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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: January 25, 2014 NO. 5 JANUARY 30, 2014
Al Qaeda Moves Into Iraq
The creation of a self-proclaimed state further complicates the region
By Liu Yueqin

UNDER ATTACK: Iraqis gather at the site of a detonated car bomb in central Baghdad on January 15 (XINHUA/AFP)

Al Qaeda's presence did not exist in Iraq prior to the war. It was the United States, which invaded and occupied Iraq from 2003 to 2011, that allowed Al Qaeda's penetration into the country

Terrorism gained a new foothold early this year. On January 3, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an insurgent organization established by Al Qaeda's Iraq branch and the National Salvation Front in Syria—a Syrian opposition group—declared the creation of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" in Fallujah. The terrorist organization made the announcement after occupying the city near Iraq's capital of Baghdad. Al Qaeda took down and set fire to Iraq's national flags throughout the city, replacing them with those of Al Qaeda.

The terrorist organization's activities not only caused major problems for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his administration, but also heightened tensions in the greater Middle Eastern region.

Legacy of the Iraq War

Anbar Province, where Fallujah is located, used to be a province under Sunni control. The Sunnis launched a series of fierce protests in 2013 against Maliki's exclusion of the Sunni group from the policy-making core of the country.

Al Qaeda establishing a self-proclaimed state in Fallujah was instigated by the Iraqi Government's ruthless repression of the Sunnis and the escalation of sectarian conflicts.

On December 30, 2013, Iraqi security forces swept a large anti-government demonstration camp near another Anbar city, Ramadi, leading to clashes with anti-government demonstrators and tribal militants. The conflicts rapidly expanded to other places in Anbar Province. Prime Minister Maliki declared the pullout of security forces to ease tension in the province the next day.

On the first day of 2014, Sunni tribal forces began to take over cities including Ramadi and Fallujah, but Al Qaeda militants took advantage of the disorder and infiltrated the cities at the same time. They stormed and occupied police offices, released prisoners and fought against Sunni tribal forces. Maliki cancelled the decision to pull out of Anbar that night, and dispatched more troops to the cities instead. In the following days, Iraqi security and Sunni tribal forces joined together to fight against Al Qaeda in the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi.

The root to this conflict is the severe distrust between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq. The Shiite-controlled Central Government adopted policies against the Sunnis, which triggered revolt. Maliki's administration carried out repression against the Sunnis after it failed to realize ethnic and sectarian reconciliation. In the meantime, Al Qaeda took advantage of the crisis, pushing tensions to a higher level.

The Iraq War, which was launched by the United States on the basis of false intelligence 11 years ago, led to consequences such as sectarian conflicts and Al Qaeda's terrorist activities. The major conflict in the country after the war has been over power sharing between Shiites and Sunnis. Since Al Qaeda established a self-proclaimed state in Fallujah, Iraq's situation has become even more complicated.

Al Qaeda's presence did not exist in Iraq prior to the war. It was the United States, which invaded and occupied Iraq from 2003 to 2011, that allowed Al Qaeda's penetration into the country. In 2013, Al Qaeda's Iraq branch declared its merger with the Syrian anti-government militant group National Salvation Front. Since then, Al Qaeda has been rampant and the Pandora's box opened by the United States has become even harder to close.

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