarily by conservative Gulf monarchies .
The situation in Iraq looks like an attempt of the Wahhabi-Sunni axis led by Riyadh to take advantage of the difficult situation in this Arab country to foment the Sunni-Shiite face-off in the region. This will jeopardize the peaceful Syrian initiatives and allow them to disrupt the US-Tehran rapprochement. The ruling clan of Saudi Arabia does not want to lose the position of the main strategic partner of Washington in the region, so it will resort to any means , including provocations to safeguard the privileged place in the regional games of the United States. Especially if we are to consider the fact that it may take Iraq 5 to 7 years to bring its oil exports to 8-9 MMBD, taking it to the level of oil exports of Saudi Arabia, while Iran will be able to increase its level to 3-3.5 MMBD. Thus they may replace the Wahhabi kingdom as the main oil exporters of the Middle East, which will substantially reduce the attractiveness of this country to the Western world.
Now, a lot depends on what the White House would do: would it be able to understand the inevitability of the forthcoming shift towards Iran and Iraq and the “Shiite crescent” in general, or will be supporting stubbornly time and time again the aging rulers of Saudi Arabia.
Pyotr Lvov, PhD in Political Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.