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News Analysis: Iraq ethnic troubles threaten regional peace, Turkey

English.news.cn   2014-04-28 02:15:21

ISTANBUL, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Ethnic instability in Iraq and the increasing threat posed by al-Qaida-linked groups have exacerbated recent violence and insecurity, and could impact peace in the greater region and Turkey, experts say.

Ali Semin, an expert at the Istanbul-based Center for Strategic Research, said that the Iraqi prime minister uses the loose security situation in the country to gain votes.

"This is the basic policy of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. He has been augmenting the tension in the country, bringing the security issue forward and he has been increasing his votes," he said.

Iraq has been plagued with violence for years since the American occupation of the country, but the situation has deteriorated dramatically with the spillover of violence from the raging conflict in neighboring Syria. The al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, a regional armed Islamist militia fighting in Syria, has gained significant ground in Iraq, especially in the Sunni areas. Semin claims there are thousands of ISIL members in the country.

Earlier in the month, ISIL militants captured a significant dam on Euphrates River in Fallujah in order to strategically flood selected parts of the valley.

"With this move ISIL has declared a war of water," Semin said.

According to Semin, Iraqi security forces are incapable of fighting against the militant groups. He accused the government of encouraging ethnic and political polarization and preventing a united solution.

"Maliki has been empowering the fragmentation in every sphere. He has been excluding Sunni Arabs from the government. Even Shias have formed an important opposition against Maliki," Semin added.

However, Bilgay Duman, a researcher in Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, said that unity was lacking even within the different ethnic communities.

"Even the Kurds have been fragmented from within. They are going to join the election with two different groups, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party," he said.

Duman stressed that the ethnicity would be a determining factor for the outcome of the upcoming general elections in Iraq in April 30, since many voters still vote in line with their backgrounds.

"Even 11 years after the U.S. invasion the ethnic structure couldn't be shattered," he said.

Despite these divisions, both Duman and Semin expect that there would be a coalition government, a first for Iraq.

In all 277 political formations will compete for the 328 seats in the Council of Representatives in the parliamentary elections. Although no single bloc is expected to win the majority, Prime Minister Maliki's Shia-dominated State of Law alliance is widely seen as the front-runner. Maliki seeks a third consecutive term in office.

But Istanbul-based analysts say that a government without Maliki could improve the relations between Ankara and Baghdad.

Osman Bahadir Dincer, a member of the International Strategic Research Organization, described the Ankara-Baghdad relations as remittent.

"After the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq we have witnessed an up and down in their relations. Until 2007 the relation between Ankara and Baghdad was mostly based on the security... But after 2007 with the softening relation with U.S. and we have witnessed a slight improvement," he stated.

According to Dincer, although Ankara has mainly boosted its economic relations with the Kurdish Administration in Northern Iraq, there has also been a general positive shift towards the central government.

Semin stressed that the ethnic fragmentation and the al-Qaida threats are of vital importance to Turkey's peace and stability. He urged Turkey to take a more active role in the country and suggested that it take an "arbitrator role" during Iraqi negotiations.

Editor: yan
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