Sectarian Violence in Iraq

Sectarian Violence in Iraq

Civil war in Iraq due to rising Sunni-Shia sectarian violence


Sectarian violence in Iraq continues to worsen as clashes erupt between Sunni and Shia groups. According to the United Nations, more than eight thousand people were killed in 2013—the highest number of fatalities since the upsurge in civil violence between 2006 and 2008. So far in 2014, more than an estimated 3,800 Iraqis have been killed in violent attacks.

Violence erupted in Iraq’s Anbar Province beginning in December 2013, following attacks by the al-Qaeda franchise Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and opposition fighters. Iraqi security forces have launched a major offensive to regain al-Qaeda controlled areas, but the group continues to make gains, capturing the city of Fallujah in early January 2014, as well as Mosul on June 10 and Tikrit on June 11. The June offensive has displaced more than half a million people in Mosul.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated government has built up Iraq’s security forces and arrested hundreds of Sunni extremists in response to bomb attacks by Sunni fundamentalist groups targeting Shia neighborhoods. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, dividing lines between religious groups have widened and certain groups have become empowered over others. Shia groups—which constitute more than 60 percent of the total population—have been able to extend greater influence in Iraq’s political atmosphere.

If sectarian violence continues to take hold of the country following the April 2014 parliamentary elections—which resulted in a victory for Maliki—Iraq may plunge into a deeper state of chaos and potentially into a state of civil war. The United States seeks to establish a stable Iraq, to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorist organizations without contributing to regional instability.

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