We have a whole generation being born into and growing up in a situation such as this in Syria
(UNRWA/handout/AP Photo via yahoonewsphotos)
In Iraq’s western desert near the Syrian border, in a landscape of sand and rock, a signpost announces that you are entering al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).A short video of the sign was broadcast on jihadi websites last month and reflects a long-held goal of al Qaeda fighters to establish an Islamic emirate.ISIL insurgents have increased attacks on strategic targets in parts of western Iraq in the past three months in a bid to make their putative state a reality, security officials and analysts say.”Al Qaeda believes these areas do not have strong security and social ties to the central government so it would be easy to separate them from Iraq,” independent analyst Hashim al-Habobi said. “This is the goal of all these attacks.”Al Qaeda fighters seized control of most of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim areas after the 2003 U.S. invasion. American troops and local allies finally beat them back in heavy fighting during the “surge” of 2006-07, but today the fighters once again aim to control towns and cities and realise their dream of a state ruled according to strict medieval Sunni Islamic practice.
After years of plotting underground and on the Internet, they have joined forces with powerful groups fighting in neighbouring Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, and aim to establish a Caliphate that would transcend modern state borders.
"They want to establish their own state on the ground. It is not enough to have a state in the virtual world anymore," said a senior federal police officer who has attended interrogations of al Qaeda detainees in Baghdad.
— Syria’s war on children
— Refik Eryilmaz, Turkish lawmaker from the border city of Antakya, said.
With Iraq wracked by the worst violence in three years, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was in Washington this week looking for military aid and other help. This was quite a turnabout, since he had essentially forced American troops to leave in 2011. Since then, the pressures in Iraq have grown, and Mr. Maliki bears much responsibility for the current turmoil.
His plea for assistance is urgent because Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group and Al Qaeda affiliate that was significantly degraded in 2008, is again a major threat, stoking war against Iraq’s majority Shiites. Since January, more than 7,000 people have been killed in bombings and shootings in outdoor markets, cafes, bus stations, mosques and pilgrimages in Shiite areas.
Al Qaeda in Iraq waged a virulent insurgency that brought the country near civil war in 2006 and 2007, then suffered big defeats from Iraqi Sunni tribal groups and American forces. Since the Americans withdrew, the group has gained strength against Iraqi forces that are incapable of fully protecting civilians and has taken in fighters spilling in from neighboring Syria. These are serious problems. Mr. Maliki, however, has been playing a central role in the disorder. There is no doubt that militant threats would be less pronounced now if he had united the country around shared goals rather than stoked sectarian conflict.