"A little more than a week after the outbreak of violence in Anbar province, the picture of the forces fighting on the ground has become clearer. It does not, however, correspond to official Iraqi pronouncements that the conflict only involves two parties: al-Qaeda versus Iraqi security forces and their Sahwa tribal allies. At the same time, the picture also does not support declarations by Fallujah tribal leaders that the conflict is mainly one of the tribes versus government forces," writes Mushreq Abbas in Al-Monitor.
"I would assign most of the blame to Baghdad, to Prime Minister Maliki, who has been very vindictive and short-sighted in his persecution of Sunnis and turning his back on the Anbar awakening, which made possible the success of the surge. But I think a secondary role has to be assigned in this fiasco to President Obama, who did not try very hard to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011 and did not take a very activist role…and as a result of that, we've basically been an enabler of Maliki and his sectarianism, and now we're making it worse by shipping munitions to Maliki," said CFR's Max Boot in a Foreign Affairs media call.
"Iran has waged a brilliant covert-action campaign that turned Maliki and Iraq into virtual clients of Tehran—and in the process alienated Sunnis and pushed them toward extremism…. Iran allegedly has been able to use Iraq as a staging ground for operations to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad thanks partly to Hadi al-Ameri, the Iraqi minister of transportation. He headed the Badr Brigade, a pro-Iranian militia. The sectarian cleavage in Iraq has widened since the United States departed. With Iraqi Shiites pulled toward Iran, Sunnis were drawn back toward the jihadist orbit—especially after Syria lurched into civil war," writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post.
CFR's Global Conflict Tracker
The Center for Preventive Action's Global Conflict Tracker is an interactive guide to U.S. conflict prevention priorities in 2014. It provides an up-to-date overview of each ongoing or potential conflict featured in the most recent Preventive Priorities Survey and features additional background information. Take a look.
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Abe Heads to Africa and Middle East
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe departed Thursday for a weeklong trip to Africa and the Middle East, where he hopes to secure energy resources and increase exports. He will also announce an increase in development assistance to Africa, an area where Japan's rival China has already been increasing its presence (Kyodo).
AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended keeping a "closed book" on his government's asylum policy after critics highlighted the government's refusal to comment on reports that two asylum seeker vessels were recently turned back to Indonesia (Sydney Morning Herald).
CFR's Alyssa Ayres blogs about the political impasse in Bangladesh.
Ahead of Peace Talks, Syrian Opposition Groups Meet for First Time
Representatives Syria's fragmented opposition met for the first time in the Spanish city of Cordoba, seeking to establish a unified position ahead of the so-called Geneva II peace talks slated to take place on January 22 (Reuters).
CAR Leader Under Pressure to Step Down
Central African Republic interim leader Michel Djotodia is expected to face pressure to step down when he attends a summit in neighboring Chad on Thursday. The Central African regional organization says he has failed to quell violence between Christian and Muslim militias in what the UN has called an impending humanitarian disaster (BBC).
The UN's human rights office urged Brazil to investigate the killings of inmates at a northeastern penitentiary after the newspaper Folha released a video depicting decapitations, and said Brazil's prisons are in a "dire state" (Reuters). Sixty-two inmates have been killed at the complex over the past year.